If you were to look up the word pretentious in any dictionary, there should be a picture of Jon Anderson and Co. smiling back at you. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing, of course. The whole genre of Progressive music has proved that pretentious doesn't always mean bad, and what better a band to prove this than Yes. To many, Yes are the
Prog band of the seventies. Their massive compositions, highlighting virtuoso performances that most bands couldn't dream of doing, held together by beautiful harmonies with Jon Anderson rambling on in ways that would make Cedric Bixler seem cohesive.
At the time Yessongs was releases, Yes were arguably at the hight of their career. They'd released their finest albums The Yes Album, Fragile, and Close To the Edge to massive critical and commercial success. They'd toured extensively, building up a reputation as a fierce live act. Thus, Yessongs, a compilation of live Yes material, came into being. This album, at least in my eyes, may be the single greatest live album to emerge from the Seventies Prog scene.
For one, the players are at their finest. Steve Howe's masterful classically trained guitar playing is awe inspiring. Chris Squire, always kept as loud in the mix as Howe and Wakeman, plays some truly phenomenal bass over the course of this album. Of course, Rick Wakeman's synthesizers are just as flamboyant as in the studio. Anderson's voice never falls bellow par, and his harmonies with Howe and Squire are note perfect. I was also surprised when I realized that Bill Bruford wasn't drumming for the majority of the album, Alan White was. Needless to say, his playing is top notch.
Take a look at the setlist. To Yes fans, there couldn't be a finer one. All the brilliant songs from their past three albums are present. And then if one were to look at the running times, they'd see that many of the songs are heavily expanded, with incinerary jams.
The album opens with an excerpt Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, which raises the audience's excitement to the breaking point, before Steve Howe plays the opening chords of Siberian Khatru
. Wakeman and Howe instantly make their presence known with White, and their harmonies are at their finest. It soon becomes clear that this performance far surpasses the studio version. This is something true of almost every song on this album.
Once the hectic Khatru has run its course, the band doesn't give the listener a moment to breath before How and Squire chug out the massive opening riff to Heart of the Sunrise
, one of my personal favorite Yes songs. Squire takes the front seat soon enough, with a wonderfully catchy bassline. Alan White should also be commended for pulling off Bruford drumming on this song, which was easily one of his best performances.
The next song, Perpetual Change
actually does feature Bruford on the drums. Its also the first song to be majorly jammed out, clocking in at fourteen minutes in length. All the players really shine, and Bruford takes a solo at the end. And You and I
follows, giving off another strong performance.
Next its time for Howe's solo spot, the wonderful classical guitar solo that is Mood For a Day
. Wakeman also takes his solo spot next, with Excerpts From "The Six Wives of Henry the Fifth"
which was Wakeman's recently released solo debut album. Needless to say, its one hell of an over the top keyboard solo.
The band then launch's into their best known tune, Roundabout
, which loses a bit during its intro with Howe opting for a heavily distorted electric guitar, instead of his original acoustic. But the song soon gets back on track, with Squire's insanely catchy bassline and Wakeman's hectic synths. The harmonies are also just as nice as in the studio. Once Roundabout runs its course, its time to change disks.
Disk two opens with Yes' first hit single Your Move/All Good People
. Your Move begins the song on a soothing note with some very nice Harmony singing, before Howe's rocking licks and Anderson's joyful vocals smash into All Good People.
Next up is one of the albums highlights, Long Distance Runaround
. It opens in top form, but the real highlight comes around six minutes in, when Squire embarks on a massive bass solo, based loosely around his instrumental, The Fish. Howe also plays some pretty slick spacey guitar on it, too.
Next is possibly the greatest song Yes has ever written, the very definition of a Prog rock epic Close to the Edge
. Everything is perfectly played on this song: Squire's crunchy basslines, Howe's quirky guitar solos, Wakeman's massive Synth solos, and Anderson's wonderful harmonies with Howe and Squire.
Disk two really doesn't let up at all, with the band playing a little jam before Howe breaks into Yours Is No Disgrace
. Although everyone shines, its really Howe's song through and through with some extended, jaw dropping guitar solos, which really show off how underrated Howe can be.
The album finally draws to a close with the three part Starship Trooper
, which is yet another highlight of the album. When they move into the third part of the song, the crowd claps along, Wakeman adds in an excellent solo for good measure, and Howe embarks on his blazing solo there's really some magic expressed.
To any Prog fan, this is a must. Every member is at the hight of their respective instrument, and each share the spotlight beautifully. Not only is this one of the greatest live albums issued by a Prog band, its simply one of the best live albums issued by any
band. I may sound a bit too over-praising, but this album is really a masterpiece. My highest recommendations.