Review Summary: Not only is it underrated in their discography, Yes' debut was essential in eventually giving birth to progressive rock.
In 1969, progressive rock was still in its budding period. Taking a look at the Big Four: Pink Floyd was still fooling around with psychedelic experimentation, Genesis was debuting with a pop album, miles away from their eventual sound (or not, if you look at it the other way), and it wasn’t until the end of the year, when King Crimson released the album that sparked the whole movement, that progressive rock as we came to know it in the following decade was born. The last and most infamously virtuosic of the Four is of course Yes. What they were doing in '69 was basically the same: finding their sound.
The band was formed in ’68 by vocalist Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire, which also became the two most integral members in the group’s often-changing formation, Squire being the only constant member and Anderson having performed on all of their albums except one. The line-up of their self-titled debut was completed by guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist Tony Kaye, and drummer Bill Bruford, who would of course tag along the longest of these three.
When comparing it to From Genesis to Revelation
and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
, Yes’ debut is the only one showing signs of the prog tendencies to come. After all, what defined the progressive movement were mainly three things: lengthy songs, a fusion of rock with jazz and other styles, and technically accomplished musicianship. On this album, Yes is already doing these things on a moderate level. A 40-minute album with two songs over six minutes: check. A sound that is best described as a union of mid/late 60’s rock and jazz: check. Fairly technical musicianship: check. The songs would get epic, and with the coming of Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman, more accomplished, of course, but it is very interesting to see that the basis was already very much here.
That doesn’t mean Yes’ debut is interesting merely from a historical standpoint. It is actually quite a great album, with many pleasant songs. Beyond and Before
is much more guitar-centred than most of the band’s classic material, but it’s definitely a nice change of pace, and Banks knows what he’s doing. The opener is more of a rock song, as the first real influence of jazz comes in only with I See You
, which is actually a much extended cover of a Byrds song. The band play two covers on this album, the other being The Beatles’ Every Little Thing
, an again much longer take that still retains the original sense of sweetness in Anderson’s signature high-register singing.
is the most classic Yes-sounding track, the only one clearly demonstrating Squire’s typical crunching bass and the organ-driven sound that would be a major player on many Yes albums to come. Other highlights include Looking Around
, again more of a rock song like Beyond and Before
, but unlike that track including excellent use of the organ (proving that both Banks and Kaye really shouldn’t be denied credit), and the fitting closer Survival
It really depends on how big a Yes fan you are when you want to know if getting this is worth it. Fragile
and/or Close to the Edge
are better introduction, but if you’ve been through the stretch of their classic years, that is up to Relayer
, and yearn for more, their early years are well worth looking into. This debut is quite underrated and great in its own way, undeservedly much less popular than most things since the group’s third breakthrough album. Acquire if you wish to dig a little more into the birth of progressive rock.
Yes’ Yes was:
- John Roy Anderson ~ Lead Vocals
- Peter William Brockbanks ~ Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
- Christopher Russell Squire ~ Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
- Anthony John Selvidge ~ Organ, Piano
- William Scott Bruford ~ Drums
TO BE CONTINUED...