Yes – The Yes Album (1971)
We’re going back to 1971 this week on YDCS to take a look at one of the acts most responsible for the creation of progressive rock music, the English rock band Yes. For the thus far uninitiated, progressive rock was a subgenre of rock music that started developing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was characterized by the use of unusual instruments, time signatures, fantastical, philosophical, or science fiction lyrics, and breaking the traditional moulds of song structure. Fortunately for the band, The Yes Album was a commercial breakthrough with songs like Yours is No Disgrace and I’ve Seen All Good People, especially considering that they were at risk of being dropped by their label if this album, their third, didn’t perform to expectation.
The Yes Album was the first Yes album to feature guitarist Steve Howe who would ultimately stay with the band through its most successful period through 1981 before the band broke up and reformed later in the year without him. This was also the last album to feature Tony Kaye on keyboard after he refused to branch out and play the mini-moog or synthesizer on their next album, Fragile. Kaye was quickly replaced by Rick Wakeman on Fragile leading to the band’s most successful lineup. If this is your first Yes album, don’t be off put by the runtimes on the songs. Yours is No Disgrace is the longest track on the album at around 9:40, but there are two other songs that give it a “runtime” for its money. Sit back and just enjoy letting the instruments weave between each other to create a stunning album.
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
Yours is No Disgrace: This is a rockin’ start to the album! The song transitions between a few themes including some fantastic keyboard playing from Kaye and insanely catchy guitar riffs from Howe in the middle of the track. The guitar solo in the middle of the track is my favorite because of how it uses the wah to add some groove to the track before transitioning back to a more traditional picking technique. Around that midpoint in the song is when we start to see the bass come more into the forefront too and drive the song forward. I think you’ll like the vocal harmony from the band through the entire song and don’t find it to be a disgrace! Dad’s Rating 9/10
The Clap: The Clap is a great little folksy guitar solo written by Howe. This is one of my favorite songs on the album even though it doesn’t really fit with the sound of the album. As he describes it, it was the first solo that he felt comfortable performing. I particularly enjoy the quick changes between picking and strumming that give this song a unique sound. Howe’s technical ability really shines through on this song. I’m not a guitar player but I definitely appreciate the difficulty of the song. This song always brings a smile to my face, and it’s hard to not be happy and smiling with a calm little ditty like this playing. Try not to bop your head along to the song, I dare you! Dad’s Rating 8/10
Starship Trooper (A. Life Seeker; B. Disillusion; C. Wurm): Starship Trooper is the first of two songs on this album that’s split into three parts. This is fairly common amongst progressive rock bands, where songs would be split into multiple parts that would explore a different theme in each section or would try to evoke a different emotion in each section. Yes did this on multiple albums, but most notably on Close to the Edge and Tales From Topographic Oceans (stay tuned for album reviews on those later!). The song transitions between the different sections very nicely and it’s very clear where the transition from Life Seeker to Disillusion occurs, the same is true for Disillusion to Wurm. Disillusion is my favorite part of the song and sadly the shortest. It shows more technical guitar ability from Howe Dad’s Rating 7/10
I’ve Seen All Good People: a. Your Move, b. All Good People: This song is the second multi-part song on the album after Starship Trooper, and where Wurm was slightly lacking on the former, there’s not a bad part of this song. This song is classic Yes, classic prog rock, and is one of Yes’ best-known songs. Good People gives you a little bit of everything that makes Yes such a quirky band and so much fun to listen to: vocal harmony, accompaniment on a church organ, and a rocking up-tempo part after Your Move opens into All Good People. Dad’s Rating 8/10
A Venture: A Venture is one of the more unique songs on the album, and like The Clap, it doesn’t seem to fit with the sound of the rest of the album. It’s much more restrained, features significantly less vocal harmony, and there’s not unusual instruments. A Venture gets credit for displaying Kaye’s skills on the piano with his solo at the end of this song. The solo feels fresh and, in my opinion, actually provides a breath of fresh air on the album. When every song on an album sounds the same, the album can become stale, but the different tone of this song actually refreshes the sound for the last song, Perpetual Change, which is more of a return to the more familiar “Yes sound” on this album. Dad’s Rating 8/10
Perpetual Change: Yes wanted to close this album out with a bang and a return to their signature sound. This song has philosophical lyrics, masterful instrumentation from the band members, and more time signature changes than you can count. That’s actually my favorite part of this song for two reasons: firstly, they keep you on your toes and make you actively listen to the song as opposed to passively listening to it and letting it wash over you, and secondly it fits the title of the song very appropriately! The song is titled perpetual change for a reason and the song does exactly that! One minute you’ll be listening to a soft ballad, then the song shifts to a ripping guitar solo, then it goes back to ballad, then you’ll be listening to something that sounds like it should be the song to lead in the evening news! (see if you can spot that part of the song) Yes was unapologetically themselves with this last song on their last ditch effort album, and it ended up paying off. Dad’s Rating 7/10
The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.