(All Album Reviews by Sean)
Arguably the first album containing the classic Yes sound, the aptly titled LP- The Yes Album, is actually their 3rd. The Yes debut album and it's follow up, A Time and A Word were recorded with the original lineup of the band including original guitarist Peter Banks. While they have many strong moments, it's clear that those albums were Yes in a growing phase. Most of the elements that are associated with the classic Yes sound are present on those as well, but the grand arranging that Yes is so well known for was still in it's infancy.
On The Yes Album, finally all the elements in their sound gelled and set the band on the road to prog music supremacy which peaked 3 years later with the stunning Relayer LP. The Yes Album is basically four 10 minute tracks, and two short songs sandwiched in between the two 10 minute tacks that were on each side of the original lp. This was their first album containing songs that reached the 10 minute mark and became a template of sorts for future 10 minute opuses. If ever there is a CLASSIC Yes album in their catalog, this is it. So much so that the band regularly plays all four opuses to this day in their live performances. These songs are indispensable to any Yes fan and this album is the perfect entry point into the Yes world. While the songs are long, they are concisely arranged with no filler. Something the band would soon drift from.
"Yours Is No Disgrace" opens the LP with a hypercharged burst of choppy western (think Bonanza) inspired grooves and then changes to a propulsive groove, ignited by Chris Squires fleet fingered bass work, which sweeps the listener along at a fast clip. Newly acquired guitarist Steve Howe turns in some of his finest work straight away on this track and it remains his most diverse. Rock, country and jazz licks are all mixed in along with some good acoustic work on this and some of the other cuts on this album. This remains, IMO, the best 10 minute cut in the Yes catalog. "Clap" - Not "THE Clap" as the sleeve says. Steve Howe claims it was misnamed on the LP sleeve and in the process took on an unwanted connotation. This is a delightful fingerpicked bluegrass/ragtime style tune that was actually recorded live (the only live cut on the LP), and rendered by Howe on a Martin steel string acoustic guitar. This is his finest tune of this type/style. He wrote many more of them in the future, but none have ever surpassed this Yes favorite.
"Starship Trooper" - A three part, 10 minute epic that is another standard in the Yes catalog. Howe's cascading guitar riff opens the tune (the "Life Seeker" section) bolstered by Tony Kaye's ballsy Hammond organ (a staple of the original Yes sound and still tied to them all these years later, despite his absence). Trooper is a kind of suite of leftovers. The second section- the acoustic "Disillusion", is a remnant of a pre-Howe song that most likely was penned by former guitarist Banks. Howe puts his stamp on it though using his own choice of chord voicings and his Merle Travis style of picking.
All this flows into a recapitulation of the opening riff and then climbs two octaves up a G major scale into the final section, "Würm". The most well known three-chord vamp in Yes land, this too was a leftover, brought by Howe from his former band, Bodast. This very riff made the core of the psychedelic "Nether Street" back then. Here it becomes something much grander. It builds slowly, almost hypnotically, to a rousing climax with Howe playing one of his finest solos atop it all. This brings side one to a rousing conclusion.
"Your Move" is an acoustic intro that is played by Howe on a Portuguese acoustic guitar. It's delicate quality is the perfect counterpoint for singer Jon Anderson's chess inspired lyric/vocal. Soon this gives way to the electric grove of "All Good People". Maybe the most danceable groove in the classic Yes cannon. Next to the soon to come Fragile album's "Roundabout", "All Good People" is the best known classic Yes song and IMO the most overplayed. It's a concert must, even if many fans have heard it too much already. It's catchy and Howe turns in a classic solo that is indispensable.
"A Venture" starts softly with Kaye's acoustic piano and grows into an interesting groove. Anderson tells the short story of a man who "controlled the horses with a hand clap or a whisper". This is a very short tune and basically forgotten. It's a shame it was never done live. Howe's flurry of notes on the very end fade of the song points right to the flurry that will end "Long Distance Runaround" on the next album, Fragile.
"Perpetual Change" - The band claims this is their motto and when it comes to personnel it is indeed true! ;) This tune opens with some strong sus chord stabs and then breaks into a waltzing groove. Howe turns in a great solo and also plays many tasteful fills. This is a 2-part tune. The ending section is one of the bands coolest odd-meter riffs and it is cleverly overlapped by the progression from the opening section. This is thoroughbred Yes IMO. The Yes Album showed that the Yes sound does not necessarily revolve around flamboyant keyboards, but more around the front line of Howe, Anderson and Squire. Also, drummer Bill Bruford is incredible throughout this LP and I am certain it would not be half as good without him. Thinking of checking out classic Yes? START HERE!