What does it sound like?:
I was thirteen when The Yes Album came out, but I only really became aware of it, and the band, a year or two later when all of my mates suddenly seemed to be listening to Yes, ELP, Genesis et al. I remember being dragged along to see them around the time of Tales of Topographic Oceans. However I don’t think I have ever knowingly heard a Yes record all the way through. As far as I was concerned in the 70s Yes were the acme of pompous prog rock with its classical pretensions and sub Tolkein and Lewis Carroll lyrics. Needless to say, the fact that I had never listened to them properly was no impediment to my trenchantly holding this view.
Anyway in recent years I have occasionally scoured the Spotify vaults to catch up with ‘classic’ albums and artists which have somehow eluded me thus far. Tonight it has been the Yes Album. And bugger me if it isn’t a much much more enjoyable listen than I expected.
There are only six tracks, but there is far less endless keyboard nonsense than I expected (maybe that came later with Rick Wakeman?). Even when extended to ten minutes there are recognisably melodic and really quite conventional folk rock songs here.
Time and again the band I was reminded of was Crosby Stills Nash (and sometimes Young). On reflection this shouldn’t be a surprise given that CSN&Y were just about the biggest band in the world in 1970 when this was recorded, but I’ll admit it wasn’t what I expected. In particular, many of the melodies, vocal mannerisms and effete lyrics are particularly reminiscent of Graham Nash(on I’ve Seen All Good People, or Perpetual Change, for example). Unfortunately Jon Anderson’s somewhat reedy singing doesnt have the heft and character I’d like. But I do give him bonus points for allowing his East Lancs burr to come through from time to time.
It’s the musicianship that really stands out on first listens, in particular newcomer to the band Steve Howe who at different times sounds like Hendrix, Page, Young, Jansch and others whilst always sounding like he has his own voice – his work lifts every track. And the rhythm section of Bill Buford and especially Chris Howe is terrific. Another echo is of early Steely Dan, except Can’t Buy A Thrill came after this. Surely the Dan weren’t influenced by Yes?
I’ve only listened two and a half times, and maybe it palls after a while. But first impressions are of a surprisingly (to me) fresh, lively and imaginative record.
What does it all *mean*?
I don’t know, but I’m enjoying the ride
Goes well with…
An open mind
Might suit people who like…
If you like late 60/ early 70s West Coast rock and pop you might find things to like in this