Saturday, July 17, 2010

Yessongs (1973)

Yes were formed in 1968 by vocalist Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire. Anderson had already recorded a single in 1964 as a member of The Warriors, a beat band formed by his brother Tony, and later sang on a couple of 45s for Parlophone Records under the pseudonym Hans Christian. He was also briefly a member of the group The Gun. Squire had been a member of The Syn, a flower-pop outfit that recorded a couple of singles for Deram Records (one, "14-Hour Technicolour Dream", celebrating the "happening" held at Alexandra Palace on April 29/April 30, 1967). After the breakup of The Syn, Squire spent a year developing his bass-playing technique, strongly influenced by The Who's bassist, John Entwistle. In May 1968, he met Anderson in a Soho nightclub, La Chasse, where Anderson was working. The two had a common interest in vocal harmony, especially that of Simon & Garfunkel, and began working together soon afterwards.

At the time, Squire was in a band called Mabel Greer's Toyshop with guitarist Clive Bailey and drummer Bob Hagger, and invited Anderson to begin singing with the group. Hagger was soon replaced by Bill Bruford, a jazz aficionado who had played just three gigs with Blues revivalists Savoy Brown before leaving, and who was recruited from an ad he had placed in Melody Maker.

An earlier lineup of Mabel Greer's Toyshop had featured guitarist Peter Banks who'd previously worked with Squire in The Syn and who now returned to replace Bailey. Finally, the band expanded to include an organist and occasional piano player, Tony Kaye, a classically-trained musician who'd abandoned his studies to pursue rock and roll and had already been in a series of unsuccessful groups (Johnny Taylor's Star Combo, The Federals, and Jimmy Winston and His Reflections). In search of a more commercially useful bandname, Mabel Greer's Toyshop soon became Yes.[5] Banks came up with the three letter name, with the rationale that it would stand out on posters.

The newly-rechristened Yes played their first show at East Mersea Youth Camp in England on August 4, 1968. Soon after this, they opened for Cream at their 1968 Farewell Concert from The Royal Albert Hall. Early on, influenced by bands like 1-2-3 (later Clouds),[6] the group earned a reputation for taking other people's songs and drastically changing them into expanded, progressive compositions. In September 1968, Yes subbed for an absent Sly & the Family Stone at Blaise's and, as a result of that performance, gained a residency at The Marquee club. Soon after that, they made their first radio appearance on John Peel's programme. When Melody Maker columnist Tony Wilson selected them and Led Zeppelin as the two bands "Most Likely To Succeed" (as he states on the liner notes of the band's debut LP), it appeared that their future was assured.

Yes's eponymous debut album was released on July 25, 1969. The harmony vocals of Anderson, Banks, and Squire were an immediate trademark of the Yes sound. The band's optimistic, vaguely futuristic outlook on the world was delivered with a combination of complex melody and technical virtuosity. Standout tracks were a jazzy take on The Byrds' "I See You" and the album closer, "Survival", which displayed the band's vocal harmonies and deft song-construction. There was also a cover of The Beatles' "Every Little Thing". Notably, the album was given a favourable review by Lester Bangs in Rolling Stone magazine, which described the band as promising, the album displaying a "sense of style, taste and subtlety

In 1970, the band released their second album, this time accompanied by a 30-piece orchestra. Time and a Word featured mostly original compositions and two cover songs - "Everydays" by Stephen Stills (originally recorded by Buffalo Springfield) and Richie Havens' "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed" (in a reworked version including excerpts from the theme song of the movie The Big Country). Although musically exceptional in terms of melody delivery, the orchestra (and keyboardist Tony Kaye) overpowered Banks and much of the vocal work, leaving Time and a Word somewhat uneven.

Peter Banks had been particularly dissatisfied with Time and a Word, as well as with the sacking of Yes' first manager Roy Flynn later in the year. The consequent tensions resulted in Banks' ousting by Anderson and Squire before the release of Time and a Word. He would subsequently play briefly in Blodwyn Pig before launching his own progressive rock band Flash. Former Tomorrow guitarist Steve Howe replaced Banks in Yes, and was included in the front cover photo of the American release of Time and a Word, despite not having played on it.
The group's emerging style coalesced on their next LP, the critically acclaimed The Yes Album written together in a rented country house in the Devon countryside. This was the first Yes record to be entirely made up of original band compositions, which were noticeably longer and more ambitious than those on the two previous albums. Howe had quickly established himself as an integral part of the Yes sound, adding to compositions and expanding the band's guitar influences to include classical and country stylings as well as playing a wider variety of instruments such as the 12-string Portuguese vihuela. The Yes Album also united Yes with their long-serving producer and engineer Eddie Offord, whose studio expertise was a key factor in creating the Yes sound.
In 1971, Tony Kaye left the band. Although some reports attest that he was fired, others indicate that he left voluntarily. It is typically reported that the decision had to do with his unwillingness to use the emergent Moog synthesiser and other modern keyboard technology, as he considered himself to be simply an organist (mainly on the Hammond). Kaye later formed the group Badger and would rejoin Yes in the early 1980s: in between, he would guest in Peter Banks' Flash (a band sometimes accused of stealing Yes's musical sound – a sound Banks and Kaye themselves had been instrumental in creating).

Steve Howe, lead guitarist for Yes, in 1977Kaye was replaced by another classically-trained musician, the rising keyboard star Rick Wakeman. Wakeman had just left Strawbs and was already a noted studio musician with credits including T. Rex, David Bowie and Lou Reed. Wakeman was also the piano player for the Cat Stevens hit, "Morning Has Broken". He brought the band's keyboard playing up to a much higher level of technical skill (as well as becoming the band's unofficial musical arranger) and proved to be the perfect foil for Steve Howe both as soloist and ensemble player. As well as embracing the use of the Minimoog synthesiser (which Kaye had only played with reluctance), Wakeman brought another vital addition to the group's instrumentation: the Mellotron. With his flowing blond hair and sequined cape, and surrounded by keyboards, he also provided a strong visual focus on stage.

The first album released with the new lineup was 1971's Fragile (a Top Ten album in America), Musically, the album continued to develop Yes' growing interest in the sounds and structures of classical music, notably the work of Sibelius and Stravinsky. (Wakeman also contributed an electric keyboard arrangement of the third movement of a Brahms symphony). The album was also notable for presenting the work of each member in a series of solo (or near-solo) showcases such as Howe's classical guitar composition "Mood for a Day" part of which can be heard on the studio version of "The Clap", and Squire's multiple-overdub bass guitar piece "The Fish". Fragile also marked the beginning of the band's long collaboration with artist Roger Dean, who designed the group's logo and their album covers, as well as (with brother Martin Dean) their stage sets.

In February 1972 Yes recorded a non-album track, their dynamic ten-minute interpretation of Paul Simon's "America" (which subsequently appeared on the 1972 album The New Age of Atlantic, a compilation with several acts from the roster of Atlantic Records). This song had been a staple of Yes gigs since the band's early days (a version featuring Kaye appears on the Word Is Live box set). While Wakeman played most of the keyboard parts on the recording, he was not particularly enthusiastic about it and the Mellotron part on the end of the track was actually played by Bill Bruford.

The next Yes album, 1972's Close to the Edge was recorded following a lengthy studio stint and solidified the template for Yes music for the rest of the decade. It was by far the band's most ambitious effort to date, consisting of three lengthy compositions. The title track took up an entire side of the album and was constructed in classical sonata form although it drew on combined elements of classical music, psychedelic rock, pop, jazz and field recordings to create the final sound. Like its predecessor, Close To The Edge was a Top Ten record in the United States. Some listeners consider the album to be the high point of the whole progressive rock genre.

"I can remember going to see this film when it played as a midnight movie at Overlake Cinema'a in Bellevue Wa. in 1979." - Jon Behrens

Yessongs, the movie, was released in 1973. It documents their concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre on December 16, 1972. The only tracks which the two CD (originally three record) live set Yessongs and the film have in common are Close To the Edge, and Würm, the final movement of “Starship Trooper”, recorded at the Rainbow. – adapted from wikipedia

I’ve Seen All Good People – Anderson (Your Move) and Squire (All Good People)
Clap (Howe) guitar solo by Howe
And You and I (Anderson, Howe, Squire and Bruford)
Close to the Edge (Anderson, Howe and Chris Squire)
Excerpts from The Six Wives of Henry VIII (Wakeman)
performed by Rick Wakeman on various keyboard instruments and Moog synthesizers
Roundabout (Anderson and Howe)
Yours Is No Disgrace (Jon Anderson/Chris Squire/Steve Howe/Tony Kaye/Bill Bruford)
Würm (Howe) the final section of Starship Trooper (Anderson, Squire, Howe)


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