Review by Ray Chowkwanyun
LP Stock Number: Various
The Yes Album
The Yes Album starts with the great booming bass line of Chris Squire in "Yours Is No Disgrace" followed by the signature sound of Kaye's enveloping organ. Howe jumps in with little short solos on guitar. But the anchor, burrowing beneath it all is Squire's incredible bass playing. This is not bass as mere thudding accompaniment. Squire gives us bass as melodic instrument with wildly inventive playing, summoning up great mountains of sound. Anderson's high pitched singing is OK, but the vocals are definitely only a thin veneer on top of the instrumental action.
"The Clap" is a classic acoustic guitar solo by Howe. His playing is absolutely astounding, fast and cleanly articulated. Anderson's vocals are more to the fore in "Starship Trooper". There is a plaintive quality to his voice here that is very attractive. The song is both warm and sadly soulful at the same time. Bruford contributes some high precision drumming.
"I've Seen All Good People" continues in the same vein. Five superb musicians at the top of their game, playing their hearts out. A throbbing bass drum underlies this song. Glorious stereo acoustic guitars with a little extra added by the recorder playing of "Goldring". Kaye adds steaming organ lines. Howe lets loose with some blistering electric guitar solos.
"A Venture" is full of driving rhythmic energy, pushed along by Anderson's singing which conforms to the overall rhythmic plan. I'm not quite sure what they're singing about, but it has a vaguely cowboy western feeling to it. Kaye plays some great chunking chords on piano.
"Perpetual Change" starts with roaring organ chords, followed by rippling drum rolls before Anderson enters. Again, I am not entirely clear what they're singing about, but it sure makes for a rip roaring number. It's almost classical the way they build up a musical structure to a towering finale. And just like that, it's over. You just wish this LP could go on forever.
Can it really be thirty years since The Yes Album was first released? A thoroughly joyful and life affirming album. A must have for any serious classic rocker's collection. The boys are still in as fine form as ever. If they play a date in your area, they're well worth catching.
This recording fairly leaps off the grooves with tremendous bass energy and dynamics in the UK pressing. A bit hot on top though. A little cut at 12kHz helps take the edge off. The US pressing suffers from the opposite problem: it's fine on top but needs a bit of boost at 100Hz. Overall, I would give the UK pressing the edge because it has better dynamics. You would be happy with either though, I'd wager.
Close To The Edge
The early 70's was the era of the concept album. The Floyd had their Meddle. Tull did Thick As A Brick, ELP had Tarkus. Not to be left out, Yes recorded Close To The Edge (so christened because that is the point to which they drove their engineer, Eddie Offord).
Honestly, I would forgotten what a great album this is. What a strong song "Close To The Edge" is. The textures are much denser than on The Yes Album. I suppose this is the kind of thing people point to when they talk about the lumbering excesses of progressive rock, yet it all works. Part of it, I think, is the replacement of Kaye by Wakeman on keyboards. Kaye was a great player, but Wakeman is sublime. He also had a bigger battery of electronics to work with as terrific progress was made in synthesizer development between the time of Close To The Edge and The Yes Album.
As usual I am darned if I know what the lyrics mean. Something deep and meaningful no doubt with song titles like "Seasons Of Man", but it does not really matter because the words are chanted so the voice is really just another instrument rather than a means to convey actual information. The whole thing has a vaguely science fiction feel to it. It's the sort of music that'd go great with Star Trek. Same kind of deep felt earnestness.
"And You And I" mines the same vein as "Close To The Edge", but Siberian Khatru is something else entirely - a hard rocking number that would be at home on a Led Zeppelin album. It is as if the boys said, "Enough with this concept stuff, we're going to let our hair down." Bruford provides an absolutely thunderous beat which is backed up to the hilt, of course, by Squire's bass. Howe unleashes some wailing guitar solos that sound like a banshee screaming. And in between, Wakeman somehow manages to slip in a bit of harpsichord.
A horribly hot top end requires some serious rolling off around 8 KHz.
The Yes Album
Close To The Edge