TIME AND A WORD
THE YES ALBUM
Formed from five independently-minded virtuosos, Yes’ eclectic mix of hard rock, classical arrangements and jazz-fusion experimentalism brought little success with their eponymous debut album (1969, re-released here with six bonus tracks, four previously unissued), despite a penchant for daring cover versions (including The Byrds’ “I See You”).
Time And A Word (here with four bonus tracks including singles and alternate versions) from 1970 continued to expand the basic rock format with increasingly symphonic arrangements, SF concepts and cosmically conscious lyrics, but critical and commercial success only came with the arrival of guitarist Steve Howe.
Equally at home with Appalachian country music as with extended, soaring rock solos, Howe’s diverse approach helped to define the Yes sound so that when 1971’s The Yes Album (three bonus tracks) was released, mainstream success had become a distinct possibility.
The final piece of the jigsaw slotted into place with the arrival of Rick Wakeman to produce the classic line-up of Anderson (vocals), Bruford (drums), Howe (guitar), Squire (bass) and Wakeman (keyboards). Ensconced in a gatefold sleeve with Roger Dean’s first artwork for the band and an embryonic Yes logo, Fragile (1972, two extra tracks?including their epic reworking of Paul Simon’s “America” from the New Age Of Atlantic sampler of the same year) made them a household name on both sides of the pond, largely due to its extended, multi-suite single “Roundabout”, which came on like a belated British answer to The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”.
Recorded swiftly in patchwork fashion, Fragile avoided the over-meticulous arrangements of previous efforts, allowing Bill Bruford’s frenetic jazz drumming to skitter behind Jon Anderson’s choirboy voice, guitars and keyboards operating perilously close to collapse.
Punk’s arrival in the late ’70s sounded the death knell for most prog acts, but Yes continued making albums well into the late ’90s. Meanwhile, the extended electronic fantasies of bands like Underworld owe more to Yes’ legacy than they might care to admit.