By Chris Anderson
Just Say Yes!
The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame has always given the shaft to prog-rock. In 1996, Pink Floyd got in, because of course they did. It took fourteen years before Genesis made it in and Rush was finally inducted in 2013….and that’s it. However, this April it gets a little better as Yes, after being eligible for 23 years, is finally getting inducted. As they bloody well should. A primary influence on an entire subgenre of music, the level of success Yes has seen, and the strides they’ve made toward further establishing music as an art form, has deemed them more than worthy.
Yes has had so many lineup changes, over the last 48 years, that it’ll make ya dizzy. Of course, some members are more significant than others and those are the ones chosen for induction. The only member to appear on every album was bassist Chris Squire, who died in 2015. He will be inducted posthumously, along with vocalist Jon Anderson, guitarists Steve Howe and Trevor Rabin, keyboardists Tony Kaye and Rick Wakeman, and drummers Bill Bruford and Alan White.
While it’s unfortunate that Patrick Moraz, Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes, Igor Koroshev, Billy Sherwood, Benoit David, Oliver Wakeman, and Jon Davison got passed over, it’s understandable. You can’t induct everyone and most of these guys were only around for a short time. However, one omission that gets under my skin is that of founding guitarist Peter Banks. An underrated talent, Banks was the first member to get sacked, and eventually was the first to die (in 2013). The intervening years did not garner Banks much success and he had to live with the pain of being the forgotten founder of a band that really only took off after he left. There would be no Yes without him (in fact, it was he who named the band), and his work on the first two albums is stunning. While Steve Howe proved a better fit, there is no excuse for the Hall Of Fame to leave Banks behind and I hope that someone mentions him in their acceptance speech.
That aside, we’re here to celebrate the music of Yes. Fortunately there is much to celebrate. Here is a sampling of Yes at their best:
Featuring just three tracks, this album was the culmination of everything Yes had learned, to that point. The title track, a sweeping, dynamic piece that fills an entire side of vinyl, is the pinnacle of prog-rock. This record was so good that Bruford quit after its completion, feeling that Yes would never be able to top it.
After two albums, Peter Banks was given the boot, in favor of Steve Howe, who arrived with an arsenal of guitars and ideas that brought a new sense of musicality to the band. “Yours Is No Disgrace” and “Starship Trooper” saw Yes moving into extended-length territory, while “I’ve Seen All Good People” brought folk-rock to the fore.
The first Yes album to feature Rick Wakeman boasts four band performances along with solo features for each musician. “Roundabout” is perhaps Yes’ most beloved song while “Heart Of The Sunrise” is just monstrous.
The avant-hubris of 1973’s Tales From Topographic Oceans was a bit much for Rick Wakeman, who took off for the first time. Replacing him was Patrick Moraz, who took Yes further down the rabbit hole with this dark masterpiece. “Gates Of Delirium” is grandiose and almost terrifying while “Sound Chaser” is Yes at their most frenetic.
Yes lured Wakeman back into the fold for this album that saw a return to shorter songs. The title track rocks harder than anything Yes had ever done while the extended “Awaken” is often referred to as the quintessential Yes song.
Attempts to follow up 1978’s lackluster Tormato saw Yes fall apart. Anderson and Wakeman left and were replaced by Trevor Horn & Geoff Downes (aka The Buggles). Some fans scoff at this version of Yes but this lineup’s sole album is flawless. “Machine Messiah” and “Tempus Fugit” prove that Yes could still prog better than anyone else, while “Does It Really Happen” hints at the more accessible material Yes would do a few years later.
Yes officially split after Drama but the new band that Squire and White formed with Trevor Rabin eventually mutated into Yes, with the return of Kaye and Anderson, and Trevor Horn in the producer’s chair. This new lineup’s first album was, thanks to “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”, the band’s biggest commercial success. “Changes”, “Hold On”, and “It Can Happen” are some of the best music the 80’s had to offer.
The second album after the return of Steve Howe originally started as a Chris Squire album, but was optioned to Yes, who was looking for a quick fix. Featuring a more song-oriented direction than the previous year’s Keys To Ascension, this album takes time to sink in but it’s easy to hear the genius in these tracks. “Wonderlove”, “Universal Garden”, and the title track are among the best things Yes did in the 90’s.
The last album (to date) to feature Jon Anderson finds Yes filling a vacant keyboard slot with an orchestra, and the result is stunning. Some of the most unique music this band ever created. The title track and “Dreamtime” are simply astounding while “Don’t Go” is one of Yes’ most playful songs.
Most fans hate this album, and I agree that Roy Thomas Baker completely botched the production, but “The Game” is one of my favorite songs of 2014 and the epics “Light Of The Ages” and “Subway Walls” are proof that Jon Davison is right at home in Yes.
Big congratulations to Yes as well as the other 2017 inductees – Journey, Electric Light Orchestra, Joan Baez, Tupac Shakur, and Pearl Jam. You guys earned it!