I’m still on a tangent commemorating Jon Anderson’s birthday for the next month or so hopefully not requiring liquid refreshment or giggle smoke that’s needed to balance out my cosmic equilibrium. Nevertheless, I take an hour during each day to listen to the first 21 or so studio albums that the band has done in chronological order and today I’m up to album # 3:
The Yes Album – released on March 19, 1971. (portions of these fun facts are copied and pasted from Wikipedia. Just so you know)
The Yes Album is the third studio album from the English progressive rock band Yes, released in February 1971 on Atlantic Records. It is their first album with guitarist Steve Howe who replaced Peter Banks in 1970, and their last in the 1970s to feature keyboardist Tony Kaye. Kaye would later return in 1983 for the multi platinum selling 90125 and hang out for another three albums ending with Talk in 1994.
The album was the first by the group not to feature any cover versions, which had been a staple of their material until that point. The band spent mid-1970 writing and rehearsing new material at a farmhouse in South Molton, Devon, and the new songs were recorded at Advision Studios in the autumn. While the album retained close harmony singing, Kaye’s Hammond organ and Chris Squire‘s melodic bass, as heard on earlier releases, the new material also covered further styles including jazz piano, funk and acoustic music, with all band members contributing ideas, and tracks were extended in length to allow music to develop. Howe contributed a variety of guitar styles, including a Portuguese guitar, and recorded a solo acoustic guitar piece, “Clap”, live at the Lyceum Theatre, London.
The album was a critical success and was a major commercial breakthrough for Yes, who had been at risk of being dropped by the record label. It reached number 4 in the UK and number 40 in the US, and is certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling over one million copies. The album has been reissued on CD several times, and in 2014 was given a Blu-ray release, remixed by Steven Wilson.
The Yes Album was remastered and reissued in 2003 by Rhino Records with several bonus tracks, including a studio version of “Clap”, entitled as Howe intended. In 2014, Steven Wilson, formerly of Porcupine Tree, created a new stereo mix and a 5.1 surround sound mix, available as either a DVD or Blu-ray Disc. It was released on 21 April of this year with bonus tracks including the studio version of “Clap”, an extended version of “A Venture”, and an alternate version of the album with live tracks, single edits, and an extended mix. The Blu-ray version also features an instrumental version of the album, a needle drop sample of the original vinyl release, and additional live tracks.
Yes had already recorded two albums for Atlantic by mid-1970, but neither had been commercially successful and the label was considering dropping them. They had replaced founding member Banks with Howe, who enjoyed playing a wider variety of styles, including folk and country music, and played a mix of electric and acoustic guitars. Singer Jon Anderson later said that Howe could “jump from one thing to the other, very fast, and very talented.” After some warm-up gigs with Howe, the band moved to a farm in South Molton, Devon, to write and rehearse new material. Howe in particular enjoyed working on the farm, and eventually bought it. Following rehearsals, the band booked Advision Studios in London with producer Eddie Offord and spent the autumn recording. The band enjoyed the sessions, and soon had enough material ready for an album.
In November 1970, the group was involved in a car accident returning from a gig in Basingstoke. The band all suffered shock, and Kaye broke a foot. He had to do the next few gigs, and the album cover’s photo shoot, with it in plaster.
Howe mostly used a Gibson ES-175 semi-acoustic guitar and a Martin OO-18 acoustic for recording, though he did attempt to play a variety of styles with the two instruments. Kaye’s main instruments were the Hammond organ and piano, including a solo on “A Venture”. Kaye had previously played the Hammond M-100, but for this album used the B-3, a move which he saw as “a turning point”. He was otherwise disinterested, however, in the variety of electronic keyboards that were becoming available. This proved to be a problem with the other members of the band, and Kaye thought his style conflicted too much with Howe’s. He left the group during rehearsals for the follow-up album in mid 1971, to be replaced by Rick Wakeman.
Other fun facts to note from an earlier Wikipedia entry:
- The “democratic” balance of the band — with each virtuoso member making his own significant contribution — is seen here for the first time. While other bands were hiring orchestras to provide their songs with a fuller sound, Yes had the talent and the musicianship to be their own orchestra.
- Steve Howe appeared with the band for the first time and played a very prominent role throughout. His solo acoustic song, Clap (forever renamed “The Clap” by Anderson’s mis-introduction on the live track) has always been a concert favorite of the band and their fans.
- The band began to explore longer songs with Yours Is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper, and Perpetual Change, foreshadowing the many album-side-length tracks that followed on Close to the Edge, Tales From Topographic Oceans and Relayer.
- The Yes Album is generally considered a classic ’70’s rock album and a highlight of the band’s long career with songs such as “Starship Trooper” and “I’ve Seen All Good People” still staples of classic rock radio.
- The Yes Album (Atlantic 2400 101) reached #7 in the UK. It also reached #40 in the US during a chart stay of 50 weeks.The Yes Album was remastered and reissued in 2003 with several bonus tracks.
The Songs/Track Listing
“Yours Is No Disgrace” (Anderson/Bruford/Howe/Kaye/Squire) originated from some lyrics written by Anderson with his friend David Foster. This was combined with other short segments of music written by the band in rehearsals. Howe worked out the opening guitar riff on his own while the rest of the band took a day’s holiday. The backing track was recorded by the group in sections, then edited together to make up the final piece. Total run time: 9:41
Howe’s solo acoustic tune, “Clap” (wrongly written as “The Clap” in original album pressings), (Howe) was influenced by Chet Atkins and Mason Williams‘ “Gas”. The piece was written to celebrate the birth of Howe’s son Dylan on 4 August 1969. The version that appears on the album was recorded live at the Lyceum Theatre in London on 17 July 1970. Total run time: 3:17 Total time 2014 studio version: 4:04
The spacey, electronic-sounding effect in “Starship Trooper” (Anderson, Howe & Squire) was achieved by running the guitar backing track through a flanger. Anderson wrote the bulk of the song (mostly a two chord shuffle of E to A major), while Squire wrote the “Disillusion” section in the middle. The closing section, “Würm” is a continuous cadenza of chords (G-E♭-C) played ad lib. It evolved from a song called “Nether Street” by Howe’s earlier group, Bodast. Total time 9:29
“I’ve Seen All Good People” (Anderson/Squire) is a suite of two tunes. Anderson wanted the piece to start quietly and develop, leading into a large church organ sound, before moving into the funky second movement. The band had difficulty recording the initial “Your Move” section, which was resolved by making a tape loop of bass and drums, over which Howe overdubbed a Portuguese 12-string guitar, miscrediting it as a “vachalia” on the album’s credits. Gnidrolog‘s Colin Goldring played recorder on the track. Total time: 6:26
Anderson wrote “A Venture” (Anderson) in the studio, which was arranged by the rest of the band. Kaye played piano on the track, contributing a jazzy solo towards the end. Howe played a guitar solo on the original recording, but it was left off the final mix, which faded out just as it started. The song was never played live by the original group, but an arrangement was worked out when Yes decided to play the whole album live in 2013. Total time: 3:21 Total time 2014 Extended version: 4:45
The lyrics for “Perpetual Change” (Anderson/Squire) were inspired by the view of the countryside from the farm in South Molton. The middle of the track features a polyrhythmic structure, where two pieces of music in different time signatures are playing simultaneously. A riff in 14/8 pans to one side of the stereo while a chorus in 7/4 appears on the left.. Total time: 8:58
Let’s see. 1971.
No sir, I don’t think I can remember 1971 all that clearly. You see, back then I was so traumatized by the Amazing Spider-Man # 100 – that would be the issue in which alter ego Peter Parker was dropping so much acid that he grew six arms out the side of his hips, that I had to undergo through some serious shock therapy when I was still in first grade. I also contracted a serious case of speech impediment when I had trouble pronouncing my ‘th’ sounds, and was sent off to a speech therapist, because I was starting to sound like such a sissy reading my Dick, Jane, and Sally books out loud in class. And then there was that time when I stood out in the middle of a rain storm waiting for the bus to take me to school and when I arrived to class, my pants was all soaking wet and then the teacher made me wear a big sheet of cardboard as a makeshift dress.
I know, too much information, right?
I didn’t get to listen to the Yes Album until he was visiting his aunts Megan and Priscilla out in California in the summer of 1978 when they had friends in Newport Beach who had it in their collection and I listened to it while getting in my initial foray into the giggle weed social sect.
Not one of my favorite Yes Albums per se, I’m afraid to admit. Damn, I used to get sick and tired of hearing Your Move performed in concert, but yet, for all intents and purposes it is a single solitary album of transition. Peter Banks was replaced by Steve Howe who was a powerhouse on all stringed instruments and styles. It’s Tony Kaye’s finest keyboard performance before he got sacked (the other members didn’t like seeing him playing with one hand all the time from what I’ve been told) and Eddie Offord took to the helm with his brilliant engineering skills. The album opens with a ‘picking up from we last saw our heroes’ cliffhanger of sorts, i.e., the western movie inspired motif once introduced on No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed on the last album with Yours is No Disgrace. Some dabbling with a Robert Heinlein sci-fi book serves as the inspiration behind Starship Trooper, which is still regarded as a popular show closer. My favorite tracks are A Venture (which sadly I didn’t get to see performed live at last year’s Three Album Tour. Afraid this little minnow got lost in the tumultuous sea of poverty ) and the closing track, Perpetual Change.
However, now with the Steven Wilson 5.1 surround sound reissue – there is much more depth and clarity to explore. This edition is one the last albums I got to listen to on my best friend Harry Perzigian’s state of the art studio system at his house at Brentwood just after he died while I was taking care of a few of his affairs and I would probably have given anything to have to possess this version when it was released a mere week before he died. I’m sure he would have gotten a kick out of hearing the original studio version of The Clap which featured Steve Howe trying to work out some acoustic guitar motifs he would later explore on “Mood for a Day” for the next album entitled “Fragile”. Also, if you listen to the “alternative album” version included on the DVD and Blu Ray, you’d be astonished by the expanded edition of “A Venture” (also included on the CD) which doesn’t fade out on Tony Kaye’s magnificent boogie style piano solo but extends it for a full minute and a half only to end on a glorified Chris Squire bass guitar ending. So, I do now have a fuller appreciation of the hard work that went into the making of this ground breaking sonic achievement. Best line: Death defying, mutilated armies scatter the earth/ Crawling out of dirty holes, their morals disappear– Yours is No Disgrace. (Anderson/Squire/Howe/Kaye/Banks) although we all know that Jon wrote the lyric.
Tomorrow: An art appreciation for the world shattering phenomenon that became “Fragile”