Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Yes Album 40 Years On

To listen to a piece of music released 40 years ago you would expect it to date, not all when I listened to the whole album last week on the North Devon Coast 11 miles from South Molton where it was rehearsed I was astonished at how fresh and timeless it sounded no wonder it still receives such a warm reception when they play excerpts, probably tonight somewhere in the United States.  

The Yes Album
Bruford/Squire/Howe pound out the opening salvos locked together like musical lovers. Then the first huge bass accent, another and in comes the burning Hammond sound. A slight upward movement and then the first appearance of a synthesiser on a Yes CD and in comes Steve’s beautiful clean guitar lines dancing over the top and at 1.30 the first block vocals. The Yes choir but equal in the mix and then a rotating lick from Steve and we are off. The block vocals now form a call and response with Steve’s guitar injections. At 3.20 the music unwinds and the bass takes up the tune reverse guitar phrases and then the salvo returns. The bass now grinding and churning and suddenly a wonderful display of stereo panned guitar genius from Steve. There is so much music here and it’s so clearly realised everything counts after those sessions in South Molton. Now a beautiful sequence acoustic guitar then long languid lines from Steve and a third solo taking up that picked jazz style and nice resolutions from Bruford. Next up another instrument beautiful, fragile, emotional and just enough strain to give it an additional sense of conviction, the voice of Yes. Next a recapitulation of the first call and response themes giving the piece cohesion and a sense of continuity, this is so wonderfully designed and then some final ascending Moog from the man who would not player the synthesiser, could have fooled me, and the new boy twists and turns taking the piece to its final spiralling conclusion.
After Steve’s solo concert favourite we return to the full ensemble. The general sound much the same spiralling ascending runs the bass coming to the fore the burning Hammond and dribbling inventive solos from the guitar and the fifth instrument taking the melody and counter pointing with a beautiful fluid solo from Steve at 1.43 and Jon floats in behind, appropriate but never intrusive letting the instrumental virtuosity breath. 
At 3.18 the acoustic guitar is the featured instrument Yes doing a ragtime country feel and the vocals remind you of CSN. This is a perfect example of what Bill would play later with Crimson “admiral restraint”. When the drums return there is more impact. Now the soundscape has returned and we reach 5.39 and it all falls away whilst Stave chugs a way on the guitar a hint of synth as the tension builds and a rotating organ motive. You have to move to this it’s direct impassioned and mysterious a wonderful phased synth sound and still the tension builds Steve thrashing out the chords and still quite quiet and then the organ circling. We have heard it hundreds of time since played in Buenos Aires/Moscow the Rainbow theatre London but it still excites and in comes the churning turning guitar solo calling and responding itself the swell of the synth and the organ and Bill drum rolls in the back ground and then it dissipates gone in the night.        
Next up, something new from the band and particularly atypical, a "song" from Yes it features an A cappella intro with a dazzling Portuguese acoustic guitar intro.  Gorgeous harmonies whilst it might be a atypical it is so strong it has become a cornerstone of the next 40 years. A recorder joins in and the wordless chant sets up a multi tracked two part harmony and then the organ, the quote from Lennon, and then a clever shift of gear. The jangling frantic guitar leads us into the attractive main melody repeated with great charm and a sense of fun by the instrumentalists and vocalist alike. It swings and shuffles until the final clever slow down with its stately organ drones. Yes do clever pop music.
A venture  a shorter underrated piece a mysterious piano introduction adult jazz tinged guitar lead into a more traditional vocal arrangement  but still unique, with this album the bands personality fully realised and then a change of pace and it ends as it had begun great piano and guitar playing with some well thought bass surges from the Fish.
Lightning fast Riffing opens the final piece and great top kit battering responses from Mr Bruford. Mr Squire states the melody and the voice takes it over and Mr Anderson sings inspired by the North Devon countryside.  The energy on this piece is palpable as the block vocals call and response and then the tension dissipates the melody returns and then repeats building tension and then releasing it. A great dribbling solo at 4.16 but beautifully concise and then wonderful Wes Montgomery picking this is triple "A" Yes taking the music down to a whisper in a perfectly natural organic way and then building it up again surging rushing and suddenly furious fast runs from Tony and Bill disappear off to one side, a massive keyboard sound enters on the other side of the stage. A tremendous mad guitar solo full of that angular tone he favoured at this time a shooting star crosses the firmament and the block vocals are back and the resulting wonderful accent from Chris but like their best music the melodies are so accessible "inside out outside in" wordless vocals and next it stars the guitar driving the piece taking the melody much faster the bass takes over pushes Steve to the top of his game jangling out of the mix and finally a so self-disciplined fade, who said these guys were indulgent.