Yes – The Yes Album
Released February 19th, 1971 on Atlantic Records
Produced by Yes and Eddie Offord
Peaked at #40 US, #4 UK
“Your Move (I’ve Seen All Good People)” (#40 US, #7 UK)
The Yes Album was the English prog band’s third but you may as well call it the first because no one outside of Yes fanatics cares about the first two and it’s also the first one with Steve Howe playing guitar. That’s not to say that the first two albums aren’t good, because they are; it’s just that they’re also pretty scattershot, the artefacts of a band searching for a sound to call their own. They discovered that sound here, and would mine it for all it was worth for the next ten years. The rhythm section soared off into flight, providing a wide-open framework for Howe to play his folksy brand of knotted prog guitar. “I’ve Seen All Good People / Your Move / All Good People” is the clear highlight of the album, showing off the breadth of their prog-folk-harmony-boogie dynamic, but “Starship Troopers” et al. is a big runner-up, and the opener “Yours Is No Disgrace” is no toss-off track either. “Perpetual Change” also has some great, quick-fingered Hammond organ playing courtesy of Tony Kaye; as the last track on the record it pointed towards something great in the future but of course the band ditched him in favour of Rick Wakeman because Kaye didn’t want to figure out Moog synths. Which is fine. I guess.
This is one of those albums where it makes perfect sense that it’s turning fifty years old, since there’s more than a dollop of English hippy in here, and those people are all off voting to cut off their own feet or whatever. There’s an interpolation of “All we are saying is give peace a chance” semi-hidden in here, for God’s sake. So it’s age shows, especially considering how few prog bands there are coming up now. The fourth post-war generation will have such a flood of music to choose from even just from their parental influences, let alone their peers; consider that, and then consider that rock ‘n’ roll was supposed to be a passing fad in the first place. At the venerable age of fifty, is there a future for Yes records? King Crimson gets respect from hard rockists, partly for the clout and partly because Tool copped a lot of their initial moves from Discipline. Rush is the nerds’ soundtrack, and is a much younger band. They had a certain vitality when they were in their prime but now they’re by and large a relic of a bygone age, and when that fanbase they won over in their day dies off so will they. The fact that I’m writing this little happy birthday message to what is not even the best Yes album is in itself a miracle of modern media; when I first encountered this band, I doubt I could have named or would have heard songs from 1945. It’s different circumstances, to be sure, but push it forward: by 2071, assuming we aren’t all scavenging the wasteland for supplies to make it through another day, how many people do you honestly think will be out there thinking to themselves hmm yes today I will listen to The Yes Album? This might be the last time a milestone anniversary like this is celebrated for this record. Maybe crank up “Starship Troopers” just a little louder in honor of this idea. Time erases us all and in the end the only person whose name will be remembered is Richard Nixon, courtesy of that plaque on the moon.