Top Ten Songs by YES

Like millions of others all over the world, I’ve been a fan of the progressive rock band YES since the early 1970’s. Now you’d think that after following a band for so many years I’d have a handle on what they were singing about! No such luck! I wonder if even YES knows what the heck they’re singing about! Never content to just write a “hit song”, YES’ lead singer and co-founder Jon Anderson prefers to create meandering sonic landscapes. Music for the mind. Epic songs that run upwards to 15 minutes with many classics logging in at a half hour or more. In fact, YES is probably the only band who can wrap an entire 2 and Ã?½ hour concert around 10 songs. Lest you think there’s no market for that type of thing, consider that with the exception of a handful of albums, all of the YES catalogue (dating back from 1969 to the present) has gone at least “Gold” upon shipping. They’re most recent effort, the 2004 compilation “YesGold” made the UK Top Ten.

Speaking of YES’ top ten songs, I offer up the following list. These are my favourites, some are more well-known then others. Most of these gems can be picked up through Rhino Records – which purchased the entire YES catalogue a few years ago and has done a fabulous job of re-issuing most of the YES albums to include alternate takes, unpublished songs and live versions. A real bargain if I do say so myself!

1) “Close to the Edge” (1972). Fresh off the international success of Fragile, YES devoted an entire album to just 3 songs. The title cut Close to the Edge logged in at an incredible 18:50! And instant hit on Fm radio – back in the days when there really WAS an outlet for progressive rock, “Close to the Edge” presented a mind-boggling array of virtuoso playing by Chris Squire on bass guitar and Steve Howe on lead guitar. Changing time signatures, frenetic drumming by Bill Bruford and the electronic wizardry of Rick Wakeman on keyboards all made for an exhilarating near-half hour of music! And what about these lyrics:

“âÂ?¦and accessing points to nowhere, leading every single one,
a dewdrop can assault us like the music of the sun,
and take away the plain in which we move
and choose the course you’re runningâÂ?¦ “

What the heck is Jon Anderson trying to say? Thirty years later I’m STILL trying to figure it

2) “Roundabout “(1971). Clocking in at nearly 9:00 minutes, “Roundabout” provided YES with their first bonafide radio hit. Although what wound up on the air was heavily edited. None-the-less, Roundabout put YES in the minds of the American public. A heavy touring schedule followed, making the album “Fragile” one of the bands most popular albums and made “Roundabout”an enduring concert staple for years to come.

3) “Ritual” (1974). From the album “Tales From Topographic Oceans”. A double-album with only FOUR songs? Only YES could pull that off. Two songs per side. Each one clocking in at about 20 minutes. An exhaustive effort. Tales was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for YES keyboard player Rick Wakeman who left the band shortly after its completion. Lambasted by critics, Tales from Topographic Oceans still managed to chart at #1 in the UK and #6 in the US and went Gold in “record” time. A hard album to listen to, regardless of one’s state of mind, the most accessible tune is “Ritual” (21:37).

4) “The Gates of Delerium” (1975). From the album “Relayer”. Just what the world needs, another YES song that runs over 21:00! “GatesâÂ?¦” may be over twenty minutes long but it plays like a five- minute rock tune. Great keyboards by Patrick Moraz who had – at this point – replaced Rick Wakemen.

5) “Going for the One” (1976). Title cut from the album of the same name. “Going for the One” was a fun tune that opens with vicious slide guitar wailing courtesy of Steve Howe. Tremendous bass work by Chris Squire.

6) “Awaken” (1976). Also from the hit album “Going for the One”. Who knows how much dope was smoked by YES’ countless fans while listening to this tune. Nearly 16:00 minutes worth of sonic madness. At times placent, at times bombastic. “Awaken” has often been cited by Jon Anderson as “âÂ?¦the one tune where everything I ever wanted in a song is present…”

7) “Tempus Fugit “(1980) from the album “Drama”. The only YES album not to include Jon Anderson on vocals. Instead we get Trevor Horn from “Buggles” fame (along with Geoff Downes on keyboards).

8) “Owner of a Lonely Heart”(1983). The only YES song ever to make it to number one. This funky little tune was expertly produced by Trevor Horne sold millions and in the process put YES back on the map and a little closer to earth. Horne pioneered a lot of studio sampling techniques that today we take for granted, but in 1983, “Owner…” was indeed cutting edge. Great guitar licks by Trevor Rabin who took over for Steve Howe after the Howe left to form Asia.

9) “The Calling” (1994. From the album “Talk”. Possibly the first record to be produced digitally instead of on tape. “The Calling” is a hard-charging tune that grabs you by the cahone’s and doesn’t let go for nearly 7 minutes.

10) “In The Presence Of “(2003). From the YES album “Magnification” in which YES plays with an orchestra led by Larry Groupe’. Another tune that starts and stops and comes and goes and is one of my favourite road-trip tunes.

So there you go. My personal YES top ten. Not an easy decision when there’s so much great YES music to choose from. Love ’em or hate ’em, YES has always played by its own rules and has always attempted to create something newâÂ?¦something freshâÂ?¦something progressive!

So give it a try and just say�YES!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 + five =