Best known for their hit songs “Roundabout” and, much later, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, highly influential 1970s progressive rock band Yes produced many albums of top-notch classic music. Known for their virtuoso musicianship and large-scale compositions, sometimes over twenty minutes long, Yes were one of the defining acts of the prog rock movement, and certainly one of the most commercially successful. On top of that, they reinvented themselves for the 1980s with the help of guitarist Trevor Rabin, and scored a hit record with “90125”. The group has toured in recent years and still performs some of the following songs.
Yes’s most well known song of the 1970s. Their music was complex and unusual, yet somehow they struck a chord with their sweet vocal harmonies and memorable melodies, even while using the sophisticated musical techniques and advanced, individualistic musicianship that make them beloved by musicians and music geeks. This piece is from the 1971 album “Fragile”.
2. Close to the Edge
From the album of the same title, this 20+ minute epic shows Yes at their absolute artistic peak. An incredible work of music, the song starts on a fade-in and proceeds into a multi-part journey through twisted improvisations section, memorable, stirring themes, ending with the refrain “I get up, I get down.”
3. Siberian Khatru
Another piece from “Close to the Edge”, this is a good example of Yes’s early mystical tendencies. Combining a real classic rock sound with a distinct haunting, mysterious feeling, seemingly nonsensical lyrics drenched in harmony lead up to a beautiful guitar solo by Steve Howe. It has been said that in the studio Howe recorded the guitar solo without hearing it, just playing it by feel!
4. And You and I
The third of the songs on “Close to the Edge”, this is a contender for Yes’s ultimate fan favorite. As grandiose and emotional as it gets, the soaring main section makes this something to witness in their live concerts. The song opens with the plucking of random harmonics on a 12-string guitar – a seemingly casual intro to a very carefully constructed piece of music.
5. I’ve Seen All Good People
Familiar to listeners of classic rock radio! A two part-song, the first part being the well known vocally-driven song “Your Move”, the second part being a sort of country rocker paired with the refrain “I’ve seen all good people turn their heads each day, so satisfied, I’m on my way!”
6. Heart of the Sunrise
This is one of Yes’s earliest epics, from “Fragile”. Features a King Crimson-like opening, a great bass and drums solo by Chris Squire and Bill Bruford, respectively, and Jon Anderson’s distant, yearning vocals.
7. South Side of the Sky
One of Yes’s darkest pieces, also from “Fragile”, this one wasn’t played live until very recently as it was apparently difficult to make it gel on stage. The song is constructed in a dramatic ABA structure, with a driving rock verse and chorus and a softer middle section with a piano solo followed by a gorgeous non-lyrical vocal harmony section.
Quintessentially “prog rock”, this giant piece of music builds and builds, climax upon climax, in a grandiose swirl of speedy keyboard and guitar runs and mystical lyrics. Another Yes fan favorite, this one is from 1977’s “Going For the One”.
9. Yours Is No Disgrace
From Steve Howe’s first album with the band, “The Yes Album”, this song was probably the beginning of Yes finding the sound that they would build on in the coming years. Undoubtedly a great piece of sophisticated rock music, and a standout song for guitar.
10. Starship Trooper
Another piece from “The Yes Album”, featuring a drawn out, building outro section called “Wurm”.