It was surprising and sad news. I was a huge Yes fan in college, and of course I love all things prog. But I started to lose patience with Yes since they had such a revolving door policy it wasn’t even clear is the people in the band even were part of the band (although Squire has played on every Yes album). I hadn’t listened to anything new from them since the 1990s, and I was genuinely shocked to see how much new material they had released since then (about ten).
So here’s a bunch of their albums that I own. I’m not going to pretend I don’t know their peak period stuff, so I’m looking at their first two albums with the hindsight of the 70s masterpieces.
Their debut album (look how 1969 that cover is) opens with a Chris Squire penned song called “Beyond and Before.” Loud (and high) bass notes announce that this might just be a Yes album, even the vocal harmonies suggest Yes, and yet once the verse begins, it is a much more psychedelic version of Yes. The music feels very Summer of Love. And while Squire’s bass does come out from time to time, after that initial flurry it kind of settles down a bit. The song itself is quite good, as long as you’re not expecting classic Yes.
I feel the biggest sound difference is Anderson’s vocals which, while still powerful have a more gentle/sensitive feel (not too far off from his more famous style later on, but slightly mellower perhaps).
Next come s very jazzy cover of The Byrds’ “I See You” (a song I don’t really know, but the lyric “the cave of your hair” is pretty awesome. This version is 7 minutes long with an extended jazzy solo from Peter Banks and suitable jazzy percussion from Bill Bruford. Tony Kaye on keyboards also features prominently. The end is quite loud for such a hippie offering.
“Yesterday and Today” is a piano & vocal performance. It’s very delicate. “Looking Around” has very heavy keyboard opening. The bass sounds like Squire but this is a very keyboard heavy song. “Harold Land” opens with a kind of church organ and singing, but then the Yes sound comes in (you can almost hear the band forming). It feels, again very synthy, but certainly heading in the direction of Yes.
“Every Little Thing is a Beatles cover (! two covers on the debut album). It begins with much chaos—noisy drumming, bass rumblings and keyboard noodling. The song is 5 minutes and the intro is almost 2 minutes. The big bass and drum really makes the song rock and the keyboards build some real drama into the track.
“Sweetness” is indeed a sweet slow track with a lot of acoustic guitars and soft keyboards. It has a great descending chorus vocal line. If this were rerecorded and made a bit more modern sounding I think it could be a hit (well, maybe update the lyrics a bit too).
“Survival” is probably the most enduring track on the record. It opens with some great fuzzy bass and some actual catchy riffs. The opening vocals sound more like what latter-day Yes would sound like (subtle distinction, yes but it’s there). The chorus is very catchy and it’s a fun romp right until the end. It’s a good send off, with a promise of better things.
Since almost every Yes album had different personnel, I’m going to keep a running tally here:
[READ: February 16, 2014] The ElseWhere Chronicles Book Six
I ended my review of the last book by saying “now I’m hooked.” But in the year since I read the last book I lost all the momentum of the series (since I’d read the first five in quick succession). Which is a shame since the book was every bit as exciting as the rest, but I wasn’t quite as into it as I wanted to be.
Since Ilvanna died in the last book I should have been more upset about it and been more excited at the prospect of her return in this one, but I’d forgotten about it all.
As for the rest of the story, Theo, Max and Rebecca meet up with an old man who seems to know the secrets of the Other World. He convinces Theo and Max to capture a creature who can take them to the Other World.
Meanwhile, in the Other World we see that the spirit of Rebecca is held be a mean looking guy known as the Master of Shadows.
At last the Master of Shadows meets the old man and Rebecca meets her double–a creature which he has created from a photo of Rebecca–he just needs her soul to complete the creation. The final battle is pretty epic with swirling shadows all over the place and Rebecca’s grandfather pleading with her to destroy her doppelganger.
Meanwhile Theo and Max find Ilvanna who may or may not be dangerous, but she seems to want to help them.
This was the final book of series two of the series. And the cliffhanger shows that the boys have found Dolean and the two Rebeccas have emerged–to what end?
The story was certainly exciting, but I recommend reading the whole second series together to really maximize the impact.