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Yes

Yesyears Box Set

Review by Gary Hill

Released during the flurry of activity surrounding the Union tour, this four CD set is a pricey, but fairly solid addition to the Yes catalog. While any compilation will undoubtedly bring up complaints as to what was included and what was not, this album presents a fairly accurate representation of the chronology of the band. While many have complained that not enough new material was included in this compilation, and I could certainly think of changes I would have made, the mix is still a pretty solid one. Certainly the inclusion of the Going For The One unreleased material and "Run With The Fox" is a definite plus. All in all, this collection was a good, if not perfect box set. Since I have covered much of this material previously in other reviews many of the track by tracks are either taken from or modified from those reviews for the sake of consistency.

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Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Something's Coming
This song is a wonderfully psychedelic/progressive take on this piece from the musical West Side Story, and contains some fine percussion and guitar work. Something`s Coming is an excellent example of what early Yes was all about.
Survival
This begins with some almost funky guitar that gives way to a free form jam that the band seemed so fond of in those days. This eventually works through, then leads to a balladic segment that serves as the bulk of the piece. During the lyrics Anderson sings, "the beginning of things to come", and these words seem truly prophetic on this cut. This has weathered they years quite well.
Every Little Thing
A Beatles cover, Yes starts this with a free form jam that at times is quite frantic and hard edged. They eventually drop to the main melody line, throwing in the familiar "Day Tripper" riff for good measure. Yes' take on this one is both reverent and experimental, showing that a true pop classic can be taken to new experimental heights. It gets a bit weird at times.
Then
A descending progression begins this, then a tentative jam with lots of kinetic energy takes it. As this runs through the vocals come in over top. The lyrics on this one are particularly potent. The chorus is a satisfying resolution out of the tension created by the verse segment, and the strings are especially effective on this number. "Love is the only answer, Hate is the root of cancer, then". This cut takes a seemingly deceptively complex arrangement and makes it seem simple and catchy. The band eventually moves this into a fast paced instrumental break that features a lot of soloing by Tony Kaye. This musical excursion seems to be Yes' answer to Vanilla Fudge in many ways. At the end of this they drop it way down to a very atmospheric sort of segment that gains as much from what isn't there as it does from the sounds that are - the space between is enchanting. Both Squire and Banks move subtly around in this segment, bringing a lot of style to it by playing just the right thing, and never too much. A quick flourish ends the piece.
Everydays
While much of this cut is a rather forgettable jazzy ballad, the center piece frantic jam that makes up the mid-section is awesome and certainly brings the power of the entire piece up. This one is all over the place, and Banks really shines here.
Sweet Dreams
Although this one is a bit more familiar to Yes fans, than much of the their early material, its fairly straightforward Beatlesish song structure is just not that special. Although catchy, this is one of the weaker tracks from the "Time and A Word" album, gaining much of its appeal, I believe, from the repetition awarded it from its presence on Yesterdays.
No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed
Organ begins this, then a symphonic explosion takes it. As this winds through, a frantic bass line takes over; Squire is just running frantically over the fret board, driving this cut. The chorus is more of a group effort, and after that Banks take the opportunity for a tasty solo. This Richie Havens penned cut seems a great vehicle for the band. Indeed after the second chorus, they explode out into a great instrumental break, augmented again by the orchestra. This jam is a killer early Yes exploration. The remainder of the piece, until the short fast paced interplay section at the end, carries on much like the rest of it.
Time and A Word
The title track to Yes' second album is an intriguing, but not spectacular balladish piece. Although this one has a special place in the hearts of most Yes fans (myself included) listening to it critically it just isn't all that special.
Starship Trooper
A mid-paced jam starts this one, the band working through it and basing the first verse on it. It drops back in an almost stuttering break, then moves back up the previous segment to carry forward. The main melody is both straightforward and quirky, and the musicians go forth on various short musical excursions from time to time as they work through the discovery of it. Eventually it drops to a fast paced acoustic guitar line that serves as a bridge into the next section as well as the backdrop for the next set of vocal elements. An airy jam ensues with an almost jazzy texture, seeming to stream skyward. This new melody carries the cut for a time. As this resolves out a new guitar strumming pattern takes the piece. The band eventually works this up to be the backdrop for a fairly frenzied prog excursion that serves as the extended outro. This segment is a trademark Yes musical exploration.
Yours Is No Disgrace
A staccato pattern starts this, quickly joined by Tony Kaye's organ playing melody over top. After this segment, the band bursts into a fast paced jam, Steve Howe soloing all over it. They move this one forward in this way for a time, then drop back to just keys. The first verse is sung with just those organ chords as backing, then Howe screams out on his strings, and the band push the jam back to where it was earlier. This mode is the order of the day for a time; instruments laid over top at different points, 'til they drop it back to a walking bass line for the next verse. Squire holds the piece with Howe providing ornamentation for a time until the band returns to the staccato section. They create a new instrumental segment from this until Howe solos again, this time punctuated at points by the entire group. They then move this into a soaring instrumental segment, moving the track to new heights. This extended jam shows elements of the sound that come to fruition on Fragile. Howe cuts loose with some his most tasty riffing ever on this cut. After a long time working through this, they drop it back to just organ, then a new mellow melody takes over, providing both the transition and resolution to the earlier frenzy. They build this new melody line forward recreating it for a time until Howe takes over again, then the band rejoin for a reprise of the earlier quick modes. This one really is a showcase for Steve Howe's guitar work and a real smoker.
I've Seen All Good People
Beginning with an acapella chorus round sung by Squire and Anderson, Howe's gentle acoustic guitar heralds the coming of the other instruments. They join in a bouncy folk rock style jam. Trails of melody are woven over top of this at times, and the vocal harmony arrangement is stellar. When the organ enters later it hints at majesty to come, and the band quote John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance". This crescendos, then a new bouncy rock and roll jam comes in, Howe's guitar playing awesome leads all over it. The guitar solo break is especially potent. The cut shifts shortly after this to a short syncopated change of pace, then returns to the previous section. A reprise of the chorus with only organ accompanying it replaces this section and fades down to end the cut.
Long Distance Runaround
Another that has become a Yes classic, this one features an especially strong vocal arrangement and intriguing rhythmic pattern. It is quirky, dramatic and smart. It leads here straight into Chris Squire's solo "The Fish".
Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)
Bass man and Pisces (the fish) Chris Squire's trademark solo, this is like no other bass solo you have heard. It is more of a true composition with Squire's bass runs set over top of a backdrop of percussion and harmonics. This has a great groove to it.
Disc 2
Roundabout
Other than the Trevor Rabin era "Owner of a Lonely Heart" this is probably the most well-known Yes track of all time and sits near Zep's "Stairway to Heaven" in the category of most recognizable '70's rock song. Guitarist Steve Howe's harmonic-based intro gives way to a thundering groove that combines quirky changes into a hard rocking anthem that is actually quite catchy. This one certainly suffers from over-exposure, but truly is a masterwork.
Heart of the Sunrise
Chris Squire once was quoted as saying that this track is the definitive Yes song, capturing all of what the band does well. Truly it is another masterpiece, and is full of emotion. The virtuosity is all over this, but as part of making a stronger song rather than "showing off". Squire's bass line drives much of the cut. It showcases the group's contrasting soft and hard-edged sides quite well. In fact, Mr. Squire might well be right on the money with his assessment of this piece.
America
Yes' cover of Paul Simon's piece, this one feels more like older Yes in many ways, seeming like it might have felt quite at home on one of the Banks era albums. It is a solid reworking of the song, and the group finds plenty of opportunities to shine here.
Close to the Edge
This one starts slowly with the simulated sounds of birds and water gradually building and swirling courtesy of Rick Wakeman's keyboards. As this crescendos, the band comes in with a frantic and chaotic series of counterpoints dancing circles around one another. The result is somewhat hard to take at first, but really does feel a bit like a harder edged take on something from Fragile. As this carries forward, it is punctuated at a couple points by non-lyrical vocals. Eventually all this resolves down to a more melodic verse segment taking the song to its next movement. The cut runs quite a while working through and reinventing several musical and vocal themes. Eventually it drops to an atmospheric section and gradually begins a building process from there. This segment is highlighted by sort of a vocal duel between Anderson and Squire. The lines the two sing don't seem really related to one another, but almost as if both are singing two different, but complimentary songs. As this movement peaks, Wakeman takes over once more. He switches to synthesizer to re-energize the cut and move it to the next fast paced segment. This section moves and evolves, eventually returning to a chorus of "I Get Up/I Get Down" which is a reprise from earlier points in the composition. That chorus moves the piece to the dramatic resolution followed by Wakeman's keys in similar tones to the intro serving as bookends to the epic.
Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil
This one starts in dramatic tones, and the band start on a series of musical explorations from there. Anderson's voice eventually joins in, but rather than providing lyrical content, he becomes just another of the instruments as they continue to expand into more musical themes. After a while this drops to a textural, rather effects driven segment and Howe weaves waves of sound over this backdrop for a time. I have to say this is one of the few points in his career where he gets jut a little noodly. They eventually move this to the first real vocal segment of the piece - a highly effective, rather bouncy mid-tempo section, this is quite lush and poignant. Eventually the instruments drop away after a crescendo and the bass drives another verse segment. This whole section is another of the parts of the album that works quite well. This builds and restructures, the segment truly growing by contributions by all of the band members. They turn this into a highly dramatic jam after a time, then drop it to a rhythm structure just overlaid with atmosphere. This gives way to a fast bass driven excursion. The band work through several variants over this main backdrop. It gets very powerful, if a bit weird at times. It eventually gives way to a major tribal sounding rhythmic solo segment, this is rather cool, but truly only shines live. This is rather dark and weird at times. This resolves in triumphant fashion and a pretty and catchy balladic melody section takes it in a very satisfying resolution, providing comfort and security after the chaos that preceded it. They build this into a very effective progression to end. I wonder if one of the reasons this album holds such a high place in some Yes fan's hearts is because the ending, after such a long ride, is so strong.
Sound Chaser
A frantic off kilter jam begins this fast paced rocker. The band carry it through several hard rocking, frantic changes, but the cut is just a bit too busy at times. This is one of the least cohesive compositions the band have ever done, seeming at times to wander a bit too much. Steve Howe gets quite a few opportunities to solo on this one. In fact, he is pretty much the star of the piece, his guitar running the gamut of sounds from classical to hard rocking, even taking on a surf sound at times. It eventually works through this extended guitar solo, dropping to atmospheric and mellow texture that brings with it a mellow verse. Then the band bursts into another fast paced jam, jazzy at first, then more hard rock oriented. The pace keeps accelerating as it carries on. Then it drops to a steadier tempo, which gives way to a weird acapella break, and then Moraz rushes in with a cool keyboard solo. Another burst of near acapella chanting takes the band to a fast paced outro that to me feels a bit like cartoon music. This one is not bad, but definitely a bit overindulgent at times.
Disc 3
Soon (Single Edit)
This song is the closing section of the epic "Gates of Delirium" from Relayer. As part of that piece this represents the final vocal segment, and it quite poignant, the peace after the horrors of war. The lyrics portray a vision of hope amongst the madness. Howe works some stunningly beautiful slide guitar over top of the melody here. This works through to a satisfying resolution. As a single without the music that preceded it, it still works quite well.
Amazing Grace
Part of Chris Squire's bass solo, this is a somewhat distorted bass guitar rendition of the hymn.
Vevey, Part One
Jon Anderson's harp begins this and Wakeman joins on keyboards. The cut is a brief, pretty, but somewhat chaotic instrumental duo.
Wonderous Stories
Mellow, but quite complex prog wonderment is used to create a composition that is both other worldly and accessible. This was a bit of a hit for the band in some parts of the world. Sections of this one have sounds that were destined to show up on the band's next release Tormato.
Awaken
One of Yes' great epics, this one begins with energetic piano work. That leads to a more sedate and complex piano segment that makes up the rest of the intro. This intro is definitely trademark Wakeman. Ambient/textural elements take over from there, and the vocals enter. A hard rocking and fast paced prog segment then ensues. "Strong dreams reign here." That line really seems to set a lot of the tone for the piece. The composition then moves into a strong riff-laden prog jam that features powerful guitar work and elements that call to mind Close To The Edge. Also, this is definitely one of the only rock songs to feature sleigh bells. From here, the cut seems almost to swirl out of this segment, moving into a different portion of the cut. This next movement is a different prog portion that seems very much like a building mode. It then dissolves into just keys before taking us into the next segment. Low key elements start this instrumental portion of the piece, and then it begins to build. This movement sets the cut aside again by featuring another unusual instrument - the harp. This whole section takes one brief theme and keeps redoing it. Each time, it adds layers and intensity. Then, a new theme is introduced on the guitar and the band starts to move out of this break. As they do, we find that the cut has once again transformed. The new movement is slower and more thoughtful and features angelic voices. This leads into a dramatic and powerfully building segment that gives way to one more verse of vocals. Then an organ solo calls the piece into its next, considerably triumphant sounding, movement. As this short portion reaches its resolution, more ambient sounds take over. Add to this vocals, and it makes for a rather powerful section. This segment builds a bit to make for a satisfying conclusion.
Montreux's Theme
This short cut build very slowly. It's an instrumental that features some snippets of Howe soloing and a pretty melody. The ending segment becomes a very intriguing faster jam that feels a bit like Tales From Topographic Oceans.
Vevey, Part Two
Harp and keyboards continue in here in a very sedate and pretty progression in this brief Anderson / Wakeman instrumental.
Going For the One
Fast-paced, hard-edged, guitar-dominated prog, this cut really rips forth. It features a quirky jam section in a rock and rolling manner at the 5:30 mark. It is a bit brief, but quite effective. The ending segment seems to just soar ever higher. This is achieved by vocals that feel like they are building and ever increasing jamming of guitar and keys. Before it reaches its resolution, the tension is released in a joyous Beatlesesque manner.
Money
Yes show that they know how to have fun with this little dittie. A bouncy rock and roll jam serves as the backdrop for this one. The background vocals are a bit unusual and Howe and Wakeman both get in some tasty, but brief, solos. Narration in the background is a nice, but at times rather risqué touch. This one is very unusual for Yes - just a lot of fun.
Abilene
Originally released as a B-Side, wind and the neighing of horses start this. The cut kinds in with a melodic Yes balladic style. This gets rather bouncy and a bit more involved as it carries on. Howe solos overtop of much of this.
Don't Kill The Whale
This is a somewhat funky rocker that seems a bit contrived by today's standards. It is still a very good song, and features a strong vocal dominated segment towards the end. That vocal segment is followed by a potent guitar driven outro.
On the Silent Wings of Freedom
This cut starts with a rather gradual building based on quirkily tempoed drums. This intro features some incredible guitar soloing. The entire song continues on in this pattern, as a very potent prog rock jam.
Does It Really Happen?
This one comes in frantic and is a definite smoking fast paced prog piece. It features some of the most frantic and on top of it bass work Mr. Squire has ever done. The man was simply on fire here - especially on the reprise after the false ending.
Tempus Fugit
Keys start this, and while Howe lays down a bouncy Police like rhythm guitar Squire's bass simply runs like crazy. This is definitely not your typical Yes music, but Squire and Howe are both aflame at times, and the general tone and quirky changes really do work.
Run With the Fox
Released by Squire and White as a Christmas single when Yes had ceased to be, this prog ballad with the bassman on lead vocals is a great song, both as a Yes track and a Christmas number. It feels a bit like a cross between Squire's "Fish Out of Water" album, Drama era Yes and a touch of ELP's Love Beach. That last influence can probably be explained by the fact that Pete Sinfield (who was responsible for that ELP album's lyrics) penned the words to this one. This has some ice touches like horns and strings, a killer bass line and is just a stellar tune. Its positive theme and texture are great.
Disc 4
Make It Easy
A Trevor Rabin penned piece, this one should be familiar to Yes heads who saw them during the Rabin era as part of it was often used as an intro to "Owner of A Lonely Heart" in concert. This is a solid rocker that at times feels like "Cinema" Rabin's arena rock vocal delivery is pretty cool, and in many ways this is quite typical of the music the band created during that time. It's certainly as strong as much of the material they put out with Rabin.
It Can Happen Demo
This rendition of the cut does not have Anderson on it, as it, like the previous number, was recorded before he joined/rejoined the band. It's a bit more rock and roll in delivery, and the recording (as can be expected of a demo) is a bit rough. We do get more Squire vocals here, which is a good thing. He is really an underrated singer. The lyrics vary somewhat here, and it feels a little too long in this telling.
Owner of a Lonely Heart
A quick percussion run gives way to the familiar crunch guitar line. While this cut is an understated hard rocking piece, it has been quite influential, in off all music, R & B, in its production. This is not what one would normally think of as "Yes music". It's not prog and is definitely overplayed. Still, it does have its moments.
Hold On
This bouncy cut is a pretty straightforward rocker, but the vocal arrangement is its key redeeming factor. At times this one feels more like '80's hair metal than classic Yes.
Shoot High Aim Low
This balladic number has a great atmospheric texture, and the vocal trade off between Rabin and Anderson works quite well. This one is a high point of this lineup. Rabin's solo is remarkably spot on and meaty.
Rhythm of Love
In my opinion this pop drivel with its Beach Boys like vocal arrangement is the worst cut Yes have ever recorded. I can't stand it.
Love Will Find A Way
Of the singles from the Rabin era, this was always the one that grabbed me. It really seemed to work pretty well. It starts with a string section then moves to a strong guitar picking mode that serves as the basis for the chorus. The verse here is sung by Squire over an almost funky line.
Changes (Live)
This live recording of the Rabin era of the band doing a song that was always one of my favorites of that period. This is a solid liver performance and shows the somewhat different arrangement the band had of this when playing it live.
And You And I (Live)
Another live track from the Rabin era, the different guitar approach (generally more metallic) has never set well with me. Still, it is such a strong piece of music that it holds up well even in that incarnation. I would have preferred if they had included a version from the Union lineup, though.
Heart of the Sunrise (Live)
This one is also performed by Anderson , Kaye, Rabin, Squire and White and holds together far better with this lineup than "And You and I" making it a solid, if not standout, rendition. Still a Union tour recording of this one would have been preferable as well. 
Love Conquers All
This demo by Squire and Billy Sherwood represented the shape of things to come as the two of them were the songwriting team responsible for much of the Open Your Eyes album. This pop dittie is definitely not up to the standards of that much maligned release, though.
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