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Wonderous Stories: The Best of Yes

Review by Gary Hill

I’m sure some would make the argument that we don’t need another Yes compilation album. Well, as a Yes fanatic who has to own everything from Yes, I would disagree, at least in my case. This one has an intriguing choice of songs. All of the Close to the Edge album is represented. There are two epics, the title track to Close to the Edge being one of those. A couple unusual cuts included the shorten “Soon” and the acapella version of “Leave It.” All in all, this is a good collection. I’ve already reviewed all these songs in my reviews of other Yes albums. For the sake of consistency, I’ve used those track reviews here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 5 at

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Siberian Khatru

Steve Howe screams out the intro to this one, foreshadowing it as a frantic and hard rocking Yes jam. There aren't a lot of wholesale changes here, but each member of the band works towards smaller change ups, adding a vitality and freshness as the cut moves on. This has always been a personal favorite of mine, and Howe contributes some of his most frantic and high energy guitar work of any Yes song.

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.
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.
Mood For A Day
A Steve Howe solo piece, this is a thoughtful and evocative acoustic guitar excursion.
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.
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.
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.
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 pervious 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.
Close to the Edge: The Solid Time of Change/Total Mass Retain/Get Up I Get Down/Seasons of Man
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.          
Disc 2
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.
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.
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.
And You and I: Cord of Life/Eclipse/The Preacher the Teacher/Apocalypse
This one begins tentatively with Howe on acoustic guitar. As the piece begins to take on a bit of melody, it rather quickly turns a corner as the rest of the band begins to join the maestro. This takes the form of a rather folky sort of acoustic guitar laden ballad, but the arrangement adds a fairly quirky progressive rock element. Eventually it moves out to a new melody, driven heavily by Chris Squire's bass. This is short lived, though, then a brief chord moves it to a slow moving, but highly expansive segment that feels very joyous and spiritual. After a time this moves to a crescendo, then How takes over on the acoustic guitar again, eventually heralding another folky segment. Eventually this moves to another groove oriented section that moves quite well. This is probably one of the most organic prog rock tunes of all time, each segment feeling like it flows naturally from the one before. It is a very powerful and uplifting number. It ends with a brief and airy chorus based on acoustic guitar, vocals and gentle keys.
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 contribution.
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.
With a subdued keyboard segment starting the cut, pipe organ blasts in. It is followed quickly by the rest of the instruments. This piece is hard rocking prog that features some wonderful bass moments.
Leave It (Acapella Mix)
Here we get a rendition of the song sans instrumentation. I remember this was one of a series of variant “Leave It” videos on MTV. Since the vocals were such a big part of this to begin with, it should be no surprise that it works quite well like this.
Remembering: High the Memory
A pretty and sedate melody begins this. Anderson's vocals add a verse that feels like a chant, Squire adding his voice alongside. As the next vocal segment, a soaring and powerful one, comes in atop the same backdrop, Wakeman's keys and Squire's bass occasionally shadow the vocal line. This section pulls most of its power and direction from the vocals, the instruments seeming to follow Anderson, changing their melodies essentially to better accompany his performance. After a time this drops to a mysterious instrumental passage, but it isn't content to sit there long, instead moving back to the same place it came from. A new, bouncy melody takes over providing the new backdrop for the vocal arrangement. This carries the piece for a time then moves through several changes before giving way to another dramatic instrumental interlude. A new melody line comes out after this segment, this a catchy and bounce movement and one of the more effective verse segments on show here. Chris Squire's bass provides the majority of the structure for this. As this movement ends, a new instrumental segment takes the piece, then a fast paced prog chorus with Chris Squire laying down a killer almost funky bass beat takes it. This again doesn't overstay it's welcome, dropping to a pretty mellower section that then gives way to a bouncy acoustic guitar melody that serves as the backing for the next verse. A vocal segment from earlier in the piece eventually re-emerges, and the group reworks this into a glorious instrumental excursion before slowing it down for another vocal performance. This one is abase on a jumpy sort of rhythmic patter. It eventually gives way to a rather awesome keyboard solo based movement. The band reworks this as the3y recreate and embellish the them. A new progression comes out of this one and forms the backdrop for the next section. As they work out beyond this, Howe gets in some meaty soloing before the next verse and again after it. This drops down to the more sedate after this resolves out. Wakeman weaves melody lines over top of his own accompaniment to end the piece.
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 on fire at times, and the general tone and quirky changes really do work.
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.


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