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Progressive Rock CD Reviews



Review by Gary Hill

The self-titled debut by Yes, this 1969 album was full of psychedelic wandering and experimentation. It had some definite strong points, and did, in fact show off signs of the band that would later develop. Much of the album feels like the Peter Banks show with his guitar work being the focal point of many of the songs. This one should appeal to all hardcore Yes fans, and prog fans in general as it really shows the way that progressive rock emerged from psychedelia. Some of the material comes across today as quite dated, but other pieces hold up quite well.

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Track by Track Review
Beyond and Before
This is a fast paced, quirky number that has a great psychedelic texture and show signs of the Yes that is to come. Anderson's vocal here seems to be matched with those of Peter Banks. Squire can also be heard to sing on this one. Banks' guitar work is all over this song, even during the vocal segments. I personally like this technique, rather than compartmentalizing instrumental solos and vocal segments. A mellow interlude lends a nice contrast and leads to a weird psychedelic break that serves as the outro.
I See You
This is the first of two covers on the disc, the original artist here being The Byrds. Yes' take on this is a great jazzy excursion that is laced throughout with Banks' guitar explorations. Once again Anderson's vocals are far from the central ones on the piece. This features a high-energy jam that showcases the band's creative fury that would explode out later in their writing. There is a nearly unaccompanied free form jazz guitar solo here.
Yesterday and Today
"Yesterday and Today" is a mellow and quite pretty, but rather forgettable ballad.
Looking Around
This one comes in quite frantic and the pace holds throughout most of the cut, mellower segments occasionally provide a nice contrast. Banks; guitar work is quite inspired at points on this number.
Harold Land
Arguably "Harold Land" is the first number that really feels much like what the band was later to become. The anti-war piece alternates mellower and faster hard-edged segments to create a great sonic contrast. It features several distinct themes, and all members of the band find chances to shine within the song structure. They break into a rather Beatlesesque section to end. This is one of the highlights of the disc.
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.
Another mellow balladic cut, this one is definitely stronger than "Yesterday and Today". It is a bit more rock and roll and run of the mill than most older Yes, but still holds up remarkably well. Chris Squire's bass work adds a lot of character to this one.
The other highlight of the album, this begins with some almost funky guitar that gives way to another free form jam that the band seems so fond of in those days. This eventually works through, then gives way to a balladic segment that serves as the bulk of the piece. During the lyrics Anderson sing, "the beginning of things to come", and these words seem truly prophetic on this cut. This is a definite strong point, and has weathered they years quite well.
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