Photo credit: Yes.
Rarely can a band be said to have ‘defined’ a genre of music. Metal may well belong to Black Sabbath, Rock n’ Roll is Chuck Berry’s baby and, when it comes to Progressive Rock, I’d like to make a case for Yes. Formed by Jon Anderson and Chris Squire in 1968, the band released their self-titled studio debut in 1969 to a somewhat lukewarm critical reception, though the band were already building a reputation as an impressive live act. Things really pick up with the arrival of guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist/cape fanatic Rick Wakeman in 1970/71; thus starting one of the strongest hat-tricks in rock history with The Yes Album (1970), Fragile (1971), and Close to the Edge (1972). These are still collectively regarded as the band’s magnum opus and they spawned some of Yes’ best known songs as well; Starship Trooper, America and Heart of the Sunrise to name just three. Alongside King Crimson, Genesis and Gentle Giant (hugely underrated, by the way), Yes brought prog-rock to the mainstream and consistently pushed traditional western instrumental arrangements further than almost any other artist; part of the reason why it remains so interesting to listen to even today.
Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s the band toured the world innumerable times and continued to release albums to generally favourable reviews from fans and critics alike. Their first ten years also cannot be mentioned without talking about Roger Dean’s superb artwork that adorns some of Yes’ best albums and has always been both awe-inspiring and mysterious, much like the music it accompanies. The band split for two years between 1981 and 1983 but have remained active ever since in one form or another. They brought back the ‘classic’ line-up for tours on their 35th Anniversary, although Howe and drummer Alan White are the only long running members still in the band after Anderson’s departure several years ago and Chris Squire’s passing away in 2015. Even so, with 21 studio albums to pick from, Yes live remains a transcendent experience that you, yes you, should definitely see before they’re out of here forever.