Monday, 13 July 2015

Yes: 1969-1981

Up until a few years ago, my entire Yes collection was on vinyl only. This was because of two reasons. One, was that my interest in the band was mainly in the pre-”Owner Of A Lonely Heart” material, all of which, of course, dated from the days before CD’s had even been invented. But the reason I had managed to get them all on vinyl in the first place, was that I had been introduced to them at a very early age, early enough to have been able to hunt down the second pressings of these records that could still be picked up - new - in record shops in the early 1980s. It is a bit strange looking at the current obsession with vinyl, and it’s “inflated” price tags, considering I paid no more than a fiver for my copy of “Tales From Topographic Oceans”, which came in it’s original gatefold sleeve and with it’s original custom labels. Buying one of the more recent “collectors edition” versions will cost you about four or five times as much.

Like early Purple, early Yes were a thing of wonderment. Described by some as ’symphonic rock’, those pre-83 albums were gloriously inventive, all mad key changes, songs within songs, occasional psycho guitar solos, keyboard twizzles, and tracks that usually went on for about 10 minutes. They later got chastised, along with the entire Prog genre, of being too pompous, but just look what we eventually got as a reward in their place once they were successfully ousted - Wham, Whigfield and Ed Sheeran. Ouch.

Yes threw in the towel in 1981, and only came back when a number of ex-members began working on a poppier sounding album a couple of years later, under the working band name of Cinema. Once the realisation sunk in that virtually everyone involved in the band had been in Yes at some point (including their producer), it was decided that using the Yes name could be a money spinner. And so it was that Yes returned in 1983, sounding nothing like the Yes I knew from those earlier albums. I’ve struggled to come to terms with everything they’ve recorded since.

So, for now, Yes are another band for whom the main sphere of excitement to me is the first phase of their career. You simply can’t deny the genius that runs through the likes of “Close To The Edge” or “Going For The One”. So, to tie in roughly with a new album and boxset of live recordings taped entirely during the glory days of 1972, “Progeny”, and as a mark of respect to the man who was there from day 1 onwards, Chris Squire, who passed away last month, here is my tribute to the band whose complex music, at times, does make Radiohead sound like the Brotherhood Of Man in comparison.


After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, the Yes lineup was established during 1968 with Jon Anderson on vocals (John in those days), Chris Squire on bass, Bill Bruford on drums, Peter Banks on guitar and Tony Kaye on keyboards. Like a lot of new groups, they were short on material so had no choice but to play covers in their live set. However, rather than just play note for note renditions of these songs, the band put their own jazzy twist on some of them, elongating them and bending them out of shape. This got them noticed on the gigging circuit and they came to the attention of Atlantic Records, who signed them to the label the following year.

1969’s self titled debut effort shows signs of these early beginnings - there are several covers on the album, and both the takes on tracks by The Byrds (“I See You”) and The Beatles (“Every Little Thing”) are more or less double or nearly triple the length of the original recordings. Housed in a simple sleeve, a black cover with the band’s then logo inside a speech bubble, it shows some vague signs of their proggier future - at eight songs long, it is (by Yes standards) an LP consisting of potential hit singles in waiting, albeit a bit longer than those in the hit parade of the time! “Sweetness” was indeed issued as a single in the UK, but didn’t do a great deal. Poppy follow up 45 “Looking Around” was withdrawn from sale before, or possibly just after, it’s planned release date, either way, few copies exist and the price for a copy is a three figure sum. The stand out track on the LP is the closing “Survival” - like most of the record, it does more or less follow the pop structure verse-chorus-verse approach, but has a lengthy instrumental intro that sounds like it has come from a completely different song, which is then reprised in slightly noisier form at the song’s climax. Six minutes in length, it gives some indication of the multi-part songs that would fill up much of the band’s repertoire in the future.

For the 1970 follow up “Time And A Word”, Anderson decided he wanted an orchestra on most of the album, but they seemed to have been instructed to play the parts that would otherwise have been played by Banks. This infuriated the guitarist, who was convinced it left him with little do on the album, and after recording was finished, he either left the band or was fired by Anderson - one rumour was that Anderson was of the opinion that Banks was not able to cope with the increasingly complex material they were writing, which might be why he wheeled the strings in in the first place. By the time the LP was released, new guitarist Steve Howe had been drafted in as his replacement.

Despite reservations by some critics about the “intrusive” use of an orchestra, I have always felt this record was a big leap forward from the debut. The opening cover of Richie Havens’ “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” is as thrilling a start to a record as you are ever going to hear - the strings kick things off with the theme from “The Big Country” - whilst the psychedelic trippy vibe of “Astral Traveller” points at the direction the band were starting to head. In Germany, initial copies came in a different sleeve (the same photo that had appeared on the US copy of “Yes”) and featured alternate mixes of the Havens cover and “Sweet Dreams”, this latter track (in it’s normal mix) was one of two issued as the band’s next UK 45s (the title track was the other one, but like the withdrawn “Looking Around“, is seemingly hyper rare). The UK release came with an ‘artistic’ image of a nude woman on the front, but this was deemed “too filthy” by the US leg of the label, who released the LP instead with a photo of the band - trouble was, they used a picture of the new line up, and not the actual lineup who had recorded the album.

The band’s next album, 1971’s “The Yes Album”, was where the story really starts to take shape. Howe revealed himself to be something of a guitar virtuoso, and the band began to write songs that were lengthier than anything they had ever attempted before, with two songs (“Starship Trooper” and “I’ve Seen All Good People”) featuring several sections grouped together, with these different sections being listed as individual pieces on the credits complete with their own titles. With the exception of “A Venture” and the recorded-on-stage in 1970 acoustic solo piece by Howe called “Clap”, nothing on the LP was shorter than six and a half minutes in length. It was the real beginning of the band’s genuine “prog” phase, and represented a move towards increasingly inventive and forward thinking music. The album was housed in a now famous shot of the group posing with a mannequin’s head and Kaye in plaster after the band were involved in a car accident after a gig in Basingstoke the night before. Although the US division of Atlantic decided to issue the first section of “I’ve Seen All Good People” as a single, under it’s subtitle of “Your Move”, no commercially released single was issued in the UK - indeed, the next Yes UK 45 would not surface until early 1974. “Your Move” did surface as a promo, with a section of “Starship Trooper” (“Life Seeker”) on the flip.

Although Atlantic UK were unsure of the band as being potential hit single makers, their attraction as a live act was cemented, and their success as an albums group was established with “The Yes Album”, becoming not only their first LP to hit the top 40, but one that made it into the top 5. As work on the follow up LP began, Kaye became the next to leave the band - his decision to not use new-fangled electronic keyboards like the Moog, was seen by other band members as the sign of another band member being unable to keep up with the band’s changing approach to writing and recording, but Kaye seemed to jump before he was pushed, and left the group after claiming his style of playing conflicted with Howe’s guitar work. Other reports however suggest that, like Banks, he was fired from the group because of his refusal to “keep up with the trends”.

Kaye’s replacement was one time Strawbs keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Yes had crossed paths with Wakeman before, who had increased his earnings by being a quite prolific session player on some genuinely classic records - he appeared on so many Bowie records, he was just a stones throw away from becoming one of the actual Spiders From Mars. His arrival into Yes marked what was, for some, the classic lineup of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe and Squire. The resultant album was 1971’s flawless “Fragile”. The first time upon which Roger Dean designed artwork was featured, this record showcased both the individual talents of the five band members, as well as revealing how good they worked together as a unit. There were five pieces designed to highlight each band member, with each credited only to the individual player - Anderson’s multi-tracked vocal chant “We Have Heaven” was included twice on the record, with an uncredited reprise being used to close the album. Bruford indulged in some jazz drumming exploits in the short but sweet “Five Per Cent For Nothing”. Wakeman reworked “Cans And Brahms” as a solo piece consisting of electric piano, harpsichord and synthesiser sections. Chris Squire’s contribution was the bass heavy (mostly) instrumental workout “The Fish”, although the ending section features harmony vocals repeating the phrase “schindleria praematurus”, which is itself the name of a saltwater fish found in the Pacific. Howe’s contribution was the acoustic strum of “Mood For A Day” which, like Squire’s contribution, were the longest of the five solo pieces.

What remains are some of the best things Yes had ever committed to tape. The opening “Roundabout”, despite being eight and a half minutes in length, was chosen by the US label to become a single, where it was not so much edited, as opposed to being chopped into pieces, with one of the remaining pieces being used as the 7” edit. Story goes that when the US public latched onto this bouncy pop nugget, they were shocked when they heard the more-than-twice as long LP mix. “South Side Of The Sky” was a soaring piece of psychedelic prog, where the snarling guitar licks, keyboard flourishes, and in-your-face vocal production created something of monumental epicness. The equally glorious bombast of the closing “Heart Of The Sunrise” featured a psychotic Wakeman driven intro so good, that 6Music’s Lauren Laverne later decided to feature it during the opening section of her radio show.

Arguably the pinnacle of Yes’ career came in 1972 with the release of “Close To The Edge”. Dean had now designed a new band logo (the original one had been reused on some later foreign 45’s, but had laid dormant as regards UK releases also immediately after the first album had been issued), and this logo remained in place for every Yes release up until the split. This new logo would often be used in conjunction with some highly elaborate artwork (think Dungeons and Dragons, or Lord Of The Rings, or for you kids out there, Game Of Thrones), but not on “Edge” - instead, the band logo and the album name, in similar typography, were printed at the top of what was otherwise a blank, green, cover. Musically, Yes were pushing the boundaries. For the first time ever, they managed to fill up an entire single side of vinyl with just one song, the gargantuan title track filling up all nineteen minutes of the first side of the LP. Just two more songs were squeezed onto side 2. Again, several songs consisted of separately titled sections, and the US label issued the “Total Mass Retain” portion of the title track as a B-side on a 45. The album represented a move forwards towards increasingly clever, and you could say, slightly pompous music, but the guitar shredding antics of Howe, the insane keyboard histrionics of Wakeman, and Anderson’s high pitched vocals (how odd it is to hear him being interviewed in his normal Accrington speaking voice) helped to create music so bold and colourful...seriously, if you don’t like “Close To The Edge”, well, you don’t like being alive.

But despite this work of genius, it was not enough to stop Bruford throwing in the towel, doing so as soon as recording was completed. Musical differences were the old chestnut, I think Bruford’s complaint was that Yes were becoming more picky, and thus more prog, when it came to writing, whereas his background was more freeform jazz oriented. He joined King Crimson and was quoted as saying that “in Yes, there was an endless King Crimson, you were just supposed to know”. His replacement was Alan White, who, if you include the reunion years, would end up becoming the second longest standing member of the band after Squire. This new configuration of Anderson White Wakeman Howe and Squire, would, for those who didn’t go for the Bruford years, be seen as the “other” classic Yes lineup.

White had one practice session with the band before a tour to promote “Close To The Edge” was conducted. In May 73, the band’s first live album was released, “Yessongs”, complete with wonderfully OTT Dean designed packaging. In true prog style, the album was issued as a TRIPLE, in a fold out sleeve. Everything bar three songs were recorded on the most recent tour, with the remaining trio being taken from the “Fragile” tour, featuring Bruford (“Perpetual Change”, “Long Distance Runaround” and “The Fish”).

The next album remains the sticking point in the band’s career. The album which is like Marmite - loved by some of us, despised by others and held up as the single reason for hating prog and thus creating punk. That album is “Tales From Topographic Oceans”, the first Yes studio album to be released as a double, and in a way, the band’s first concept album. Anderson wrote sleeve notes for it in which he says the album was inspired by ‘four classes of Hindu Scripture, known as the Shastras‘. Anderson had read a book which referred to the phrase “shastric rules”. The book noted there were four classes of scripture called Shruti, Smriti, Purana and Tantra. Anderson became fascinated in what he was reading, and began to work with Howe on the creation of four “interlocking” pieces of music, each of which would be inspired by the concepts each scripture spoke of.

When it was released in late 73 in the UK, a number of critics tore it apart. The very concept of what Anderson was trying to explain does seem slightly baffling, whilst the fact that it was not only a double, but consisted of just one song on each side, was seen as being the ultimate in proggy excess. Now, I have always quite enjoyed this album - each song, again, consisted of multiple sections although no “sub sections” were listed in the in my view, it is no different to listening to a pair of late 60s Moody Blues albums back to back (they used to crossfade every song on every album). But no, it was seen as “psychedelic doodling” by some. The album was actually shorter than it should have been, Howe claims that the opening “The Revealing Science Of God” had about six minutes of material edited out - what does exist is a version with a longer ambient opening, which was first issued on the “In A Word” boxset but has been used on all subsequent CD repressings in the UK, over the original “short” vinyl mix.

Wakeman was less than keen on the whole concept, and was only a minor contributor to the album, caused in part by the fact that Anderson and Howe had more or less written the entire record themselves. The subsequent tour was home to the now famous “curry incident”, where during one show, Wakeman was so bored with what he was playing, he ordered a curry and side dishes, that were passed up to him by a roadie during the performance of songs from the album, which he was able to dip into as time passed, hidden as they were behind his wall of keyboards.

The tour initially started before the album was released, and because of the “concept” nature of the record, the band took to performing it in full. There are conflicting reports about how soon the band began to realise this was not going down too well, even after the album was in stores, and how many songs were dropped, but it’s generally considered that at least side 2, “The Remembering”, was ditched as soon as the Spring 74 shows in the USA took place. Other reports suggest side 3, “The Ancient”, got binned at some point as well. Once the tour was over, Wakeman left the band - it seemed to be, in part, that he too didn’t like the “psychedelic doodling”, although you have to remember, this was the man who then in 1975 presented the “King Arthur On Ice” madness. Midway through the tour, Atlantic - confusingly - issued an unedited “And You And I”, the 10-minute side 2 opener on 1972’s “Close To The Edge”, as a UK single, backed with the also-unedited US hit “Roundabout”. The disc, unsurprisingly, had to be played at 33rpm in order to cram these two on, and even then, the grooves must have been squeezed together at a ridiculously intense ratio. Anyone else know of a 20 minute long (over two sides) 7” single being issued in the UK? Ever? “And You And I” had been issued as an American 45 in 1972, but was spread out across both sides of the single.

Wakeman was replaced by Patrick Moraz in time for 1974’s “Relayer”, which did seem like a semi-conscious effort to scale things down from it’s sprawling predecessor. We are back to “Close To The Edge” style track times here, with two songs on side 2, and only one “20 minuter” in the form of the sometimes quite punky “Gates Of Delirium” - the middle “battle” section is quite brash, noisy and bristling with energy, no psychedelic doodling here. Again, over on the other side of the pond, a section of this track called “Soon” was issued as a US 45, backed with an edited version of one of the tracks off side 2, “Sound Chaser”. Both these edits were added as bonus tracks to the 2003 remastered edition of the album when it was reissued on CD in expanded form.

The band toured the album until the summer of 1975, where they took a break to allow each band member the opportunity to record a solo album. To fill the gap, Atlantic issued the retro compilation “Yesterdays” early in the year. It mostly concentrated on material from the early years, a period that predated the Roger Dean years, but came housed in a Dean designed sleeve once more. Rarities appeared in the form of 1970 b-side “Dear Father” and their 1972 recorded cover of “America”, which had appeared on an Atlantic Records ‘Various Artists’ set, and had also appeared in highly edited form as a US 45 the same year.

The band toured again in 1976, with what seems to have been dubbed the “Solo Albums Tour”. Some material from these solo albums was squeezed in, but for the most part, the setlists were full of nothing but “the hits”. The band then reconvened to begin work on what would be their eighth studio album, “Going For The One”. However, early on in the proceedings, the band felt that Moraz was not “playing like he was involved”, and he was asked to leave. Rick Wakeman was invited back into the fold, who found the lifestyle changes since he was last in the band had improved, whilst the rough versions he heard of the new songs represented something he liked the sound of more than the “Topographic Oceans” period. And so the “second” classic lineup was back again.

When released in 1977, “Going For The One” did seem to represent a “new” Yes. The artwork design, by Hipgnosis, was striking to say the least - a nude man staring up at the Century Plaza Towers in LA. There were no less than five songs on this record, which was pressed on just a single slab of vinyl, making it the most “pop” album the band had released since “Fragile” if you base it on ‘number of songs per 20 minutes’. Atlantic realised this and released not one, but two UK singles, the spiky power pop buzz of the title track and the slightly hey-nonny-no, but charming, jangle of “Wonderous Stories”. For a band who had suddenly, possibly thanks to the onslaught of punk, decided to go ’mainstream’, there was the surreal sight of both these singles being issued as limited edition 12 inch pressings, even though the songs themselves were short enough to fit on the 7” pressings with little trouble! For technical clarity, “Going For The One” was slightly edited, with the removal of part of the intro, whilst the flipside was an edit of the one “prog” moment on the album, the 15-minute closer “Awaken”, dubbed “Awaken Part 1”. To confuse matters, both of the two singles were released in identical sleeves, the sleeve itself being a reworking of the album artwork. What hadn’t been lost in the middle of this reinvention, was the melodic hum of the band, with “Turn Of The Century” being as joyously beautiful as anything the band had created before.

What nobody knew then, was that this “comeback” album was more or less the beginning of the end. 1978 saw the release of “Tormato”, which legend has it, was going to be called “Yes Tor”, referring to the peak of Dartmoor, and a canvas showing the planned sleeve design was created by Hipgnosis. Somebody, in reaction to the cover, threw a tomato at the design, which splattered across the front, and a photo of the result was used instead, which caused the album name to now be changed from “Tor” to “Tormato”. At least three people, including Wakeman, all claim to have thrown the object in horror at what was considered to be a poor sleeve design, before it was “redesigned“.

The album seemed to be an attempt to align the band even more with the new wave, with numerous songs fitting within the four-minute time length, and the likes of “Release Release” crackling with urgent energy, but critical reaction was mixed, with band members themselves commenting on both the musical direction of the album and the production technique. The band toured in support of the album, and the pro-animal rights anthem “Don’t Kill The Whale”, a throwback (in a way) to their more hippy days, was a hit.

In late 1979, the band regrouped to work on a planned tenth studio album. But the move away from the more proggy early 70s material didn’t sit well with either Anderson or Wakeman. The remainder of the group wanted to carry on in the same ’heavy rock’ sound that had run through “Tormato”, and material that Anderson was putting forward, was being sidelined by the trio. Wakeman was mostly absent as this breakdown between the two camps gathered pace. In the spring of 1980, instrumental demos were being taped without Anderson even being present in the studio, and there was some concern as to whether he still had a place in the band. In the end, a financial dispute involving Anderson was the final straw and he walked, whilst Wakeman followed soon after, seemingly fed up at the ’inactivity’ that had been in place since the completion of the last tour some nine months previous. The situation hadn’t been helped by Anderson and Wakeman’s desire to salvage something from the wreckage of “Tormato”, and had been keen to record as soon as the last tour had ended - but with the remaining band members seeming at times reluctant to even try to release a follow up, it created disillusionment for both Anderson and Wakeman. It was only after they had left, that Howe Squire and White really decided to try and carry on.

It was luck more than anything which saw Yes manage to record and release a tenth studio effort, issued later that year as “Drama“. The remaining trio were still together, although seemingly unsure what future the band had. They were working in the same rehearsal space as electro-pop duo The Buggles. Both members of the band, singer Trevor Horn and keyboard player Geoff Downes, were huge Yes fans, and had a song which they figured would work better being recorded by Yes rather than themselves. They met up with the remaining members of the band to provide them with the song, and to record a demo. At this point, there was the realisation that the two members of the Buggles could provide a fit for the now departed Anderson and Wakemen, and with Squire himself being a fan of the recently released debut Buggles LP, Horn was invited to join the band as their new singer, and Downes as the new keyboard player. This injection of youth sparked a creative rebirth within the band, with a sound that featured a mix of the new wave leaning of The Buggles, sometimes lengthy compositions which recalled old school Yes, and the heavy rock of “Going For The One” and “Tormato”. The sessions themselves featured a mix of material - songs from the Buggles songbook were introduced into the fold and worked on by the band, as was material demoed before Anderson’s departure. The demo used to introduce the two parties, “We Can Fly From Here”, remained unreleased, but was slotted into future live performances, although a renamed version called “Fly From Here” was later recorded by a more recent incarnation of Yes, the Mark 3 (ish) lineup of 2011 with singer Benoit David (employed after Anderson had quit for a second time).

As if to suggest this was another comeback, and one to be celebrated, Roger Dean was invited back into the sanctum to produce some suitably Yes-like imagery for the album sleeve. An edited “Into The Lens” was issued as a single, whilst an edited “Run Through The Light” surfaced as a 45 in the USA. The band headed out in support of the album, and despite the change in personnel, were treated like homecoming heroes in the States, where the tour included a multiple night run at New York’s Madison Square Gardens. But by all accounts, the UK shows that followed were less successful. The Buggles were more or less a studio creation, and the regular gigging began to take it’s toll on Horn’s voice. Other crowd members seemed less than pleased about this version of the band - despite all those other lineup changes, the departure of the lead singer was obviously a change too far. As regards the setlist, older numbers were mixed up with “Drama” selections, something achievable reasonably well as Horn had a similar singing style to Anderson, slightly high pitched, although not quite in the same league.

As the band continued to tour the UK in the winter of 1980, Anderson’s departure was marked with another live LP - this time a (slim line) double album called “Yesshows”. Culled from the tours conducted in 1976, 77 and 78 (once again meaning different band members from different time frames were documented - this time, keyboard players Moraz and Wakeman), it featured a slightly more varied collection of material than “Yessongs“, simply because the decision had been taken to play “Time And A Word” on the “Tormato” tour, and a live recording of the song from Wembley’s Empire Pool was thus included. The album was designed to try and run in some sort of “setlist order”, which explains why the live version of side 4 of “Topographic Oceans”, “Ritual”, appears in full - but split into two halves and spread over the bulk of side 3, and most of the start of side 4. Subsequent CD editions include this track with the two halves ’stitched together’, although cassette copies released at the time seemingly still featured the two parts as separate entities, even though the format would have allowed the track to be mixed into a single song.

After the “Drama” tour was wound up a few weeks later, with a batch of 6 London dates across three different venues, Horn announced his departure from the band. He admitted to feeling uncomfortable at being Anderson’s replacement, the relatively lukewarm reaction that surrounded the UK tour seemed to have had an effect on him (even though a look at the itinerary will show it was not only in London that multiple shows were booked to meet demand). He said he preferred to work behind the scenes, and later became more well known as a producer (although there was actually a second Buggles album in late 81). Slowly but surely, other band members drifted away, including Squire, who seemed to retain the legal rights to the band name (even though he hadn’t come up with it, he was, by now, the only original band member left). Howe and Downes were left, but instead formed a new band, Asia, rather than to try and get together a third (sort of) version of Yes. By the start of 1981, came the official announcement that Yes were no more.

The send off to the band came just in time for Christmas, with the November 81 release of “Classic Yes”. A 50 or so minute trawl through what was mostly proggy album selections from the 70s (nothing from “Yes” or “Drama”, but a nod for “Wonderous Stories”), it’s main selling point was the inclusion of a pair of previously unreleased recordings from the 1978 tour of “Roundabout” and “I’ve Seen All Good People” on a free 7” single tucked inside the packaging. These tracks were also included at the end of sides 1 and 2 respectively on the cassette release, whilst a mid-1990s CD pressing, now deleted, included them as bonus tracks at the end.

Reissues and Comps

Long before vinyl repressings were done seemingly as special, “buy it now or else” style over-priced limited editions on 180g vinyl, vinyl albums were bog standard entities, that would fill up entire record shops for years on end. You could wander into a shop and simply pick up a late 70s/early 80s reissue of a record that had originally been issued some years before - no hunting around on eBay or jumping through hoops to track it down. Yes’ back catalogue was repressed by Atlantic throughout the 70s, and copies produced (and presumably, re-produced) in such large numbers, that they could still be located after the band had split in 81.

A number of my Yes records seem to be mid 70’s pressings made in Germany - these come on slightly more flexible vinyl, and even though the catalogue numbers sometimes might be the same, or fairly similar, to the originals, the first giveaway is sometimes the change of label - the first few Yes albums were originally pressed with the red and purple label design, such as the debut release (LP, Atlantic 588 190), whereas my 1975 reissue of this one uses the green and orange one (LP, Atlantic ATL 40034 Z). I think the “Z” on my copy may donate a later reissue. German pressings also used to have the “33rpm” playing speed logo printed inside an upside down triangle on the label, the typography was different, and they used to have a Warner Brothers “W” logo embossed into the back of the sleeve, so even though, for “Yes”, the lyric insert was still intact, and the gatefold still in situ, you knew this wasn’t a first edition that you was holding.

The repressings of “Time And A Word” and “The Yes Album” I have retain lyric sheets and gatefold sleeve designs where necessary. Again, “Time And A Word” was originally issued with the orange and purple labels, by which point Atlantic’s UK cataloguing numbering system had changed (LP, Atlantic 2400 006). Later pressings seem to have been made in both the UK and Germany for the UK market, with slightly different catalogue number and typography designs, but even so, my German repressing (LP, Atlantic ATL 40085) still looks very much like the original, complete with it’s “nude” cover and lyrics insert.

Ditto my “Yes Album”, which was another one originally on the orange and purple label (LP, Atlantic 2400 101) but which I picked up in reissue form in the early 80s. Again, it’s a German reissue, but the gatefold is still intact (LP, Atlantic 40106). The catalogue number doesn’t use the “ATL” code as found on my “TAAW”, this again seems to be the case of it being a later reissue of a reissue.

By 1972, Atlantic records were using a “K xxxxx” format in the UK for their cataloguing system, so any records such as 1971‘s “Fragile” (LP, Atlantic 2401 1019) that you found with this catalogue number instead, were a later UK pressing, but would often still look the business - this album (LP, Atlantic K 50009) again retains it‘s gatefold design, although the booklet given away with the original is missing. Starting with “Close To The Edge”, the catalogue numbers of any UK reissue simply matched that of the original, so you had to look for tell tale signs about the date of your pressing, if you seemed to have a UK produced one. My “CTTE” was a budget release denoted by having a “Prime Cuts” sticker on the front, and was housed in a single, not gatefold, sleeve (LP, Atlantic K 50012). But the original inner bag with the lyrics on was reproduced, although there was a strangely shaped white border around the edge, confirming to even the uninitiated that this was a photographic reproduction of an earlier, differently shaped, inner bag from an earlier pressing. It also included an insert detailing other Atlantic reissues available at ‘nice price’ in your local LP emporium.

For the records from 73-81, it seems as though there were a variety of sources from which I managed to obtain my vinyl versions. My edition of 1973 live album “Yessongs” is a curious US pressing (3xLP, Atlantic SD 3-100), which comes in it’s fold out sleeve, retains it’s photo booklet, but rather bizarrely has UK records inside with the “K 60045” catalogue number system. My “Topographic Oceans” is a later German repress, using the ATL catalogue number system (2xLP, Atlantic ATL 80001), whereas the UK ones used the slightly different “K 80001” number, but still has the gatefold and custom labels - note also that these pressings/repressings of course come without barcodes, so when you look at them now, it seems quite amazing to me really that I have things that cost me next to nothing that are now quite historically important.

“Yesterdays” was hunted down in a charity shop years after the event, so I think I have an original (LP, Atlantic K 50048) whilst my “Relayer” also uses the original cat number (LP, Atlantic K 50096), but must be a later pressing, if not a revamped reissue, of the original release, because I bought it brand new - and it was not 1974 when I did it. But German pressings and repressings would still make it into UK stores alongside these UK ones, as my “Going For The One” may well look like a UK one (gatefold sleeve, custom labels, etc) but has the German ‘ATL’ catalogue number instead of a UK ‘K’ one (LP, Atlantic ATL 50379).

I am fairly convinced my introduction to Yes came just as they were splitting up, so the records I bought near the end of their career would have been purchased so soon after the event, that they would have been original (or at least, first reissue) editions. My copy of “Tormato” has it’s inner sleeve and custom labels (LP, Atlantic K 50518), although it took me a while to track down “Drama”, eventually picked up in a charity shop but again, a gatefold sleeve housed original release (LP, Atlantic K 50736). “Yesshows” is also knackered enough to show it is an original, albeit a US one again (2xLP, Atlantic SD 2-510), whilst I know my copy of “Classic Yes” is also an original, because I bought it soon after the event in the now long defunct Parrot Records in North Street, Romford, complete with it’s free 7” (LP+7“, Atlantic K50842).

Most of Yes’ back catalogue was reissued on CD in the late 80s/early 90s, with “remastered” editions surfacing circa 1994. This second batch saw the entire studio and live back catalogue made easily available again, after the likes of “Yesshows“ had been overlooked for the earlier reissue series. Some of the more celebrated releases have been reissued on other occasions with variant track listings, with expanded double disc reissues in 2013 and 2014 of “The Yes Album”, “Relayer” and “Close To The Edge”. “Yesterdays” also got a second lease of life in the mid 90s, presumably on the basis that it included some otherwise hard-to-find material, and “Classic Yes” also got reissued in 1994 with it’s bonus 7” material intact.

In 2003, the studio albums from the period were all reissued in expanded form with bonus tracks, themselves a mix of previously released rarities, and previously unreleased material. The amount of material on each disc varied from release to release, although most (but not all) featured at least one previously unreleased track. All of these reissues were later included in a 2013 boxset which covered a period from 1969 to 1987, 1987 representing the second split of the band and the end of their association with Atlantic Records. “Classic Yes” was deleted in 2003, but the two live albums remained on catalogue, and still do. Also deleted now is the 1994 reissue of “Yes” which was housed in the US “group” sleeve, but hunt around and you may still be able to track it down online.

Given that, occasional splits aside, Yes are still an ongoing concern, a number of subsequent compilation releases have surfaced in the intervening years, pretty much all of which cover both the pre-1981 and post-1981 years. However, given the adoration afforded to the first phase of the band’s career, they do tend to be biased heavily towards the 69-81 period.

First up was 1991’s boxset “Yesyears”, which included things like the early period B-side “Something’s Coming” (albeit in a rare stereo mix), BBC session material, the US edits of “America” and “Soon” and various bits of previously unreleased material, both studio and live. A companion highlights release, “Yesstory”, was issued soon after as a double CD, which includes several of the rarities from the boxset, but does not include any of the previously unreleased material.

1993’s “Highlights” was a fairly straightforward single disc overview of the band, and saw “Soon” once again make it onto a UK compilation. 1997’s “Something’s Coming” was a 2-CD release featuring the band’s 1969 and 1970 BBC Sessions output, which was renamed (and repackaged) as “Beyond And Before” for the US market when issued the following year.

2002 saw the release of “In A Word”, marketed as a ‘revamped’ version of the “Yesyears” box, but for the most part, featuring a totally different track listing. Disc 2 includes the unedited version of “America” and the expanded “Revealing Science Of God” as mentioned earlier, whilst the start of disc 4 features material recorded with Anderson during the late 1979 aborted sessions for the tenth studio record. It was followed by two releases in 2003, another “hits” set called “The Ultimate Yes”, and a set of newly commissioned remixes called, simply, “Remixes” - this set is notable for only featuring material from the 1969-1981 period.

2005’s “The Word Is Live” was billed as a live companion to the “In A Word” box, with the majority of the three discs including previously unreleased live material from 1970 to 1980. And then there are the other “hits sets” which between them, cover differing time periods - “The Best Of Yes 1970-1987”, and “Wonderous Stories: The Best Of Yes” which runs from 70 to 83. The latter is another release upon which “Soon” makes an appearance.

Anybody interested in getting hold of the other “single edits” and B-sides will probably find that to get them all, will require actually hunting down the original 7” single upon which they appeared. But the 2003-04 reissue campaign of the original studio albums saw some of these rarities get tagged on as bonus tracks - the expanded “Yes” includes the mono mix of “Something’s Coming” and an alternate mix of “Everydays”, which turned up on the flip of the ‘withdrawn’ “Looking Around”.

The reissued “Time And A Word” includes the single version of “The Prophet”, as well as the alternate mixes of “No Opportunity” and “Sweet Dreams”. This reissue comes in the original ‘nude’ sleeve, following a period when the most common CD edition available was a bonus-track less edition housed in the US “Group” cover issued as part of the 1994 reissue series.

The edits of “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Starship Trooper” were made re-available on the 2003 edition of “The Yes Album”, and “Total Mass Retain” turned up on the expanded “Close To The Edge”. As mentioned earlier, “Soon” and the short version of “Sound Chaser” appeared on the expanded “Relayer”, whilst “Abilene” is on the expanded “Tormato”. “Drama” was reissued in 2004, and includes the edited versions of “Into The Lens” and “Run Through The Light”.


For anybody starting from scratch, it would make sense to start by going for the expanded editions, where they exist, of the albums - either by hunting down the boxset, or simply going through and buying them one by one. The 2013/4 reissues mentioned above offer a slightly altered set of bonus tracks when compared to the 2003 editions, so are worth a go if you stumble across them first. All were released on the Panegryic label, a specialist prog label, with catalogue numbers not too dissimilar to the cat numbers used on the original 1970’s releases and repressings. In addition to including the material added to the 2003 reissues, they also include material exclusive to these editions, so are currently the definitive pressings, and are thus detailed in the list below. All were issued as CD+DVD releases, and also as CD+Blu Ray pressings.

For the remainder of the list, I have listed the complete run of live, studio and best-of releases from the original 1969-1981 period - the list shows the most recent CD edition, which as you can see in some instances, is still the Atlantic issued CD editions from the 90s.

The two live albums from the period can still be hunted down, and although the two compilations from the period are now officially deleted, I would still recommend trying to locate a copy of “Classic Yes” that includes the live material. Completists will then need to go for the vinyl original of “Yesshows” to get the chopped up mixes of the two halves of “Ritual”, and any pre-2003 version of “Topographic Oceans” to get the ‘short’ mix of the opening track.


Yes (CD, Rhino 8122 73786 2, 2003 expanded edition)
Time And A Word (CD, Rhino 8122 73787 2, 2003 expanded edition)
The Yes Album (CD+DVD, Panegryic GYRSP 40106, 2014 expanded edition)
Fragile (CD, Rhino 8122 73789 2, 2003 expanded edition)
Close To The Edge (CD+DVD, Panegryic GYESP 50012, 2013 expanded edition)
Yessongs (2xCD, Atlantic 7567 82682 2, 1994 remastered version)
Tales From Topographic Oceans (2xCD, Rhino 8122 73791 2, 2003 expanded edition)
Relayer (CD+DVD, Panegryic GYRSP 50096, 2014 expanded edition)
Yesterdays (CD, Atlantic 7567 82684 2, 1994 remastered version)
Going For The One (CD, Rhino 8122 73793 2, 2003 expanded edition)
Tormato (CD, Rhino 8122 73794 2, 2004 expanded edition)
Drama (CD, Rhino 8122 73795 2, 2004 expanded edition)
Yesshows (CD, Atlantic 7567 82686 2, 1994 remastered version)
Classic Yes (CD, Atlantic 7567 81583 2, 1994 remastered version)


Sweetness (7” Edit)/Something’s Coming (7”, Atlantic 584280)
Time And A Word (Edit)/The Prophet (Single Version) (7”, Atlantic 584323)
Sweet Dreams/Dear Father (7”, Atlantic 2091 004)
And You And I/Roundabout (7”, Atlantic K 10407)
Wonderous Stories/Parallels (7”, Atlantic K 10999)
Wonderous Stories/Parallels (12”, Atlantic K 10999, available on blue or black vinyl)
Going For The One (Edit)/Awaken (Part 1) (7”, Atlantic K 11047)
Going For The One (Edit)/Awaken (Part 1) (12”, Atlantic K 11047)
Don’t Kill The Whale/Abilene (7”, Atlantic K 11184, different pressings use different spelling of b-side)
Into The Lens (Edit)/Does It Really Happen? (7”, Atlantic K 11622)

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