10 ALBUMS TO SAY YES TO

Following the recent departure of Yes co-founder and bass supremo Chris Squire, it seems fitting to revisit the music of a band central to 70s ‘Prog’ who continued to make music through every subsequent decade. Who would have thought that the song-writing partnership that began when Jon Anderson and Chris Squire hit it off in Swinging London circa 1968 would spawn a band who have achieved such longevity. It is sad that Chris Squire did not.

Here, in ascending order, are my favourite Yes albums and a possible pathway for the less familiar. To keep things simple, I’ve omitted live albums (even though Yes Songs would be in my Top 5 otherwise).

There are sure to be alternative views, just as there will be those remain untouched by the music, period. That’s OK; other views are welcome and you can always enjoy the cover art. This article was a labour of love.

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Yes - Going for the One

10

Going for the One [1977]

Some shorter songs, the return of Rick Wakeman, even a single. This is a solid Yes outing, often overlooked – maybe due to the way the title track can grate after a few listens. Yet ‘Parallels’ is as good as anything from the ‘classic’ years.

Key tracks: Parallels, Wondrous stories.

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Yes - Yes

9

Yes [1969]

It’s often instructive to know how a band launched. Here, Yes offer a blend of well-chosen covers (exploratory Byrds, a rip-roaring Beatles) and originals that sound transitional between the 60s and 70s in an entertaining and fresh way.

Key tracks: Survival; Every little thing.

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8          Union [1991]

8

Union [1991]

Arising from cautious détente between Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe and the Chris Squire / Trevor Rabin / Allan White / Tony Kaye putsch, Union was a compilation of songs from two camps unionised by Jon Anderson’s vocals. Still, there is some good songwriting, spiffing production and remarkably few low points.

Key tracks: Shock to the system; Miracle of Life.

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Tales from Topographic Oceans [1973]

7

Tales from Topographic Oceans [1973]

Maligned by many (including the keyboard player) and frequently derided by ignorant music press hacks (and the sheep who followed their lead), TFTO is an expansive, sometimes unfocussed, but always enjoyable listen as broad and varied as the titular oceans. Embedded in the oceanic sides are several quality songs and much instrumental variety. You don’t have to be a wafty New Age-er to be elevated and carried along by the scope and ambition of these Tales.

Key moments: Side 2 – second half; Side 3 – first section.

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6          Drama [1980]

6

Drama [1980]

From the short-lived line-up that included Buggles Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, Drama is an edgy and inventive entry into the 80s for a band lazily associated with 70s prog-ishness. Much better than the descriptor applied by smug critics – ‘the Yuggles album’. (I always thought ‘Bes’ a neater amalgam name anyway). A Yes album for people who don’t like Yes?

Key tracks: Does it really happen?; Tempus Fugit.

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5          The Yes Album [1971]

5

The Yes Album [1971]

This is where it starts to bloom: the compositions stretch and flex, shooting for the stars and showering instrumental sparkles far and wide. Gloriously potty lyrics and fantastic playing that may surprise with the abundance of killer riffs.

Key tracks: Starship trooper; Perpetual change.

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4          Fragile [1971]

4

Fragile [1971]

Many people’s favourite Yes album due, at least in part, to the accessibility of the melodic single ‘Roundabout’. Perhaps a little more polished than its predecessor (above) with cute little solo cameo pieces punctuating the longer tracks.

Key tracks: Long distance runaround; Heart of the sunrise.

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3          90125 [1983]

3

90125 [1983]

Great singles, tight arrangements, vigorous rock-infused playing. The resurgence of Yes via a strong album full of concise songs. An excellent place to start for the uninitiated.

Key tracks: Owner of a lonely heart; Changes.

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2          Relayer [1974]

2

Relayer [1974]

The only studio album featuring Patrick Moraz on keyboards, Relayer is demanding and often startling fusion of beauty and brutality. Previously featured at Vinyl Connection here.

Key side: The gates of delirium.

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1

Close to the Edge [1972]

The pinnacle of Yes-music. Ambitious, complex and enduringly engrossing. Previously explored in depth at Vinyl Connection (here).

Key tracks: The complete album.

55 comments

  1. Okay, so I do like ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’, although I did used to think it was by Toto I’m afraid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good start, then. Did you like that engrossing but bizarre clip too?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Its, umm, of its time shall we say.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Am with you on ‘Parallels’ – absolute killer. I still haven’t checked out ‘Relayer’ or ‘Oceans’ in any great detail, will have to try soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As you may have got from the Relayer review, it’s dense in parts and spacious in others. Rewarding but demanding, I guess you could say. TFTO is sprawling but curiously comforting. One of my ‘go to’ albums when things are tough. Happy exploring!

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  3. Cool list. Good to see Relayer get such a well-deserved high placing. And 90125 too, it’s not the “classic” Yes but it’s such a good record. The only ones I’ve not heard here are the debut (although I know a few of the songs from live recordings) and Union. Really surprised to see that here! I’ve always avoided it after the bad things I’ve heard (including Wakeman rechristening it “Onion” cause it brings tears to his eyes hahaha)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hadn’t heard Rick’s comment before. Very funny. Worth noting that he also diss-ed Tales (though he was not alone in that!). I was rather surprised to find Union in there too, but there you go. Subjectivity rules, OK?

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      1. Bill Bruford has some funny stuff to say about ‘Union’ in his autobiography, a brilliant read if you haven’t come across it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Subjectivity rules and not paying too much attention to the artist’s opinions rules too! It always seems to me that they tend to let their experiences making an album colour their perception of it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. So true, Scott. Nicely put indeed.
          And I’ve heard that Bill B’s memoir is an excellent read. Thanks for the reminder to track it down Matt.

          Guess it all shows, once again, how personal music is.

          Enjoying this conversation.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Thanks, me too! I’ll need to track down that Bill B memoir. He’s never any less than fascinating, I’d love to read that and didn’t know about it at all.

          If you’ve not seen it I’d recommend the Yes Classic Artists DVD. Great interviews from everyone on that, including Mr Bruford.

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Seriously- Union and the debut? Are you kidding?
    If we’re talking studio albums only, those two should be replaced with The Ladder and Fly From Here.

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    1. Thanks for visiting.
      I guess you are writing about your personal choices, Keith. Which is fine, of course, as there are no ‘right’ answers are there?
      I quite like Fly From Here, but for this particular Yes-travaganza, Union spoke more loudly to me. Next time may be different, of course.

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  5. Quick update:
    I enjoy hearing the choices of other Yes fans. We are all passionate about bands we love, and diversity is great!
    But please share in a spirit of generosity, not judgement. This is a place for friends of music, not competition.
    And this post honours a fine musician who gave us oceans of wondrous stories.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve said this before, but I only own one Yes album – The Yes Album (before doing some reading I was under the impression that was their first album – d’oh!). I do like that one – a very fine level of bonkersness and you sum that record up perfectly.

    Anyhoo, great post and ever so handy for me as I ponder which Yes albums to hit next! I’m fairly certain that I’ll have to opt for the top three there, cause they really sound awfy appealing!

    Thanks, Bruce!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers James. Bob almighty! Your list must be bigger than 1537’s collection of bad hair metal!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No kidding! I’ll need to take a break from reading blogs at this rate!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Reading blogs is a sort of subsidiary (or perhaps facilitative) addiction.

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        2. Yup – I read and think “oh, that sounds good”. Before I know it I have a list as long as a piece of string …

          Liked by 1 person

        3. … and as broad as a Topographic Ocean. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  7. I always enjoy Yes and especially Chris Squire’s playing. I do however keep it safe, The Yes Album, Close to the Edge and then some live stuff. Relayer is work and every now and then I play it but it tires my ears out, I have the two early compilations that I enjoy very much Classic Yes and Yesterdays. Classic Yes was compiled by Chris Squire and is a great collection of the first couple of albums and Yesterdays for some reason is a collection of the best stuff on the first two albums, a strange project for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have Yesterdays. Came with a bonus 33 ⅓ 7″ originally. And a Roger Dean cover with a little boy imitating the famous Antwerp statue!
      I imagine Classic Yes has a goodly selection from Fragile.
      Being rockier and more, er, radio friendly, 90125 is worth a listen.
      And Yes, Relayer is intense.

      Like

  8. javier alvarado · · Reply

    1.-tormato 2.-close to the edge 3.-Fragile 4.-tales from tophographic oceans 5.-going for the one 6.-Relayer 7.-Yes-album 8.-Yes 9.-Drama 10.-90125

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Javier. One big vote for Tormato!

      Like

  9. Good list. Can’t complain about any classic Yes; I’ll say yes to that any day!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I feel the most notable difference in sound and song writing style was in no small part due to the guitar styles of Howe and Rabin. ( and his more pop’rock composition skills).
    And that’s why, for me, Fragile and 90125 are my favorites from their collection.
    To think that Rabin grew up in South Africa and he played in a ”fluffy” band called Rabbit! He was a teen heartthrob over here, according to my missus.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Too right. Rabin’s guitar style may not have the finesse of Steve Howe, but it had plenty of crunch! Had a solo album at some stage, but let it go.

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  11. […] one of my favourite Yes tunes. And while we’re on the topic, check out this excellent list of the Top 10 Yes studio albums over at Vinyl […]

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great list. But you could have listed any Yes album and that would have been fine too. My desert island Yes will always be Relayer and TFTO. The third side of that is the most experimental stuff the band ever produced. I was really surprised at the negativity that met the last, Heaven and Earth. For me, there is a lot of good stuff on that and I am glad Squire managed to do one last album before it was too late!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheers Barrie.
      It’s a big catalogue with many highlights, as you say. And although not necessarily ground-breaking, some of the later albums are pleasant enough and beautifully produced.
      Thanks for joining in the conversation!

      Like

  13. Jim Laugelli · · Reply

    Very nice list. Not quite the same order as mine would be but as you say, it’s subjective. I would’ve included Time And A Word and nixed Union. So glad though to see Relayer get such a high ranking. It’s a criminally neglected gem. Howe is an absolute beast on that record. I think with the departure of Wakeman and the introduction of Moraz, Howe just stepped up his game that much more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Jim. There does seem to be some agreement on the potency of Relayer, which is, as you say, gratifying. Interesting to hear some love for the second album too!
      Cheers.

      Like

  14. My four owned Yes albums are all in your Top 5, so I’m feeling validated !(smile) Recognizing that I’ve never even given 90125 a consideration, sadly but honestly due to some haughty “70s or nothing” prejudice with regard to Yes. I’ve never dared TFTO as I’d been swayed by the Rick Wakeman commentaries, but I am not a sheep (damnit!) and may now give it a spin. (Or maybe, I’m just no longer a Wakeman-herd sheep, and will now become a Vinyl Confessions sheep. Will you leave the 99 to come and find me if I get lost, dear Shepherd?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, if it means crossing the Nile, sure!

      That’s a lovely reply, VotF. Enjoyed it and agree. As someone (I think Scott at HMO) said, sometimes the artist’s perception is formed through the making of the album and disproportionately colours our view as fans. For me, the (admittedly confused) musical spirituality of TFTO is, to this day, a comforting thing I turn to when integration is needed. If you acquire and get to know it, I’d really love to hear your response. (I know that’d be a long-term project!).
      Finally, from the little I know of your tastes, I’d certainly encourage overcoming the 70s prejudice and trying out 90125.

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      1. PS> Vinyl Confessions may just be an even better blog title than the current one. Thanks for the idea!

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        1. HA!! Not sure where that came from? I mean, other than the fact that we all use these posts as a channel to lay bare for the faceless world to see our inner demons, need for validation and poorly-hidden geekery for under the guise of aficionado-ism. (Um, or is that just me? Or, I mean, not me, but those other weirdo bloggers….)

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Being weird amongst weirdos it really rather good though, eh?

          Like

  15. I enjoy a good countdown Bruce!
    The 1001 list agrees with your #1,4,5 picks – I have acquired them, but haven’t gotten around to them yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just like the beginning of Thunderbirds, a good countdown builds expectation, doesn’t it?

      Hope you enjoy getting to know the Yes albums you’ve acquired – like most complex music it needs time and attention but is rewarding.

      As for ‘The Book’, glad to hear they got it at least partially correct. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  16. In Canada ar leaat 90125 rulled the radio airwaves and Owner of a Lonely Heart is still played. Nice to see.it so far up on your.list. i have 4 of the albums on your list and I just bought a 4 cassette boxset I want to listen to. It has a lot of previously unreleased songs and well worth the $0.50 I spent.
    Perhaps this could be a future review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like a similar story for 90125 as here in Aus. If that 4 cassette box is the same one that was released on CD, I’m sure it will provide lots of enjoyment. I particularly liked the surprising version of the Beatles “I’m Down”!

      (Can’t seem to get a photo into this comment, so will post one of the set on the Vinyl Connection FB page)

      Like

  17. […] The death of the co-founder and energetic mainspring of Yes was reported in the mainstream media. For some, that might be telling indictment of how mainstream the progressive music of the band became, but I’d beg to differ. Squire was an outstanding bass player and his band’s music has brought great pleasure to masses of people (mostly dweeb-ish young men, admittedly). Without Yes, this music tragic would have spent many fewer hours trying to decipher complex time signatures and penetrate mystical lyrics. When he died, I compiled a tribute, 10 Albums To Say Yes To. […]

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  18. Loved Squires style and sound. Like I said on an earlier take, CB started to drift after ‘Relayer’. I will have to visit ‘Drama’ and ‘Union’ (the only two albums on your list I don’t have). I’m a big fan of the bands early stuff but I still dropped in to check them out over the years. Your takes are solid. My intro was with ‘The Yes Album’ and then I was off and running. Seen them early on and they were terrific. Along with all those albums up to 74, CB played ‘Time and a Word and ‘Yesterdays’ a lot. Nice to find someone who gives this band their due. They were good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Drama’ was the famous Yuggles album (or Bes, if you prefer). I hated it at the time, but it has steadily grown on me over the years. Worth checking out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s what I mean about you Bruce. Not to blow smoke but you are your own man when it comes to this stuff. It’s refreshing when people don’t follow popular thought or opinion (lazy) and make up their own minds. You do that. I’ll keep an eye out for ‘Drama”. On the Squire thought. When I seen them, one of the things that stood out was his playing and how much he enjoyed the “Live” thing.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks CB. I really appreciate your wading through my posts and sending your responses.
          Also, absolutely with you on Squire in concert. Watched the Symphonic Yes DVD a while back (you’ll get to the post eventually!!) and was, like you, thrilled by his energy and obvious enjoyment.

          Liked by 1 person

  19. […] For more on Yes, including a brief synopsis of Going For The One, I urge you to check out Bruce Jenkins’ 10 Albums To Say Yes To post. […]

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  20. Had to check this out after seeing the link on Rich’s blog. This is an excellent list. You got them all in there. Interesting to see Relayer rated so high (although I have no problem with that), but even more interesting is the inclusion of Union. Reviled by even the members of Yes (except Anderson), I always felt it was underappreciated. Yes, it was made for the wrong reasons (record label greed), and yes, there are many session musicians on it (unthinkable for a band of this stature and musicality). However, there are a bunch of great songs there. “Miracle of Life” is, in my opinion the best thing Rabin ever wrote and possibly the best post-Drama Yes song. I think it could have been a great Yes album had they approached it the right way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad it the piece was of interest, Kevin. Including ‘Union’ did stir the pot a bit, but I think your comments are fair and reasonable (so nice to have some support!). There are quite a few ‘prog’ posts here (it has its own category) so perhaps you might find more to enjoy. Either way, thanks for dropping by.

      Like

  21. Just picked up Chris Squire’s Fish Out of Water at a thrift store for $1. Came here thinking I remembered you mentioning it. Can’t find it though…… guess I’ll just have to listen cold, i.e. without VC prep.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good album for a buck. Even if it does at times sound like a draft Yes album. Did you get the poster too?

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      1. Nope, no poster. I have listened now though and am pleased.

        Liked by 1 person

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