Do three-minute pop songs leave you feeling unsatisfied? Do seven-minute songs feel like they go by in a flash?
Are you tired of the same old 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures? Do you require something new, like 9/8 or 17/5 or 11/2, perhaps all within the first minute?
Are lyrics about boys and girls falling in love and falling apart too clichéd? Does a title like “The Revealing Science Of God: Dance Of The Dawn” sound more appealing?
Then you need some progressive rock. And the best place to begin is with Yes.
Singer Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire formed Yes in London in 1968 with the intention of combining the strong vocals and harmonies of The Beatles and The Byrds with virtuoso musicians who wanted to create art, and rock while doing it. Luckily, because of their influences, the band never—okay, rarely—forgot to include memorable melodies and hooks.
Over the years, nearly 20 members have passed through the group. It’s a revolving door, though — people leave, they come back, they leave again. Keyboardist Rick Wakeman, for instance, has had five separate tenures. Guitarist Steve Howe—formerly of Tomorrow—is on his fourth stint. I’m pretty sure I was in the band for a week in 1989.
Yes also became known for their long association with artist Roger Dean. Along with the distinctive band logo, he created striking covers and gatefold sleeves for the band. Dean’s spacy, futuristic, mystical landscapes seemed to represent perfectly the music contained within. (Which sometimes meant it was beautiful, but made no sense whatsoever.)
So don’t surround yourself with yourself. ‘Cause it’s time, it’s time in time with your time and its news. Here’s the least you need to know:
The Yes Album (1971) Space-folk-rock. Elements of science fiction and spiritualism and Alice In Wonderland all blend together. The beginning of what came to be known as Yesmusic. Check: I’ve Seen All Good People: a. Your Move, b. All Good People
Fragile (1972) Their accessible masterpiece. Features their biggest—and hardest rocking—hit of the 70s. Their sound is now bigger, bolder, and more 3-dimensional. Along with extended workouts that don’t feel extended, each member of the band gets the spotlight with a solo piece. Check: Roundabout & Long Distance Runaround
Close To The Edge (1972) Their prog masterpiece. Three tracks, 40 minutes. Inspired by German novelist Hermann Hesse. But don’t let that scare you — some of the finest playing of the band’s career appears here. More of a head album than a heart album, but a classic of the genre. Check: And You And I
Ultimate Yes: 35th Anniversary Collection (1970-2001) Prog bands generally intend for their albums to be heard as a whole rather than chopped up and reassembled into a compilation. But prog albums can also be difficult, so a compilation that eliminates all the difficult bits can be a useful place to start. This set covers the band’s highlights from the 70s along with their 80s reinvention as a bestselling pop act. [Also reissued under the title The Definitive Rock Collection.] Check: Wonderous Stories & Owner Of A Lonely Heart