- You haven’t begun to hear the weight, energy and space of Yes’s brilliant third album until you’ve played one of our Hot Stamper copies
- On the right system, at the right volume (very loud), this very record is an immersive experience like practically no other – I’ve Seen All Good People here will surely blow your mind
- A Top 100 Album and the band’s best sounding record if you ask us (although Fragile can sound absolutely amazing too, just not as smooth and rich)
- “Organist Tony Kaye, guitarist Steve Howe and bass player Chris Squire play as though of one mind, complementing each other’s work as a knowledgeable band should.”
- A permanent resident of our Top 100 Rock and Pop List — no other album by the band is as well recorded
- If you’re a Prog Rock or Art Rock fan, this is a classic from 1970 that belongs in your collection.
- The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
Drop the needle on this bad boy and you will find yourself on a Yes journey the likes of which you have never known. And that’s what I’m in this audiophile game for. The Heavy Vinyl crowd can have their dead-as-a-doornail, wake-me-when-it’s-over pressings that play quietly. I couldn’t sit through one with a gun to my head.
With the amazing Eddie Offord at the board, as well as the best batch of songs ever to appear on a single Yes album, they produced both their sonic and musical masterpiece — good news for audiophiles with Big Speakers who like to play their records loud.
These guys — and by that I mean this particular iteration of the band, the actual players that were involved in the making of this album — came together for the first time and created the sound of Yes on this very album, rather aptly titled when you think about it.
What the Best Sides of The Yes Album Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1970
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We’re Listening For on The Yes Album
The main qualities we look for when we shootout Yes records are:
1. Dynamics – The best copies have amazing dynamics. Some parts of this album should be STARTLING in their power. There is a fair amount of compression on this recording in places, don’t get me wrong, but on the right copies many passages of this music will have tremendous life and energy.
2. Smoothness – This album can be harsh and unpleasant if the upper midrange is boosted at all, or lacks a full lower midrange to balance it out. The last thing in the world you want is a bright, harsh Yes record.
3. Bass – Bass definition and weight are CRUCIAL to the sound of this record. The thin-sounding copies rob Yes’s music of much of its POWER and are downgraded severely for it.
The Seventies – What a Decade!
Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and remasterings).
This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, ELP, The Who, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and far too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.
Big Production Tubey Magical British Prog Rock just doesn’t get much better than The Yes Album.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
Yours Is No Disgrace
- a. “Life Seeker”
- b. “Disillusion”
- c. “Würm”
I’ve Seen All Good People
- a. “Your Move”
- b. “All Good People”
Rolling Stone Review
With one notable exception, Yes’ configuration has remained stable since the first of its three albums was released two years ago. Singer Jon Anderson spearheaded Yes then and still does. But some time after Yes recorded its second album, Time and a Word, guitarist Peter Banks left the band to replace Mick Abrahams who had similarly abandoned Blodwyn Pig. Before anything much happened with the newly aligned Blodwyn, Kim Simmonds lured bassist Andy Pyle and drummer Ron Berg over to Savoy Brown. What Banks is doing now is anybody’s guess. His replacement is Steve Howe, a guitarist of equal caliber who featured prominently on Yes’ third record.
The Yes Album differs from its two predecessors in several respects. For the first time, everything the group performs is original material. Although Yes deserves praise for having matured to the point where it can supply enough of its own songs for an entire album, I personally miss hearing one of two versions of someone else’s songs, like “I See You” and “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed,” which the group arranged and performed brilliantly on its first and second albums, respectively. In addition, the material consists of fewer short songs and more lengthy pieces. The only three-minute tracks on this record are “The Clap,” Steve Howe’s acoustic guitar quickie recorded at one of Yes’ concerts in London, and “A Venture,” a straightforward rocker sandwiched between a pair of longer compositions on the second side.
Each of the album’s four long tracks are carefully structured and allow for greater instrumental freedom than their shorter counterparts. Frequently, a particular melodic theme first stated by one musician is echoed by another, such as in “Yours Is No Disgrace” and “I’ve Seen All Good People.” Organist Tony Kaye, guitarist Steve Howe and bass player Chris Squire play as though of one mind, complementing each other’s work as a knowledgeable band should. Squire in particular deserves to be singled out for his creative bass work throughout the album. Bill Bruford’s tasteful drumming never falls in the way of the other musicians.
As for the vocals, Yes has an ear for harmony and takes full advantage of this asset. Squire and Howe supplement Anderson’s delightful leads with harmonies in the upper register. On the first hearing, Yes’ vocals may seem too perfectly matched to be enjoyable and this has presented the group with its chief obstacle toward mass acceptance because there is no deep voice to counter the sound of Yes’ falsetto harmonies, some have refused to accept the group and its unusual vocal style. If Yes were to change its format by adding a singer who can contribute a lower voice, then the band would lose its distinctive identity. The high-pitched singing is what sets Yes apart from myriad other British bands who can also play their asses off, a qualification that has become all too commonplace nowadays.
Forget your inhibitions and take The Yes Album home with you. It may not cure the common cold, but you’ll never get sick from hearing it.
– John Koegel, 7-22-71.
“It was the addition of Steve Howe’s guitar pyrotechnics that finally allowed Yes to find their true identity. The Yes Album is a giant leap forward,” wrote J. D. Considine in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide
Yes had started their career being a covers band, performing radical re-arrangements of hit songs, and their first two albums included covers in this vein. However, The Yes Album was the first to feature group-written material in its entirety. Some familiar elements remained; Anderson, Howe and Squire sang three-part vocal harmony throughout the record, while Squire’s melodic bass and Bill Bruford’s spacious drumming made up their unique rhythm section.
“Yours Is No Disgrace” originated from some lyrics written by Anderson with his friend David Foster. This was combined with other short segments of music written by the band in rehearsals. Howe worked out the opening guitar riff on his own while the rest of the band took a day’s holiday. The backing track was recorded by the group in sections, then edited together to make up the final piece.
Howe’s solo acoustic tune, “Clap” (wrongly written as “The Clap” in original album pressings), was influenced by Chet Atkins and Mason Williams’ “Classical Gas”. The piece was written to celebrate the birth of Howe’s son Dylan on 4 August 1969. The version that appears on the album was recorded live at the Lyceum Theatre in London on 17 July 1970.
The spacey, electronic-sounding effect in “Starship Trooper” was achieved by running the guitar backing track through a flanger. Anderson wrote the bulk of the song, while Squire wrote the “Disillusion” section in the middle. The closing section, “Würm” is a continuous cadenza of chords (G-E?-C) played ad lib. It evolved from a song called “Nether Street” by Howe’s earlier group, Bodast.
“I’ve Seen All Good People” is a suite of two tunes. Anderson wanted the piece to start quietly and develop, leading into a large church organ sound, before moving into the funky second movement. The band had difficulty recording the initial “Your Move” section, which was resolved by making a tape loop of bass and drums, over which Howe overdubbed a Portuguese 12-string guitar, miscrediting it as a “vachalia” on the album’s credits.
Anderson wrote “A Venture” in the studio, which was arranged by the rest of the band. Kaye played piano on the track, contributing a jazzy solo towards the end. Howe played a guitar solo on the original recording, but it was left off the final mix, which faded out just as it started The song was never played live by the original group, but an arrangement was worked out when Yes decided to play the whole album live in 2013.
Anderson was inspired to write the lyrics for “Perpetual Change” by the view of the countryside from the cottage at Churchill. The middle of the track features a polyrhythmic structure, where two pieces of music in different time signatures are playing simultaneously. (A riff in 14/8 pans to one side of the stereo while a chorus in 7/4 appears on the left.)
Yes easily qualifies as one of the handful of bands to produce an immensely enjoyable and meaningful body of work throughout the ’70s, music that holds up to this day. Their albums, so musically multi-faceted and multi-layered, will surely reward the listener who takes the time to dive deep into the complexities of their sound.
Repeated plays are the order of the day. The more critically you listen, the more you are apt to discover within the exceedingly dense mixes favored by the band.
And the better your stereo gets the more you can appreciate the care and effort that went into the production of their recordings.
Shooting Out the Tough Ones
Yes albums always make for tough shootouts. Like Pink Floyd, a comparably radio-friendly Pop Prog band, their everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to recording makes it difficult to translate their complex sounds to disc, vinyl or otherwise. Everything has to be tuned up and on the money before we can even hope to get the record sounding right. Careful VTA adjustment could not be more critical in this respect.
If we’re not hearing the sound we want, we keep messing with the adjustments until we do. There is no getting around sweating the details when sitting down to test a complex recording such as this. If you can’t stand the tweaking tedium, get out of the kitchen (or listening room as the case may be).
Obsessing over every aspect of record reproduction is what we do for a living. Yes’s recordings require us to be at the top of our game, both in terms of reproducing their albums as well as evaluating the merits of individual pressings.
When you love it, it’s not work, it’s fun. Tedious, occasionally exasperating fun, but still fun nonetheless.
Size and Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.
Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many of even the most dedicated of audiophiles would have more than one of two clean vintage pressings with which to do a shootout? These kinds of records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of original pressings of Classic Rock albums.
One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.