By Yes

After three years of unparalleled international success, Yes were at a crossroads in late 1974. Star keyboard player Rick Wakeman had exited the lineup in mid-year, to be succeeded by Patrick Moraz, and the reconstituted band had released the Relayer album -- which reached the Top Five in America -- late that year. But despite that success and an impending tour, there was some doubt about the group's continued viability -- all five members were planning on releasing their own solo albums as soon as time and a break in touring allowed, and there was some question as to whether the absence of Wakeman would have a long-term impact. In those circumstances, Atlantic Records saw both a need and an opportunity to exploit parts of the group's catalog, and the result was Yesterdays. The first compilation of the group's work, the album was assembled from parts of the band's first two LPs, Yes (1969) and Time and a Word (1970), which had never sold in large numbers. Repackaged in a fantasy-laden Roger Dean-designed jacket (with some scatological humor on the back), the song selection focused on the most progressive-sounding tracks off those two albums. Absent are the covers of songs by the Byrds, the Beatles, Richie Havens, and Stephen Stills. Instead, listeners only heard tracks with a spacy sound that could pass for the progressive rock off of their subsequent albums. Some of the material in question, such as "Astral Traveler," fit the bill without explanation (the latter's title alone being perfect), and original Yes keyboard player Tony Kaye's heavy use of Hammond organ was a strong selling point on the latter, as well as on "Looking Around," "Then," and "Survival," while Chris Squire's bass work on "Time and a Word" -- coupled with its gorgeous chorus -- sold the latter song as being of a piece with their established sound; and Bill Bruford's timpani-like playing on the most dramatic moments of this material showed just how advanced these guys were even before they decided on full-out assault on progressive rock. And "Dear Father," with its undercurrent of teen angst, showed an alternate direction into that sound, in almost rock opera terms, that the band might have taken. Of course, most serious fans already owned the two original albums, but many of them were glad to pick this up just to get the band's soaring, prog rock adaptation of Paul Simon's "America," a one-off cut with the classic lineup featuring Wakeman and guitarist Steve Howe, which had previously shown up exclusively on an Atlantic sampler; so in its way, Yesterdays was brilliant from an A&R and marketing standpoint. The album also gave newer fans their first opportunity to appreciate the angular playing of original guitarist Peter Banks, who was well-represented on these tracks. He'd left before the band's breakthrough, but Yesterdays became his biggest commercial showcase to date, the album reaching number 17 in America and number 27 in England. ~ Bruce Eder

  • Format: Vinyl
  • Genre: Pop