Yes | The Yes Album (Super Deluxe Edition) – Box Set Review


Now that Dolby Atmos is all the rage for audiophiles, it only makes sense to add that to a list of other remixes, ripe and ready to package with outtakes, unreleased material, and live stuff to create a boxset around a progressive rock treasure — 1971’s The Yes Album. The Super Deluxe Edition does indeed offer a new Steve Wilson Atmos mix, plus the 2014 5.1 mix (with a few recent tweaks), along with a 2023 stereo remaster on a Blu-ray, one of the four CDs, and the included LP. The other three CDs comprise alternates mixes, outtakes, and live tracks from two different performances.

The album marked a pivotal moment in the band’s career and played a crucial role in shaping the landscape of progressive rock. It was a departure from the band’s earlier, more straightforward rock sound. There was a newfound musical complexity and a willingness to explore uncharted territories The Yes Album. With new guitarist Steve Howe, whose virtuosic playing added an extra layer of sophistication to the band’s palette, Yes embarked on a sonic journey that would shape their entire existence.

The epic “Yours Is No Disgrace” opens the album and immediately establishes a more assertive sound. The unique interplay between Howe’s guitar, Chris Squire’s bass, and Tony Kaye’s keyboards creates a rich tapestry of sound, while Jon Anderson’s ethereal vocals soar, delivering cryptic yet captivating lyrics.

“I’ve Seen All Good People” uses the metaphor of chess as the dynamic that occurs in relationships. Musically, it seamlessly blends acoustic and electric elements, demonstrating a flavor of versatility and technical prowess to the music. “Starship Trooper” is a three-part suite that encapsulates the essence of Yes’s progressive ethos. From the haunting acoustic passages to seismic shifts in tempo and mood, the song exemplifies the band’s ability to create intricate, multi-dimensional compositions.

Howe gets his own instrumental called “The Clap” as if to highlight the guitarist’s virtuosity and fiery technique as a major boost to the group’s floundering style. Many would argue that remains true to this day. Where this clearly comes to light is on the live tracks from Sweden (January 21, 1971) and New Haven, CT (July 24, 1971). Elegant versions of “Astral Traveller” and “Everydays” from 1970’s Time And A Word, plus a lively take on “Perpetual Change,” make this disc a worthwhile spin. Going backwards from there might be your safest most logical move from there.

Honestly though, you might want to quickly dash through the remixes, instrumentals, and rarities CDs, and cut straight to the Blu-ray Disc if you have the right system. Both the Atmos and 5.1 mixes tap deeply into some detailed ear candy. Howe’s guitars ping pong back and forth on “Yours Is No Disgrace,” while Kaye’s organ lifts “Starship Trooper” to new heights. When you consider his work here and on something as tranquil as “A Venture,” it’s odd to note this would be the last Yes album he’d appear on until returning to the fold for 1983’s 90125.

Over all the mixes — even mono — you can’t escape the relentless rhythmic blender and tight turnarounds that emanate from bassist Chris Squire and drummer Bill Bruford. Even on those early recordings, both their styles bore edgy yet refined rigidity and innovation. Bringing all these elements together with Anderson’s high-pitched vocals zig-zagging over and around the instrumentation, it’s easy, even obvious, to say The Yes Album marks their first big, bold and major step into the adventurous, torrential storm of progressive rock.

~ Shawn Perry

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