Revisiting Yes’ First Album – 373

7 Years of the YMP

Produced by Jeffrey Crecelius, Wayne Hall, Preston Frazier, Bill Govier and VR Hoisington

Yes first album
Where it all began!

This week Mark and I have been listening to the first Yes album to link in with it being released on coloured vinyl for this year’s Record Store Day 50 years after first appearing. We also consider what we would release for Record Store Day if it was up to us.

Listen and let us know what you think!

  • How does the first album sound after 50 years?
  • What can we detect which foreshadows later developments?
  • Do we like it?

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Show notes and links

YMP Patrons:

Producers:

  • Jeffrey Crecelius
  • Preston Frazier
  • VR Hoisington
  • Bill Govier and
  • Wayne Hall

Patrons:

Aaron Steelman
Dave Owen
Mark James Lang
Paul Tomei
Joost Maglev
David Heyden
Martin Kjellberg
Paul Wilson
Bob Martilotta
Lind
Michael O’Connor
Peter Hearnden
Brian Sullivan
David Pannell
Miguel Falcão
Lobate Scarp
Chris Bandini
David Watkinson
Neal Kaforey
Rachel Hadaway
Craig Estenes
Dem
Paul Hailes
Mark ‘Zarkol’ Baggs
Doug Curran
Robert Nasir
Fergus Cubbage
Scott Colombo
Fred Barringer
Scott Smith
Geoff Bailie
Simon Barrow
Geoffrey Mason
Stephen Lambe
Guy R DeRome
Steve Dill
Henrik Antonsson
Steve Perry
Hogne Bø Pettersen
Steve Rode
IanNB
Steve Scott
Jamie McQuinn
Steven Roehr
Ken Fuller
Terence Sadler
Jeremy North
Tim Stannard
Jim
Todd Dudley
John Cowan
Tony Handley
John Holden
Joseph Cottrell
John Parry
Keith Hoisington
John Thomson
William Hayes

Robert and David

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from the following two creative commons sources: thanvannispen and archive.org

14 thoughts on “Revisiting Yes’ First Album – 373”

  1. Great commentary, guys. Mark’s insights on the raw energy of the first album are spot on (that’s one of the things we all love about it). Another aspect I find appealing is the mix of styles (“Beyond and Before” rocks hard, “I See You” is jazzy, etc.). I’m with Mark on the top-ten billing for this album – the band started their journey off with quite the bang!

    P.S. “Survival” at 6:23 is not the longest song on the album; that would be “I See You” at 6:54.

  2. The first YES album is the last YES album I got. I left it late as no one seems to talk about it much, but I got the 40 year old version and it really is great. From 1969 I have 4 albums on my display wall being Abby Road, Led Zep 2, Then Play On (Fleetwood Mac) and YES – all 1969 but all so different. The YES album sounds the most dated I think, but it is packed with enthusiasm and wonder. Great commentary guys – My RSD option would be ABWH as well as maybe ‘Close to the EDGE’ – alternative version – similar to Fleetwood Mac’s alternative “Rumours” – ie the album with out takes versions and maybe an ‘out take’ Roger Dean cover?

  3. So much depends on the order you hear the albums in for the first time.

    I first got the first album (I think) in December 1974 from Andy’s in Cambridge Market whose wares were routinely a lot cheaper than any of the London stores. So I was able to get the debut record for less than £2 with the American sleeve and IIRC no lyric sheet. Chances are I had £4 to spend and it was a case of getting two albums or one album and some singles. These things matter then you are 13.

    I already had Fragile, Yessongs, Relayer and the Yes Album. I bought the Yes Album in preference to CTTE because a) again I found it for cheap and b) crucially it had tracks that were not on Yessongs. Again the decisions of a boy on a budget.

    At the time the debut reminded me a lot of the music I had heard through my siblings that seemed to belong firmly to the past – Floyd’s “A Nice Pair” and “Obscured By Clouds”, the Jonathan King Genesis record, The Stones’ “Aftermath”, The Who’s “Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy”, Bowie’s “Pin Ups”, a Kinks compilation, John Mayall, Graham Bond, early Beatles etc etc. None of it sounded like it bore any relation to “Ziggy Stardust”, Roxy Music’s “For Your Pleasure” or Lou Reed’s “Transformer” which were my big passions before I got “Fragile” and “Selling England By The Pound”.

    All this seemed more like my older brother and sister’s music than anything to do with me. So I was singularly unimpressed with the first record. When it only had two tracks featured on “Yesterdays” that more or less reinforced my sense of it being ephemera rather than important. As a resuly I didn’t even hear “Time and A Word” until the 80s. Today “Yes” sounds incredibly exciting if a bit naive. The songs are not the best (as you suggest, the lyrics are toe curling at times) but the rhythm section is on roaring form and the production gives the bass and drums room to breathe than was kind of unusual in a late 60s rock album. Shame “Time and A Word” didn’t get the some kind of treatment. Rock bands and orchestras – rarely if ever a good thing if the band has a keyboard player with anything about them.

    As for Record Store Days still to come, I would like live albums of complete shows from Wembley in 77 and 78 plus an acceptable sounding composite of QPR – each with a Roger Dean cover and reproductions of the original concert programmes. Not much to ask!

    1. Thanks Ian. Wow – those RSD desires are brilliant! I have also bought records from Cambridge market. In fact I almost bought a copy of White’s Ramshackled there once – too expensive though…

    2. Brilliant post Ian. I concur with your choice for some decent live recordings from their best period.
      My record buying started in 1974 when I bought CTTE then Fragile, TFTO. Relayer I bought when it first came out I’m not sure if I got their first three albums before or after that but it was in and around then.
      At the same time I was buying Genesis albums SEBTP was the first as it was just out, then Foxtrot etc. I bought The Lamb as it was released.
      The only other new album I had was ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery.

      What an era that was!

      1. We are inevitably all nostalgic for the era in which we first got the bug (I have younger colleagues who get misty eyed over all kinds of, to my ear un-listenable, mid 80s indie landfill) but the early 70s really was an amazing time for this music. The equivalent of being on 52nd street in the 1940s and 50s or Vienna at the turn of the 19th century. We’ll all be dead and gone before it is properly appreciated.

        What were you most influenced by when deciding what to buy? Was it the music press or school friends or something else?

        “Fragile” was my transition out of Glam into Prog but “For Your Pleasure” and Mike Garson’s playing on “Aladdin Sane” probably had me half way there already. I bought “Fragile” because I wanted “Yessongs”, couldn’t afford it and it looked most like a science fiction novel!

        I had “Brain Salad Surgery” too but I was never a committed ELP fan. I remember saving up for the live triple and being disappointed at how tedious and hollow-sounding it was. It was also pressed on vinyl so thin it was almost a set of flexi-discs. Never a problem with Yes records but presumably some labels felt the pinch in vinyl costs from the massive hikes in oil prices.

    3. Another great, IanNB. Context is so important. Bill Martin’s book (I think it was his) makes the very strong argument for the economic, political and musical environment influencing the creation of music (and hence why the late 60s/early 70’s music is never likely to be repeated) but you make an equally valid point that ones own environment when first hearing music affects our perception – where/when we hear it in relation to other music with which we are familiar, our emotional state and friendship groups at the time (very important in our teens) as well as the socio/political/economic state of the world.

      1. Aw thanks. Funnily enough I was trying to find my copy of Listening To The Future just the other day.

        He is absolutely right of course. Wider culture is a massive factor though when you are a kid the only political culture you really “know” is home and school. So peers and siblings are everything. I was massively influenced by the books and music I could actually lay my hands on. A serendipitous find could be life changing.

        When I listen to a lot of present day recreations of the classic era Prog sound I think of the beach barbecue scene in Apocalypse Now – “The more they tried to make it just like home, the more they made everybody miss it”.

  4. Being Sunday, back at work, in the wagon, it’s the first real time I get to listen to the podcast. Excellent as usual. I decided to listen to the album afterwards. I do like the album but maybe don’t play it as much as some others. The version on my iPod that I have with me, is ripped from my extended cd with a total of 14 tracks. And I’ve gotta say, I loved every second of it. So much so that I listen to Time And A Word (which also includes bonus tracks) afterwards, only finding myself wishing there were maybe another couple of albums from this era to listen to. I think Mark is right, this album could be higher up the list of favourites than you think. It’s an album that more than hints at the greatness to come.

    1. Thanks Tony. I agree that more from this era would be great. They had to move on but a few more Banks moments would have been well worth it.

  5. Wow what a great episode. For me the main thing I’ll take away is Mark’s observation about the new member bounce. Thinking about that, for me there are only a couple of occasions where there was more than one great album in the series.
    The first two albums are top notch. Then the Yes Album with Steve follows Mark’s formula. Fragile and CTTE keep the magic as Rick enters, then TFTO with White, then Relayer with Patrick . Rick rejoins to make GFTO then The Buggles with Drama and Trevor with 90125. After that isn’t every album with a different band member? That’s where it falls apart but I think they’d ceased being a proper band anyway.

    Anyway I hope this episode presages a series of podcasts going back over their serious albums i.e. not including all the cash cow stuff like OYE Keys or The Ladder

  6. I wonder whether this album would get a look in if it wasn’t for the greatness that was to come. It’s an interesting album and it is fascinating to hunt out clues to what Yes was to become. Don’t get me wrong, there is some very good music on it and I love the 60s psychedelic vibe as well as the energy.

    However there is a lot of very good music out there, most of which you and I have never heard. It lacks the emotion, the contrast, the light out of darkness, order from chaos that was to come in the main sequence.

    I’ve enjoyed listening to it again this week, but were it not for the fact this was Yes album, I doubt I’d have given it more than a passing glance. (Note context is important again. Had I been a couple of years older and heard it when it was first released, I might have had a totally different feeling toward it)

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