Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yes – Yessongs

   In the history of progressive rock one can find out a simple compound: the more intentionally complex composition is, the better position it occupies in ranking of most groundbreaking attainments. Idea of convergence, crossing over the genres and even ambitions to take succession of the main stream of serious music – all attitudes were readable from the very beginning of so called symphonic rock. Progressive band Yes had tradition to open concerts with passages of Igor Stravinsky's ballet Firebird. In the years of its expansion, progressive rock had more common characteristics with modern jazz. Both are genres of music for listening, giving intellectual and esthetic experience. The most significant of mutual features is tendency to improvise. Although it was taken straight from psychedelic rock, it was also the best possible way to organize musical narration in extended compositions.
   Despite the fact “symphonic rock” was the alternative name of the genre, there was no chance for symphonic structures in typical rock bands. Even orchestras led by rock musicians played non-symphonic music, being nothing more than augmentation of typical rock structures and boring school level arrangements. Much more interesting concepts were presented in recordings of the bands playing with typical rock lineups but complicating rhythmic, melodic and harmonic structures. One of such bands were in early seventies supergroups of British progrock King Crimson, Yes and Gentle Giant. Yes was probably most popular but still creative and hard-shell progressive, especially on its early albums, where the band was experimenting with sounds and rhythmic structures. The first presentation of Yes’ live recordings was 3LP album published May 18th, 1973 and called Yessongs.

Yes – Yessongs (1973)

   Published as a set of 3 LP’s Yessongs is an impressive collection of great moments from tours promoting two studio albums Fragile and Close to the Edge. The lack of detailed informations about dates and places can be annoying. Two tracks from the Fragile album were recorded with drummer Bill Bruford February 19th and 23rd 1972 in Academy of Music in New York. Some fragments were taken from recordings made in Ottawa, Ontario (November 1st), Athens, GA (November 14th) and London Rainbow Theatre (December 15th). In program of this triple-album there are some compositions from the two studio albums mentioned before but also some other pieces. As it had been said before, album begins with fragments of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet music Firebird being the traditional opening for Yes concerts. There are also fragments of great solo presentations, Rick Wakeman playing excerpts from his album The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Steve Howe presented an extended guitar solos in Perpetual Change – and this is third composition played with Bruford. In most shows of 1972 the drummer was Alan White who learned the entire repertoire in few days only.
   Program of this compilation is more than a documentary of group’s public performances. Extended concert versions with advanced solos give listener a chance to feel the deeper sense of Yes’ compositions narrative context. Songs and instrumental pieces constitute together a complementary vision of poetic, musical and philosophical ideas. There are some explications of psychedelic rock ideas in it, but in 1972 it had to be more consequent. This is the reason of progrock bands strong cooperation with poets (like King Crimson with Peter Sinfield) and painters (like Yes with Roger Dean).  By the way, this can be considered as the most progressive idea of art rock. Triple fold-out cover features Roger Dean’s paintings of phantasy world’s view in kind of narrative exposure. The artwork is continuation of series started with Fragile cover and connected with consecutive albums. The sequence of Dean’s paintings inspired also Jon Anderson to create narrative phantasy of his own debut Olias of Sunhillow three years later. What is most impressive in these recordings, it’s the precision timing and perfect sound of the band. This was really a phenomenon worth to consider… Even in times, groups playing on professional level were such common events.

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