Yes’ “The Yes Album” sets the stage for prog rock to come


The 2003 recording “The Yes Album,” is a remaster of the band’s 1971 album. The release is significant to the band’s history in that is the first album to reach No. 1 in the band’s native UK and its first album to chart in the US (it reached No. 40). According to, the band had released two previous albums, but only hardcore Yes fans know or care about them. The album contains songs like “I’ve Seen All Good People” that would become staples of Yes’ catalog that rock radio audiences would become familiar with.

The evolution of Yes

Depending on a listener’s age, he or she might have to work backward to appreciate what the progressive rock group offers. Maybe not completely backward, but certainly starting in the 1980s is a good start. The single “Owner of a Lonely Heart” was released in 1984, and it featured a heavy guitar riff and tense lyrics. But that was a different time and a different lineup than the band had in 1971.

“The Yes Album” is almost 50 years old and according to some critics, it is an example of progressive rock songs that Yes would release later. According to, one of the ways “The Yes Album” proves to be “proto-progressive” is that the songs are longer than on the first two albums. Apparently with more complex song structures and maybe avant-garde approaches to music-making in general, Yes sets the stage for their trademark progressive rock.

“I’ve Seen All Good People” by Yes

All of the trademark Yes elements are here, except for maybe some of the sounds on “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” The acapella, high-pitched harmonies, the spirited acoustic guitar woven into the soundscape, the varying musical motifs in one song that make it feel like it is an example of classical music, and the interplay between organ or synthesizer and human voices.

One of the things that stands out about Yes songs is that, regardless of your opinion about progressive rock, the songs are often, pretty. I might be alone in that assessment, but that is the first thing I can think of when trying to categorize what it is exactly that draws me Yes songs. Aside from the lyrical content, there are the sounds of the instrumentation. Yes does not stomp, yell, or scream, yet the band engages.

The drama in a Yes song comes from the various uses of the human voice, synthesizer or organ, and guitar. The songs sound complicated, and part of what makes audiences keep listening is the beauty that occurs in the arrangement. “The Yes Album” will remind audiences of why Yes works as a band.

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2 responses to “Yes’ “The Yes Album” sets the stage for prog rock to come”

  1. Hello, you seem to forget the importance of the bass lines, significant and characteristic in the sound approach of Yrs, the work of a whole band.

    • No. I actually love Yes’ basslines. But my focus was on the band’s development.

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