(ON THIS DATE) Yes: Yessongs

ON THIS DATE (38 YEARS AGO)
May 18, 1973 – Yes: Yessongs is released.
RF Rating 4.5/5
# Allmusic 4/5

Yessongs is the first live album by Yes and was released on this date in 1973. It mainly documents the tour for the album Close to the Edge but also features two tracks (“Perpetual Change” and “Long Distance Runaround/The Fish”) recorded during the previous Fragile tour. Yessongs was originally a 3-disc set on vinyl, but is now a double CD.

The Fragile tour track “Long Distance Runaround/The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus),” and the song “Perpetual Change” from The Yes Album are the only tracks on the album to feature Yes’s original drummer, Bill Bruford, who left the group after recording Close to the Edge. For that album’s tour, Yes were joined by drummer Alan White, who had only mere days to learn the material and remains with the band to this day. White was only three years into his career as a session drummer, but had already worked with such notable acts as The Plastic Ono Band and Joe Cocker.

The album opens with an excerpt from Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, which has been a standard opening Yes concerts ever since. Later in the album, vocalist Jon Anderson briefly sings a passage from Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

All band members except Anderson and White are given extended solo space. The track “Mood for a Day” is an unaccompanied guitar performance by Steve Howe, who also takes extended solos during “Yours Is No Disgrace” and at the end of the “Würm” section of “Starship Trooper”, which might be considered his best electric guitar showcase on the album. The Yessongs version of “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)” is considerably longer than the studio version on Fragile, with bassist Chris Squire taking an extended solo (and jamming with Bruford) in mid-song. Bill Bruford performs a drum solo on “Perpetual Change,” which is preceded by an extended guitar performance by Howe accompanied by Bruford and Squire. The album also contains a medley of excerpts from Rick Wakeman’s debut solo album The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

Some songs are extended to almost double the length of their studio counterparts as well as given a more high-octane performance. Guitarist Steve Howe offers an extended improvised guitar solo on “Yours Is No Disgrace,” a last-minute decision.

ARTWORK (see image)
The album was initially released on three discs in a fold-out package featuring artwork by Roger Dean. Inside are four individual panels by Dean which continue a theme that began with Fragile in 1971. On the back cover of Fragile is an image of a small planet breaking apart into several large pieces with a giant sailing spacecraft nearby. The first panel in Yessongs, titled “Escape”, shows the craft apparently leading the planetary fragment through space. The second panel (“Arrival”) depicts these fragments landing in the waters of a new world. In the third image (“Awakening”) this new landscape becomes the habitat for various plant and animal species. The final image (“Pathways”) depicts the emergence of civilization (Dean’s cat walked across this piece whilst still wet and can be clearly seen). This theme is also the basis of the film Floating Islands. The sailing craft was used as a small logo on many of the band’s subsequent albums, and the image sequence inspired Yes vocalist Jon Anderson’s first solo album Olias of Sunhillow in 1976, although Roger Dean was not involved with that album’s artwork.

A film, also titled Yessongs, was released in 1973. It documents their concerts at London’s Rainbow Theatre on December 15 and 16, 1972. The only part common to recording and film is “Close To the Edge”, and “Würm”, the final movement of “Starship Trooper”, recorded at the Rainbow.

Original LP Track listing

Side one
   1. “Opening (excerpt from ‘Firebird Suite’)” – 3:47
   2. “Siberian Khatru” – 9:03
   3. “Heart of the Sunrise” – 11:33

Side two
   1. “Perpetual Change” – 14:11
   2. “And You and I” – 9:33

Side three
   1. “Mood for a Day” – 2:53
   2. “Excerpts from ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII'” – 6:37
   3. “Roundabout” – 8:33

Side four
   1. “I’ve Seen All Good People” – 7:09
   2. “Long Distance Runaround/The Fish (Schindleria Præmaturus)” – 13:37

Side five
   1. “Close to the Edge” – 18:13

Side six
   1. “Yours Is No Disgrace” – 14:23
   2. “Starship Trooper” – 10:08

Yessongs (Atlantic K 60045) reached #7 in the UK. It also reached #12 in the US (Atlantic SD 3-100) during a chart stay of 32 weeks.

The album featured no detailed recording credits. Two songs, “Close To The Edge” and “Starship Trooper”, can be established to be sourced from the same London Rainbow Theatre concert as the Yessongs film (December 15 1972). “Roundabout” is assumed to come from the Ottawa, ON show (November 1 1972) and “Yours Is No Disgrace” from the Athens, GA show (November 14 1972). As for the two tracks from the Fragile tour featuring Bill Bruford, they are generally assumed to come from the NYC Academy of Music shows on February 19 and 23, 1972.

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