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Monday, May 15, 2017

Yes

My next article on this year's entry to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is Yes, who were something of a cause celebre when it came to Hall of Fame rejects. They waited for years to be inducted, and signified a lack of respect that organization had for prog-rock. Finally they made it this year, and really, what was the wait about? They have longevity--in some form or another they've been recording and touring for close to fifty years--and they were very popular, with several classic radio staples and have sold millions of records. What else did they need?

Probably what was needed was a different set of voters. Yes, like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and Genesis, were almost made irrelevant by punk, which hated this sort of Lord of the Rings-type stuff. Yes, through all their incarnations, have been noted for extremely long tracks, some that take up an entire album side (a college DJ once told me that if he wanted to go run an errand, or have sex in the studio, he simply slapped on a side of Tales From Topographic Oceans, which only had one song per album side) and with lyrics about grandiose ideas and mythical places. But if you're into that sort of thing, they were the best at it.

Yes has gone through many band members, but the core that produced most of the best known stuff was vocalist Jon Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Bill Bruford, bassist Chris Squire, and keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Allen White replaced Bruford early on, and Geoff Downes has been playing keyboards a lot longer than Wakeman did, but those five were on the most iconic albums.

I kind of resisted Yes during my teen years, and I think it has to do with Anderson. I just do not like male vocalists who sing as if their testicles are in a vise (the same goes with Robert Plant, perhaps the key reason why I never became a huge Led Zeppelin fan). They were very artsy-fartsy, which I like, but compared to Genesis and ELP and Pink Floyd they just didn't do it for me. But I have to admit that they had some great songs. The most ubiquitous is "Roundabout," which in album form is eight minutes long (there was a customary three-minute single) and can be heard probably once an hour on classic radio. My particular favorite is the more conventional "Owner of a Lonely Heart," which attempts to answer the age-old question: is it better to have loved and lost then to have never loved at all? Yes says, "Owner of a lonely heart, much better than the owner of a broken heart."

The true Yes fan luxuriates in the ten-minute tracks that are listed as having parts, like "Close to the Edge" or "And You and I," which is very lovely and makes best use of Anderson's voice. The musicianship is also top-notch, as heard on songs like "Tempis Fugit." But they even recorded an a capella song (albeit I think Anderson is the only voice, overdubbed like crazy) with "Leave It."

So Yes, you're time of waiting is over. You're in the pantheon. Now if they could just elect the Moody Blues.

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