Inspired by fellow Progarchist Erik Heter to post a “Top Ten” list, here are what I believe to be the ten best Yes albums. Whether you agree or disagree with my choices, feel free to add your two cents’ worth in the comments!
An album by the Rabin/Anderson/Squire/Kaye/White configuration that never got the respect it deserved. I’ve always had a soft spot for it, particularly “The Calling” and “Endless Dream”. It strikes a nice balance between the full-on pop of 90125 and the prog of the band’s glory days. Check out Time Lord’s essay on this album here.
Speaking of 90125, the charm and attractiveness of its songs cannot be denied. It won Yes a new generation of fans, and when I need a dose of classic ’80s rock, it’s the album I go to.
Before this recent release of seven concerts from 1972, I would have placed Yessongs here. But the raw sound of these recordings makes them a really fun listen. Hear Rick Wakeman’s keyboards channel a local jazz DJ! Hear Jon Anderson tout a local vegetarian restaurant! And hear a young band at the peak of their powers playing the entire Close to the Edge album.
7. Tales From Topographic Oceans
In the rock world at large, this was considered the epitome of self-indulgence. I think Yes were ahead of their time. Nowadays, it’s normal for a prog band to record a 30-minute epic. In this album, there are some truly beautiful passages of music.
Probably a controversial choice for this slot, but I love this album. It’s notorious for having Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes instead of Jon and Rick, but “Machine Messiah” and “Run Through The Light” are excellent songs. Chris Squire’s playing on this album is some of his best, as well.
“Roundabout”, “Long Distance Runaround”, “Heart of the Sunrise”, no self-respecting fan of prog music can be without this classic.
4. The Yes Album
This is the one where all the disparate elements of Yes first gelled. “Starship Trooper” and “I’ve Seen All Good People” defined early-70s FM radio in America. I still get chills listening to it.
The harsh sound of the original mix of this album turned me off, but Steven Wilson’s new one is a revelation. It’s a shame the Patrick Moraz edition of Yes didn’t record more. They made some wonderfully challenging and exciting music.
2. Close To The Edge
The pinnacle of the classic lineup (and Bill Bruford’s finest hour). A contemporary symphony that will endure for a very long time.
1. Going For The One
The punk explosion of the mid-70s lit a fire under Yes, and the opening title track features some of Steve Howe’s most aggressive guitar. “Parallels” rocks unbelievably hard, while “Awaken” is my favorite long-form Yes song. For a much better and comprehensive appreciation of this album, read Erik Heter’s review here.
Agree with the list or disagree? Was I wrong to leave out Tormato or Magnification? Let us know in the comments!