Seeing that I haven’t been absorbing a lot of new prog (Oh! The Horror!), I’ve spent most of 2016 happily revisiting my favorite prog (and proggy pop) from the past. As I’ve written before, I’m at that age where 40 years’ worth of my favorite music is such that anything new really has to fight for a place among my listening. However, with a community as great as this one, I’ve all the faith in the world that really good prog will find me, not the other way around.
2016 treated us not only to the further touring adventures of Yes, but also to the touring wonder that is Anderson Rabin Wakeman, which by most accounts was a wonderful tour, and I do hope that 2017 will see some original music from the lineup.
Inspired by Sir Thaddeus of Wert’s Top 10 Yes albums list, I just couldn’t resist compiling my own list of favorites from the boys. I thought it’d be easy to name 10, but I quickly found that I just can’t; I would only be trying to round out the list by including some albums of theirs I like for maybe one or two songs at best, so why not list my true favorites?
Like many who salivated at the news of a YesWest reunion in the early 90’s, I bought “Talk” as quickly as possible on release day. The album’s bookend tracks – “The Calling” and “Endless Dream” – make this a top 10 record for me. Throw in the well-written “Walls,” and it’s a solid effort, despite a few tracks I can live without.
So many great tracks of mention, though none of them are among my all-time favorite tracks, which is why “Fragile” lands where it does on my list. But geez, talk about a trifecta of fabulous albums – “The Yes Album,” “Fragile” and “Close to the Edge” – whew!
6. Going For The One
I bought this album for “Parallels” and later came to dig it for “Awaken,” which is one of the all-time great Yes tracks. Throw in the title track and “Wonderous Stories,” which I’ve always liked, and you’ve got a stellar album. A great return to form for the Yesmen with Wakeman’s return.
5. Big Generator
Yes, the album was fraught with delays, and non-YesWest fans will hate seeing this on any top 10 list – never mind this high – but the 80’s forced prog bands to adapt or die, and with Trevor Rabin’s formidable talent, it was the former, even if they had lost momentum after “90125.”
The two “smash hits” of the album – “Rhythm Of Love” and “Love Will Find A Way” – are fabulous, colorful pop-rock gems, and the album’s proggiest moments – “I’m Running” and “Final Eyes” – are great listens. Finally, I’m actually someone who came to appreciate the album’s ending track, “Holy Lamb,” which Jon Anderson sang with absolute conviction.
4. The Yes Album
This is obviously Yes’ “2112” – where it all came together for the band. As a teen watching and listening to “9012Live,” it was the readings of tracks such as “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Starship Trooper” than sent me running to the record store to snap up this classic album and give “90125” a rest.
3. Close To The Edge
There isn’t much that I can say that hasn’t been said before, except that for any young ears who want to hear an absolutely classic live version of the title track, check out the ABWH version from “An Evening of Yes Music…Plus.” It will knock your socks off. This album is simply amazing.
This was the Yes album that I cut my teeth on, and aside from the glorious production which stands to this very day, the proggiest two tracks – “Changes” and “Hearts” – deserve to be counted among the very best Yes ever created. “Hearts’ is simply breathtaking, and would likely propel “90125” into my top 10 on that track alone…and sorry, folks: I will never get tired of the production, performance, instrumentation and arrangement that is “Owner Of A Lonely Heart.”
Where had Yes been been and where might they go? That question (and tension) is behind my all-time favorite Yes album (and just by a smidgen over “90125”), which no doubt stirs up controversy for the lack of a certain lead singer. No matter – the aggressive prowess of Howe, Squire and White are on full display, and Geoff Downes provides the perfect sonic roadmap to the future with his dazzling array of synthesizers, many of them cutting edge in the day. You want the best elements of 70’s and 80’s Yes in one album? Here you go.