Yessongs (40th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-Ray)


MVD Visual, 2018

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


As I’ve chronicled elsewhere, my personal initiation into the world of Yes took place in 1974 when my seventh-grade friend Ross put side two of the third LP from 1973’s Yessongs triple-live set on his turntable and shattered every image I had held until that moment about what rock music should sound like and feel like. It was a whole new dimension of sound and musical ambition, and I was all in from that moment.

The band’s history since that moment could (and has) fill books. It’s been a long and winding road that has forked more than once. Still, the band’s legend lives on in part because of indelible performances like the ones captured on Yessongs. The film of the same name captured a 1972 gig at London’s Rainbow Theater and was given a full theatrical release in the UK the following year, featuring the most exotic sound engineering then available: quadrophonic sound.

This 40th Anniversary Special Edition of the Yessongsmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 movie, which first appeared in 2012 in the UK and has now received its first US release via MVD Visual, presents a fully restored HD transfer from the original 16mm film, now in the Blu-Ray format. The film edits down the triple-LP’s 130-minutes setlist to 76 minutes, featuring just seven full-song performances plus an excerpt from “Starship Trooper” (the “Wurm” segment) under the end credits. Notably, at least two of these performances are the same ones found on the LP (“Close To The Edge” and “Wurm”).

Yessongs in fully restored Blu-Ray format is a treat for the longtime fan, even if it also serves as a reminder of how much water has passed under the bridge. Which is more poignant, hearing the departed Chris Squire’s harmony vocals propel “I’ve Seen All Good People” to fresh heights, or seeing Jon Anderson and Steve Howe nodding and smiling like the fast friends they were at the time? Check out Rick Wakeman’s stack of vintage analog synthesizers and full-size Hammond organ! Gape at the fiery energy rookie drummer Alan White (now 47 years into his tenure with the band) brings to his inaugural tour with Yes.

The luminous, stunning “Close To The Edge” is worth the price of admission, one of the great live performances in the history of prog, though the band’s runs at “Roundabout” and “Yours Is No Disgrace” are right up there as well, full of rippling energy and ferocious solos, topped with magnificent two- and three-part harmonies from Anderson, Squire and Howe.

The bonus features are alright even if they feel a tad Howe-centric; in addition to a 2012 documentary featuring him, Squire and Roger Dean, there’s a quirky 12-minute promotional film created for the guitarist and current Yes bandleader’s 1975 solo album Beginnings. Both have their moments—the latter, for example, features a segment where Howe duets with Relayer-era keys-man Patrick Moraz on harpsichord—but neither could be considered essential.

Yessongs is an artifact of its era, to be sure—the clothes alone earn plenty of smiles five decades later. The static camera angles and staging feel quite dated as well, with cords and stands everywhere on the small stage and very little clear space for the band to move around. But the music is what you care about most, and it retains every ounce of its power, imagination, and, indeed, majesty. Yessongs is a treasure for any fan of the band, or, for that matter, of progressive rock itself.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2018 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of MVD Visual, and is used for informational purposes only.