'Like It Is – At The Mesa Arts Centre'
Release Date: 3rd July 2015
Led by bassist Chris Squire since their formation in 1968, Yes are one of the longest serving and certainly most successful progressive/symphonic rock bands. And along the way, hits like 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart' and albums such as 'Close To The Edge' and '90125' have made the band a household name.
This live album shows the latest line-up of the band at home on stage, playing some classic material. In fact, 1971s 'Fragile' and 1972s 'Close To The Edge' in their entirety – now THAT's classic.
Yes have seen a lot of members come and go (and come back again), including Rick Wakeman, Bill Bruford and Jon Anderson, politics and more, and have sold 50 million albums world-wide. No mean feat.
With their roots in bands such as Syn and Mabel Greer's Toyshop, a number of personnel changes and inspiration on the London club circuit from bands such as King Crimson, Yes signed to Atlantic and released their eponymous debut in 1969. The line-up had cemented with vocalist Jon Anderson, guitarist Peter Banks, bassist Chris Squire, keyboard player Tony Kaye and drummer Bill Bruford.
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From the outset Anderson's trademark high vocals were a stand out, and the sound was given a more psychedelic edge by guitarist Banks. 1970s 'Time And A Word' was more progressive, and featured an orchestra; this led to tensions in the band and Banks was replaced by Steve Howe by the album's release.
1971s 'The Yes Album', featuring Howe, was a writing musical progression (no cover versions), and a commercial breakthrough too, reaching #4 in the UK charts and going platinum in the USA.
Recorded and released the same year, 'Fragile' saw ex-Strawbs pianist Rick Wakeman cement the classic line-up as well as the first collaboration with artist/designer Roger Dean. It featured four group songs/performances and five solo songs/ideas performed by the five.
Building on the success and sound development, 1972s 'Close To The Edge' featured three songs, including the 18 minute title track. The blend of guitar and keyboards was symphonic, atmospheric and rocking in equal measures.
Upon the album's completion, Bill Bruford joined King Crimson, and the following live album, 'Yessongs', mixed tracks featuring both Bruford and his replacement Alan White. The following 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' (a double album, part concept) proved a classic, the guitar/keyboards/vocals blend being inspirational.
Patrick Moraz replaced Wakeman for 'Relayer', before the band took time off. 1977 saw Wakeman return for 'Going For The One'. By 1978s 'Tormato', however, sales were slumping (despite the excellent 'Don't Kill The Whale'). The band entered the 80s with a revolving door of personnel and 'Drama' (featuring Buggles' Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes). '90125' saw a more commercial sound, guitarist Trevor Rabin and the hit 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart'.
Throughout the 80s and 90s albums became more sporadic, and by the time of 1991s 'Union', the project combined two bands, the then current Yes and Anderson Bruford Wakeman & Howe.
The classic line-ups have, together and in parts, come and gone, and the band's last studio album, 'Heaven And Earth', was released in 2014. Alongside the ever present Chris Squire are vocalist Jon Davison, guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White and keyboard player Geoff Downs.
Since then Yes have performed several classic albums in their entirety and released some of the concerts, and this album combines the aforementioned 'Close To The Edge', the album's title track opening to applause and some jazzy guitar, some prog and fusion workout and from the outset Jon Davison's vocals are pretty fairly in the direction of Anderson's.
Running to twenty minutes, it's a big swirling affair, the keyboards are huge (church organ at times), and fifteen minutes in the guitar/keyboard interplay is classic prog, with Uriah Heep leanings.
The eleven minute 'And You And I' gets a huge cheer on intro, as does the ten minute 'Siberian Khatru'. The keyboards mix intricate with soloing, as do the guitars, the original album is recreated well and extended slightly too, the band are tight and on form.
Disc 2 features the 'Fragile' album, and the eight minute 'Roundabout' has a slow stuttering start before really kicking off; the driving jazzy bass stands out. 'Cans' and 'Brahms' and 'We Have Heaven' are short ditties, the former with a medieval feel, that you wouldn't expect a live performance of except for a full album show such as this. The rest of the album is run through in solid fashion, with some minor expansions ('South Side Of The Sky' runs to ten minutes rather than eight). 'Heart Of The Sunrise' is a solid album closer.
As with any and every Yes album, there are elements and segments that highlight each band member, so there are vocal work outs and bursts of solos from every instrument, without resorting to a specific solo with the other band members leaving the stage. The styles mix hard rock, classical, jazz and blues into the progressive rock with aplomb.
While each track is enthusiastically received, and to an extent rightfully so, there is an element of "By Numbers"; the arrangements are pretty close to the original albums, although the sound (partly through the current line-up) has been updated.
Also, what is deafening in its absence, is inter-song banter, any sign of a welcome or the fact that they're celebrating these two specific albums.
Thoroughly enjoyable and captivating, and a great sound too.
Five Star music, four and a half star performance, but a mark off for the lack of a real live feel.