George W. Harris – Jazz Weekly August 25, 2014 [Link][Link] music band’s name sounds more inviting to go hear and enjoy?
KEY QUESTION ON THE OBSERVATION OF THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION:
1) Which music band’s name sounds more inviting to go hear and enjoy? a) Millennial groups called “Massive Attack” and “Airborne Toxic Event”
b) A Baby Boomer Band called “Yes”
Next question, please…
Once upon a time, before there were labels, music entities tried to reach the same artistic goal of melding various styles of sound through different approaches. In the 60s and 70s, jazz, rock and classical were melded together from the rock and roll side by “progressive rock” groups like ELP, Genesis and Yes, while from the jazz side of the tracks, it was done by Weather Report, Return to Forever and Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Filled with an audience that had a representation of 21st Century hipsters and 70s-survivor ex(?) stoners, the Greek was presented with the rejuvenated Yes band, who pioneered the prog-rock genre way back when. Still at the helm were Steve Howe/g, Chris Squire/b and Alan White/dr along with Geoff Downes/key and Jon Davison, who’s choir boy voice would fool any Jon Anderson fanatic.
You might ask, “Why doesn’t Yes move on and change with the times?” Well, would you ask Benny Goodman to stop swinging, or Mozart to stop performing in the classic mode? Like the best of card players, Howe, Squire and company know when to keep playing a winning hand, and winning it is. Even the material from their latest album, songs like “Believe Again” and “The Game” had the thoughtful mix of grandiose and fervent, and their journey through their two most successful albums, Fragile and Close to the Edge, show that certain things in art not only define the times, but transcend it.
An opus like the 18 minute Close to the Edge can include a jazzy jam, vocal madrigals and bluesy organ solos without dropping a stitch, while “And You And I” can take you to an English folk fest. Pure classical was delivered by Downes on “Cans and Brahms” and Howe reached into his inner Segovia on “Mood For a Day.” Likewise, Squire’s patented sound on his funky bass riffs reached into the third world on “Fish” and complex interplay melded with awe inspiring vocal dynamics on “Heart of the Sunrise.”
But, what also needs to be appreciated amongst all this wonderfully pretentious music (and isn’t that why we initially loved it?) was that, above all, Yes knows how to make all of these elements form into a catchy pop tune. Amidst all of Howe’s look like a mad scientist as he dissects and experiments with his guitars and keyboards, and Squire’s influential “where is he going?” bass licks, there is a fervent joy in pieces like “Long Distance Runaround” and the anthem “Roundabout” that makes you want to sing along with arcane phrases like “mountains come out of the sky and they stand there.” Mixing the ethereal and mystical with good old fashioned toe tapping, Yes solidifies Duke Ellington’s motto that “there are basically two types of music, good and the other.” Yes makes it work, and work well!