Prog rock band celebrates album's 50th: Yes performs at Brown County Music Center
Connie Shakalis - Guest columnist October 31, 2022
Yes's hit album "Close to the Edge" has 6.9 million hits on YouTube. Listening to it has pulled many close to the edge of their seats as they hear that keyboard solo screaming yes, bring-it-on, baby.
See them Nov. 5 at the Brown County Music Center during the U.S. portion of their The Album Series Tour 2022, honoring the 50th anniversary of their 1972 album, "Close To The Edge."
They've sold more than 50 million records, have won Grammys and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. There, they did Roundabout from the album "Fragile" and the FM radio delight, "Owner of a Lonely Heart," from their 1985 album.
Yes is a prog, or progressive, rock band whose music from the early 1970s documents prog rock's very history. The grinding "Close to the Edge" came out in 1972, but the previous year's "Fragile" had just as big an impact on prog, according to RollingStone.com. Then in 1983, "Owner of a Lonely Heart" chased up the charts in a major comeback for the musicians.
Prog rock is a subgroup of rock that prioritizes composition, esoteric lyrics, experimentation and musicianship. Uniting fast-food servers and CEOs, it showed rock could appeal to the humble and the wealthy and didn't have to be simple or witless. New in the late 1960s, it carries on today, loved by many, hated by just as many.
Changes with the band
Original Yes lead singer Jon Anderson was replaced with the singer of a band that does Yes covers. There are other changes, too. It gets convoluted, and doors revolve.
Yes' English keyboardist, songwriter and record producer Geoff Downes is also well known as a member of The Buggles (new wave band, with Trevor Horn) and the supergroup Asia. Yes began in 1968, created by Jon Anderson and the late Chris Squire.
Downes comes from a musical family in England, his father having been a church organist and choirmaster. Graduating from Leeds School of Music in 1975 renders Downes the first Yes member to graduate with a music degree.
"Prog rock has an extra, special, depth of music in it," Downes said over the phone.
He wrote "Don't Cry" with John Wetton, the first hit single from prog rock band Asia's second album, "Alpha." The song hit No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the band's second Top 10 pop smash, sending them right back to No. 1 on Billboard's Top Album Rock Tracks chart.
Not only has Downes never considered a career outside of music, he has never lost his love for it. "I've had that all my life." That's one reason he decided to embrace the industry's other side of the studio's glass wall music production.
"Producers wear a different hat." They're conscious of all sorts of things, including personalities, and not wanting to upset people and yet keep the music's quality.
"The producer is responsible for how the record comes out." Today, Downes said, the producer plays a big part; the old divide from previous times is gone. "Producers in the old days were really just engineers."
Today, he said, musicians have their own recording equipment and a lot can be produced with very little.
As a keyboardist, he has seen huge change. "The keyboard is (now) responsible for playing a variety of sounds. It's more of a production tool now."
When Downes started out, keyboardists had essentially just piano, electric piano, Hammond organ and synthesizer. In the 1970s new methods and plugins came out, which are available to anyone with a computer. Today, concert-goers hear and see a menagerie of instruments as they observe the keyboardist. Watch Downes, and you'll see.
If you go WHAT: Yes' "Close to the Edge" 50th Anniversary Tour WHEN: 8 p.m. Nov. 5 WHERE: Brown County Music Center, 200 Maple Leaf Blvd., Nashville TICKETS: $40-$130 and up at ticketmaster.com/yes-close-to-the-edge-50th-nashville-indiana-11-05-2022/event/05005D180FE49330. Hurry, tickets are selling quickly.