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Yes - Yesshows CD (album) cover

YESSHOWS

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.64 | 464 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Yesshows' - Yes (55/100)

There seems to be a general consensus that Yes' first live album Yessongs is something of a masterpiece. At two hours and six sides long, it takes the scope of the band's vision to its natural zenith, offering a cross-section of the band's best work over the span of their three most classic records. It seems fitting, then, that Yes' second live album would attempt to follow in the ambitious footsteps of Yessongs, this time largely representing the period between 1973's Tales from Topographic Oceans and Tormato, the tumultuous swansong to the band's classic era. While Tales from Topographic Oceans and Relayer are actually my two favourite Yes albums, Yesshows still seems to fall short of Yessongs in virtually every way. Besides feeling like a half-hearted addendum to their first live LP, Yesshows doesn't quite come together the way it could have. There's nothing dreadfully wrong it, but there's very little of that same refreshing magic that made Yessongs such a gem.

I don't think there could have been any way Yes could make a truly weak live album using material from their 1973-78 period. Although a live album should be judged for the way it presents material rather than the material itself, having a library of brilliant music to work with certainly makes the matter of making a good live album that much easier. In the case of Yesshows, I'm surprised it didn't work out better than it did. Tormato and Going for the One had choice cuts readily available for the energetic short-form songwriting, whilst Relayer and Tales from Topographic Oceans offered a taste of Yes at their boldest. Not to mention, there were still plenty of songs from their earlier catalogue they could submit without dubbing over the selections on Yessongs. While Yessongs had a nigh-impeccable choice of material, Yesshows is more of a mixed bag. "Going for the One" is a suitably amazing choice for the album, with an infectious chaos that translates perfectly live, and while I've never been a fan of the organ-heavy "Parallels", it's a solid way to open the performance following their signature Stravinsky's "Firebird" intro.

On the other hand, "Time and a Word" and "Wonderous Stories" do very little with the potential allotted to them by the live setting. Neither of them are particularly marvelous in studio, and there's nothing here that changes my mind any. "Don't Kill the Whale" fares a little better, but lacks the kick and punch of "Going for the One". I think the most pronounced element that defines Yesshows is actually the wasted potential for the more ambitious cuts. I've made no secret about my love towards Relayer's "The Gates of Delirium", and any track from "Tales from Topographic Oceans" would (and should) have made for an excellent cornerstone to the album. Sadly, these live renditions don't do nearly as much as I would have hoped for. Perhaps I'm comparing it too much to the vivace of Yessongs' most proggy material, but Yes' performance feels dull compared to their studio versions. With a live album, I expect to hear the music performed with more intensity and urgency than the studio. While Relayer's version of "The Gates of Delirium" sets a heavy precedent with its chaotic faux-musique concrete noise and production, Yesshows' version is dull and streamlined. Undoubtedly for the sake of vinyl limitations, the originally twenty minute "Ritual" has been split into two parts. If there's any part of the album where Yes have clearly tried to reinnovate themselves, it's with this epic, but even then I don't find myself entirely convinced. Whereas "Ritual" was originally a sleepy epic with some beautiful restraint and otherworldly atmosphere, the two halves are packed up with a noddy intro from Jon Anderson and added percussion passage towards the end. The Alan White drum showcase is a nice touch, but the introduction to "Ritual" here feels pretty undesired. Having some banter and dawdling helps to create a live impression, but here Anderson is only giving thanks to the road and laser/light people. It's good to give credit to people who have helped make a show a success, but it's entirely puzzling to hear this credit given for the part of the performance we're not seeing.

Yesshows doesn't match Yessongs in any way, nor does it offer any improvement on the muddy mixing that album had. What we have is an inferior live album that seems to acknowledge the fact it is lesser in inspiration and ambition to Yes' first bout. Released following Drama and the breakdown of Yes' classic lineup, Yesshows was compiled with the knowledge that the days of glory were now over. Maybe that sense has translated somehow into the album. It's a functional live album in most respects, but there's nothing here that would make the songs favourable over their in-studio counterparts.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |

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