English progressive rock band Yes has been around for over 50 years. They were one of the first progressive rock groups to break into the mainstream and remain extremely influential in the genre. On the other hand, in those 50 years, there hasn’t been a lot of evolution.
InsideOutMusic, October 1
While Yes set the pattern for an entire genre, he hasn’t moved much in his own sound since his early ’70s origins, while the bands he inspired have pushed the boundaries further and further. While the new album The quest is a master class in progressive rock, it maintains the same sound not only within itself, but from the band’s most famous hits “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Roundabout”.
That said, the singles definitely lean more towards the rock side than the prog, while The quest leans further for prog. It’s heavy and cinematic synth, light on hooks and riffs, with no chorus that will linger in your head. This in itself is not bad in itself. Not all music needs to be catchy in the Top 40, but a certain level of musical simplicity helps differentiate the tracks from each other and from their overall work.
The first synth track “The Ice Bridge” is a perfect example. It’s a good song taken on its own, and there are some solid mini-solos around three and a half and five minutes into its seven-minute duration, with calls and answers well done. It is followed by “Dare to Know”, which leans more acoustically, with an orchestral feel enhanced by a real orchestra. If you focus on the two, they’re separate songs with distinct vibes. They are clearly differentiated by a fade ending the first and a one minute intro in the second.
But what if you’re not careful? The two songs change so much throughout, and both have such similar vocal styles and rhythm in the verses that it’s hard to know if they’re two songs, one, or three. Your careful listening is necessary to keep track. However, these songs have many of the same parts; not just for this album but for any Yes album.
This pattern continues through the first of two discs. There are a few exceptions; âMinus the Manâ has a memorable chorus, but his âbuilding the supermanâ¦ minus the manâ lyrics are hard to put into context with the rest of the lyrics. “Leave Well Alone” has a refreshing funk vibe at times, though it inevitably fades as the song goes through its eight minutes. It’s easy to identify a song you like and a song you don’t, only to find later that it’s the same song.
The outlier is “Mystery Tour” on the second disc. Short and concentrated in three minutes and 33 seconds, it is full of references and tributes to the Beatles. It’s pretty tight with clear verses and choruses. It’s catchy and even radio-friendly, with a great solo on the bridge. It’s unlike anything else on the album, and its relegation to the bonus disc implies that Yes didn’t feel it matched most of the album.
Yes, as a group of individuals, are very talented songwriters and musicians. Steve Howe, Geoff Downes and Alan White (the earliest remaining members of the group) have refined their art and genre for over half a century to its purest form. But the problem with purity is that there is a very fine line between it and homogeneity. And as time passed and the legend of Yes grew, there was no longer a label insisting that it included an archetypal single like “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, which both allowed the group to focus on their vision and allowed them to let that vision run. in a rut.
The quest that’s good, but you can only imagine what it could be if Yes stepped out of her comfort zone and challenged herself (as a band, not the musicians in their solo work) to innovate again.
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