The first Yes album to feature a Roger Dean cover. Also the first with one Rick Wakeman, previously a member of The Strawbs and a popular session keyboardist in England. When he joined he bought a bunch of keyboards which forced the record company to rush release the album so those keyboards could be paid for! While Steve Howe brought some country and jazz elements to Yes, Wakeman brought some classical sensibilities. Featuring what is considered the ‘classic’ lineup of Yes, responsible for the two most well regarded albums the group ever made. The band recorded their now classic version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” at the same time but it was not included on the album.
There are solo pieces here which for me generally bring the quality and consistency of the album down a bit. Possibly inspired by Floyd’s Ummagumma album, these solo pieces mostly sound like filler compared to the group pieces. Album opener “Roundabout” was a hit (in an edited form) on the radio. I’ve heard this song so much I never want to hear it again…but it’s still a great song. Opening with a backwards piano note, this features some of Chris Squire’s best and funkiest bass playing. Listening to this again reminds me how great these guys were at vocal harmonies. Love Wakeman’s jazzy organ solo at one point.
“Cans And Brahms” is Wakeman’s piece, although he didn’t actually compose it. Sounds like Switched-On Bach; the least interesting of the solo pieces. “We Have Heaven” is Anderson’s piece and in contrast to the last track is one of the better solo pieces. Nice vocal overdubs from Jon. It gets reprised at the end of the album. I never cared for “South Side Of The Sky” at first but it grew on me over the years. Still probably the weakest of the group efforts but contains one of the best parts of the album: the piano and vocal based middle section. Always loved the ‘la-la’ part, just puts me in a good mood. This track has some of Howe’s best tones and playing on the album.
“Five Percent For Nothing” is Bruford’s piece with a title that shows his sense of humour. More avant/fusion oriented but way too short. The contrast between the instrumental sections and the vocal parts in “Long Distance Runaround” always sounded forced to me; just doesn’t flow well. Nonetheless, the vocal parts are some of Yes’ best. “The Fish” segues from the last track and is the standout of the solo pieces here. Squire’s piece is one of the highlights of the album. Everything except the vocals and drums were done on overdubbed bass guitars; this must have sounded like nothing else when this album was released.
“Mood For A Day” is Howe’s piece. I never thought much of this, preferring “The Clap” instead. Album closer “Heart Of The Sunrise” is the highlight of the album and one of Yes’ best tracks. Such an intense beginning – equal parts rock’n'roll and jazz. Then the Mellotron over that great bass line and Bruford’s unpredictable drumming. Jon’s vocal parts are the least interesting part of the track but not out of place by any means. Overall not the most consistent thing the group ever did but contains some of their best moments.
1. Roundabout (8:29)
2. Cans And Brahms (1:35)
3. We Have Heaven (1:30)
4. South Side Of The Sky (8:04)
5. Five Percent For Nothing (0:35)
6. Long Distance Runaround (3:33)
7. The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus) (2:35)
8. Mood For A Day (3:57)
9. Heart Of The Sunrise (10:34)
* Jon Anderson – vocals
* Chris Squire – bass and vocals
* Rick Wakeman – keyboards
* Bill Brufford – drums
* Steve Howe – guitars and vocals