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YES: In So Many Words
Wayne King from United States
19 March 2012
I had just watched an excellent documentary on the British classic rock
band Cream earlier this week when I discovered the same producers had
given a similar treatment to the progressive rock band YES.
Any fan of prog rock knows that YES is the foundation of British
progressive rock which is a fusion of various musical styles, including
rock, folk, classical music, blues and jazz with exceptional musical
talent. Other bands in the genre are Genesis (pre-80s), King Crimson,
Gentle Giant, Soft Machine, UK, Caravan, as well as Canadian group,
RUSH and U.S. group, Kansas. YES truly embodied the term "super group"
with five individually-talented members and music that relied on each
performer's part rather than just a supporting rhythm section holding
up an ego-maniacal lead singer and flashy lead guitarist. Each member
of YES has gone on to become leaders in their own right even after the
fact, either as solo artists, songwriters or producers.
I followed the band right up to their 90125 album. Like in the Cream
doc, writer Chris Welch and director Jon Brewer sit down with each
current and former member of Yes individually and talk about the
history of the band. Very thorough and introspective. And what a
documentary it is. Three and a half hours of "talking head" interviews
with a lot of back and forth edits between questions and band members.
A lot of history of each member but mainly where it pertains to YES
rather than go into their solo endeavors and side projects. Very
fitting for a band that's been together over 40 years and all of them
still alive and contributing to this movie. Some good archival footage
too. The doc spans from the humble beginnings as a 60s folky band with
their unique spin on covers right through their classic early 70s
period, early 80s period with their union with The Buggles, their high
profile Top 40 period with Trevor Rabin and into their current period
as primarily a performing show band.
Bassist Chris Squire and singer Jon Anderson are the two founding
members and the main figureheads for the documentary. Squire is the
only member to play on every YES album and every YES song that has bass
guitar, (except one song from Drama where he played piano while singer
Trevor Horn played bass). Anderson has quit and returned several times.
Almost equal input in the documentary comes from other original and
classic members of YES including guitarist Peter Banks, keyboardist
Rick Wakeman, guitarist Steve Howe and drummers Alan White and Bill
Bruford. There are also interviews with vocalist and producer Trevor
Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes who were formerly known as The
Buggles whose hit "Video Killed the Radio Star" was the first video to
be played on MTV. Horn and Downes joined YES for one album in 1980
(DRAMA). Horn also produced YES' next album, 90125 which became their
most successful and biggest seller.
The only members missing (but well-mentioned) were original keyboardist
Tony Kaye and one-album member keyboardist Patrick Moraz (Relayer '75)
as well as some of the other short term members from the 90s and later
(whose input for this doc surely weren't necessary however it would be
nice to hear how they viewed their short tenures). There's a lot of "he
said/he said" stuff. It is a band after all and bands that have been
together this long tend to be like most strenuous marriages and
relationships. Lots of egos, break-ups and make ups.
Also missing is guitarist/songwriter Trevor Rabin who helped salvage
Yes in the 80s with his talent, tech savvy and songwriting who gets
lots of blame and abuse for turning them into a commercial hit machine
and splitting the band into two camps and gets accused of being a
control freak and fighting for domination of the band. (In actuality,
it's Squire who owns the name YES and is the deciding factor on who
plays and what direction they will YES will go in musically).
Unfortunately, Rabin's contribution to the documentary is almost
non-existent except for a brief 45 sec interview clip obviously not
done for this movie. If they even asked him about his time in YES, they
edited it out and he only speaks of his current career as a film
composer. It's a shame because though he's not considered a classic
member (and rejected as a true YES member by die hard fans), he did
provide them with their biggest top 40 hit and best selling album
("Owner of A Lonely Heart" and 90125, respectively) and revived the
band's career after their heyday. YES might not still be playing
together today if not for Rabin. It would have been nice to hear his
side of the story. Would be interesting to know why he was censored or
maybe he just refused to discus YES.
If you're a fan of YES or progressive rock, this is a MUST SEE
documentary. Be warned: It is very long but never boring.
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