Considered among critics to be the first progressive rock album, Yes released their eponymous debut record on July 25, 1969. The original lineup consisted of Jon Anderson on vocals, Chris Squire on bass, Peter Banks on guitar, Tony Kaye on keyboards, and Bill Bruford on drums. The production and sound are certainly raw and uneven, given the lack of experience with the musicians and producer. Since Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe hadn't yet joined, there are no 20 minute epics here on this record, but the songs still run the gambit from short, pop ditties to fast, power jams. Let's take a closer look at this introductory record.
The album starts with "Beyond and Before," and the band decides to kick off their sound with a hard rock, metal feel. With Banks' guitar leading the way, Anderson harmonizes with Squire and the other members to create a Byrds-like vocal line. Speaking of, Yes actually covers the Byrds with the second track "I See You." Unfortunately, Roger McGuinn and his crew probably couldn't keep up with the quick jazz section led by Banks and Bruford. The shortest song on the record is Anderson's own "Yesterday and Today," which takes the dynamics and tempo down a tad. Banks' acoustic guitar, Kaye's piano, and Anderson's voice blend like the perfect trio. Luckily, the organ comes back to the forefront in "Looking Around," which is a perfect song to describe the '60s sound.'
Side Two opens with "Harold Land," named after the hard bop tenor saxophonist. Squire gets a real chance to show off here and the band shows evidence of its future, mature songwriting style, with the long introduction and shifts in texture and volume. One of the adventurous Beatles covers ever recorded is "Every Little Thing," which lets every member flex his muscles. The listener almost forgets it's a Beatles cover before Banks plays the "Day Tripper" riff 1:55 into the number. Featured in the movie Buffalo '66, "Sweetness" is a big ballad that was selected as the band's first single. The album ends with a fan favorite, "Survival" that swiftly jumps between jazz, folk, and psychedelia, culminating in the band's first real suite.