February 1971: Yes Releases "The Yes Album"

The Yes Album Vinyl
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(Atlantic)

For Yes, the third time was indeed the charm.

After a pair of under-performing albums, the UK group's label was considering dropping the act. So the band made some wholesale changes when it came time to make record number three. For one, they'd already replaced guitarist Peter Banks with virtuoso player, Steve Howe. They also decided to go with all original compositions, and no cover versions.

RELATED: January 1972: Yes releases "Roundabout" in America

Breaking the chains of their sound and throwing caution to the wind, Yes crafted six new songs, three of which boast run times of well over eight minutes.

"We were very adventurous," singer Jon Anderson told AZ Central in 2018. "And we got a lot of people wanting to see our next show, because every show we did, we added more songs, more arrangements. I wasn’t really into guitar solos personally because there was a lot of great guitarists around like Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and why bother? If your guitarist is good, why not do something more musical, arranging music? And that’s what we did."

The Yes Album would prove to be exactly the breakthrough that Yes needed. As the new songs were being played in full on freeform FM radio, the band's label thought it was time to issue a chart-friendly single. So they took the two-part suite, "I've Seen All Good People," and simply pressed the first suite, "Your Move," as the radio edit.

It would prove to me a smart decision. "Your Move" would be a modest chart hit, peaking at #40 on December 4, 1971.The Yes Album, released on February 19, 1971, would peak at the same #40 position on the album chart in early 1972.

Meanwhile, FM rock stations were dropping the needle and spinning all nine minutes-plus of "Starship Troopers."

"We knew we had a style. No barriers. We didn’t write songs for the radio," Anderson recalled. "We wrote music for the stage. Think about that first tour with 'Fragile,' with 'Heart of the Sunrise' and 'Starship Trooper.' These are big pieces of music that extended themselves as we were touring America. We thought, 'Hey, we’re good, we’ve got an audience, they understand and life is good.'"

Looking back on the numerous lineup changes and drama that has plagued the group for decades, Anderson takes it all in stride.

"What can I say? There’s a lot of people who love Yes music around the world. There’s a lot of people who go see the other bands, a lot of people come see our band, a lot of fans do tribute bands," he marveled. "As long as people hear and see Yes music, that’s all that matters. Because to me, Yes music is special. It’s not the norm. Until you really love Yes, you don’t know what it is. It’s just another band. But I love Yes. I love Yes music. It’s my life."

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From the remixed, reimagined album of the same name.

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