At a time where lone songs make up music listeners’ purchases, Alan White, drummer of Yes, sees many listeners missing out on a bigger picture by ignoring full-fledged albums of original music as a whole.
“It’s kind of like a journey you go through for both the listener and the people in the band. It’s like a grand, overall storyline of what the band is into at the time,” he said. “You can obviously have hit records and hit songs, but albums tell a bigger story.”
Scheduled to perform a trio of their most beloved sets Saturday at the Venue at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Yes, along with Genesis, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, are considered trailblazers in the progressive rock movement, which fused elements of classical music, jazz, folk, and psychedelic rock together. They found favor with music fans throughout the '70s both here and in their British home base.
Of those bands, Yes was arguably the most successful, landing hits such as “Roundabout,” “Long Distance Runaround” and “I’ve Seen All Good People,” which remain staples on classic rock radio today. The hits continued for the band in the '80s, with “Owner of a Lonely Heart” “Hold On” and “Changes” from their mega-selling 1983 set, “90125.”
Their current tour, however, finds Yes focusing on a trio of original albums in their entirety rather than performing just the hits. At The Venue, Yes is slated to perform 1971’s “The Yes Album,” which featured “People” as well as the favorite “Yours is No Disgrace,” “Close to the Edge,” which was released a year after “Album” and considered by many fans and critics a benchmark in the progressive rock genre, and 1977’s “Going for the One,” in the order they were originally released on vinyl and tape.
According to White, these three sets are, in his opinion, definitive works created by the band in their '70s heyday.
"We had a few emails with suggestions between all of us (in the band), and these three albums made a lot of sense. They run the spectrum from that era of Yes music,” White said. ‘The Yes Album’ has the hits on it, and ‘Close to the Edge’ is a well-known album by the band and ‘Going for the One’ was more modern, but more modern (is in terms of) 1976 and '77. I think it’s a good representation of the band’s history back through the times.”
The band’s approach to the songs on the three sets, White said, will be as faithful to the original recordings as possible, with little, if any, improvising or embellishment on the songs as they were first released.
“We used to, over the years, change the arrangements, but we’ve kind of switched back to the original arrangements and made them like they are on the records,” White said. “It’s interesting seeing how it all flows from one song to the other. It’s interesting for us to relive that period of time."
White joined Yes in 1972, in time to hit the road with the band in support of “Edge,” and has been a member of the band ever since. He is joined onstage by a pair of founding members, guitarist Steve Howe and bassist Chris Squire. The Times' interview with White was conducted prior to the passing of original Yes guitarist Peter Banks. Banks died March 7 in London of heart failure.
Rounding out the current band lineup is Geoff Downes, who joined the band in 1980 and was also a member of Asia with Howe in the early '80s, and Jon Davison, who has taken on vocal duties for the band for the last year.
Davison has replaced singer Benoit David, who himself replaced original Yes front man Jon Anderson five years ago.
“When we all start playing together, you have that chemistry between the members who have been playing a long time together, which is Steve, Chris and Myself.,” White said. “And Geoff Downes was in the band in the '80s, and he’s really well-seasoned with the Yes music, and Jon has all of the Yes material down and has a brilliant voice. And we’re actually having fun with it now.”
“(Davison) is a super-nice guy and he’s really easy to work with,” White added. “He has a quality in his voice that’s really, really suitable for Yes music. His register is around the same register as the key songs that we sang the original stuff in. He’s just a great asset.”
While Yes’ current tour of the States finds them concentrating on past glories, they continue to pursue new musical ventures as well.
In 2011, they released their most recent collection of new material, “Fly From Here” and, according to White, the band is currently working on songs that will serve as “Fly’s” follow-up.
“We’ve got a lot of touring to do this year, and, in the back of everybody’s mind, everybody’s working on original ideas, and it will take us (time) to put all of our ideas together and come up with another Yes album, hopefully later this year.”