A big YES fan--CLOSE TO THE EDGE remains, in my opinionated opinion, the greatest rock album of all time; YES are incredible live--I purchased LIVE AT MONTREUX 2003 the very moment I learned of it's availability.
A new YESSONGS? Not so sure... If, like me, you'll be adding this to your collection--I bought the DVD too--you may want to check your expectations. On the plus side, as you move through this 2 CD set, it picks up. I've no doubt the crowd loved the show: the effect of recency on memory.
"Siberian Khatru"--good... If you see Joe Satriani live he improvises on his classics; keeps the standards fresh. Would be great to hear Steve Howe and Rick Wakemean do the same.
"Magnification"--On the whole I like the MAGNIFICATION album. Not one of YES's best, but it's always good to hear new YES music. Sadly.. "Magnification" just doesn't work live... Too much Jon Anderson, too little band, the mix sounds hollow, something's missing... When I first heard MAGNIFICATION songs live they didn't play well, but I figured the more they were played live the better they'd get. Still sound the same.
"Don't Kill The Whale"--This has always been one of my least favorite YES songs: even in the 80s the mix seemed wrong. Someone who loves this tune should review it. (GOING FOR THE ONE has some excellent alternatives, like "Parallels" which is on YESSHOWS.)
"In The Presence Of"--One of my favorite tracks from the MAGNIFICATION album. Again... see notes on "Magnification" above... it just doesn't work live. The background vocals detract. (Why? They're fine on "South Side, "And You & I"?) Seems to me "Presence" could be great live... Once again, with feeling...
(Can't ever figure out why YES don't play some of the fabulous material from the Anderson-Bruford-Wakeman-Howe album. Yeah, Chris Squire and Alan White--who legally own the name "YES"--weren't on it. But... come on... surely we're old enough now to be beyond all that? Great YES music is... great YES music. Grab the low hanging fruit!)
"We Have Heaven"--Strange. From mixes with too much Jon we now get all Jon.
"South Side Of The Sky"--Mix still too vocals heavy, but that fullness to the mix is back: It's YES not Jon & Friends. Nice to finally hear some nice solo work from Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman. Crowd justifiably thrilled.
"And You & I"--Hey, it comes from CLOSE TO THE EDGE. Love the song. And after listening to this take, I think I know why they didn't do "Close To The Edge" itself. Was going to mention tempo under "South Side"--seemed slow--but have to mention it here. "And You & I" starts off slow. It almost plods. Until the crowd starts clapping you don't get that "YES live!" feeling. Now the tempo's better. Earlier YES songs do a better job of highlighting the musicianship of everyone in the band. Ends well. Crowd pleased. That was YES!
(Speaking of tempo, I saw Loreena McKennitt recently live. She does a great job of playing her songs a little faster in concert. Really works. N'er a plod anywhere.)
"To Be Over"--Never heard Steve Howe play this live. "Mood For A Day" or "Clap" live will always send shivers down my spine. And--love hearing something different! (In the interests of full disclosure, I own a guitar once owned by Steve Howe. He's always been on of my favorite guitarists.)
"Clap"--Always a crowd pleaser. No disappointments here! If Steve Howe can keep this fresh after all these years, why can't the band keep other songs fresh? YES have written some of the best music on the planet... At end crowd goes bonkers.
"Show Me"--Jon's voice sounds great for the first time on "Show Me." YES's equivalent of "Blowing In The Wind."
"Rick Wakeman Solo Medley"--Crowd goes nuts at the introduction of the master. No wonder, instead of playing background keyboards his fingers finally get a real workout! Again, if Mr. Wakeman can keep this ancient material fresh, what's up with the band and it's classics? Can't Rick be let out of his cage on MAGNIFICATION songs? (My big hope: YES will make a few more albums where they compose together. But they'd have to commit to that.) Crowd goes apoplectic at end. They too want more Rick... they only got a taste... me too...
"Heart Of The Sunrise"--YES hitting their stride. Mix nice and full. Where was Chris Squire before? These days, with the bass so prominent in contemporary music, ya really miss it when it's not there. (What confuses me is why YES and their sound folks don't hear the difference between a mix like this and mixes for, say, the MAGNIFICATION songs. There's a huge difference. Seems fixable too...)
"Long Distance Runaround"--As I believe YES musicians to be amongst the very best I feel it's fair to hold them to a high standard. It makes no sense that material YES has played for years sounds dramatically better than newer material...
"The Fish"--Chris Squire never disappoints. Stills seems odd that this remains his only solo piece. Crowd happy.
"Awaken"--If this double CD started off weak, it's picking up. Odd that it's not until the third track of the second CD ("Heart Of The Sunrise") that we start hearing YES. Nice... This take of "Awaken" has great energy. I always find it odd that YES can play "Awaken" consistently well, but can't do the same with "Close To The Edge." Weird.
"I've Seen All Good People"--If YES couldn't play this in their sleep AND get a crowd on it's feet at the same time, I'd be surprised. Glad we get "Your Move." Perhaps one day local recorder players will join YES? (Although some of the background vocals are okay on LIVE AT MONTREAUX, many are not: sometimes slightly out of tune, runs get real muddy, etc.. When playing live some backing vocalist with voices that blend with Jon's voice might not be a bad idea.) Will have to check the DVD, but I strongly suspect the crowd was on it's feet.
"Roundabout"--Crowd has to on it's feet now. Great ending.
In conclusion: Newer YES material doesn't work well live, and it shows on this set. YES standards good for the most part, tho' some need more energy. Overall this CD set builds, so by the end you feel good about it all. And, I can see a lot of folks not playing CD 1 very often.
My big hope: This CD set indicated YES is, at some level, alive and kicking. If Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones can do it, why not YES? In 2008 we'll have had YES for 40 years. Would be great to have a new album that really showed them all at their best, as composers and musicians.
We can hope...