Yes: Classic Artists


Yes is an ongoing, progressive saga difficult to bottle, categorize or document. A two-hour overview of the band called YesYears came out in 1991, coinciding with a boxed CD set and neatly scanning their origins. The film was driven by plenty of unseen perfromance and video clips, as well as interviews with eight members of the band, then on tour together for the once-in-a-lifetime Union outing. The only problem? Yes still had a lot more history to make. So, some 13 years later, on the eve of the band’s 35th anniversary, YesSpeak was rolled out. A disjointed, somewhat rambling discourse, narrated by Roger Daltrey no less, YesSpeak focused on the "classic" lineup of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Alan White, Chris Squire and Rick Wakeman, and suffered immeasurably from general arbitrariness. Now, to ring in their 40th anniversary, Yes: Classic Artists, a third documentary is about to bring you up to speed on Yes.

With a running time of almost four hours, this two-DVD set leaves no crumb untouched. British rock journalist Chris Welch curates, filling in gaps here and there, and, in general, keeping the story moving along. Squire, Anderson, original drummer Bill Bruford and original guitarist Peter Banks all express their views on the band’s beginnings, yet, for reasons unknown, original keyboardist Tony Kaye wasn't invited to the party (neither were Patrick Moraz, Trevor Rabin, Billy Sherwood or Igor Khoroshev). As the story progresses and the lineup changes, Howe, Wakeman, producer/engineer Eddy Offord, Atlantic Records’ Phil Carson, artist Roger Dean, former members Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, along with assorted crew members and associates, each offer their take on the band’s development, loopy history and longevity.

Unfortunately, the DVD is so dominated by talking heads, it becomes somewhat tedious after the first couple of hours or so. Simply out: Without breaking up the stream of conversation with the usual montage of performance clips (of which there are only about three or four) or other such archival video, watching the documentary can be an exercise in tolerance and futility. But that certainly doesn't discount its value or impact as an "authorized" piece of film worthy of examination. The second disc includes even more interviews (!), some rehearsal footage from 1996, the requisite photo and memorabilia gallery, and only three music videos. After you get through the DVD and its colorful 20-page booklet, you may develop an insatiable hunger for Yes music. If you need the visuals to go along with it, put on Yessongs to see the group at its mightiest; maybe 9012Live after that to sample what many consider diet Yes; followed by Symphonic Live featuring Anderson, Squire, Howe, White and a mostly all-girl orchestra; then Songs From Tsongas or Live At Montreux for some recent performances of the "classic" lineup. By then you should be fairly YESed out.

~ Shawn Perry

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