Our top 10 Yes Songs list takes a look at the greatest progressive rock band of all time. It does not seem right to label many of these selections “songs.” How can we call “Close to the Edge,” or “Gates of Delirium,” songs when they last the entire side of an album? The concepts of progressive rock were to stretch the boundaries of rock music beyond the three-minute pop song. No band stretched the boundaries better than Yes. Over the years, the band shifted lineups on a regular basis with Steve Howe, Chris Squire, and Jon Anderson remaining for the most part the core three. However, this list is not about the lineup changes. This list is all about the most essential music the band as a whole has made throughout their long and illustrious career. When listening back to all this music, it was a great joy to realize once again how great this band was and the legacy of brilliant, passionate progressive rock music they have left for fans to enjoy forever.
# 10 – Going For The One.
Starting out with a slight kamikaze country rock blues feel, the opening title track from the brilliant Going for the One album finds its way to the classic Yes sound at the start of the song’s chorus. However, “Going for the One,” is one of the most interesting songs in the band’s catalog because of the almost drunken-sounding guitar licks that surround Jon’s vocals. The juxtaposition between Jon” classic vocal line and Howe’s guitar lines delivered a track, unlike anything that band had ever recorded.
In a 1977 interview with Jim Faber of Circus magazine, Jon Anderson had said that the lyrical content had been inspired by a movie he had seen about rowing down the waters of the Grand Canyon, “on one of those rubber dinghies.” The singer also described the song as being about sport and the cosmic mind. Regardless of the lyrical content, “Going for the One,” was one of the most entertaining and original songs Yes ever recorded, and a most deserving selection to start out the Top Ten Essential Yes songs list.
(From the 1977 album Going For The One)
# 9 – Owner of a Lonely Heart
Many Yes fans from the nineteen seventies did not care for the success of the early nineteen eighties Yes and their popular radio hit ” Owner of a Lonely Heart.” Trevor Rabin’s composition was far removed from the progressive style of earlier Yes music. However, “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” was the band’s first and only No.1 single on the Billboard charts. For that reason alone, the song becomes part of the essential Yes catalog. In retrospect, Rabin’s composition is really a pop music masterpiece. One can only wish that the airwaves in 2022 were filled with music as well written and performed as Yes’s “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
(From the 1983 album 90125)
# 8 – Siberian Khatru
In the number eight spot on our top 10 Essential Yes songs list is the legendary track “Siberian Khatru.” This is a classic Yes as it gets. Out favorite Yes album by far, Siberian Khatru spun on the turntables of Yes fans probably millions of times thought the 1970s. Steve Howe and Chris Squire’s guitar and bass licks drive this one from the very start. Jon Anderson’s vocals are as haunting as they are beautiful. This one is just a timeless track.
(From the 1991 album Close To The Edge)
# 7 – Yours is no Disgrace
“Yours is no Disgrace,” defines the meaning of “Classic Yes.” The classic Yes track has been always one of the band’s most loved songs. Just listen to the amazing guitar and bass lick at the song’s opening. Tony Kaye’s organ playing took the riff to another level, while Bill Bruford’s virtuosic drumming simply cemented the recording as one of their most effulgent. Jon Anderson’s anti-Vietnam lyrical contribution and purely pitch-perfect vocal performance elevated the recording to soon become the pinnacle standard of progressive rock music.
(From the 1971 album The Yes Album)
# 6 – The Gates of Delirium
“The Gates of Delirium,” is one of two Top Ten Yes songs that take up the entire side of a vinyl record. Standing at twenty two minutes, it is one of the longest compositions the band Yes has ever recorded. Jon Anderson has always spoken about the essence of Yes as a live performance band. While “The Gates of Delirium,” was a wonderful studio recording, the live performances of the composition, completely showcased the bands’ extraordinary musical talents.
(From the 1974 album Relayer)
# 5 – I’ve Seen All Good People
The second of two tracks from the 1971 The Yes Album that has landed in the Top 10 Essential Yes songs. “I’ve Seen All Good People,” is easily one of the most recognizable Yes songs. The song contains probably the greatest sing-along lyric that the band has ever composed, and is always a highlight during Yes concert performances.
(From the 1971 album The Yes Album)
# 4 – Heart of the Sunrise
The killer opening alone makes “Heart of the Sunrise” one of the top 10 essential Yes songs. Another masterpiece in progressive rock music, the song is the closing number on their classic album Fragile. When Anderson sings ” Sharp, Distance, How can the Wind with its Arms all around me,” followed by the band exploding around Anderson’s cosmic vocal line, we have all then experienced the heartbeat of Yes and the incontestable rise of the nineteen seventies progressive rock movement.
(From the 1972 album Fragile)
# 3 – Roundabout
As popular as the song “Roundabout,” was in the nineteen seventies, the song never made it to No.1 on the Billboard charts. The song only reached No. 13 on The U.S charts. It was released in 1972 as a spectacular two-sided single with “Long Distance Runaround,” as the “B” side. However, it can be easily argued that “Roundabout,” is the band’s most popular song in their history. It is usually ranked No. 1 on most Yes top ten charts and has also been the most consistently played song in the band’s live shows throughout their career. The late 1960s through early 1970s gave rock fans some of the greatest classic rock of all time. Think about it. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Moody Blues, The Beatles, The Doors, and so on. Right in the middle of it all was Yes, and the song “Roundabout.”
(From the 1972 album Fragile)
# 2 – Close to the Edge
Not as long as the twenty-two-minute “Gates of Delerium,” but still tracking in at eighteen minutes, the piece “Close To the Edge,” filled the entire A-side of the Close to the Edge album. At the time it was their longest piece as “Close to the Edge” came out before the Relayer album. The song featured for many the “Classic Yes,” lineup of Anderson, Howe, Squire, Bruford, and Wakeman.
One listen to the title track “Close to the Edge,” revealed the culmination of what the band had been developing over the previous five years. The “Close to the Edge,” composition was a master class in developing various lyrical and musical ideas while sustaining them as a whole work in which all of the band’s creative forces found their apex moment, together! This is what they meant by the term Yes Songs.
(From the 1972 album Close to the Edge)
# 1 – And You and I
If you were a teenager in the nineteen seventies, and you asked a Yes fan to name their favorite Yes song, many would have replied with their choice of “And You and I.” The song was extremely popular among Yes fans all throughout the nineteen seventies. The question is why was “And You and I,” such a popular choice during that time period. The question can only be answered by understanding the time period itself, and furthermore the mindset of the 1970s /1960s rock fan.
Without going to deep into a social, political, and economic analysis of the 1970s, the one constant theme that appeared in the lyrics of Jon Anderson was Vietnam and the 1960’s Peace Movement. What made Anderson’s lyrics so fascinating was the ambiguity of his phrases. Yet, just the simple phrase of “You and I,” was what made Yes fans gravitate towards the song. Romanticism was clearly evident, as was the search for something more. These were the hallmarks of nineteen seventies culture as inspired by decades of war and social and political unrest.
“And You and I,” was the band’s most endearing song and their most essential listen. The song defined the band’s spirit, talent, and intent like no other Yes song had done before.
(From the 1972 album (Close to the Edge)
Top 10 Yes Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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