YES - 50 Live: Album Review
Words: Anthony Firmin
Do we need yet another YES live album? Apparently we do even though there are 19 of the buggers out there. And apparently it is especially necessary as the band reached their 50th Anniversary milestone last year, albeit as a fractured, bruised multi-band set-up. The “other” YES featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman, known by the moniker ARW, managed to release their 50th Anniversary live album, recorded at the Manchester Apollo, in 2018 to mixed reactions – the canned audience reactions mid-songs being the biggest complaint, obviously aiming at the American market – and it sounded better than this.
The “official” YES played a US tour from which this album, 50 Live, was culled over two nights at their hometown show in Philadelphia and managed to get a few ex-member guests to play along. Main drummer Alan White is still recovering from back surgery and a bacterial infection that has affected his playing so much of the drumming on the album is handled by Jay Schellen up to Awaken from when White takes over.
The opening track Close To The Edge manages to get going from "I Get Up, I Get Down” onwards but the first half is simply lame, it sounds like they are just noodling at the very start which is a shame.
Nine Voices, Sweet Dreams and Madrigal are great and are an interesting inclusion in the set, reflecting the band’s 50 years. Fly From Here Pt. 1 works well too with Jon Davidson's voice, the song having some balls at times. Soon, featuring mid-70’s ivory tinkler Patrick Moraz, is good - once it gets going.
Awaken is excellent in places and Geoff Downes didn't totally destroy the piano intro, his synth noodling in the instrumental part of the second half is also a worthy addition. Having said that Alan White’s drums are unnecessarily heavy handed at times and Davidson struggles with some of the very high notes.
At this point Tony Kaye joins the band onstage on keyboards although you wouldn’t know it because there are no introductions, the start of Yours Is No Disgrace wavers but confidence soon grows and the second half trundles along nicely… but this is a recurring problem, songs are not starting well.
Being the leader, it is the want of Steve Howe to include a solo and Mood For A Day is fine before we are led into Roundabout in which the band sound disinterested and it clearly plods along at times, although the final track, Starship Trooper, is a pretty decent performance.
Apart from a few songs it is an unnecessary release, for instance I am sure Roundabout has now appeared on 15 live albums, did we really need it again? The same could be said for some other songs too, a single CD release would have been much better.
This is only for absolutely desperate completist YES fans only… and you would need to be very desperate to pay the £45.99 for the 4 LP edition.