Top 10 Chris Squire Yes Songs
As this list of Top 10 Chris Squire Yes Songs shows, the only constant for this band is change – and up until his 2015 passing, Squire himself. The bassist-singer co-founded Yes in 1968 with frontman Jon Anderson and until his death five decades later, he was the only original member left. It’s strange, then, that Squire was always the legendary prog-rock band’s most underrated figure. Over the years, their style evolved gracefully from symphonic prog to accessible New Wave and pop-rock and back again, even as others have fled and re-joined with cyclic frequency. But it’s hard to imagine Yes without Squire’s piercing Rickenbacker bass tone and throaty harmony vocals. Hear for yourself, as we present the Top 10 Chris Squire Yes Songs.
‘The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)’
Fragile is an indisputable prog classic, boasting anthems like “Heart of the Sunrise” and Yes’ breakthrough hit, “Roundabout.” But it’s also the weirdest album the band ever made, with over half the tracks structured as individual showcases for the virtuoso players. Squire’s solo composition, “The Fish,” is a bass guitar behemoth, building guttural lines and funky wah-wah melodies into a low-end symphony.
‘Can You Imagine’
Yes have always fallen within prog’s “symphonic rock” sub-genre, but the next entry on our list of 10 Best Chris Squire Yes Songs takes that term to another level. “Can You Imagine,” like all of 2001’s Magnification, finds the band collaborating with orchestral arranger Larry Groupé. His subtle strings add an element of grandeur to the wide-eyed ballad – a rare lead vocal showcase for the bassist. The Squire-penned track dates back to a rough demo from the aborted sessions for supergroup XYZ (featuring Jimmy Page and Yes drummer Alan White), but it pales in comparison to the Magnification take: Squire’s voice, particularly on the chorus falsetto, has never sounded so stunning.
‘On the Silent Wings of Freedom’
Yes fans – and the band members themselves – remain torn over the merits of 1978’s Tormato, the over-produced yet occasionally underwhelming LP that closed out the band’s most fertile decade. But there’s no denying the sheer power of “On the Silent Wings of Freedom,” the hard-hitting closer driven by Squire’s barking bass pedal. That opening seven-note pattern is one of his greatest riffs – a staple of most Yes live shows, often included in the “Whitefish” medley.
Like “Silent Wings” before it, 1980’s “Tempus Fugit” is defined by Squire’s throat-punching bass riff – without it, the entire song would collapse. Squire loved his flange pedal, and here he lays it on thick, his trebly attack pogoing off Steve Howe’s chunky, ska-inflected guitar chords. Squire wrote more technically impressive basslines, but he never came up with a catchier one.
It seems absurd that Tormato could muster two selections on our list of 10 Best Chris Squire Yes Songs, but that just proves the bassist’s formidable skills: His playing and composing never lost focus, even on one of the band’s weakest albums. “Onward,” a spacey ballad adorned with tasteful strings, was written solely by Squire to honor his then-wife, Nikki. On an album of often ham-fisted lyrical concepts (see: the face-palm-worthy “Arriving UFO”), this track’s maturity and simplicity speak volumes. Yes were learning to say more with less: Squire’s minimal bass plucks rise and fall in dramatic waves, anchoring his intertwined vocal harmonies with Anderson. “Onward” is one of the band’s – and Squire’s – most underrated songs.
‘The Gates of Delirium’
“The Gates of Delirium,” the centerpiece of 1974’s fusion-tinged Relayer, is almost overstuffed with classic bass riffs. The band had 22 minutes to stretch out, but this side-long epic rarely pauses to catch its breath, building from psychedelia to full-blown jazz-rock bombast to the closing serenity of “Soon.” The entire band (including stopgap keyboardist Patrick Moraz) is in top form, but Squire’s bass is the scene-stealer – check the funky (seemingly PFM-inspired) 11/8 groove that begins at the 10:20 mark.
Yes released two albums prior to 1971’s The Yes Album, but the band’s run of true greatness begins here. Producer-engineer Eddy Offord helped bring clarity and muscle to the voices and instruments, best evidenced by Squire’s growling Rickenbacker tone. Spiritual mini-epic “Starship Trooper” is the first true Yes masterpiece, and the bassist’s trebly, tremolo-driven riffs anchor the track from start to finish. (Extra points for Squire’s booming harmonies on the acoustic bridge, which underscore just how important he was to the band’s vocal approach.)
‘Close to the Edge’
Close to the Edge is the pinnacle of the Yes discography, the point where the band’s classic line-up reached its full prog potential. The 18-minute title track would make any Yes member’s individual list. From Rick Wakeman’s blaring church organ to Bill Bruford’s knotty drum fills, this is the work of a group firing on all cylinders. Squire contributes some of his most distinctive bass riffs on the track, from the ascending opening lines to an octave-leaping groove. But his most crucial contribution comes during the spacey “I Get Up, I Get Down” section, as he and Howe add contrapuntal backing vocals beneath Anderson’s triumphant lead.
That bass riff. That ungodly bass riff. Squire’s bluesy leap-frog pattern on “Roundabout” is the song’s heart and soul, and no doubt the most iconic work he’s ever completed on that instrument. He must have known the riff was special early on: In order to achieve maximum thrust, Squire doubled the pattern with an electric guitar. Forty-odd years later, no Yes concert is complete with a “Roundabout” encore.
It was almost impossible figuring out the top spot on our list of the Top 10 Chris Squire Yes Songs. “Roundabout” is an obvious candidate – and nobody could argue against it. But for the full package of imagination, virtuosity and melody, “Heart of the Sunrise” belongs at Number One. Squire’s playing is transcendent throughout: anchoring the aggressive, chromatic main riff, harmonizing and playing against Howe’s guitar in surprising ways. And he’s never played with more authority than he does during the slow-building section that begins around the :30 mark. Perfection.