How Yes Marked the End of an Era With Triple Live LP ‘Yessongs’
Yes' status had risen considerably following the back-to-back successes of 1971's The Yes Album and Fragile. With the hit single "Roundabout" under their belt, Yes had become rock royalty and a major concert draw.
Then things suddenly got interesting in the summer of 1972 just before they released Close to the Edge, a landmark LP that seemed to encompass everything Yes had been working toward: Drummer and founding member Bill Bruford decided to leave the band.
"When it got to what turned out to be for me the high spot, which was Close to the Edge, that's the moment you exist for in a rock group," Bruford said in the BBC documentary Prog Rock Britannia. "You think, that's the cookie; that's the one right there. I'm gone, I left then."
Replaced by Alan White, who had done work with the likes of John Lennon, George Harrison, Joe Cocker and many others, Yes regrouped and hit the road.
To document the band's live set of the era, they recorded concerts during Yes' Fragile tour in early 1972. The first half featured Bruford, the second leg included White, who had only three days to learn the band's repertoire. (The show the band performed at the Rainbow Theatre in London in December 1972 was filmed and would eventually be released two years later as the movie Yessongs.)
Listen to Yes' Live Version of 'Roundabout'
The results became the triple-album set Yessongs. Released in the spring of 1973, Yessongs featured a triple-gatefold sleeve with artwork by Roger Dean spread throughout. A facsimile of a tour book was also included in the package. The record featured a cross-section of material from the two tours and a broad representation of the band's catalog, including all of Close to the Edge and excerpts from keyboardist Rick Wakeman's recent solo effort The Six Wives of Henry VIII.
The LP was another hit, going gold upon its release and eventually turning platinum over the next couple of decades. Yessongs was the first of many live albums Yes would release during their career, but nevertheless a critically important one.
"Yessongs signifies an end of an era for us," keyboardist Rick Wakeman told Rolling Stone at the time. "For the past few years, we've been on a continuous cycle of hard work where we tour, record a new album, tour to promote it, then record another album. It can go on and on if you let it. Yes has outgrown that now.
"After this tour, we're going back to England for five months to rehearse and record the next album, which hopefully will be a double-album concept," Wakeman added. "By the next time we tour, our shows will consist only of us. We've talked about playing a three-to-four-hour set, which will probably only give us time to perform the new album and Close to the Edge. The future is very exciting for me."
The excitement wouldn't last long. Wakeman would leave the group a little more than a year later.
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