Yesshows (1980)

Yesshows (1980)

Yes’ second live album was released in 1980, post-Drama, but documented the tours of 1976-78. Like its predecessor Yessongs, it opens with a recording of Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, after which the band launches into “Parallels,” one of the best tracks on 1977’s Going For The One. It’s a heavy, stomping version, too, with Chris Squire and Steve Howe tearing shit up like proto-metal warriors, and it sets the tone for what’s actually a really good live collection, unfortunately overshadowed by its more ostentatiously epic predecessor. The track listing offers quite a few surprises; while they play three tracks from Going (“Parallels,” the title cut, and “Wonderous Stories”) and “Don’t Kill The Whale” from Tormato, they also bust out “Time And A Word,” from their 1970 second album.

And then there are the epics: This album features a version of “Gates Of Delirium,” from 1974’s Relayer, that’s simply astonishing, and “Ritual/Nous Sommes Du Soleil,” originally the fourth side of Tales From Topographic Oceans, is actually split between Sides Three and Four here, swelling to nearly 29 minutes (seven minutes longer than the studio version) in the process. “Gates” is softer and more listener-friendly than the studio version, which was so sonically hot and harsh it was almost avant-metal, with a drum sound like a steel toecap slamming you in the back of the neck. The drums here are a more rounded thump; the vocals are sung in a less urgent, panicky manner; Moraz’s keyboards offer fewer of the sci-fi zaps heard on the album, going for Isaac Hayes-ish string patches and fusion/soul organ instead; and the junk-percussion interlude in the middle is impossible to replicate live, so they don’t try. Howe and Squire are still set to destroy, of course, but overall this live “Gates” is less delirious, and more rockin’.

It’s also interesting to hear Moraz’s contributions to “Ritual (Nous Sommes Du Soleil)”; he gets plenty of solo space, but doesn’t do all that much to warp the studio version. The second half of the piece, though, really amps up the energy, particularly from Howe; his guitar is absolutely searing. Even more impressive, much of the extra running time is devoted to a drum solo, which would suck if it wasn’t accompanied by insane, almost Eye Yamantaka-like vocalizations and high-tension keyboards from Moraz. It builds up a huge wave of energy, which then crashes down into the soft, quiet final section. After that, the band runs through an acoustic-guitar-driven version of “Wonderous Stories,” and that’s it.

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