By any available measuring device, Yes is one of the truly great bands spawned from the variegated halls of rock and roll. From the ensemble's far-flung beginnings in 1968, this DVD commemorates their 2003 35th Anniversary tour, narrated by Who vocalist Roger Daltrey. On the 3-hour visual side of the 2-DVD extravaganza, the viewer receives extensive interviews with band members interspersed with clips of cuts from performances and TV shows; on the purely audio side, there's a trove of full classic Yes songs via an entire concert recorded on the tour, a bonus feature accompanied by slide shows for each cut. Thus, what you're really receiving is 5-plus hours of insights, visuals, and music designed to set both the rawest green tyro and the most erudite Yes fan ever further into aesthetic delight, especially if progrockers.
Almost from the start, the most interesting part of the interview process is Rick Wakemen. He's revealing, humorous, unpretentious, and nakedly human, finally at home with himself after decades of a very uneven life, a gent who was ever a guiding light via amazing keyboard talents that hit the light of day with Warhorse and then the progressive folk-rockers The Strawbs before landing in the fold of the mega-successful Yes. With Jon Lord, Keith Emerson, Mike Pinder, and a handful of others, Wakeman's one of the most progressive and accomplished ivory ticklers on the planet. Then there's the revelation that Jon Anderson is by no means a New Age Johnny Come Litely but instead 100% as he presents himself, a person devoted to the spiritual side of life without having to be a monk, proselytizer, or zealot. Unaffected, happy, always positive, the guy's one of those rare individuals it appears has been evolutionarily comfortable in his own skin—even if that residence and certain events have caused problems with others, including his children, as the narrative reveals—an ironic oddity in the rock world of excess, temperament, and torment. The beaming singer is a touch naive perhaps, as in when he tried roughening up his singing voice by smoking unfiltered cigarettes (cancer, one must agree, would indeed be a bit rough), but never malicious or purposely retrograde, something his lyrics firmly bolster.
In the middle of the gratifyingly long Yesspeak presentation, each member is given a full chapter, around which the remaining segments chronicle history and comment copiously. The first DVD constitutes chapters 1 - 5 of the 10-chapter coverage, the second DVD completes it, a constant processional of intimate conversations initiated by interviewers-unknown at the homes of the members wherever they've perched around the world. Like the equally engaging 2006 The Moody Blues: Their Fully Authorized Story in a 3-Disc Deluxe Set (not TOO commercial, that title, hm?), Yesspeak is about as incisive as one can hope for outside several exhaustive journalistic studies conducted in a pile of books.
The band, from the start, has been a collective of virtuosos and groundbreaking releases—with gaps, of course: Tormato, Drama, and large and small sections of later releases—who, as a unit, created some of the most mind-blowing musics of the 20th century, in truth a neoclassicalist outfit exploring a fusion of antecedent modes in integrative fashion. As separate units, even though they've released some interesting works, Wakeman's Six Wives of Henry the 8th and Jon Anderson's Olias of Sunhillow clearly standout as the most progressive, but the quintet has really always shone most stellarly as a whole, in their oeuvre as a band, and in that, while Yes may have been equalled (King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Genesis, as Daltrey notes), they've never been surpassed, standing as true artists in the fullest sense of the word. Yesspeak, then, is a sunset tribute reminiscence that, in this late age as their long-term dinosaur fans and critics dig in and pay more literate attention, stands very well with the band's many other video and audio presentations.
Oh, and though it's true that the group, like all those who have made it through endless tribulation and triumph over decades, cannot forever be as at the top of its game as in the flush of youth, when you hear cuts like Don't Kill the Whale here…well, sweet Jesus, can they nail and even improve on and enlarge the past when inspiration rises!
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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