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'Yes'... you either love them, hate them, or have never really heard of them... or maybe you are a bit like me: you like some bit and despise other bits. For those who love them don't really need to buy this CD, as they will have all the songs already. Those who hate them would probably rather use it as a coaster, but for people like me... well, it is a pretty good investment. Mine cost a mere 5 quid, and that is for two discs worth of music!
Many will be surprised that 'Yes' have been around for over forty years at the time this review is published. How do I know that? Well this is the 35th Anniversary Edition and it was released in 2003... In that time we have had numerous band changes - people coming and going, but the main stayers have to be Jon Anderson on Vocals, Chris Squire on Bass, Alan White on Drums, Steve Howe on Guitar and Rick Wakeman/Tony Kaye on Keyboards, but even all these have come and gone, save for Squire. Right now in 2011, Anderson is not with them due to ill-health.
As for 'The Ultimate Yes,' well... 'Yours is no Disgrace' starts off proceedings. It's 'bowm bowm bowm bowm' guitar and bass ensemble bursts the song into live. Things go a little bit quiet ('Yes' songs tend to do that), there's a bit of instrumental here and there. It has quite a mundane beginning if I am honest. The initial riff is good, don't get me wrong, but it takes a while to get going. When it does, however, it is well worth the journey. This is followed by the gentle 'Survival,' and then 'Roundabout.' 'Then,' is next up. This is one of the earlier songs, and quite short for that era. An almost chaotic organ sound starts things off, and things remain chaotic as the voice of Anderson begins:
'And in a time that's closer, life will be even bolder then.
Souls will be complicated, life will be consummated then.
Hearts will be brought together soon in our minds forever then.
As long as we see there's only us, who can change it;
Only us to rearrange it at the start of a new kind of day.
And in a time that's closer, life will be even bolder then.
Love is the only answer, hate is the root of cancer then.
Thoughts will be thought together, soon in our minds forever then.'
'I've seen all Good People' is next up, followed by the epic 'Heart of the Sunrise.' This is favourite of mine - one which I instantly liked when I first heard it in my teenage years. A guitar and organ fusion brings it to life, then things kind of get disorganised for a moment before it all falls into place. This is quite an emotional track - good psychedelic rock mixed with heavy rock. 'Starship Trooper' is the seventh song on disc one and we round things off with 'Ritual.' This is from 'Tales from Topographic Oceans' and was one of the few I had not heard before. It is a fine song, although a little bit self indulgent at times... but them again, that is what they do best!
Disc Two starts off with 'Siberian Khatru' from 'Close to the Edge.' We then have 'Long Distance Runaround' and 'Wonderous Stories,' which is just a beautiful song. A simple strumming of a classic guitar begins the song and things build up into an uplifting and powerful number. 'And you and I' is next, and fans of Yes will know this one very well. A classic. 'Soon' is a lovely track, taken from 'Relayer,' this edit is one to sit back at a sing along to with dreams that you have as good a voice as Anderson. It is a gentle number. Just lovely. Hold on, I am going to listen to it again now before I carry on this review...
Okay, I'm back... and what a fantastic song is next up... 'Going for the One' is an all out pop rock song with excellent solos within. One of the best ever. Just when you things can't get much better we have the magnificent 'Don't Kill the Whale.' The message is obvious, but Yes send it out with such beauty, in both music and lyric:
'You're first I'm last
You're thirst I'm asked to justify
Killing our last heaven beast
Don't hunt the whale
'In beauty vision
Do we offer much
If we reason with destiny, gonna lose our touch
Don't kill the whale'
Most of you will have heard 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' without realising that this is a song by Yes. This era of Yes was far removed from the earlier stuff... more AOR.
Next up we have 'Leave It' which is dross, 'Big Generator' which is also dross. But things end well with 'The Calling,' 'Homeworld' and 'Awaken.'
Full track listing, with song writers and song length...
"Yours Is No Disgrace" (Jon Anderson/Chris Squire/Steve Howe/Tony Kaye/Bill Bruford) - 9:42
"Survival" (Jon Anderson) - 6:20
"Roundabout" (Jon Anderson/Steve Howe) - 8:32
"Then" (Jon Anderson) - 5:47
"I've Seen All Good People" - 6:55
i. "Your Move" (Jon Anderson)
ii. "All Good People" (Chris Squire)
"Heart of the Sunrise" (Jon Anderson/Chris Squire/Bill Bruford) - 10:36
"Starship Trooper" - 9:29
i. "Life Seeker" (Jon Anderson)
ii. "Disillusion" (Chris Squire)
iii. "Würm" (Steve Howe)
"Ritual - Nous Sommes Du Soleil" (Jon Anderson/Steve Howe/Chris Squire/Rick Wakeman/Alan White) - 21:32
"Siberian Khatru" (Jon Anderson; Themes by Jon Anderson/Steve Howe/Rick Wakeman) - 8:56
"Long Distance Runaround" (Jon Anderson) - 3:31
"Wonderous Stories" (Jon Anderson) - 3:49
"And You and I" (Alternate Version) (Jon Anderson; Themes by Bill Bruford/Steve Howe/Chris Squire) - 10:15
i. "Cord of Life"
ii."Eclipse" (Jon Anderson/Bill Bruford/Steve Howe)
iii"The Preacher the Teacher"
"Soon" (Single Edit) (Jon Anderson/Chris Squire/Steve Howe/Alan White/Patrick Moraz) - 4:08
"Going for the One" (Jon Anderson) - 5:32
"Don't Kill the Whale" (Jon Anderson/Chris Squire) - 3:57
"Owner of a Lonely Heart" (Trevor Rabin/Jon Anderson/Chris Squire/Trevor Horn) - 4:28
"Leave It" (Chris Squire/Trevor Rabin/Trevor Horn) - 4:19
"Big Generator" (Remix) (Jon Anderson/Tony Kaye/Trevor Rabin/Chris Squire/Alan White) - 3:39
"The Calling" (Single Edit) (Jon Anderson/Trevor Rabin/Chris Squire) - 4:39
"Homeworld (The Ladder)" (Radio Edit) (Jon Anderson/Chris Squire/Steve Howe/Alan White/Billy Sherwood/Igor Khoroshev) - 4:39
"Awaken" (Anderson/Howe) - 15:31
How does one sum up Yes? Outstanding lyrics, fantastic musicianship, sometimes gentle, sometimes heavy. A little pretentious, and little self indulgent... songs that twist and turn, riffs that melt the heart. This collection sums up their forty or so year history well and I would recommend it to those like me, or perhaps those looking for something a little bit different...
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Yours is no disgrace
5 I've seen all good people
6 Heart of the sunrise
7 Starship trooper
8 Ritual (Nous sommes du soleil)
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Siberian khatru
2 Long distance runaround
3 Wondrous stories
4 And you and I
5 Soon (single edit)
6 Going for the one
7 Don't kill the whale
8 Owner of a lonely heart
9 Leave it
10 Big generator (remix)
11 Calling (single edit)
12 Homeworld (radio edit)