Yes - One of Rock's Big Changes of the early 1970s.

Yes - One of Rock's Big Changes of the early 1970s.
Yes – One of Rock’s Big Changes of the early 1970s.

Yes, in concert at New Haven, Conn. – July 24, 1971 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.

I thought I would run into the vault and drag something out I hadn’t heard in a while (and probably neither of have you). Yes, in an early U.S. concert, opening for Grand Funk Railroad in the summer of 1971 at New Haven Connecticut.

This is Yes just before they became huge – before they were headliners and just before they turned into one of the most influential bands of the early 1970s. They were already getting a lot of support via the FM underground, and hot on the heels of the release of their 3rd album, The Yes Album which this tour was busily promoting, their fortunes were just at the start of breaking in the U.S.

There are a lot of live recordings of Yes floating around, most of them sound terrible and give bootlegging its name and reputation. Recordings made by the sound crew from the mixing board at these early performances are rare, especially during the days prior to high-quality cassette recordings, or high-quality portable reel to reel recorders. It’s always been my intention and policy to present an artist or act in the best possible light – if we’re going to present an artist in a historic context, then present them in the way they were intended to sound and in the way that brings a better understanding of an artist or band during a formative period of their careers – not having to guess who is singing and what is playing behind a thick cloud of coughs and distorted distance.

Luckily, this concert is clear and sounds remarkably good for its age. And even though there’s a few tape splices here and there, the overall sound is excellent and a particularly good glimpse of a band just at the cusp of becoming household names.

If you’re just getting around to discovering Yes, this is a crucial period of time for the band – and it’s actually phase 2 in their musical journey – the really early recordings from the late 1960s (via the BBC and German and French Radio) feature the band with founding member Tony Kaye on keyboards. After his departure he was replaced by Rick Wakeman, and this is the pivotal period for the band and their sound.

If you’ve been a fan for a while, you know how important the Rick Wakeman period was for the band – and how much of their sound was shaped by his contribution. This concert is a good example of that.

In any case, play loud and forget it happened 51 years ago.

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