CD Review of Essentially Yes by Yes

Music Home / Entertainment Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

Buy your copy from Yes:
Essentially Yes
starstarstarstarno star Label: Eagle Records
Released: 2006
Buy from

There are a few caveats that must be established before reading a review about Yes:

  1. Yes is a very important progressive rock band that helped establish the genre.
  2. Yes is not nearly as important as they think they are. From the liner notes, lead singer Jon Anderson is quoted as saying, “We’ve learned how to deal with fame, fortune, success and all that rubbish. The doubters will find out. Our older material has still got legs. In common with great jazz and classical pieces, they don’t get measured in years or even centuries. Music like this will live forever.”
  3. Even the best Yes material cannot be listened to for extended periods of time. There is only so much of Jon Anderson’s voice one can handle.
  4. Despite many people thinking that “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart” are the only two Yes songs of value, their catalogue included some excellent material well into the late '90s and early '00s.
  5. Big Generator, not included in this collection, is akin to a lot of the work included here because it featured that huge '80s production and a more muscular guitar attack.

Essentially Yes includes 1994’s brilliant and underrated Talk, 1997’s Open Your Eyes, 1999’s The Ladder, 2001’s Magnification and a never before released live performance recorded at Montreux. There is also an invaluable booklet that explains the many personnel changes and other details about the band during the making of these records.

These albums are all pretentious and full of overblown production, tons of layering and overdubs and bloated keyboard parts, but that is the beauty of Yes. Their material is over the top, big and interesting. Not everything works, but a lot of it does. Jon Anderson sings about mysticism and the power of love and dreams, etc., and plenty of tracks log in at over seven, eight or nine minutes, including a couple that clock in well over 10. “Endless Dream” from Talk is over 15 minutes long and features three distinct movements.

Talk is the best of the albums included, and Live at Montreaux is the most disposable. Anderson’s voice, without the layers of harmony and studio wizardry, is just too beat up to carry the material. Each disc has interesting moments including, some excellent music written specifically for a rock band accompanied by an orchestra on Magnification.

There is no way you could listen to all of this in one sitting. You have to space some of it out and throw in some non-Yes sounding material in between. Grab some old Grand Funk Railroad or Naked Eyes, and then jump back into Essentially Yes. In the end, you will go back for multiple listens, because like a Tarantino movie, you can’t catch everything the first time.

~R. David Smola