Is “owner of a lonely heart” heavy? It depends on your degree of freedom with this term. Yes’ lone No. 1 hit, which introduced the revamped band to a decidedly non-prog audience in 1983, is pure hard rock in its power-chord riff: distorted and direct. But what about cascading chorus and choppy drum samples?
Yeah, I don’t have that many obvious heavy songs – that comes with the territory when you write that many epics with dense counterpoint and classically styled patterns. But you’ll find sustained bursts of heaviness throughout their catalog, from Trevor Rabin’s ’80s guitars to Chris Squire’s ’70s bass lines. Hopefully, though, you’re willing to tolerate a few non-heavy items along the way.
Below, we round up 10 of the band’s most impactful tracks, navigating through heavy psych, jazz-fusion and even orchestral rock.
10. “Spirit of Survival”
It’s an unusual recipe: the unusually dark visions of Jon Anderson (“In this world, the gods have gone astray”), a driving Chris Squire bass line worthy of a 70s spy movie, a sharp and swelling accompaniment from the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. But that adds up to one of the band’s most powerful late-career tracks — in this case, the addition of strings only hardened the Yes’ attack.
9. “Tempus Fugit”
Few probably expected Yes to get heavier after hiring the guys from “Video Killed the Radio Star,” but Buggles vocalist Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes helped carve out some of the leaner tracks. and the most impactful of the group. Closing of “Tempus Fugit” (Latin for “Time Flies”) Drama with a prog-punk eruption, led by Squire’s relentless bass riff and Steve Howe’s spasmodic ska chords.
8. “Yours is no shame”
What an entry! Most Yes fans first encountered Howe’s malleable guitar on “Yours Is No Disgrace,” a masterpiece of staccato crunch, frenetic twang, and jazz-rock sizzle. His lengthy mid-song solo, beginning around 4:50 with a torrent of jagged chords, instantly elevated Yes to a new plane of musicality – and intensity.
7. “Siberian Khatru”
Howe opens this piece with a riff hostile enough to pierce your speakers and stab your eardrums – it’s one of the most visceral moments in the Yes catalog, and “Siberian Khatru” mostly maintains that momentum. There are so many remarkable flourishes: vocal harmonies that reach choral complexity, Rick Wakeman’s left-field harpsichord, Howe’s electric sitar cameo. Anchoring all of these surprises is Squire, establishing bass grooves somewhere between funk and metal.
6. “South Side of Heaven”
Huge chunks of it Brittle the classics aren’t heavy at all – especially the middle third, dominated by three-part vocal harmony, classic Wakeman piano and Bill Bruford’s tumbling jazz drums. But the rest? Howe goes wild with some of his fiercest guitar sounds (check out that upstroke at 1:32 and the chromatic flourish down at 6:30), and engineer Eddie Offord sharpens every angular riff into a dagger.
5. “Astral Traveler”
Anderson’s voice swims in a sea of psychedelic phasers as his bandmates stir up an almighty storm: the jazzy rolls of Bruford, the electric guitar thumps of Peter Banks, the roaring Hammond organ of Tony Kaye and the biting bass guitar from Squire. This is easily the heaviest pre-Howe arrangement time and a word – a time when their tracks had a little more open space.
4. “Sound Hunter”
In an interview with writer Jon Kirkman, Howe described this chaotic fusion epic as “a veritable minefield” that introduced a new flavor of Yes. The corresponding album, 1974 Relay, was already something of a one-off, their only collaboration with briefly tenured keyboardist Patrick Moraz. And its jazz chops propel the band into the Mahavishnu Orchestra wavelength, with Howe, Squire and drummer Alan White using white-hot speed and force. “It’s going pretty good like bananas over there,” Howe said. Indeed, it is.
3. “Heart of the Sunrise”
“The band hit their true blueprint, really, with ‘Heart of the Sunrise,'” Bruford said. rolling stonereflecting on the Brittle “drama” and “balance” from Closer. It’s hard to argue: in many ways it’s a small step towards the even more dynamic follow-up “Close to the Edge”, but this track wins in the heaviness department, using a free bass riff inspired by King Crimson and gothic mellotron explosions. There is light here too, but the darkness is black as night.
2. “The Gates of Delirium”
“It’s about tribalism between warring factions, and who is the dominant country, the dominant energy at this time,” Anderson told Songfacts. Relaywild 22 minute showpiece. “It was at the end of the Vietnam War. We were learning about the incredible destruction that was done to the Vietnamese, and why?” The music, unruly but often majestic, matches these themes of destruction – various moments, including the prog-funk rattle that erupts around 10:20, feel militant in their aggression.
1. “Messiah of the Machines”
The heaviest sound in Yes history might be the doomy hammer-on riff that fades to kick off “Machine Messiah” — and that vibe lingers for the song’s first minute and a half, with Howe and Squire invoking the bad guys. spirits with their keys. Even the brightest moments that emerge later – Downes’ flashy synthesizer solo, Horn and Squire’s yapping vocal harmonies – stem from that metallic vibe.
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