Billy Sherwood - guitar, keyboards, vocals (1997-1999)
Igor Khoroshev - keyboards (1997-2002)
Benoît David - vocals (2008-2012)
Jon Davison - vocals (2012-present)
Despite their first two albums suffering from a mixed reception and Early-Installment Weirdness (Cover Versions, overproduction, orchestras that overpowered everything, Peter Banks on guitar), the band's "classic lineup" (Anderson-Howe-Squire-Wakeman-Bruford) and distinctive Progressive Rock sound and look (the latter supplied by Roger Dean's Design Student's Orgasm artwork) coalesced at the beginning of The Seventies, resulting in the critically acclaimed trilogy of albums The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge, the latter considered their masterpiece. But it did not last, as Yes crashed back to earth with the widely-reviled double album Tales from Topographic Oceans, roundly panned for its self-indulgent instrumental wankery and lack of memorable melodies (although it got to the top of the charts at the time). Notably, Rick Wakeman was so displeased with the album that he left soon afterwards. However, the band soldiered on, managing to make two more reasonably well-received albums influenced by jazz fusion (with the latter, Going For The One getting to number one at the height of punk's popularity) and bringing back Wakeman before once again sabotaging their career with the horribly-received Tormato.After an internal conflict and falling out, Anderson and Wakeman left the band in 1980, being replaced by vocalist/experienced Record Producer Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes of The Buggles. The resulting lineup recorded one album, Drama, which showcased a heavier, harder rock sound than before and earned mixed reception, before disintegrating the same year.The band's former rhythm section of Chris Squire and Alan White soon joined up with South African guitarist Trevor Rabin, whose sensibilities were far more mainstream, and formed a new band called Cinema. Squire also brought back Yes' old keyboard player Tony Kaye and got Trevor Horn to produce the album. During a chance encounter between Anderson and Squire, the former heard Cinema's demos and was so impressed he joined right away, re-singing all the previously recorded vocals and re-writing the lyrics. The resulting album, 90125 was released under the "Yes" moniker and showcased a departure from the band's previous formula, being made up of catchy, accessible poppy hard-rock tunes that still preserved enough of the band's former weirdness like incomprehensible lyrics, complex production, abrupt time changes and multitracked vocal harmonies. The predictable whining from older fans couldn't drown out the critical acclaim, and 90125 became the band's highest-selling album and spawned their biggest-selling single, "Owner of a Lonely Heart".The follow-up, Big Generator, had reasonable sales and positive reception, but was widely considered inferior to 90125. Anderson, in particular, was so disappointed with it he left Yes to join up with his Fragile-era bandmates to form "Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe", which released one self-titled album in 1989. As both groups were preparing new material, ABWH's label, through some wheeling and dealing, bought out Yes' record contract and name with the intention of improving ABWH's sales by releasing their next album under the Yes name, with contributions from the Rabin-Squire-Kaye-White Yes. The resulting album Union, suffered from severe Executive Meddling and was widely panned. The tour, however, was considered one of their best, with a "Mega-Yes" lineup with all the eight members that were in the band at various points (Anderson, Squire, Howe, Rabin, Kaye, Wakeman, Bruford, and White).After the mixed reception of Talk (the last album with Rabin and Kaye), the band's since returned to their old prog sound, reunited their classic lineup and have been going strong since...until in 2008, when Jon Anderson fell ill. The band soldiered on with Rick Wakeman's son Oliver on keyboards (since booted out so Downes could rejoin) and, most surprisingly, Benoît David of tribute band Close to the Edge on vocals. However, David has since been released by the band and has been replaced by Jon Davison, also from a Yes tribute band.Mutant Enemy is named after a line from their song "And You and I".
Discography and notable songs:
Yes (1969) - "Beyond And Before", "Every Little Thing (Beatles cover)", "Harold Land", "Survival"
Time and a Word (1970) - "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed (Richie Havens cover)", "Everydays (Buffalo Springfield cover)", "Sweet Dreams", "Time And A Word"
The Yes Album (1971) - "Yours Is No Disgrace", "I've Seen All Good People", "Starship Trooper"
Fragile (1971) - "Roundabout", "South Side of the Sky", "Long Distance Runaround/The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)", "Heart of the Sunrise"
Close to the Edge (1972) - "Close to the Edge", "And You and I", "Siberian Khatru" (coincidentally, these are the only songs on the album)
Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973) - "Ritual"
Relayer (1974) - "Gates of Delirium"
Going for the One (1977) - "Going For The One", "Wonderous Stories", "Awaken"
Tormato (1978) - "Onward", "Don't Kill The Whale", "On The Silent Wings Of Freedom"
Drama (1980) - "Machine Messiah", "Tempus Fugit"
90125 (1983) - "Owner of a Lonely Heart", "Leave It"
Big Generator (1987) - "Rhythm of Love", "Love Will Find A Way", "Shoot High, Aim Low"
Union (1991) "Lift Me Up"
Talk (1994) "Endless Dream"
Keys To Ascension/Keys To Ascension 2 (1996/7) "Mind Drive"
Open Your Eyes (1997) "Open Your Eyes"
The Ladder (1999) - "Homeworld", "The Messenger"
Magnification (2001) "Don't Go", "In The Presence Of"
Fly From Here (2011) - "We Can Fly", "Madman at the Screens", "Solitaire"
Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (1989) is considered by many fans to be a de-facto Yes album, both due to the fact that was made up entirely of ex-Yes members and that the ABWH members were absorbed back into Yes proper with Union (in fact, Union actually started life as an ABWH album).
Tropes found in their music include:
Album Filler: The "solo" pieces on Fragile, recorded to get the album out the door quickly to pay the bank loan on Rick Wakeman's instruments. Their "filler" is still pretty good, with Steve Howe's acoustic piece "Mood for a Day" considered one of his best. That's how awesome they are.
Ascended Fanboy: Benoît David was lead vocalist for Yes tribute band Close to the Edge before becoming the lead vocalist of Yes. Similarly, Jon Davison has also been involved in a Yes tribute band before his hiring. (see Ironic Echo)
Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes of The Buggles, both Yes fans, count as well. They tried to submit a song to Yes in 1980, and were asked to join as replacements for Anderson and Wakeman, since both bands had the same manager. They hadn't even known about the shake-ups in the band lineup yet.
The Assimilator: In a weird (but not evil) way. Yes absorbed The Buggles, then Cinema (which was originally supposed to be a new band with Trevor Rabin as frontman), and then Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. Interestingly, each time Yes "absorbed" a band, their musical style was incorporated into Yes as well.
The Band Minus the Face: Drama, made without Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson. There's also the current incarnation with Benoît David and later Jon Davison due to Anderson's fragile health.
Brick Joke: From Fragile, the song "We Have Heaven" abruptly ends with the sound of a door closing. At the end of the album, a Hidden Track has the sound of a door opening and (part of) "We Have Heaven" heard again
Canon Discontinuity: Since he wasn't involved in it in any fashion, Anderson refuses to perform any material from Drama.
Wakeman would also refuse to play material from Relayer (Patrick Moraz's one studio album) which was recorded between his first two tenures with the band. Evidenced by the Masterworks tour with Khoroshev on keyboards, which brought "The Gates of Delirium" out of the vault.
Also, VERY little of Tales from Topographic Oceans is in anything close to common time.
Cheap Heat: "Our Song" mentions Toledo, Ohio prominently. It got so much airplay from DJs there that it made the Billboard charts, despite never being released as a single.
Chekhov's Gun: Remember that demo song Horn and Downes played to the remaining members of the band before being invited to join? Well, it didn't make it onto Drama...but it eventually was reworked into the title track of Fly From Here thirty-one years later.
Cherubic Choir: Squire and Anderson managed to achieve this in their vocals. It helps that Squire had actually been a choirboy.
Chroma Key: The video for "Leave It", while groundbreaking for its time has some notable Chroma Key issues with the white shirts on the white background.
Kevin Godley and Lol Creme were the masterminds behind the "Leave It" video, which they reportedly made fifteen different versions of. They were all variations of the five band members standing in a lineup against a white background: Most were upside-down, some were right-side-up, one version had their backs to the camera, and one version had some choreography involved. The most familiar version — and the only one so far to be found on YouTube — has them upside-down while their images are altered by various visual effects.
Door Closes Ending: Did this on their album Fragile, when Jon Anderson's solo piece "We Have Heaven" ended with the sound of footsteps walking away and then a door slamming. (A hidden track after the last song on the album has the door reopening onto a reprise of "We Have Heaven.")
'80s Hair: Even Yes was affected in the 90125-Big Generator era, but Chris Squire had the eighties-est hair of all. Jon Anderson also apparently borrowed Rod Stewart's hair in the late '80s.
Epic Instrumental Opener: Many of their tracks, perhaps most famously "Close to the Edge". There is probably at least one example on each of their first eight studio albums.
Many of their concerts also start with a recording of Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite." A good example is on Live Yessongs.
Epic Rocking: It isn't uncommon for their songs to top twenty minutes in length. Heck, the album Tales from Topographic Oceans, which was originally meant to be listened to in one go, runs 80 full minutes and contains four 20-minute long songs. They also have quite a few songs in the 10-15 minute range.
Their fifth album Close to the Edge is considered by prog enthusiasts as 39 straight minutes of this, as is their seventh album Relayer. Both albums have only three tracks, and both have identical formats: one song that is about about twenty minutes long followed by two songs that are about ten.
Everything Is an Instrument: "The Gates of Delirium" notably featured a percussion rig created by Jon Anderson and Alan White out of discarded metal parts. It can be heard in the direct center of the song, including said rig accidentally being pushed over.
Gratuitous Panning: The orchestra throughout Time and a Word; the organ/guitar bridge and the guitar solo in "Yours Is No Disgrace"; and the guitar solo in "Owner of a Lonely Heart". The first album had a bit of it as well, seeing as it was made at the end of The Sixties.
In Name Only: Inverted - Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe was Yes in everything but name, essentially a reunion of their 1972-73 era lineup, minus Chris Squire. They recorded one Self-Titled Album in 1989 and toured behind it, before they were assimilated back into Yes in 1991.
Ironic Echo: Benoît David was hired from the tribute band Close to the Edge (and is also known for his work in a non-tribute band, Mystery) to replace Anderson after he was diagnosed with asthma preparing for a tour. A few years later, David is struck with laryngitis during a tour and is replaced by Jon Davison, who's also known as a vocalist for a Yes tribute band and a standalone progressive rock band of his own (Glass Hammer). Here's hoping he doesn't catch any of the bugs that plagued Anderson and David...
Lyrical Dissonance: South Side Of The Sky, a relatively hard rock song about a group of explorers freezing to death. Also "The Gates of Delirium", whose first section features excited, even triumphant music alongside lyrics about preparing for a battle, with such unnerving lines as "Slay them, burn their children's laughter".
Lyrical Shoehorn: Love Will Find A Way, as Trevor Rabin hadn't finished the lyrics:
The live version of "The Fish" on Yessongs might reach a 6 or 7. It was shockingly loud for its day.
The middle section of "The Gates of Delirium" off of Relayer probably goes up to a 6, especially at the bit where a rack of car parts they were bashing on in the studio to simulate the noise of weapons clashing in battle is accidentally pushed over. It's certainly the noisiest Yes ever got on any of their studio albums.
Shout-Out: The first part of "I've Seen All Good People" has two references to John Lennon: one of the lines is "Send an instant karma to me", and towards the 3-minute mark during the Singing Simlish chorus, Anderson can be heard in the left channel singing "All we are saying, is give peace a chance!".
Spell My Name with a "The": The song "Clap" has no "The" in front of its title. Unfortunately, Jon Anderson announced it with the wrong name, resulting in the record company mislabeling it (with Unfortunate Implications) on virtually every edition of the song ever released.
10-Minute Retirement: Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman have had a couple (notably, Wakeman left after Tales From Topographic Oceans, then came back for Going For The One; likewise, Anderson left after Big Generator, then came back for Union)
Triumphant Reprise: A notable example is "We Have Heaven", from 1971's Fragile (near the beginning). This is a reprise at the end of the last song of the album, and, more notably, in the short song "Can I?" on The Ladder - which was released in 1999.
Uncommon Time: In addition to the band's songs being played in any number of different meter signatures it wasn't uncommon for Alan White or Bill Bruford to play in a completely different meter from the rest of the band, making it even more difficult for listeners to follow along.
Vocal Tag Team: The Rabin era. "Endless Dream" from Talk is a particularly notable example, with Rabin and Anderson switching off lead vocals through the entire song.
War Is Hell: "The Gates of Delirium". "Shoot High Aim Low" has elements of this as well.
Word Salad Lyrics: Intentional, as singer Jon Anderson used his lyrics as simply another instrument, choosing them more for their sound than their meaning. Therefore, many Yes lyrics are absolutely incomprehensible, with a generous amount of When Is Purple.
Toned down severely on 90125: Anderson was a late addition to the project and rewrote some of Trevor Rabin's lyrics to better suit his vocal delivery. They are most likely the most understandable lyrics of the entire Yes catalogue, though they're still pretty far from being sane.