45 Years Ago: Yes Mark End of Era With Triple Live LP ‘Yessongs’
In many ways, 1972 was Yes' year. The band's status had risen considerably following the back-to-back successes of The Yes Album and Fragile (both issued in 1971), and by 1972, with a hit single ("Roundabout") under its belt, the band had become rock royalty and a major concert draw.
In the fall of 1972 they released their landmark Close to the Edge album, which seemed to encompass everything the band had been working toward. Just as they were about to release the album, drummer and founding member Bill Bruford decided to leave the band.
"When it got to, what turned out to be, for me, the high spot, which was Close to the Edge, that's the moment you exist for in a rock group," recalled Bruford in the BBC documentary Prog Rock Britannia. "You think, that's the cookie, that's the one right there. I'm gone, I left then." Replaced by Alan White, who had done work with the likes of John Lennon, George Harrison, Joe Cocker and many others, the band regrouped and hit the road.
Listen to Yes' Live Version of 'Yours Is No Disgrace'
To document the band's live set of the era, they recorded concerts during their Fragile tour in early 1972. The first half featured Bruford, the second leg included White, who had only three days to learn the band's repertoire. (The show the band performed at the Rainbow Theatre in London in December 1972 was filmed and would eventually be released two years later as the movie Yessongs.)
The results became the triple-album set Yessongs. Released in the spring of 1973, Yessongs featured a triple-gatefold sleeve with artwork by Roger Dean spread throughout. A facsimile of a tour book was also included in the package. The record featured a cross section of material from the two tours and a broad representation of the band's catalog, including all of Close to the Edge and excerpts from keyboardist Rick Wakeman's recent solo effort The Six Wives of Henry VIII.
The live album was another hit for the band, going gold upon its release, and eventually turning platinum over the next couple of decades. It was the first of many live albums Yes would released during their career.
"Yessongs signifies an end of an era for us," keyboardist Rick Wakeman told Rolling Stone at the time. "For the past few years we've been on a continuous cycle of hard work where we tour, record a new album, tour to promote it, then record another album. It can go on and on if you let it. Yes has outgrown that now. After this tour we're going back to England for five months to rehearse and record the next album, which hopefully will be a double-album concept. By the next time we tour, our shows will consist only of us. We've talked about playing a three-to-four hour set, which will probably only give us time to perform the new album and Close to the Edge. The future is very exciting for me."
That exciting future wouldn't last long. Wakeman would leave the band a little more than a year later.