The latest Yes album is once again difficult to find in stores so I had to order it through Amazon which, in itself is cool in a “hey I got a package” kid of way but it means that it arrived about a week and a half after the release date so I was really ready to hear it. This is a three-disc set called The Word is Live (a pun on a line in an early song – “the word is love.”)
First of all, the packaging is very nice although perhaps a bit strange. The three discs are housed in the front and back covers of a book and the discs overlap by about 50% so the book is a lot shorter than other books which held two CDs. That means, for example, that getting disc one out means you have to get disc two out first, a bit of a pain. The third disc is in the back cover. The book itself is something like 64 pages and is full of color pictures and fan memories which mostly fall under the “yes is soooooo cool” category and don’t really add to my understanding of the band. A critical essay (even if it’s not critical as most essays in boxed sets aren’t) would have been nice. Greg Lake from ELP wrote one and managed to point out that Chris Squire and Greg Lake were responsible for the cutting edge bass sound that they both became well known for and that Bill Bruford left Yes for King Crimson which Greg Lake founded, by the way. My opinion of Lake wasn’t changed by this essay.
But I didn’t buy it for the book – I bought it for the music. The point of this is to collect live tracks spanning the first 20 years of their career which are in some way different than the multiple live recordings already out there – and Yes has released a lot of them; Yessongs, Yesshows, 9012live, Keys to Ascension 1 & 2, House of Yes, Yes Symphonic, and numerous DVDs. There are two tracks, the first two, that were previously released on the Live at the BBC set but all the rest are brand new, including a couple of tracks featuring Patrick Moraz on keyboards and also the Geoff Downes / Trevor Horn version of Yes. Trevor Rabin shows up in four tracks at the end of the set. Some of the tracks are songs that have been unavailable and were never recorded on a studio album or a live album before.
The sound of the CD is one of the most disappointing aspects – it sounds like a bootleg recording. One would expect, then, that the performances better be pretty good (or pretty rare) to warrant this and, indeed, they are. Steve Howe absolutely rips it up on a couple of songs and this early recording of "Yours is No Disgrace" is full of fire. Patrick Moraz was an amazing player and gets a chance to shine on “Sound Chaser”. The early version of one part of “Starship Trooper” with Peter Banks on guitar is a revelation.
There is a lot to enjoy here and I’m just dipping my toe into the set. All in all, this is a fine set and any Yes fan would enjoy it – I’m looking forward to spending more time with it.