Beyond & Before: BBC Recordings 1969-1970

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Yes' early years, up until The Yes Album, are usually perceived as a formative period, primarily of interest to hardcore fans. This double-CD set of live BBC and other radio-related tracks from 1969-70, however, forces the listener to take this era of the group's history on its own terms. The performances and repertory all date from the tail end of the psychedelic era, and a time when the Nice were the only fully functioning progressive rock unit in England -- one can hear the early incarnation of Yes catching up fast with Keith Emerson and company, throwing in progressive influences of their own and generally playing like there was no tomorrow. The fact that the BBC sessions never permitted retakes, and were never intended for commercial release, gave them a raw, spontaneous quality that was missing from the studio equivalents. The drawback is that the singing is sometimes a lot rougher than the group would have preferred -- so "Dear Father," for example, is vibrant but a little raw; on the other hand, "Every Little Thing" is practically worth the price of the disc by itself, as the most exciting track here. Disc two features more live performances of the era off of radio, including a completely different but equally impressive version of "Every Little Thing" and more amazing work by Bill Bruford. Overall, it's the perfect early Yes companion to Yessongs, with notes by Peter Banks, the band's co-founder and lead guitarist during this era, that reveal a lot about what the band was like during this era and some of the rivalries and alleged unfairness in the divvying up of credits and revenues.

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