Yes’s Legendary Concert Film Showcases Prog At its Finest

Filmed in 1972 at London’s Rainbow Theatre, Yessongs was released theatrically in the UK the next year with a quadraphonic soundtrack. The concert film features Yes’s new line-up at the time in Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Alan White. The British Prog greats had become known for their incredible live shows by this period. Yes lives up to expectations in an electric performance driven by Steve Howe’s amazing guitar wizardry and Rick Wakeman’s stunning keyboards.

Experience the musical power of Yes on their 1973 world tour, featuring the classic lineup of Jon Anderson’s lead vocals, Steve Howe on lead guitar, Chris Squire on bass guitar, Rick Wakeman on keyboards and Alan White as drummer. London’s Rainbow Theatre reverberates with the legendary prog rock group’s energy as they perform their signature tunes from the “Fragile” and “Close to the Edge” albums.

The powerful live performances by Yes in the concert include 1. Your Move/All Good People, 2. The Clap, 3. And You and I, 4. Close to the Edge, 5. Excerpts from The Six Wives of Henry VIII, 6. Roundabout, 7. Yours Is No Disgrace, 8. Wurm (Excerpt from Starship Trooper, Pt. 3).

Filmed live at London’s Rainbow Theatre in late 1972, Yes performs its progressive rock symphonies to a welcoming audience. Yes’s epic prog songs as a live act made them a force in popular music, selling over 30 million albums for their career with several platinum albums. Yessongs provides a visual record of the concert tour that became a groundbreaking extravaganza in live rock music.

They effortlessly pull off the tricky chord progressions and changes in time signatures during Yessongs

If you are a Yes fan of any rank, Yessongs captured vital performances by Yes from their heyday as a touring band and features their most popular line-up. It’s not the best-sounding live material or best-filmed Yes, as the A/V quality will leave more demanding audiophile fans disappointed. Music lovers will overlook those flaws as the performances are magnificent.

Steve Howe’s guitar work in Yessongs is a sight to behold with its technically demanding precision. One of the band’s trademarks has been the rare ability to re-create their dense studio sound live in concert. They effortlessly pull off the tricky chord progressions and changes in time signatures during Yessongs.

New fans may be mildly disappointed at the film’s relatively short running time around seventy minutes. It’s practically all music, but doesn’t really allow for the extended live compositions so common in prog. Since their music is technically demanding, the band members aren’t doing much on stage besides playing their instruments. This is not Mick Jagger prancing around the stage. Even lead singer Jon Anderson stands in front of his microphone the entire concert.

The direction is primitive by today’s standards. Yessongs features many tight close-ups and odd angles. About the only Yes member not enshrouded in darkness is Rick Wakeman in his flowing cape. The music is great, the stage show however doesn’t really translate that well through the screen.

Video

Pinewood Studios Post Production struck a new film transfer from the 16mm negatives for this 40th Anniversary release. The 71-minute main feature is presented at 1.33:1 in 1080P resolution. Director Peter Neal’s concert film has mostly been available as a bootleg for most of its life since the 1970s.

While a decent presentation of rough source material, this Blu-ray’s picture quality is murky and dark. The concert was shot with little available light and the band practically plays on a stage shrouded in darkness. There are few audience shots and a couple of attempts to introduce psychedelic visual effects that feel like an afterthought.

Encoded in AVC, the high-bitrate encode handles the rough grain structure and crushed black levels as well as can be expected. The unprocessed film transfer has been struck from a negative without major defects, even if the original cinematography is poor.

There is no noticeable ringing and the grain appears unaffected by filtering. Filmed with little contrast and crushed blacks, the picture quality is barely serviceable as anything but a document of the concert. If you aren’t expecting much more than bootleg video quality, Yessongs looks satisfactory.

Audio

Yessongs is a live concert recording from 1972 and has certain limitations as a high-fidelity offering. It’s never been known as a good recording. There are no known multitracks available for the Yessongs film, which makes things difficult when mixing to surround. Many have called its sound flat and thin. Let me make it clear this 40th Anniversary edition is for the concert film and not the album of the same name.

While the band approached the original mono mix with studious attention and care after the fact, it’s still a live mono recording from a time when concert soundboards usually had issues. The recording sounds like many concerts recorded in the early 1970s – recessed with spotty vocals and middling separation. The sound crew has a problem keeping up with the band, struggling with recording levels in the early songs.

This is live Yes at their glorious prog peak as performers, showcasing the keyboard wizardry of Rick Wakeman and the guitar stylings of Steve Howe. No one is questioning the music or the performance itself. It is classic Yes from their prime. However, don’t expect the clarity and fidelity of a studio recording. Steve Howe’s guitar is upfront and center in the mix.

A newly created 5.1 surround mix has been produced by Pinewood Studios Post Production for Yessongs. Also included is the original mono soundtrack in restored condition. Despite listing 5.1 DTS-HD MA on the backcover, it actually comes as a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. The mono audio is heard in okay 2.0 PCM. In fact, most will prefer the smoother mono mix over the haphazard surround mix. The mono shows adequate bass response and a tight, coherent soundstage. It has serviceable dynamics without an aggressive edge in the mastering. Some mild compression is detectable, but generally comes off as full sounding.

By comparison, the 5.1 surround mix is ineffective and weak. It’s definitely a disappointment. Yes’s densely layered concert sound becomes muddy and occasionally loses its defined soundstage. Imaging and placement are both questionable.

No subtitles are included.

Extras

The centerpiece of these special features is the substantial documentary covering Yessongs and its creation. The 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray includes four limited edition, full-color, 5.7 x 4.6 postcards specially created by renowned artist Roger Dean. They are limited to the first 3000 copies. The four new artwork cards make for a nice tangible bonus.

The disc is coded for all Blu-ray regions.

Beginnings (12:32 in HD; 2.0 PCM) – This 1975 musical short has been restored to HD, featuring Steve Howe’s excellent guitar work over various footage. It’s roughly a precursor in the vein of primitive music videos. The music is actually taken from Howe’s first solo album and includes Break Away From It All.

Yessongs: 40 Years On (58:35 in HD; 2.0 Dolby Digital) – This 2012 documentary intersperses clips from Yessongs with modern interview footage. Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Roger Dean give their thoughts on the concert and its place in history. It’s a fairly comprehensive and illuminating documentary, covering the movie’s history and album of the same name. If you cherish this period of Yes, this is necessary viewing.

Yessongs Trailer (02:40 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray release was provided to us for review by the label. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit our about us page to learn more about DoBlu’s editorial policies.

Yes Yessongs
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The prog rockers’ seminal concert film finally hits Blu-ray in this 40th Anniversary edition. Yessongs is an indelible part of Yes’s legacy

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