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Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013

Yes Revisit Three Classic Albums

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The first time Yes drummer Alan White had to play songs from the 1973 album Close To The Edge, it was under less than ideal circumstances. He was replacing Bill Bruford, who had recorded the album, and he had all of three days to learn the songs from that album as well as other material Yes planned for its tour behind Close To The Edge.

“It was pure insanity,” White recalled in a recent phone interview. “You wake up quite a lot, all day eating and sleeping Yes music. And I didn’t really have any hands-on rehearsal with the band. I think we did play together for an hour once, and then the equipment had to leave or something. So for me, it was like jumping into the deep end. All of a sudden I was in front of 10,000 people in Dallas all screaming their heads off and I had to play everything right.

“The first show, actually, I got pretty much everything right, and the band was kind of relieved because everybody was kind of worried about it,” he continued. “And then the second, third and fourth shows, I made a few more mistakes, but by about the fourth or fifth show I was kind of getting everything down.”

White has played the songs from Close To The Edge countless times since then, as he has remained the drummer in Yes for the vast majority of the 40 years that have passed since then. This year, he’ll once again play that entire concept album, plus two other key albums from the Yes catalog, The Yes Album and Going For The One, as the current incarnation of the band plays all three albums in their entirety on a summer tour.

The band, which also includes guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, keyboardist Geoff Downes and singer Jon Davison, arrived at playing the trio of albums with little debate, White said.

“These seem to be pretty easy choices for everybody in the band,” he said. “These are the three that would go together best.”

Although Yes enjoyed its greatest popularity in the 1980s with the multi-platinum albums 90125 and Big Generator, the string of six studio albums that began with The Yes Album in 1971 and culminated with Going For The One in 1977 is considered the band’s artistic peak—the run where the group established its adventurous yet accessible brand of progressive rock.

The group enjoyed major popularity during that period as well, reaching arenas with the album Fragile, which featured the hit single “Roundabout.”

White, who had toured and recorded with John Lennon and George Harrison before joining Yes in the ’70s, has witnessed the band go through numerous personnel changes, as well as many ups and downs in popularity. Throughout it all, though, the band has kept recording and touring on a regular basis, with the 2011 album Fly from Here being the group’s most recent release.

Although today’s Yes includes two members, Davison and Downes, who weren’t in the band when The Yes Album, Closer To The Edge and Going For The One were recorded, White promises this edition of the band does those albums justice. Davison, he notes, was a longtime fan of the band even before he joined.

“He pretty much had a great idea of how everything should sound in the era it was in,” White said of the singer. “And he’s got a great ear for that kind of stuff and makes sure he does exactly the right thing. He doesn’t try to change things too much. And of course, there’s Geoff Downes. It’s safe to say there are a few keyboard sounds there that are actually more modern sounding, but at the same time, the sound of the band remains pretty much the same, but obviously a modern version of it.”

Yes headlines the Wisconsin State Fair Main Stage on Thursday, Aug. 8 at 7:30 p.m.