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Music of Yes: Structure and Vision in Progressive Rock (Feedback: The Series in Contemporary Music, Vol. 1) Paperback – November 1, 1996
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From Library Journal
"Long-winded" and "pompous" are derisions routinely leveled against Yes, the kings of "avant-rock," and they often apply to this examination of the band's music by social theorist Martin (philosophy, DePaul Univ.). The author fulfills the dream of any Yes-fanatic by waxing philosophic about the group's entire recorded output, focusing on their "main sequence" of albums from The Yes Album (1971) through Going for the One (1977). Martin goes to great pains to explain the importance of Yes's "vision" and argues his own interpretations of their music and lyrics in excruciating detail. Unfortunately, he offers little external evidence to support his musings; nor is the coverage broad enough to be a useful work on the progressive rock movement as a whole. Having little appeal to those not Yes-obsessed, this book is unnecessary for all but the largest popular music collections. General readers may be more tempted by Yesstories: Yes in Their Own Words (St. Martin's, 1996).?Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Yes fans (Yes-persons?) will flock to this paean to the world of 1960s "art rock." Yes always engendered extreme reactions: either devotion because of the group's lofty aesthetic standards or dismissal as a band of musically flatulent poseurs. Philosopher and semiotician Martin displays an affinity for Yes and tends to overanalyze pop-cultural minutiae but valuably assesses a time when capital-R Rock music was thought to matter deeply in the ultimate scheme of the universe. This makes for some tedium, but Martin's points about the artistic aspirations of '60s and '70s "progressive" music are thought-provoking. Perhaps Martin fails to adequately factor in that "what it was about Yes that allowed it to be such a force for the people who experienced the music" may have been simply the fact that its fans were teenagers when that music was new. After all, to some, the music of Little Richard ("A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom") is deeply moving and fraught with metaphysical portent. For serious rockers only. Mike Tribby
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Finally, I note that the author is the "series editor" for this series of books -- perhaps the book could have used another editor.
If you're a Yes fan, this is a worthwhile read. Just be prepared to skim a page here and there.
The problem with Martin's book is he apparently has little or no comprehension of the messages that Yes music has projected through most of their life as a band: the outlook being communicated to the listeners besides the presentation of sound itself in what YES did. To make up for this, or perhaps because he has no other way of doing it, Martin looks at the lyrical product of Yes through the eyes of a Marxist economic philosopher. Viewing the Yes message of positive spiritual seeking in terms of such a materialistic and political philosophy is just not a compatible enterprise. And so it becomes apparent that Martin has never understood what Jon Anderson or Steve Howe or Chris Squire were talking about when they put pen to paper. He does seem to show a dim notion of things when discussing Anderson's "We Have Heaven" from the Fragile album. But only a dim notion, as he has to relate it to philosophical/religious literature he has been exposed to, but this only reveals his lack of understanding of the substance of what is going on. For example, it is one thing to recognize the influence of Paramahansa Yogananda on YES lyrics at a certain point in their career, it is another thing to understand concepts Yogananda describes in his work which one can relate to things said in YES's lyrics. As part and parcel of this we get Martin's predictable (it is predictable once one understands he is a Marxist) view that the music industry is criminally dominated by "market forces" which are evil and poisonous to music. (Martin also indulges us with his own view of the Vietnam War, a view in which he is no doubt not alone, especially in his world of academia; and he concedes that he has no idea if YES would see it his way; nevertheless, he goes ahead and serves his readers this view anyway as his interpretation of "Yours is No Disgrace").
In Martin's summary, then, Yes and other groups like Genesis attained success by virtue of a fluke atmosphere which prevailed in the late 60s and early 70s (almost like Yes 'fell through the cracks' of the market forces' roadblock to popular acclaim) and they have been fighting against those forces ever since 1973 or so. (When Actually, the cross which Yes has been bearing is that of getting reviewed constantly by rock and pop critics who should not be reviewing anything that has a musical validity beyond 12 bars or three chords).
But for a Yes fan, the book is worth it, because when Martin does confine himself to the substance of the music sound and the performance of it he has some good insights.