Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., Dec. 9, 2005
The Word Is Live (Elektra/Rhino)
There's no question that punk was a reaction to the bloated rock of the Seventies, with Yes being perhaps the group most cited for the decade's grandiose quagmire. Yet it's equally true that Yes' orchestrated rock was itself a reaction to the trouble-free pop of the Sixties, coupled with an embrace of technology and virtuosity. The British band 14 members in 17 lineups over 35 years has done it all, from free-love psychedelica to contemporary symphonic rock. It's hard for a band with such history to top earlier work, and even though Yes demonstrated recent inventiveness in 2001's Magnification, most of their credibility arises from an immense catalog and vibrant live show. The Word Is Live, their 31st release, presents both. Nearly all the 26 tracks are fresh issue, some coming from guitarist Steve Howe's secret stash. Not as holistic as their live, 1973 three-LP Yessongs, this 3-CD compilation spans more time, from John Peel's 1970 BBC show to a 1988 Houston concert, from "Yours Is No Disgrace" to "Owner of a Lonely Heart," forsaking a few classics for rarities ("Go Through This") and improvs ("Hello Chicago"). Then again why should anyone care about Yes' fifth compendium of live material, with the youngest composition being two decades old? Because the music resonates, witnessed by liner endorsements from Matthew Sweet, Rush, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Duncan Sheik, Foo Fighters, and the Posies. Scratchy tracks exist for historical completeness, making it a fan must-have. The Word Is Live helps cement Yes' place in modern rock, just don't expect it to change any punk minds soon.