Just Say No to Rhino's Yes Album on Vinyl


Jon Anderson was always busy exhorting listeners to “Get up!,” “Look around,!” “See yourself!,” etc. His lyrics feel like a Tony Robbins self-improvement course (“Take the straight and stronger course to the corner of your life,”), but Anderson and co. were doing it first and setting the self-help lectures to bombastic musical constructions. Because of Anderson’s lyrical themes, Yes could be preachy, pretentious, mechanical and cold, but you had to respect the musical craft—especially the rhythmic suppleness (it was smart to unleash Bill Bruford) and the group’s sophisticated manipulation of dynamics.

After two albums of pop-length tunes, Yes stretched out on the breakthrough The Yes Album, their 3rd, originally issued in 1971. There are three 9 minute suites, two of which are divided into “movements.” The group made effective use of the extended format, coming up with gripping themes, tension-building transitions and rousing, sweeping finales that were almost symphonic in scope. The group’s musical virtuosity allowed for stunning arrangements where the lowest organ pedal rumble and highest squealing feedback-drenched guitar combined to set off sonic fireworks of the highest order.

The original, thick, George Piros mastered “1841 Broadway” American pressing was and is a record to treasure. It has clarity, definition, subterranean bass, sparkling highs, and exquisite transients. Early pressings issued after the Warner Brothers’ buyout were also Piros mastered, and so probably sound fine. Don’t bother with the later editions lacking the “GP” scribe on the “dead wax” (a non-audiophile record collector term, if there ever was one).

As for Rhino’s 180g vinyl reissue? Don’t bother unless you absolutely cannot find an original. Bass is mushy, transients are soft, detail is lacking and dynamics are squashed. Mastering was at Capitol with no one credited. I don’t know how good or bad Capitol’s lathe is today, or the rest of the mastering chain for that matter, but for whatever reason or reasons, this LP, said to have been cut from the original analog master tape, is lackluster and not worth getting. If you bought it and think is sounds pretty good, you are right. It does: until you hear how much better it can sound.

naturecare's picture

I think I don't find any reason to say NO on his album. it is because I love songs so much. - Casa Sandoval

Macman007's picture

Fresh back from the local record shop down the block (literally under a city-block from my home) with a copy of the Yes Album and AT/GP in the wax. Yep, it smells OLD,.. like a musty moldy basement, and yea, you can see the spores essentially blooming on the vinyl, alongside other biological/chemical/pharmacological stains..,.while on the gatefold LOVELY Martin Green dust and even more spores in bloom. This one looks to have seen action early in it's life, but then was stored long term, I'd guess over the better part of 4 decades. The original Atlantic/Cotillion/ Atco artist roster innersleeve is present. Upon consulting Discogs, I discovered to my great surprise this is a first pressing. All the data checks out. I proceed to my trusty VPI cleaning machine and perform my 2 step super deep cleaning ritual before even considering placing this on a turntable.

After 15 minutes of cleanup and drying time, I got to work on the jacket and gatefold, removing the decades old party fouls, THC, tobacco, beer, plus mold and mildew, leaving the jacket between M- and VG+ condition, smelling fresh. Next I place the record on the platter, rubbing my hands together like Gene Wilder's mad scientist portrayal in Young Frankenstein over what I was about to hear. IT'S ALIVE!!

This is fairly thick vinyl even for a 1970's pressing. A quick adjustment of the VTA and VTF is needed. I clean the stylus using an Onzow Zerodust before treating it with Last #4. I gently place the stylus on the lead in meat then turn on the motor. For a few seconds there is some acceptable outer band scratches on the lead-in edge, settling down in the grooves with minimal surface noise descending into blackness. A quick flick of the preamp volume knob and Viola, goobs of gorgeous gooey analog goodness begin emanating... the first notes of Yours Is No Disgrace send chills all over. Full bodied,clear and soaring vocals are accompanied by solid strands of bass, the percussive work,..Bill Bruford's shining crystalline clear cymbals wash down then around, and of course, John Anderson's soaring vocals. This album is simply sinful to listen to. Compared to my late 80's early 90's CD or beat up 70's represses on vinyl, sonically this is something every Yes fan needs to hear. I confess to have always felt underwhelmed by my vinyl repress and CD copies alike, as you knew there is far more going on that digital couldn't deliver, and the re-presses didn't have. Fantastic music, lyrics, some of my most favorite Yes cuts growing up, and now, but the sonics were never a match for their level of musicianship. Now I know different. The same Ah-Ha moment I had once I found a first pressing of Relayer and listened to The Gates Of Delirium and Soon on Side 1. Even the Multi Channel DVD/A and Flat Transfers hit the wall on Soon. A first pressing and tight cartridge alignment allowed me to hear the soaring dynamics on Gates Of Delirium and Soon for the first time. The digital versions all seemed to me to be compressed to within an inch of their life.

Mike Fremer nails it on the head in his review above. Big, no HUGE soundstage and separation, gut punching deep bass extension, detailed and extended highs, with excellent placement of all things to be heard within the mix. John Anderson's vocals are luscious and seem to float down from between both of my XRT 30 loudspeakers. Steve Howe's guitar work comes from out of nowhere, unfolding in detail as if he and the band for that matter, are up on stage in front of you. Everything you want from this recording is there, in spades and right where it's supposed to be. All the tracks are perfectly presented in all their glory across sides one and two.

I can't provide a counterpoint regarding this specific Rhino Reissue, but if they sound anything like other Rhino Reissues I own, there is no reason to go there in search of musical bliss for this title or others they have. Just say no and move on.

I have to give total props to the guys at Advision Studios, to Engineer Eddie Offord, and certainly cutmaster George Piros, all the Guv's knocked this one out of the park. You can tell instantly that this is from tape, fairly close in generation to whichever master used on the US cut. Most of you know this, tape has a certain something no other recording medium has, and analog pressing either has it or doesn't. The best pressings always have that magic only tape has. I'd kill to get my hands on the 2 track stereo master for this album, it's just that good.

As with all things vinyl, always go to the best source available. Yes, today there are excellent analog alternatives in high quality audiophile quality vinyl, most notably single or double albums spread over 2 albums(4 sides) or more at 45 RPM. A fantastic example of this process in action is the US 45 RPM mastering of Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours'. The Yes Album is another album crying out for that same level of expertise and technology applied to a modern transfer to vinyl. I do believe it's time to dust off those master tapes once again and remaster them on 2 12" 45 RPM sides. Though this was done before, many folks did not like that Rhino/Friday Music package either. There are notable issues with warped and noisy vinyl, mistracking, and poor sound quality. Give this album the treatment it deserves, I think Chad Kassem Acoustic Sounds needs to take this project on and give it the treatment his other 12" 45 RPM masterpieces get. With tapes which sound as good as these obviously are capable of, there is no excuse not to. I'm sure I'm not the only person who would plunk down their 60$ US for a world class treatment of The Yes Album.

For now, I'm very pleased to enjoy this pressing of The Yes Album. I forgot the important part, what did it cost? 10.99$ US at my local record shop, right down the block, another 25% off for buying more than 10 Lp's at once. All these Lp's come with a new thick flapless jacket cover(no adhesive) and rice paper inner sleeves. Now I can retire the Litho in USA Atlantic-Atco-Cotillion artists roster innersleeve it came with and put it away in a new clean rice paper sleeve. I ask for these if they are not included in the album. Record stores buy these by the 100, they typically are glad to include them, especially when you buy records from them on a regular basis. A good shop like this one weeds out garbage pressings, stuff in bad shape and only sells the best for reasonable prices, not gouge you like others tend to do online.

Support your local Record Shops on Record Store Day and every day! Where else can yo find gems like this one for reasonable prices.., E-Bay? Huh, don't make me laugh...