The band has undergone numerous formations throughout its history; nineteen musicians have been full-time members. Yes have explored several musical styles over the years, and are most notably regarded as progressive rock pioneers. Yes began performing original songs and rearranged covers of rock, pop, blues and jazz songs, as evident on their first two albums. A change of direction in led to a series of successful progressive rock albums until their disbanding in , their most successful being The Yes Album , Fragile and Close to the Edge
Yes released a couple of albums prior to guitarist Steve Howe joining the band, but it was having him in the lineup that turned them into a world-class act. The music became far more ambitious, and their third LP, The Yes Album , proved to be their commercial and critical breakthrough. At almost 10 minutes long, and with three "movements" building up to an instrumental climax, Starship Trooper set the template for much of prog-rock for the 70s and beyond. Yes went up another gear when Rick Wakeman joined in , and his virtuoso playing provided a worthy foil for Steve Howe's guitar. The opener from the fourth album, Fragile , propelled by Chris Squire's distinctive sing-song Rickenbacker bass, has always been one of the band's standards. There's a huge energy in the interplay between Wakeman's Hammond organ, Howe's guitar and Squire's bass as the three of them bounce off one another in the instrumental break towards the end of the song. The frenetic instrumental first half of Fragile's closing number was quite unlike anything they did before or since, anticipating the territory King Crimson would explore a couple of years later with Red. Jon Anderson's distinctive choirboy-on-acid vocals don't come in until halfway through the song, and rather than being the typical rock frontman, his voice becomes another lead instrument in the band.
For that reason alone, the song becomes part of the essential Yes catalog. However, the real gem that was recorded for the album turned out to be a solo acoustic guitar performance by the legendary Steve Howe. Steve Howe recorded the song in fifteen minutes and was hesitant to include the piece on the record. The rhythmic and harmonic essence of Yes was clearly defined by Howe. When most people talk about the best Yes Songs, Masquerade barely gets any recognition. Standing at twenty two minutes, it is one of the longest composition the band Yes has ever recorded. Jon Anderson has always spoken about the essence of Yes as a live performance band. The song contains probably the greatest sing along lyric that band has ever composed, and is always a highlight during Yes concert performances. Another masterpiece in progressive rock music, the song is the closing number on their classic album Fragile.
Yes have survived for more than five decades because they've been willing to mess around with their recipe and roll with every gut-punch. We'll just hire the Buggles. Let's replace him with tribute singers. But since they've refused — almost stubbornly — to throw in the towel, their catalog is appropriately sprawling, with each album bringing sonic tweaks both major and minor.