Ranking the studio albums by Yes is something I’ve actually avoided til now. Yes are very dear to my heart and it’s hard to put their albums in an order that I would feel completely satisfied with. At least that’s what I thought! Putting them all down actually wasn’t as hard as I thought. The albums I really love became obvious. Even more apparent were the albums that I placed at the bottom. I can’t say that I hate any of these albums but there are some that I don’t like. No band is perfect, not even Yes. But here is my ranking of Yes studio albums. Please note that I consider the ABWH album to be a Yes album and I’ve included “Keystudio” because it contained the studio tracks from the two “Keys of Ascension” albums.
21. Heaven & Earth (2014)
This one is a dud. It’s not Jon Davison’s fault either. Alan White can barely be heard and he plays with no fire at all. The songs are tame and have none of the bombast you expect from Yes. “Subway Walls” is the closest you get to a good track.
20. Open Your Eyes (1997)
Yes needs a full time keyboard player. Also the problem with this album is that the songs are really just songs from Chris Squire and Billy Sherwood’s side project Conspiracy. The title track is the lone track that I really like. Otherwise this is a lumbering, awkward album.
19. Magnification (2001)
A lot of people love this album. After “The Ladder,” I had high expectations. Unfortunately, this album just didn’t have the songs. Plus I just don’t think Yes need an orchestra. It was kinda cool live but this album has only a handful of tracks that I still listen to.
18. Fly From Here (2011)
I was dead set against this album. No Jon Anderson, No Yes. You’ve read that a few times right? I gave it a chance and while Benoit David is really just an average cover band singer, the album has some very good moments. The title track suite is something the Drama band should have recorded back then. It’s nice that they finally did. But there’s a fair amount of filler as well. Plus I really don’t ever want to hear Steve Howe sing lead again.
17. Yes (1969)
As debuts go, this is a great album. But it is what it is. The songs aren’t as strong as the band would eventually write. There are some very good songs on here but none that I find to be great.
16. Time and a Word (1970)
The band started to write some really good songs but whoever thought using an orchestra was a good idea was silly. I agree with Peter Banks on that one. The title track alone makes this album very good.
15. Tormato (1978)
I did an “Albums Revisited” column on this album so if you want more detail on my thoughts about it, please read that piece. The album has some really great songs like “Onward” and “Release Release,” but also has “Circus of Heaven” plus Howe and Wakeman trying to jam in as many notes as possible when they aren’t needed.
14. Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (1989)
It’s Yes in all but name. The album does have some great moments like “Brother of Mine,” “The Meeting,” and “Quartet.” But the mere presence of “Teakbois” makes me cringe. This album can jump a few slots from time to time.
13. Keystudio (1996)
The studio tracks from the “Keys to Ascension” sessions didn’t live up to the hype but when you consider the music that this lineup created, that would be fairly impossible. But I LOVE “Minddrive” and “Be the One.” Overall, this is a fine album but depending on my mood, it could move down some slots but this is probably as high as I would ever rank it.
12. Big Generator (1987)
I’m in a good mood I guess. This album disappointed the FUCK out of me back in 1987. While I do love songs like “Rhythm of Love,” “Final Eyes” and “Love Will Find a Way,” songs like “I’m Running” and “Shoot High Aim Low” are some of my least favorite Yessongs of all time. The title track is one song that I still don’t know if I love or hate. This album can actually slide WAAAAAAAY down on this list if I am not in a forgiving mood. It doesn’t rank any higher than this. Ever.
11. Drama (1980)
No Jon Anderson, No Yes? Well, maybe not. The bottom line for this album is that the songs are really good. It’s a heavier, ballsier Yes and I’ve always liked it. Trevor Horn sounds good and I never thought he sounded at all like Jon. This album does crack my top ten sometimes.
10. Going for the One (1977)
This album is a good one and honestly, this is as high as I would ever rank it. I love some of the songs like “Awaken” and “Wonderous Stories.” I’m not as sold on “Parallels” or “Turn of the Century.” Still, it’s a very strong album.
9. Union (1991)
This album could have been better if Jonathan Elias had not been involved. Even so, I love it. The ABWH songs are all good and Trevor Rabin’s songs are some of his best. I’ve wondered if someone (SW) remixed it, how it might sound. It was an important album for me back in 1991 and still is.
8. Fragile (1971)
You may all start sending me hate mail now. While this album is as classic as it gets, I think it’s uneven thanks to the solo tracks. I don’t think that Bruford’s track is anything but filler. Wakeman’s track seems unnecessary too. Still, “South Side of the Sky” is one of my favorite Yessongs. This is as low as I would ever rank this album. It flips places with “Tales” a lot.
7. Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973)
Musically, I think this album is as good as it gets. The mix has ALWAYS been my problem with it. It seems very muddy and lacking. I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited for a remix as I am for this one. The remix could push this album higher on my list.
6. The Ladder (1999)
This is where this list gets tricky for me. My top six are fairly solid. I LOVE THIS ALBUM! I HATE THAT IT’S ONLY NUMBER SIX!! To me, this was the album that was the throwback to the old Yes sound. I love each track. The production is flawless too.
5. Talk (1994)
I wrote an “Albums Revisited” column for this album. Honestly this album can crack my top three, because it is just amazing. I could go on and on but just read my column so I don’t bore you here.
4. Relayer (1974)
“The Gates of Delirium.” That really is why this album is here. Nothing against the other 2 tracks! That song is my favorite epic by Yes. Patrick Moraz made this album what it is and they never sounded the same, before or after.
3. The Yes Album (1971)
This album is why I am into prog. It’s that simple. I will always hold this album close to my heart. It’s not perfect though. I have never liked the live version of “Clap” and “A Venture” isn’t as strong as the rest of the songs. But wow, the songs on here are some of my favorites.
2. 90125 (1983)
1. Close to the Edge (1972)
These albums flip-flop between 1 and 2. They are the ying and yang of my very existence. The lush, epic sound of CTTE and the uplifting, powerful “90125.” They are very different albums but 2 of my favorite albums of all time by anyone. I could not live without these two albums. “And You and I” and “Changes” are my 2 favorite Yessongs. For now, I’ll put “90125” at the second slot and blame it on “Leave It.” But really, these albums always brighten my day and give me chills when I listen to them.
So there you have it. My list of Yes albums is not going to be the same as yours. I would love to know what your list is so please comment or send me a message. Yes are special to me and I couldn’t imagine my life without them.