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Robert Garofalo
Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Alan White

The anniversary journey continues for the pioneers of Progressive Rock and fans will finally get what they have been asking for, a Yes DVD featuring the classic band line up with narration by The Who's Roger Daltry. The 3-hour film, shot in Europe during the recent 35th anniversary year, includes intimate and humorous observations into their music, their life on the road, and their own personal viewpoints. Yes have rocked the world for 35 years and as a Grammy award winning band, sold in excess of 35 million albums over their career.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1

Runtime: 1700 min.
Price: $22.98
Release Date: 1/27/2004

• Live Audio Set

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Yesspeak: 35th Anniversary (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 17, 2004)

Personally, I’ve always loved the three-minute pop song. While all their periods were great, I still adore early Beatles the best; I’d strongly argue that 1964’s A Hard Day’s Night album remains their peak. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think we should limit the rock and pop genre to nothing more than verse-chorus-verse numbers, and plenty of great tracks run much longer than 180 seconds. Nonetheless, I prefer lean and tight to long and loose most days of the week.

Because of that, I can’t call myself a fan of the progressive rock movement from the Seventies. I respect the genre’s attempts to broaden the horizons of what was considered to be rock music, but think that the vast majority of these works failed pretty miserably. Even though I like Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins as solo artists, their Seventies material through Genesis seems over-the-top and somewhat pointless.

One of the first progressive bands, Yes remain one of the genre’s most famous acts. Yesspeak follows the group’s 35-year career. Narrated by the Who’s Roger Daltrey, the program opens with a quick look at the band’s 35th anniversary tour in Europe. We then meet the musicians: singer Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White, and keyboardist Rick Wakeman. The program gives us individual band member interviews at their homes (or “sacred grounds”, as the piece refers to the locations). They discuss some personal issues like family and their lives as well as touring.

From there we get an overview of the band’s history. We learn of the group’s origins, how they came up with the name, and different events across their career. Eventually we get “spotlight” on each member, which provide us with various notes about their music and attitudes toward the band. We also see some bits about roadies and general glimpses of the future of Yes. The program alternates between interview clips and shots from concerts, with occasional behind the scenes shots tossed in for good measure.

As I mentioned a few paragraphs back, I never cared much for progressive rock. However, I admit I didn’t have a lot of exposure to Yes’s music, so I tried to remain open. Unfortunately, their noodlings and ramblings simply confirmed my thoughts that Yes don’t produce songs; they just let a bunch of soloists blather on and on for too long and without much point.

Actually, I’m happy I don’t care for the music of Yes, for even if I did like the band, I’d probably loathe them after I watched this glorified promo reel. Yesspeak exists for one reason: to declare the majesty that is Yes. We learn what a magnificent legacy they’ve bestowed upon the world. Why, Wakeman even declares to us that they were 20 years ahead of their time! We also hear what a huge audience they continue to maintain, and how they aren’t dinosaurs – skillions of youngsters adore them.

Bollocks. As I watched Yesspeak, I tried very hard to ignore my own feelings about the music and view it from a more objective perspective. Did I give me a good overview of the band, their career and their music? Did I learn much and feel entertained?

No, no, and no. We hear enough music to get a feel for the Yes style, but fans won’t find any full performances. To be fair, the DVD does include a complete audio-only concert, but we don’t discover uninterrupted video versions of songs. The program tosses out smatterings of notes about the evolution of the band’s career, but it does this in such a haphazard way that it never feels like a good biography. Instead, it just hops from year to year without much coherence, so it lacks a sense of depth.

Yesspeak also fails to deliver much of a sense of reality. Clearly, given all of the bandmember comings and goings over the years, lots of juicy stories must exist. However, you’ll hear few of them here. Wakeman seems like the only moderately frank musician, as he goes over some of the band’s problems in the Seventies, but that’s about it. (He also gives us many of the program’s most self-congratulatory moments as well.)

Instead of a concrete and rich examination of the band, Yesspeak just pours on the happy talk and laudatory blather. Not only does this come from the bandmembers themselves, but also the narration seems insanely hyperbolic. I felt sad to hear Daltrey reduced to crowing about these boring hacks. Daltrey belonged to possibly the greatest example of a band in rock history, in that the four pieces of the Who locked together and synched in such a spectacular way. Compare that tightness to the “five solo artists all playing at the same time” found in Yes, and I can’t help but wonder why he’s praising them; it really should be the other way around.

Lamentably, Daltrey gets stuck with lines that make Yes out to be bigger – and better – than the Beatles, the Stones, and Led Zep all combined. Even if you adore Yes, this fluffy tone and relentless barrage of praise will likely make your brain numb.

Unfortunately, that’s about all that Yesspeak offers. A promotional film disguised as a documentary, it prattles about its subject in an unrelentingly and absurdly chipper way that it intensifies any negative feelings one may have toward the subject. Perhaps the fans will be able to stand this puff piece, but I really disliked it.

Footnote: I think Yes are well suited to perform their own version of Lord of the Rings. This first occurred to me due to Steve Howe’s spooky resemblance to Gollum. With his bony appearance, balding head and bad teeth, he seems like a perfect match for old Smeagol; heck, he even often refers to a beloved guitar as “precious”! Given his high voice and diminutive stature, Jon Anderson would make a great hobbit. Except for perhaps Alan White – who looks more working class than the others – the rest of the band resembles Middle-earth dwellers as well.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

Yesspeak appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Parts of the picture looked great, but too much of it fell short of those heights for it to merit a very high grade.

Much of the show depicted acceptable definition but not much better than that. Some shots came across as nicely detailed and distinctive, but others were less positive. At times, the image looked somewhat blocky and pixelated, especially in regard to outdoors landscape shots; those tended to seem a bit unnatural. Only light jagged edges and shimmering occurred, and noticed some moderate edge enhancement at times. As for source flaws, the transfer seemed essentially free of these, though a little artifacting popped up at times. Some shots showed a glow around the musicians, but those instances were intention due to the use of effects.

For the most part, colors looked fairly well defined. The live shots depicted the most vivid and vibrant tones, though they seemed a bit thick at times. The interview segments were more erratic and could seem moderately pale and flat. Nonetheless, the hues remained generally distinctive. Blacks were reasonably deep and dark, while the occasional low-light shots demonstrated acceptable definition. Ultimately, Yessongs provided a mix of highs and lows that came out to a grade of “B-“.

Yessongs offered both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. I felt these both merited “B-“ grades but for different reasons. The pair offered similar soundfields. Music mostly focused in the forward speakers and showed decent but unexceptional stereo delineation. The various instruments spread across the front in a reasonably broad manner but didn’t depict any great definition. The rears bolstered the music to a moderate degree, though they lacked much to make them play a strong role in the proceedings.

Effects were a minor component of both tracks. These popped up mainly during the interview segments and tended toward light ambience; they served that role fine. Unfortunately, speech seemed less accurately placed. Dialogue came from all three front speakers, which made it less focused than I’d like. This created some distractions.

Audio quality varied between the two mixes, mainly connected to the music. The DTS track demonstrated noticeably tighter and more vivid instrumental qualities and showed richer low-end response. However, speech was less well-defined in the DTS version. Dialogue seemed somewhat reedy and hollow for both, but those tendencies intensified during the DTS mix. In addition, the balance between speech and background music during the interviews was off during the DTS track. It played the music too prominently and it occasionally became tough to hear what the speakers said. Overall, the two mixes demonstrated adequate quality but suffered from too many problems to earn a grade above a “C+”.

Yesspeak only includes one supplement, but it should please fans. We find a live audio set that appears to present a full concert from the 2003 tour. Presented via Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, this runs two hours, six minutes and 45 seconds. While we listen to the music, we watch stills from the show. Including a five-minute “Rick Wakeman Solo”, this show features 16 songs. These don’t run truly continuously, though, as fade-outs occur between many tunes.

While I can appreciate the value of this set for fans, I can’t imagine it’ll win anybody over to the music of Yes. To put it mildly, I absolutely can’t fathom why anyone would like this band’s work. And I’ll leave it at that – I could go on and on about why I feel that way, but I don’t think that’s terribly appropriate, so suffice it to say that I really disliked the music.

Even if I counted myself as a fan of Yes, I can’t imagine I’d think much of Yesspeak. A dull and self-congratulatory documentary, it offers little of us and instead just tries us to convince us how wonderful Yes are. Fans won’t need that convincing and they’ll probably already know the smattering of details presented; non-fans will be so bored by the presentation they’ll not want to know anything more about Yes. The DVD presents fairly average picture and audio plus an extended audio-only set of music that will be a highlight or a lowlight dependent on your feelings toward the band. The more than two hours of music will be enough to tempt Yes lovers to get this set, but unless you truly adore the band, skip this bland piece of fluff.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1818 Stars Number of Votes: 11
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