Yes, “Starship Trooper” from The Yes Album (1971): YESterdays

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Former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman is often credited with providing the world’s greatest progressive rock band with a certain arranging gravitas. Yet, three classic — and also epic — songs were produced by Yes before Wakeman’s tenure.

Producer/engineer Eddie Offord deserves recognition for the sonic sheen for The Yes Album, but also his savvy at pulling individual pieces of music together to make a cohesive song. Yes was also firing on all cylinders. A classic example is “Starship Trooper,” which combines compositions from Chris Squire and new guitarist Steve Howe. Jon Anderson reaches heights unseen by the band up until that point, adding lyrics that are both optimistic and soaring.

The ‘a’ section, called “Life Seeker,” builds in intensity and emotion. Squire’s bass steps forward in a way it has never on a Yes album and raises the bar for the instrument. It even eclipses Howe’s volume-pedaled Gibson. Bill Bruford provides a nuanced and jazzy backing, which is perfectly complimented by Tony Kaye’s organ.

<<< BACKWARD (“Clap”) ||| ONWARD (“I’ve Seen All Good People”) >>>

Chris Squire wrote the “Disillusion,” or the ‘b’ section in the middle, which shifts the musical focus to Steve Howe’s acoustic guitar, while Squire and Anderson harmonize in breath-taking fashion. Given Squire’s innovative bass playing, it’s easy to forget what a stellar vocalist he was — and how his harmonies are the bedrock of the Yes choir. Listen to just the middle section and you’ll see what I mean.

The final, ‘c’ section, titled “Wurm,” is dramatic and daring, with Steve Howe’s distorted and delayed electric guitar leading Tony Kaye’s organ to the end while Bill Bruford builds the tension with is snare and cymbal crashes. The bedrock of the section may well be the distorted Rickenbacker bass and bass pedals of Squire, which threaten to break through the speakers before Howe’s orgasmic ending rock guitar solo.

“Starship Trooper” truly is progressive rock at its finest. How can Yes top this? Next time, we’ll talk about one of the most important songs in their canon.

Preston Frazier’s YESterdays is a song-by-song feature that explores the unforgettable musical legacy of Yes. The series runs every other Tuesday.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Preston Frazier
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