Yes, “Perpetual Change” from The Yes Album (1971): YESterdays

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People seem to have an obsession this time of year with best of lists, and I guess I’m no different. I have yet to compose a list of the best albums from the world’s greatest progressive rock band but, if I do, The Yes Album, will be in the top three. “Perpetual Change,” the final song on the album is a wonder of polyrhythms, poetic lyrics, tight harmonies, elegant and non-obtrusive piano and organ, and sometimes melodic, always innovative guitar.

The Yes Album is not considered part of the main sequence of Yes albums, which starts when Rick Wakeman joins the band for Fragile, but is has all the elements that make the band great. On “Perpetual Change” — co-written by Jon Anderson and Chris Squire — the lyrics start with a dreamy imagery of a country home setting and the change of seasons but the metaphor works for the life of the band, as well as life in general.

Evocative, elegant but not preachy, the lyrics almost skate above the jazzy backbeat of Bill Bruford and offer a counter balance to Steve Howe’s opening power chords. Chris Squire’s bass is innovative as always, but his call and response backing vocal to Anderson continues to amaze. Keyboardist Tony Kaye is not to be outdone, with jazzy piano touches aptly supported by a few light Hammond Organ phrases.

The solo section, where Howe provided a brief and jazzy interlude is later punctuated by and interwoven Hammond and snare drum flourish. After a tricky time signature change and a more frenzied Howe solo reinforced by a Tony Kaye synth run, the main musical theme returns with even more urgency. “Perpetual Change” is progressive rock at its pinnacle, and seemingly unstoppable.

That is, until we hear the leadoff song from Fragile, “Roundabout.”


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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  • Film@11

    And I’ll stop commenting today by just saying this is song, especially the live version on YesSongs, is my absolute, favorite musical track ever, of all time. The complexity of the music is such, that at times it seems like 5 voices, each singing their own thing, yet weaving together into one whole that hardly fits into my head.

    One of a handful of Yes’ tunes that will bring a tear or two to my eyes.

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