Yes: The Yes Album – Super Deluxe Edition Box Set

Performances
Sound

Because of his close association with Yes’ signature sound, guitarist Steve Howe is assumed to have been a member of the British progressive giants from the outset — but he only came aboard with the five-man band’s third studio release, February 1971’s The Yes Album. Though his fretboard predecessor, Peter Banks (who later co-founded the prog-adjacent ’70s outfit Flash), foreshadowed the aural adventurism to come on July 1969’s Yes and July 1970’s Time and a Word, it was The Yes Album that cemented the wide-ranging, time-signature challenging sonic template for one of the most forward-thinking progressive acts of the past six decades.

Perhaps somewhat lost amidst the end-of-year box set shuffle, Atlantic/Rhino’s 4CD/1LP/1BD super deluxe edition of The Yes Album is a welcome addition to a canon that has seen a myriad of reissues and remasters over the years. If this expanded collection is any indication, future Yes boxes will be quite formidable entries in their perpetually bulging catalog. Here’s what The Yes Album box set entails.

The LP and CD1 both house the 2023 stereo remaster of the original 1971 album. CD2 holds five of Steven Wilson’s prior 2014 remixes for the album, along with instrumental versions of those five vocal-led tracks. CD3 contains 13 rarities (singles and mono versions, plus alternate and extended takes). CD4 hosts seven live selections culled from two of-era concerts — three tracks (one unreleased) from Konserthuset in Gothenburg, Sweden on January 21, 1971 (a few weeks before The Yes Album came out) and four previously unreleased tracks from the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut on July 24, 1971 (during the ensuing U.S. tour). Lastly, the Blu-ray offers two Wilson-mixed versions of the core album in Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD Master 5.1, plus the 2023 stereo remaster.

The box set’s hardcover sleeve measures in at LP size — 12¾ x 0½ x 12¾ inches (w/h/d) — and it will fit quite nicely on your album-centric shelves. The inner-left pocket holds the LP and 12-page booklet perhaps a bit too snugly — a recurring nit I have with Rhino’s similarly packaged archival collections for artists like The Doors and Prince, so tread lightly upon your top-slot removal process. The BD is nestled in the middle of the left side of the gate, residing in its own negative-image sleeve held in place by two miniscule diagonal corner slits, while all four non-sleeved CDs are in plain view in two symmetrical rows on the right side, each held in place by super-snug raised plastic centers.

Naturally, our man Steven Wilson’s Atmos mix is the linchpin here — an update of the 24-bit/96kHz DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix he did for the 2014 Panegyric Blu-ray then dubbed as the “definitive” edition. But as Wilson observes in the box set’s liners, he took “quite a different approach on some parts of the music, partly by virtue of now having the extra speakers to place the sounds in, but also because I’ve learned a few things in the nearly 10 years since I first remixed the album.”

Here’s why we reap the benefits of SW’s all-new mixing decisions. Right out of the Atmos delirium gates, “Yours Is No Disgrace” utilizes the height channels as full participants and not supporting acts — the latter being an all-too-common Atmos miscue Wilson always avoids — with the full breadth of guitar, keyboard, and vocal elements on display. Howe’s playful twang-wah guitar stabs circa the 5- and 8-minute marks traverse the quadrants like a hard-hit rubber ball on the loose in a squash court.

In “Starship Trooper,” the final “Wurm” section is a masterclass in slow-rolling tension buildup and volume-impact release, as Howe’s guitar solos counter each other back and forth between the center channel and the heights, with Chris Squire’s churning bass lines and Tony Kaye’s organ fills bobbing and weaving above and around the fray. Not to be outdone, lead vocalist Jon Anderson soars (quite literally) in and above the resplendently repeating harmonies of both halves of “I’ve Seen All Good People.” Finally, “Perpetual Change” closes the proceedings with rear-height keyboard and background-vocal workouts, plus we get a brief clockwise instrumental excursion through each channel.

I hate to view the LP and CD1 as afterthoughts, but that’s what I’m doing since they’re not the box’s focal points. Among my favorite cuts on the other CDs are the still-developing, wordless alternate take on “Starship Trooper” on CD3; the extended, jazz-rock live versions of “Astral Traveller” and “Everydays” from Sweden on CD4; and the “Clap/Classical Gas” instrumental mashup from Connecticut on CD4.

The Yes Album super deluxe edition is hereby officially crowned the definitive version of the band’s flag-planting statement release. Hopefully, it’s also a precursor to how Rhino will honor the next few roundabouts in the Yes canon, which includes November 1971’s Fragile (now available for pre-order) and will likely include September 1972’s Close to the Edge at a future date. Until then, there’s absolutely no disgrace whatsoever in immersing yourself in everything The Yes Album is in all its sweet accustomed ways, as it goes sailing on by in every possible channel.

4CD/1LP/1BD
Label: Atlantic/Rhino
Audio Formats: 16-bit/44.1kHz LPCM stereo (CD); 24-bit/48kHz Dolby Atmos, 24-bit/96kHz DTS-HD Master 5.1, 24-bit/96kHz LPCM stereo (BD)
Number of Tracks: 48 (36 on 4CDs; 6 on 1LP, 6 on 1BD)
Length: 5:42:46 (4:19:12 on 4CDs; 41:47 on 1LP, 41:47 on 1BD)
Producers: Eddie Offord (original album, singles, and rarities); Sean Magee (super deluxe edition mastering); Steven Wilson (2014 remixes and instrumentals; 2023 Atmos and 5.1 mixes)

COMMENTS
supamark's picture

I have zero interest in this, not only because the best performances of these songs is on Yessongs but because:

[quote]Wilson observes in the box set’s liners, he took “quite a different approach on some parts of the music, partly by virtue of now having the extra speakers to place the sounds in, but also because I’ve learned a few things in the nearly 10 years since I first remixed the album.”[/quote]

Too bad one of those things wasn't "how to mix a record".

supamark's picture

I have zero interest in this, not only because the best performances of these songs are on Yessongs but because:

"Wilson observes in the box set’s liners, he took 'quite a different approach on some parts of the music, partly by virtue of now having the extra speakers to place the sounds in, but also because I’ve learned a few things in the nearly 10 years since I first remixed the album.'”

Too bad one of those things wasn't "how to mix a record".

hobige5765's picture

This a comprehensive and impressive addition to Yes’ extensive catalog. | www.lubbockdrywall.com

X