Coming in late today, but with some good news. Or potentially anyway, depending on how much you enjoy progressive as a genre and/or this week’s artist specifically. As though repenting for last week’s keyless options, Harmonix more than makes up for it with a five-pack of Yes.
+ = pro-guitar/bass chart available.
Before we start it’s worth noting that with Yes you’re almost certainly going to get your money’s worth. Of course if you don’t like the song then length becomes a punishment, but let’s assume you have some interest here. “Heart of the Sunrise” for example is almost 11 minutes long, and the first three and a half of those are instrumental. Which are the best parts of the song in my opinion. Generally I like Yes’s vocals more when they pile on the plush harmonies, which are largely non-existent in this track. The music more than makes up for that however. The song is structured with several differing sequences of varying tempos so it’s almost like getting multiple songs in one. (A theme you will see a lot this week.) What’s more, every instrument just packs up and goes off on its own journey, occasionally sending a postcard home to keep everyone in touch but otherwise doing its own amazing, interesting things. Frankly unless you hate the song I have difficulty in coming up with a valid reason why anybody would leave this out of their collection; you’d be hard pressed to find a better play value in all of Rock Band’s library.
If you’re thinking you don’t know any songs by Yes, “I’ve Seen All Good People” would be my first challenge to you; this thing gets massive radio play. This song opens with the type of harmonies I was talking about and they feature prominently throughout, so that’s an immediate fat check in the “plus” category. Interestingly as a mirror image to “Heart of the Sunrise”, the instruments are relatively sparse for the first three and a half minutes. But once it hits that point, it becomes an awesome jam (if a little repetitive for the vocals).
And then if you still think you don’t know any songs by Yes I present “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, secure in the truth that there isn’t a single person in the world who grew up with MTV who doesn’t know this song. It was their biggest hit, and not coincidentally their shortest and most accessible in the pack; pretty sure it’s going to be the one that sells the best this week. It’s really quite different from the standard Yes sound on display in the rest of this pack. It’s loaded with catchy riffs (hello bassline) but feels lacking in depth, at least compared to the rest of the pack if not its contemporary songs of the time.
Probably reflecting my own predilection toward harder sounds, I’d put “South Side of the Sky” up there with “Heart of the Sunrise”. The first part of the song has a rough almost Deep Purple-esque guitar that batters you for a few minutes before giving way to an extended piano solo soon accompanied by those three-part harmonies all singing wordlessly, creating a beautiful sequence that I suspect will be hilariously butchered by most Rock Band parties but should be something amazing if you have a group that can pull it off. Eventually this near-tranquility melts away and the brutal guitar returns to finish you off. If all you’ve ever heard of Yes was “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, give this song a listen before calling it a day; the group has so much more to offer than what “Lonely Heart” showcases.
Rounding out the pack we have one of the proggiest of all prog songs, “Starship Trooper”. It’s extremely difficult to pin it down in a brief series of quick thoughts. You have the standard of different movements combining to form a whole, but the thing that makes it work so well is the transitions between them. Each section is so distinct and strong enough to stand alone, but they way they meld together you don’t even realize you’re in a new part of the song until you’ve already been around the block a few times and hit up the local pub. Then there’s the end. The final three and a half minutes (“Würm” for those of you keeping score at home) is such a relatively simple series of chords, but the constant rise, the layers building upon layers, makes it one of my all-time favourite rock instrumentals. Of all the songs this week I’m probably most excited for this one.
It’s incredibly difficult to pin it down to just the one song this week. Well, maybe not so much for keys – the middle part of “South Side of the Sky” makes it a pretty easy recommendation. Everyone else? Ugh, so hard. Okay vocalists I think I’ll have to go with either “Owner of a Lonely Heart” if you prefer to go it solo or “I’ve Seen All Good People” if you have some talented friends. But consider “South Side of the Sky” if you and those friends of yours like a major challenge. Drummers, guitarists and bassists? Truth is you can’t really go wrong this week, though ironically I’d nudge you away from the pro-charted tracks and more toward “Heart of the Sunrise” and “Starship Trooper”. Really though, this is a fantastic pack with so much to offer to each and every instrument, coupled with incredible play value for your money. Don’t let this week pass you by without checking them out.