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It May Be Roundabout, But Is It Yes?

11:01 AM Thursday 12/9/10 | |

Yes recently announced its 2011 United Kingdom tour, prompting us to wonder just how many lineup changes a band can endure without losing its identity.

If you’ve been following Yes since its 1969 self-titled debut album, then you’re well aware the band seems to go through a personnel change every few years. But 42 years after Jon Anderson met Chris Squire in a London nightclub, the band continues to perform and in 2011 will release its first studio album in ten years, albeit without Anderson.

Not only has Yes endured several musician changes throughout the years, but the band didn't attract U.S. listeners until after the very first time it tweaked its lineup, replacing guitarist Peter Banks with Steve Howe in time to record the group’s third effort, The Yes Album.

Original keyboardist Tony Kaye was the next to go, replaced by Rick Wakeman who joined just as the band was going into the studio to record its fourth album, Fragile. Drummer Bill Bruford stuck around for one more album – Close To The Edge – before leaving the Yes fold and was replaced by Alan White, who remains in the band to this day.

Of course there were other changes. Wakeman left and was replaced by Patrick Moraz who recorded one studio album with the band – Relayer – before leaving to be replaced by a returning Wakeman on Going For The One. Oh, and did we mention that all of the above changes occurred during the band’s first nine years?

Then there’s that whole Buggles era when Geoffrey Downes and Trevor Horn replaced departing members Anderson and Wakeman for an album – Drama – and tour. Then came the 90125 album featuring the single “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” that marked the return of, not only Anderson, but original keyboardist Kaye and the addition of Trevor Rabin who replaced Howe.

More changes would follow, as musicians left and in some cases, returned. But you get the picture. Yes has been somewhat of a revolving door throughout the years.

In 2008 a severe asthma attack prevented Anderson from touring. However, the band eventually found a replacement for its co-founder / original singer in the form of Canadian Benoit David, who once sang in a Yes tribute band. Along with David, today’s Yes lineup consists of Squire, Howe, White and Wakeman’s son, Oliver.

  • Benoit David of Yes

    Pier Six Pavilion, Baltimore, Md.
    June 24, 2010

    (Owen Sweeney / OwenSweeneyPhoto.com)


But is it Yes? David is 44 years old – 22 years younger than Jon Anderson – and was only two years old when Anderson met Squire in that nightclub in 1968. While David’s singing sounds extremely close to Anderson’s original style, there have been some objections from the fan base as to whether this “youngster” is worthy of stepping into Anderson’s shoes.

But what do you think? Many bands experience changes through the years and we’d be hard-pressed to come up with a list of groups that have lasted as long as Yes that didn’t swap out a few musicians now and then. But how many changes can a band endure before it ceases to be the group with that certain something special that attracted fans in the first place? What’s your take on that?

We’d also like to hear from Yes fans who have seen the band perform with David handling the lead vocal chores. Is he a suitable replacement for Anderson? Or is it a different band without Anderson, something not quite… Yes?

Just drop your comments in the thread below.


  1. MScottNV wrote:

    10:35 AM, Jan 23, 2012

    Personally I think it is great they have someone who sounds very much like Jon...but he was not one of the creators of the song. Anything less then Jon himself is a disappointment.

    Look at all of Jon's contributions to the music industry not only with Yes, Anderson Wakeman and Bruford, but with Kitaro and Vangeles. Now contrast that to David....Enough said!

  2. bazackwards wrote:

    02:00 PM, Apr 19, 2011

    I, too, am a huge fan of Yes. And, I'm also a keyboardist and a huge Wakeman fan. I've never heard David live, but I agree that age should mean nothing if he has the pipes. It is hard to imagine a 2nd Yes album without Anderson, but I'll definitely give it a listen. I will miss them live, only because around here, Downes is filling in for kid Wakeman. While Downes is a good keyboardist, he's not Wakeman. I honestly can't speak about kid Wakeman, since I've never heard him live (have heard some studio albums). I was disappointed a few years back when I saw Yes with Tony Kaye. Nothing against Kaye, but I could have filled in and done just as well. For me to see Yes, they need to appropriately fill the keyboardist's shoes, and Downes doesn't cut it.

  3. MisterDigger wrote:

    01:54 AM, Jan 28, 2011

    I have been catching live shows from Yes since 1973, which also includes this very tight lineup with Benoit as the lead singer. I hear a lot of criticism from old fans about this being nothing more than a tribute band. As long as they keep touring without producing any new material, then this is a valid assumption. I can think of one tribute band who still has three of it's original members, but have not produced anything new in years - The Moody Blues. When a band rests on it's laurels and tours to please the nostalgia crowd, then they become a mockery of themselves. I applaud the current lineup of Yes for finally going into the studio to produce new material after knowing each other quite well for a few years.

    Hopefully, they have been writing down lyrical and musical ideas for these past years, and the trip to the studio will be a matter of weaving all of these ideas together for the final product. If they go into the studio with no ideas at all, then this would spell disaster. Benoit realizes that there is only ONE Jon Anderson, just like there is only ONE Roger Waters and ONE Peter Gabriel. Only a fool would try to mimic these unique personalities. Therefore, Benoit will need to write his own lyrics that he can sing on tour as well as in the studio. I am actually looking forward to not hearing any more fairy tale type obsessions with love, as what this band was slowly turning into with Jon. Benoit has the voice to sound like Yes and is wise enough to know that topics should be kept positive. I hate to say it, but it's really THAT simple. Trying to make things complicated will only spell disaster. Trying to live up to all of the different fans' expectations would also spell disaster. The best thing they can do is just to be true to themselves and produce what they feel comfortable with. Will it me a new masterpiece? Probably not. Will it be as bad as Open Your Eyes? Probably not. Should we keep an open mind and be ready to expect anything? Absolutely!

  4. NoLongerAFan wrote:

    05:08 PM, Dec 13, 2010

    False advertising.  This is not YES.  The recent changes and tours have destroyed YES as a band and as a brand.  Very sad for a once mighty prog group to become this group playing tiny halls and not even selling most of them out. So glad I saw them in 2004 when they were still great.

  5. baltoi wrote:

    06:41 AM, Dec 10, 2010

    Saw YES in this line up in November 2009  - they were absolutely brilliant, on stage for about 3 hours and Steve Howe was just amazing.  David B handled the vocals superbly..... I can't compare with other live shows as I hadn't seen them in my youth, but given that technology has advanced so much then the quality of the sound they produced was way superior to the original recordings.

    However on the strength of this we also went to see Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman on their own tour last month - to be honest Anderson wasn't very good  - if he's had voice problems then he's still not right, and Wakeman senior just looked bored.  

  6. YESKGB wrote:

    03:53 AM, Dec 10, 2010

    i've followed Yes since first seeing them in 72 during the Fragile tour. I had no problem with many of the personell changes. Banks and Kay were great in Yes and loved them in Flash as well. Sorry to see Bruford leave, but King Crimson reaped some excellent percussives due to Bill joining up with Fripp. King Crimson, talk about personell changes! Alan White filled the percussion duties quite nicely.  I was sorry to see Rick W leave the first time, but Pat Moraz was an excellent replacement via Refugee. Saw the Relayer tour and was quite impressed. Saw Yes a few years back with Anderson,Wakeman, Squire, Howe and White and they were a great live act once again. But now, am I getting old or what? It just doesn't seem the same to me without Jon Anderson. I'm sure that David is quite capable and Oliver is as well, but i think I'll just keep myself locked into the era from when I knew Yes to be Yes,  These depends diaper tours don't interest me. Don't mess with history. The future belongs to the young.  

  7. brdavidlandry wrote:

    07:35 PM, Dec 09, 2010

    Yes without Jon is only "Maybe" or "Perhaps" but definately not "Yes."

    I have been a Yes fan for decades and my first Yesshow was 1976.  I have seen all incarnations of the band live--at least 25 shows over the  years, including two with the current lineup.  

    I thank the current lineup for keeping the musc going but, for me, the Spirit of Yes is not there.  The music is being played but the ki, chi, prana, and life-force energy (Soul) of the band is not there.  I'm sure that the new lineup will produce a very good album and I wish them well and will probably buy it when it is released..  But as for me, unless the album is of the calibre of the gems of years past, I'll not go to see them live.  Instead, I'll use the money to buy one of the great soundboard boots from past Yestours that are currently  floating around.   And I'm definately looking forward to future releases from Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman (with Rabin?)  My ultimate hope, of course, is a reconciliation of Chris, Steve, Alan, Rick, and Jon.

  8. woffman1 wrote:

    07:27 PM, Dec 09, 2010

    Yes was my 1st Love. I saw The Close to the Edge Tour and every show after that - I will not see this mess using the name today. I have Tix to See Jon in Aspen in February. I can't wait.

    If Squire / Howe would have called this group something else, possibly hired a Female Vocalist (can you say Annie Haslam) I would have been very interested in seeing them. I have zero interest in Benoit and Oliver.

  9. l.holder wrote:

    04:08 PM, Dec 09, 2010

    I love YES, I have seen them live around 50 times.  Changes are a part of the band, but the changes have always been talented musicians that were able to bring something new to the band.  Benoit David does sound similar ro Jon Anderson, but he is from a cover band that they found on Youtube.  This is not what Yes has been about.  I tried to accept this and went to a couple of shows, but this is not what Yes is to me.  It is embarrasing to watch these talented people work with a karaoke singer.  What a shame, and what a humiliating way to go out for such an historically talented band.

  10. l.holder wrote:

    04:08 PM, Dec 09, 2010

    I love YES, I have seen them live around 50 times.  Changes are a part of the band, but the changes have always been talented musicians that were able to bring something new to the band.  Benoit David does sound similar ro Jon Anderson, but he is from a cover band that they found on Youtube.  This is not what Yes has been about.  I tried to accept this and went to a couple of shows, but this is not what Yes is to me.  It is embarrasing to watch these talented people work with a karaoke singer.  What a shame, and what a humiliating way to go out for such an historically talented band.

  11. meisterbaboo wrote:

    02:30 PM, Dec 09, 2010

    .........look forward to Johns upcoming solo tour!!!

  12. meisterbaboo wrote:

    02:28 PM, Dec 09, 2010

    Drama was a great disc, i regret not seeing that tour but to replace Anderson when he is still alive and singing is pathetic i'll pass........