It May Be Roundabout, But Is It Yes?

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.

Photo: Owen Sweeney /
Pier Six Pavilion, Baltimore, Md.

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.