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Best Yes Albums: All 23 Studio Releases, Ranked, Reviewed
List & Guides

Best Yes Albums: All 23 Studio Releases, Ranked, Reviewed

Seminal prog-rock classics, the best Yes albums showcase the incredible musicianship at the heart of the group’s success.

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From 70s masterclasses that helped define the progressive-rock genre to new-wave-era dalliances in commercial arena-rock, the best Yes albums make for a mesmerising treasure trove of ambitious compositions and virtuosic performances. Get ready to take an adventure through awe-inspiring atmospheres and towering epics as we rank and review all 23 studio albums in Yes’ discography, providing a comprehensive guide to the works of one of prog-rock’s most influential and enduring bands.

Listen to the best of Yes here, and check out the best Yes albums, below.

23: ‘Open Your Eyes’ (1997)

Originally going by the working title of “Universal Garden”, Open Your Eyes began as a joint project between bassist Chris Squire and keyboardist Billy Sherwood, before Jon Anderson, Steve Howe and Alan White came along and helped the duo achieve their vision. “All of the tracks are written by us,” Sherwood later said. “I thought that the best way to do it would be to get everyone’s involvement, and have everyone participate.” Blending the commercial-mindedness of 1987’s Big Generator with the Panglossian optimism of 1991’s Union, Open Your Eyes came to fruition remarkably quickly and remains an organic and down-to-earth entry among the best Yes albums.

Must hear: New State Of Mind

22: ‘Heaven And Earth’ (2014)

Produced by Roy Thomas Baker, Yes’ 21st album, Heaven And Earth, marked Glass Hammer vocalist Jon Davison’s first studio work as the band’s lead singer. “I got to know them really well, and their composing styles and patterns and pace,” Davison said in an interview with The Prog Report. “I was really quite comfortable with it, especially because we started one-on-one.” Peaking at No.20 in the UK, Heaven And Earth was the band’s highest-charting release since 1994’s Talk, and saw the group infuse their sound with sonic freshness and a gutsy feel. Sadly, however, it would prove to be the last Yes album to feature original bassist Chris Squire, who died a year after the record’s release.

Must hear: Believe Again

21: ‘Union’ (1991)

Released in April 1991, Union saw Yes reinvent themselves as an eight-piece outfit, uniting members from across multiple eras in a bold experiment in collective chemistry. Coming off the back of the side project Anderson Wakeman Bruford Howe, the album originally started as a mooted AWBH sequel before 90125-era members such as guitarist Trevor Rabin and keyboardist Tony Kaye were invited to take part. “We started making a second ABWH album,” drummer Bill Bruford said. “After about a week it turned into a Yes album.” Bristling with creative ideas and sprawling ambition, Union is perhaps best remembered for spawning the hugely successful Union Tour of North America, Europe and Asia, which saw arguably the most unique of all Yes line-ups take to the stage in an Avengers-style spirit of world-beating alchemy.

Must hear: Lift Me Up

20: ‘The Quest’ (2021)

Following the tragic death of original bassist Chris Squire, Yes’ 22nd studio album, The Quest, proved that the band’s creative spirit remained undimmed. With Billy Sherwood now on bass, the album majestically blended the vintage prog grandeur of the best Yes albums with sleeker modern flourishes on highlights such as The Ice Bridge and Leave Well Alone. “There [was a clear motivation to] this album: a drive, an enthusiasm,” guitarist Steve Howe said in an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock. “The biggest word is… happiness. I didn’t want to do another album that wasn’t happy.” Finding the band revivified, The Quest was just the tonic Yes fans needed to overcome the grief of Squire’s passing. Peaking at No.20 in the UK, it had a remediating effect in the aftermath of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Must hear: The Ice Bridge

19: ‘Fly From Here’ (2011)

The only Yes album to feature Canadian singer Benoît David, Fly From Here was produced by Trevor Horn and saw the group adjusting to life without the band’s original frontman, Jon Anderson. “The majority of fans are still very much behind us,” keyboardist Geoff Downes told Prog magazine after the album was released. “It’s nice that they’re enjoying Benoît as a vocalist now. He’s made a difference, and it’s an album where he’s the main man, so that helps the way people perceive the band.” With soaring ambition, Fly From Here’s five-part title track saw Yes reach for the magnificence of their pioneering 70s work with a sweeping 20-minute epic. So pleased were they with the results that, in 2018, Horn reimagined the album as Fly From Here: Return Trip, making the record a stellar late-career recalibration that has many moments of windborne fancy.

Must hear: Fly From Here, Pt I: We Can Fly

18: ‘Mirror To The Sky’ (2023)

Gracefully fusing their prog-leaning initiative with contemporary electronic textures, Mirror To The Sky found Yes adapting to a new line-up after the death of drummer Alan White. With artwork designed by longtime Yes illustrator Roger Dean, Mirror To The Sky has all the philosophical and ethereal qualities of Yes classics of yesteryear, proving that, more than half a century into their career, the band remained as captivating as ever. “We’ve got all the textual qualities right,” guitarist Steve Howe said in an interview with The Strange Brew. “But we don’t want to lose that flame and we want to keep the emotion and the excitement that we’ve got in that. So that’s all part of the Yes thing.”

Must hear: Cut From The Stars

17: ‘Talk’ (1994)

Released in March 1994, Yes’ 14th studio album, Talk, saw the band return to their 90125-era line-up, only this time with a more cinematic sheen. Crediting the album as being pivotal in his decision to move into scoring film soundtracks, guitarist Trevor Rabin called Talk “a journey into the unknown” that took the band into the realm of digital production. “It was done on a computer,” drummer Alan White said. “All of the drums were played ‘live’, but it was very experimental. It was also one of the most innovative albums the band has ever made, with some great pieces of music.” With an edgier, modern rock vibe, Talk was an intriguing stylistic detour among the best Yes albums, showcasing the group’s chameleonic versatility, with highlights such as The Calling and Endless Dream keeping one foot in their proggier past while boldly embracing the future.

Must hear: The Calling

16: ‘Magnification’ (2001)

With Igor Khoroshev’s departure leaving them seeking a new keyboardist ahead of the Magnification recording sessions, Yes decided to revisit the orchestral approach to composing that they had previously explored on 1970’s Time And A Word. “Yes music really does have a style all of its own and given the chance it can be well orchestrated,” Jon Anderson later said, adding that the album “gave a lot of people an indication of the depths of our style”. A potent reminder of the group’s symphonic-rock credentials, Magnification featured Yes at their most melodically resplendent and harmonically sumptuous on majestic pieces such as the title track. As the final album the group would record with Anderson, it sits among the best Yes albums to place the band’s classicist credentials under the microscope, underscoring the group’s enduring capacity for creating intricate arrangements.

Must hear: Magnification

15: ‘Big Generator’ (1987)

As the follow-up to Yes’ hugely successful 1983 album, 90125, Big Generator was released in September 1987 and continued to embrace sleek 80s production values. With songs such as Love Will Find A Way peaking at No.30 on the US Hot 100, the album proved that the four-year gap between releases had done little to eradicate the group’s commercial reawakening. “Big Generator was a double-platinum album,” bassist Chris Squire said, before noting that the album’s second single, The Rhythm Of Love, was “the No.2 most-played track on the radio in 1987”. By adapting to contemporary trends, guitarist Trevor Rabin was on particularly fine form, combining a synth-rock sensibility with the intricate arrangements Yes fans craved, resulting in a record that finds a welcome place among the best Yes albums. “I actually thought in a lot of ways it was the best album I did with the band – in part,” Rabin later admitted.

Must hear: Love Will Find A Way

14: ‘Tormato’ (1978)

With its tremendously eclectic blend of styles, the 1978 album Tormato is often unfairly overlooked by both fans and critics, possibly because it was the Yes last album to feature singer Jon Anderson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman before they left the group in 1980. Worthy of revisiting, Tormato’s restless hodge-podge of creative ideas finds the band in a glorious state of transition. “If I could be given one album to remix and to get the guys to add a couple of extra bits to, it would be that one,” said Wakeman. “If ever an album had unfulfilled potential it was Tormato.” From the driving Future Times/Rejoice to the whimsical Madrigal, Tormato ranks among the best Yes albums for seeing the quintet push their sound in fascinating new directions while retaining their signature prog-rock ambition. And it boasts one of the best Hipgnosis album covers of all time, too

Must hear: Future Times/Rejoice

13: ‘Keys To Ascension 2’ (1997)

With Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman and Alan White re-forming the Tormato line-up for the 1996 album Keys To Ascension, 1997’s Keys To Ascension 2 continued to address some unfinished business. After revisiting the group’s 70s canon across a set of live recordings, the second half of the album gifts fans with some new studio tracks, with particular highlights being the bass-heavy Foot Prints and the psychoactive stomp of Mind Drive. “It has been said that Mind Drive is the best thing we’ve done since the 70s,” Anderson later said. Not only breathing new life into their cherished classic material but also demonstrating their ability to recapture the erratic prog playfulness of their youth, Keys To Ascension 2 is as timeless as any entry among the best Yes albums.

Must hear: Mind Drive

12: ‘The Ladder’ (1999)

Standing out among the best Yes albums for being a remarkably strong return to the group’s “classic” sound, The Ladder was released just before the turn of the millennium and found the band reconnecting with their cosmic, metaphysical roots. Full of optimism, the album went on to peak at No.36 in the UK, with epics such as Homeworld (The Ladder) and New Language recapturing the group’s symphonic prog spirit through soul-stirring meditations inspired by new-age philosophy. “We now wanted to make an album that would be the crowning glory of the 30 years of the band’s history,” Jon Anderson later said. “We wanted everyone to say, ‘We’re so happy they stuck it out otherwise this album would never have materialised.’” Recorded with producer Bruce Fairburn, who sadly died before the record was completed, The Ladder saw Yes close out the decade on a high.

Must hear: Homeworld (The Ladder)

11: ‘Keys To Ascension’ (1996)

The much-anticipated return of the “classic” Yes line-up of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman and Alan White in 1996 saw the legendary prog-rock band at their passionate, virtuosic best. A part-live, part-studio album, Keys To Ascension found the group reinvigorating some of their beloved epics with new-found energy and spirit, while new material such as Be The One and Then, That Is gave numerous flashes of Yes’ incomparable instrumental prowess. “I think it’s a very valid piece of music for the end of the century,” Anderson later said of Keys To Ascension. “Pieces like That, That Is are modern music and as valid as anything we have ever done.” Entering the UK Top 50, Keys To Ascension stands among the best Yes albums for recapturing the magic of the group’s mid-70s heyday.

Must hear: That, That Is

10: ‘90125’ (1983)

With the addition of guitarist Trevor Rabin and the return of singer Jon Anderson, Yes ingeniously reinvented themselves on 90125. Expanding their sonic palette with contemporary synth sounds while retaining their virtuosic prog DNA, the single Owner Of A Lonely Heart would go on to peak at No.1 in the US, becoming far and away the most successful hit of Yes’ career. “90125 was our biggest album ever!” Chris Squire once exclaimed. “It sold seven or eight million copies. I thought it was amazing. We were given a rebirth.” As a polished amalgamation of prog complexity and new-wave flair, 90125 stands among the best Yes albums thanks to the way it successfully introduced the group to the MTV generation while also re-establishing its creators as one of the biggest bands in the world.

Must hear: Owner Of A Lonely Heart

9: ‘Yes’ (1969)

Setting the template for their era-defining prog-rock sound, Yes’ self-titled debut album cleverly balanced psychedelic and hard-rock influences with an album-oriented approach that instantly established the group as “ones to watch” upon its release in July 1969. “At that time, there was an internal decision that we wouldn’t specifically try for singles,” Jon Anderson has admitted. “We wanted to formulate some style of music and package it as an album. That gives you a better chance of staying around.” With Chris Squire’s gritty bass work and Tony Kaye’s hyperactive organ runs offering flashes of the group’s future prog-rock brilliance, standout tracks such as the trippy Beyond And Before and the sinuous closer Survival provided evidence of a group about to blossom into one of the wildest orchids of the prog-rock garden.

Must hear: Survival

8: ‘Time And A Word’ (1970)

Finding Yes in a fascinating state of transition, 1970’s Time And A Word marked the point where the group truly began to assert themselves as prog-rock pioneers. “In some ways, it was kind of an adventure really,” Jon Anderson later said. Inspired by the symphonic sweep of classical music, the band enlisted session musicians to give the album’s songs a grand and orchestral feel, with opener No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed playfully riffing on the theme tune from the 1958 Western movie The Big Country. With mystical lyrics and exploratory arrangements on songs such as Then and the spectacular title track, Time And A Word remains an intriguing evolutionary step that stands the test of time as one of the best Yes albums.

Must hear: Time And A Word

7: ‘Drama’ (1980)

Proving that Yes could still forge ahead with confidence despite seismic personnel changes, 1980’s Drama saw the group adapting to the new wave era following the departures of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman. Having made their name as art-pop hitmakers The Buggles, Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes were enlisted to provide dynamic vocals and inventive keys, respectively, giving the prog-rock legends a fresh burst of energy on songs such as Machine Messiah and Tempus Fugit. Though edgier and more aggressive than what had gone before, Drama still retained Yes’ trademark grandiosity. “The album was a lot more song-orientated and helped shift the band towards a new generation of fans,” Downes said. “They showed we weren’t just locked in the 70s stuff.” Although it tends to get overlooked on account of Jon Anderson’s absence, there’s no denying that Drama is one of the best Yes albums for radically modernising the group’s sound and paving the way for their contemporary reinvention on 90125.

Must hear: Tempus Fugit

6: ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’ (1973)

Taking listeners on an immersive, metaphysical journey, Tales From Topographic Oceans was an unabashedly ambitious double album that is fondly regarded by Yes fans as a magnum opus of spiritual discovery. “We had so much space on that album that we were able to explore things,” guitarist Steve Howe said, “which I think was tremendously good for us.” With extended suites overflowing with transcendent ideas that saw singer Jon Anderson draw upon Hindu mysticism for inspiration, Tales From Topographic Oceans would go on to sell more than 500,000 copies in the US. Not only showcasing Yes’ jaw-dropping instrumental prowess, the album also pushed the limits of prog-rock with a lengthy and conceptual tone poem of seemingly unfathomable depth.

Must hear: The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn)

5: Going For The One (1977)

Boasting a sleek production style and packed with memorable guitar hooks, Going For The One presented Yes fans with a more streamlined version of the band following the return of keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Housed in a geometry-inspired album cover designed by Hipgnosis that hinted at a less fantastical and more futuristic outlook, the collections was as thrillingly intricate as any of the best Yes albums to date, with hits such as Wonderous Stories fusing the group’s signature complexity with an irresistible pop sensibility. “I think the greatest piece of music Yes ever produced was Awaken from Going For The One,” Wakeman later said, highlighting how the album remains an eminently accessible artistic triumph. “It broke every barrier and we did that way back in 1977.”

Must hear: Awaken

4: ‘Relayer’ (1974)

With Rick Wakeman departing and new keyboardist Patrick Moraz joining the band, Yes’ 1974 album, Relayer, found the group at their exploratory peak. “We started to get a bit angular and sharp,” guitarist Steve Howe said. “We were making ferocious, frightening sounds.” From the moment its labyrinthine 21-minute opener, Gates Of Delirium, gives way to the sublime melody of Soon, it’s clear that Relayer ranks among the best Yes albums, with folk and baroque elements colliding on the prog-rock battlefield in a noisy mesh of sonic warfare. Wonderfully showcasing the group’s musical dexterity, the album’s shorter pieces, such as Sound Chaser, are equally explosive, adding concise bursts of innovation to make Relayer an essential prog opus well worth seeking out.

Must hear: The Gates Of Delirium

3: ‘The Yes Album’ (1971)

Graced with the first appearances on a Yes record of jazz-influenced guitarist Steve Howe, the aptly named The Yes Album was a breakthrough release that saw the band cement their unique prog-rock sound and begin to forge what would soon be regarded as their classic line-up. Iconic tracks such as the anti-war anthem Yours Is No Disgrace and the thunderous Starship Trooper resonated strongly with the post-hippie cognoscenti, resulting in The Yes Album selling over one million copies in the US alone. “I think we came up with that title because it felt like the first real Yes album,” Jon Anderson later said. “I got stronger as we got more into the music because I realised it was damned good. I didn’t care who didn’t like it. It was great music.” A masterclass in fearless originality and musical virtuosity, The Yes Album established the group as progressive-rock trailblazers.

Must hear: Starship Trooper

2: ‘Fragile’ (1971)

Thanks to the arrival of new keyboardist Rick Wakeman, Yes closed out 1971 in truly epic style with Fragile, a seminal prog classic that found the group reaching unprecedented creative heights. Seamlessly fusing complex musicality with infectious melodies, highlights such as Heart Of The Sunrise showcased Yes’ proficiency for navigating mind-boggling time signatures and odd tempo shifts, while the album’s breakout hit, Roundabout, peaked at No.13 in the US, establishing itself as one of the best Yes songs of the era. “It was just all wonderfully new and exciting, and the record company left us alone because we were selling bucket-loads of records,” Wakeman later joked. “They didn’t understand a word of it!” Thanks to Wakeman’s majestic keyboards and Steve Howe’s dazzling guitars, Fragile went on to sell over two million copies in US, and is still cherished today as one of the best Yes albums of all time.

Must hear: Roundabout

1: ‘Close To The Edge’ (1972)

A quintessential Yes album that showcases the group’s unparalleled musical virtuosity and boundless creativity, Close To The Edge is the group’s inarguable masterpiece. The epic, 18-minute title track is a tour de force, seamlessly blending Steve Howe’s guitar wizardry, Chris Squire’s spellbinding bass work and drummer Bill Bruford’s bewitching grooves, while Jon Anderson’s philosophical lyrics and heavenly voice is truly hypnotic. “There’s a lot of good music on that album, good arranging, good melodies,” Squire later said. “We were pioneering something and we pulled it off.” As an ambitious, mind-bending magnum opus that defined progressive rock’s pioneering spirit, Close To The Edge remains the band’s crowning achievement, and more than deserves to top this list of the best Yes albums.

Must hear: Close To The Edge

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