When it comes to classic rock bands with revolving lineups of musicians, there aren’t many more notable than Yes. That said, during the course of the prog-rock group’s history, keyboardist Rick Wakeman - a member of the group for five stretches between 1971 and 2004 - is one of the group's most significant players. Here are five tracks from Yes' first decade that truly spotlight the greatness of Wakeman’s skills on the keys.
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“Heart of the Sunrise” (Fragile, 1971): There’s no better way to kick off this list than the song that was being rehearsed when Wakeman initially joined Yes. In an interview, Chris Squire underlined the importance of Wakeman’s addition, saying that the session for the song “marked the first real appearance of the Mellotron and the Moog – adding the flavor of those instruments to a piece we’d basically already worked out.”
“Siberian Khatru” (Close to the Edge, 1972): A song which developed from an idea that singer Jon Anderson began on an acoustic guitar, this rocker expanded considerably in the studio, including the addition of a harpsichord solo by Wakeman which resulted in him receiving a writing credit on the track.
"The Remembering (High the Memory)" (Tales from Topographic Oceans, 1973): While Wakeman has repeatedly gone on record as being less of a fan of this album than the other members of Yes, Anderson later declared the solo on this song to rank among Wakeman’s best works.
“Awaken” (Going for the One, 1977): This track remains right up there with “Heart of the Sunrise” as a song that Wakeman considers to be a must-play in concert. As he said in an interview with News from the Edge, “I just think ‘Awaken’ is a beautifully structured piece of music and is very moving. It always makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I'm listening to it.”
“Madrigal” (Tormato, 1978): Once again Wakeman returns to a Thomas Goff harpsichord, the same instrument he utilized in for “Siberian Khatru,” this time because Anderson had suggested to him that they write a madrigal. Clearly, the creativity on display within the song itself did not extend to the title, not that we’re complaining.