MVD Visual // 2004 // 104 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // June 11th, 2011
These are the wonderous stories of Yes
Not hardly. This is easily the worst of the three DVDs Yes have put together to commemorate their history. Yesyears, originally filmed in 1991, has the most comprehensive history of the band through the early Nineties and was full of archival footage, interviews with most of the major band members who have played with the band over the years, and most of the important stories, warts and all. The Classic Artists: Yes DVD lacked much archival footage or music, but did have no shortage of interviews and stories from the band all the way through to the new millennium. Yesspeak, by contrast, focuses narrowly on the band's 2003 tour and one particular lineup. Moreover, it glosses over anything remotely contentious and instead offers little more than promotional fluff, padded out to almost three hours. It's not painful to watch (well, musically, at least), but it's not noteworthy, either.
As Judge Bill Gibron points out in his review of the original issue of this DVD, the problem here is that there's simply too much missing. In Yesspeak, the only interviewees are singer Jon Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and drummer Alan White. There is no mention of founding drummer Bill Bruford, who was an integral part of Yes's three biggest and most influential albums of the Seventies: The Yes Album (1971), Fragile, and Close to the Edge (both 1972). Missing is any significant reference to producer Trevor Horn, who joined the band as lead singer for the album Drama (1980) and later produced the band's most commercially successful albums, 90125 (1983) and Big Generator (1987). Also ignored is guitarist Trevor Rabin, who wrote and sang Yes's biggest hit single of all time, "Owner of a Lonely Heart." These are not small omissions and their absence is all the more glaring when you realize what the DVD does include in their place: pleasant and forgettable blather.
Oh, sure, Yesspeak is ostensibly intended as a history of Yes. Unfortunately, the DVD contains almost no archival footage. The bulk of the musical content is taken from the band's performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2003 (captured on the Yes: Live at Montreux 2003 DVD) and two concerts at Birmingham and the Glastonbury Festival in England (both of which are available in their entirety on the Yes: The New Director's Cut DVD). If you already have those DVDs, then the only reason to spring for this one is for the interviews and narration. As you might expect, those are hardly worth it. The narration, by Who singer Roger Daltrey, ranges from the insipid to the inane and is too often content to recycle the most hackneyed clichés ("A band of musical originals more popular than ever!"). The interviews are no more revealing. The band members talk in the most general terms about their music and their lives, but either because they aren't pressed or don't care to, they never cut beneath the surface. Conflicts are glossed over, controversies are ignored, and anything that doesn't fit the narrative that this is the only lineup of Yes that matters is conveniently left out. The battles over Tales From Topographic Oceans, the 1973 album that was so ambitious and bloated that it alienated many fans and led to Wakeman's original departure from the band, are reduced to one or two soundbites. The financial and artistic brawls that led to the dissolution of this lineup of Yes in the late Seventies (they would not reunite in this form until 1991) are scarcely mentioned. Instead, what the DVD does have is some cute behind-the-scenes footage, some good-natured banter, and some nice stories. In other words, it's nothing that any diehard Yes fan hasn't already seen and heard many times and nothing that any newcomer to Yes would find interesting or illuminating.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Yesspeak is possibly one of the most technically frustrating DVDs ever released. The sound mix is especially botched. The background music (both DTS and Dolby) is mixed way too loud and the narration and interviews are both mixed way too soft, so the music drowns out the interviews for most of the DVD. You'll have to rely on subtitles to understand what's being said. The anamorphic widescreen transfer isn't much better. It looks washed out in spots, murky in others. The only extra are songs taken from the live performances, mixed in 5.1 surround and accompanied by slide shows of the band performing. It's utterly pointless, since fans will already have these songs on the individual performance DVDs.
There's no reason, then, to go out of your way for Yesspeak. Yesyears is the definitive history of Yes's most classic era, especially since it's loaded with plenty of great footage and music, and is worth seeing for both fans and newcomers. Classic Artists isn't quite as revelatory but it does have moments of honesty and candor that make it worth a look. Yesspeak, by contrast, is neither revealing nor entertaining, and even the most devout Yes fans will find that it doesn't merit repeated viewings. Fans who bought the previous 2004 issue of Yesspeak should note that this has the exact same content as that release, only with slightly different disc and cover art. It's just added confirmation that this DVD is ultimately rather pointless.
Guilty of adding nothing of value to the Yes catalog.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Concert