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£20.99

Rock - Released May 29, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

A new Yes box is like a new Star Trek film. The same core group will buy it/see it whether it's crap or not, resulting in an endless cycle of repackaging that exploits the fans who made the franchises so popular in the first place. Yes have always seemed more of an industry than a band, so it comes as no surprise that their deeply rooted PR machine has dug up another collection of "previously unreleased gems," wrapped it in one of Roger Dean's hippie/sci-fi landscapes, and slapped on an exhaustive booklet of play-by-play anecdotes from fans and fellow musicians. Anyone who has followed the group's prolific history knows that its members have splintered and regrouped so many times that their side projects alone demand the box treatment. The Word Is Live collects performances caught between 1970-1988 -- the years 1972-1975, despite boasting the group's most lauded roster, seem to have never existed here. The band's 2003 reunion tour is also skipped over, focusing instead on the fragmented Big Generator lineup of the late '80s. Rabid fans will no doubt empty their wallets for this admittedly attractive box, but the jury's out on whether or not they'll play it more than once. ~ James Christopher Monger
£45.99

Rock - Released August 25, 2009 | Rhino - Elektra

Yes already had a box set in the first great rush of rock boxes in the late '80s/early '90s. Although it was pretty good, YesYears felt like it was lacking something -- it either needed more rarities, or it needed to tell the story better. Rhino's 2002 box set In a Word takes the latter approach, choosing to present the band's history (including selections from Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe) in a logical, leisurely way over five discs, sequencing them like one long, cohesive album. The sound is better than YesYears, but not drastically better than the Atlantic reissues of the mid-'90s. There are some rarities, but not many, and nothing of real note to anybody outside of the devoted collector. Its true strength is that it tells the story exceedingly well, with all the chart and radio hits accounted for, along with significant album tracks from their baroque early recordings to their records from the '90s. True, you do need to have a deep interest in Yes to get this -- and, if you do, you'll likely have much of this material already -- but if all you want is one comprehensive Yes album in your collection, this suits the bill. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine