It is perhaps an inevitability that we now view Progeny, a diamond mine find from the concert vaults of prog-rock institution Yes, as a eulogy given the death two weekends ago of the band’s bassist and co-founder Chris Squire. Call it instead a case of coincidental timing.
Progeny, in fact, arrived a full month before Squire succumbed to leukemia at age 67. But it’s hard to imagine a more fitting parting shot for the one Yes member that served in every performing and recording lineup of the band through its 45-plus year history until this summer.
Progeny is a portrait of Yes in its prime. It brings to light recordings of seven full concerts by the band performed during the fall of 1972. At the time, Close to the Edge – still the band’s finest hour – had scaled the charts and the drum chair had switched from Bill Bruford to Alan White (who still serves in Yes today). The concerts were discovered as a search commenced for the master tapes of Yes’ studio recordings for a remastering and reissuing project.
The full concert sets are available as a massive 14 disc boxed set titled Progeny: Seven from Seventy Two. For more modest budgets, there is the vastly more affordable (about $18) double disc version, Progeny: Highlights from Seventy Two. The latter is being reviewed here.
What we hear throughout the double-disc edition, which replicates a typical concert by Yes at the time, is one of the finest rosters of the band (Squire, White, vocalist Jon Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Rick Wakeman) going for broke. You hear the abandon within with hammering introduction to Heart of the Sunrise and again as the song eases off into melodic cool. Squire is in the heat of it all, too, driving the momentum in tandem with Howe and White and luxuriating under the more symphonic grace of Anderson and Wakeman.
Most prog bands are known best for their studio work, with Yes being no exception. But this lineup nonetheless revels in the youthful gusto that ignites Progeny readings of Close to the Edge’s 18 minute title suite, the radio hit Roundabout and what stands as possibly the band’s most powerful composition, Yours is No Disgrace.
It should be noted that Progeny does not duplicate any recordings from the band’s 1973 live album Yessongs. But the sonic clarity of Progeny greatly improves on the former collection. This is the sound of ‘70s prog cut at that rare instance when commercial popularity and artistic vision met. It’s also serves, quite unintentionally, as a magnificent career coda to one of the music’s most beloved heroes.