With an aggressive promotional campaign laying claim to the Yes legacy, and implicitly dismissing the current owners of that name, Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman have poured gasoline on the long-rumbling question of legitimacy and who counts as Yes. Three famous past members of the band, including a founding member, looks impressive when the continuity-Yes boast only two famous members and no co-founders.
Not that I believe the question can be answered with simple maths. I'm up for anything and look forward to music by both bands. Indeed, I think the entire question is ultimately fruitless. But that isn't going to stop it dominating fan discourse!
So, if you will indulge me, I thought it would be interesting to look at this argument in some different ways. This is not to try to answer the question, but to discuss what it means. I'd like to start with asking which band, ARW or official Yes, have most claim over the back catalogue.
Yes, Time and a Word: while Yes are playing "Time and a Word" live and Howe has a connection to the album he toured behind when he first joined the band, given ARW have Anderson on these albums and Yes have no-one, two wins to ARW.
The Yes Album: But with Howe joining, it's now one all when it comes to the line-up. Still, The Yes Album is more Anderson's album than Howe's, so I'm going to call this for ARW as well.
Fragile, Close to the Edge: With Wakeman joining, it's now 2-1 to ARW, although the tour for Close to the Edge brings us back to two all.
Tales from Topographic Oceans: Two people from ARW to two people from Yes, Anderson and Howe the two chief architects of the project. A draw.
Relayer: With Wakeman gone, this is the current Yes's first win, although there's an argument that side A should go to ARW and side B to Yes.
Going for the One, Tormato: But with Wakeman back, I'll call these two draws.
Drama: From 2-2 to 3-0. Current Yes is Drama Yes.
90125, Big Generator and (to take it out of order) Talk: But the Yes line-up merry-go-round keeps turning and YesWest saw Anderson and Rabin versus White. Another three albums for ARW.
ABWH: The last contender for the Yes name, a 2-1 advantage wins it for ARW.
Union: Here is an album with three members of ARW and three members of Yes on it, although Sherwood's only on one track, White and Rabin only a handful but White with no writing credits, Howe and Wakeman about tied for their contributions, and Anderson the dominant personality, so I'll give this to ARW.
Keys to Ascension, Keys to Ascension 2: In terms of performers, it's 2-2 again, but with Sherwood producing, that tips the balance in Yes's favour on Keys to Ascension 2. I'll call Keys to Ascension a draw: Sherwood was just mixing and Anderson is more dominant in the writing of the music.
Open Your Eyes, The Ladder: With Wakeman gone and Sherwood joining fully, it's Howe/Sherwood/White versus Anderson. Yes win.
Magnification: Even with Sherwood gone, Yes retain a 2-1 advantage. Although we could call The Ultimate Yes bonus disc a draw.
Fly from Here, Heaven & Earth: Obvious.
So, tallying that up:
ARW: Yes, Time and a Word, The Yes Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge, 90125, Big Generator, ABWH, Union, Talk (9 albums + ABWH)
Yes: Relayer, Drama, Keys to Ascension 2, Open Your Eyes, The Ladder, Magnification, Fly from Here, Heaven & Earth (8 albums)
draw: Tales from Topographic Oceans, Going for the One, Tormato, Keys to Ascension, The Ultimate Yes bonus disc (3 full albums and 2 part-albums)
ARW are ahead on number of albums, and Yes's album wins tend to be later and less popular releases. You can see why ARW and many fans feel they have a strong claim on the identity.
Then again, the thing about ARW is that the three never recorded together in Yes. There isn't a single Yes recording with all three of ARW and, thus, where they were the majority of the band at the time. Then again, that's true for current-Yes when it comes to any of the 1970s recordings. Neither band does better than 40% of any 1970s Yes line-up. Although Yes can say that their current members were a majority of the band that did Drama, Open Your Eyes, Fly from Here and Heaven & Earth.
Of course, these are only some ways of looking at it. Official Yes do better if you consider Yessongs and Yesshows. The band with the name have the direct line of descent, and Chris Squire's blessing. They also have longevity in the band on their side. The four people who have been in Yes for the longest time have been Squire, White, Anderson and Howe, in that order I think... it's close and I haven't checked the maths there. Downes' second period in the band is now longer than any stint Wakeman did in the band, and that may be true for Davison's tenure too.
What of these things matter? Or do none of them matter? If ARW blow us away with their album and tour, or conversely if they flop, that renders other distinctions moot.
What do you think? Comments below if anyone wants to wade in...