Initially Yes was simply a pop group that got very, very ambitious. Their first two albums have some R&B traces, thanks to the more basic styles of guitarist Peter Banks and keyboardist Tony Kaye, who both got weeded out early. Yet the delicate, almost feminine tones of singer Jon Anderson proved an early trademark, along with the jazz leanings of the rhythm section (bassist Chris Squire and drummer Bill Bruford, replaced in 1972 by the heavier-hitting Alan White). With the arrival of guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, Yes was free to explore the rock-symphony approach they aspired to.
Anderson rebelled and pulled in the other ex-members for a competing band, clumsily billed as Anderson, Wakeman, Bruford, Howe--but that didn't work either, thanks to overdone production and spotty material. The nadir came when some unfinished AWBH demos were cobbled together with some Rabin outtakes as a Yes album, Union; an eight-man lineup cashed in with a reunion tour. The closest thing to a real comeback happened when the Topographic Oceans lineup reunited in 1996 for Keys To Ascension, a live album of great Yes obscurities, plus a surprisingly solid studio section (two new songs totaling 30 minutes, their first long suites in years). A finished studio follow-up album was said to be even better; yet it was shelved in 1997 when Wakeman left the band again. The remaining diehard Yes fans are undoubtedly used to such ups and downs by now.