Yes – Progressive Pop Festival 1970 (Virtuoso 141)

Progressive Pop Festival 1970 (Virtuoso 141)

Cologne Pop Festival, Sporthalle, Köln, Germany – April 3rd, 1970

(53:33):  Master Tape Edition:  No Opportunity Necessary No Experience Needed, Then, Every Little Thing, Astral Traveller, Everydays.   Remastered Edition:  No Opportunity Necessary No Experience Needed, Then, Every Little Thing, Astral Traveller, Everydays

The Progressive Pop Festival ’70 in Cologne, Germany brought together some of the best British prog rock groups of the era including Procol Harum, Soft Machine, Steamhammer, Colosseum, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Deep Purple (when they were still considered “progressive”).  On April 3rd, the first day of the two day event, Yes played a half hour long set drawn almost exclusively from their latest album Time And A Word, which they finished recording in January and would be released in June.

A previous release of this set can be found on Every Little Thing (Highland HL 419) sourced from a fair but listenable audience tape.  Progressive Rock Festival 1970 on Virtuoso focuses upon a brand new tape which recently surfaced.  This recording is sourced from microphones placed on stage by WDR FM and represents a tremendous upgrade to Highland.  

The Master Tape Edition is very broad and lively, focusing upon vocals and Peter Banks’ guitar.  The second half of the disc contains the Remastered Edition of the same tape which brings out the lower frequencies, giving prominence to the bass and some hiss removal.  

The set begins with the first two songs from the new album, “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” and “Then.” Both songs had been part of the live act for almost a year up to this point. The studio versions were heavily treated with the orchestra, but obviously the stage arrangements from before are played.

An eyewitness confirms that the sound system was poor for most of the bands and for Yes it even breaks down right at the beginning of “Then.” Bill Bruford keeps the momentum going while it is being fixed. Chris Squire leads the rest of the band back into the song. “Every Little Thing” is the only song from the first album played and includes short references to “Norwegian Wood” and ”Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring.”

“ Astral Traveller”, the newest original in the set, sounds adventurous, dynamic and inventive compared to the other songs. The short set ends with “Everydays,” also from the new album.

This tape is significant since, except for the April 7th BBC session for John Peel where they recorded “For Everyone,” this would be one of the last recordings with Banks. He would be fired two weeks after this show on April 18th after the show on Luton and replaced by Steve Howe (and the rest, as they say, is history).

Progressive Pop Festival 1970 is one of the most interesting and exciting Yes tapes to surface in a while.  Recordings of the first (of many) Yes lineups are rare, and even more rare are audience recordings in such enjoyable sound quality and is a worthy upgrade and replacement of the old Highland release.  

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