Yes – The 15th NJF Festival At Reading On 8/23/75 (Highland HL048/49#Y10)

The 15th NJF Festival At Reading On 8/23/75 (Highland HL048/49#Y10)

The 15th NJF Festival at Reading, Reading, England –  August 23 – 1975

Disc 1 (64:50):  Firebird suite, Sound Chaser, Close To The edge, And You And I, High Vibration, The Gates Of Delirium

Disc 2 (50:56) : Your Move, Leaves Of Green, Moraz solo, Ritual, Roundabout

After touring for months in a most successful year Yes, a month after their summer tour of the US, ended their live appearances with a long set at the The Fifteenth National Jazz, Blues and Rock Festival held between August 22-24th 1975.   This particular Reading Festival line up was massive, featuring Alberto Y Los Trios Paranois, Joan Armatrading, Babe Ruth, Caravan, Hawkwind, Heavy Metal Kids, Judas Priest, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Supertramp, Wishbone Ash, and Lou Reed who never bothered showing up.

Yes played a big event earlier in the year when they appeared before 35,000 in Stoke on May 17th.  The constant rain forced them to curtail their set but at Reading, contending with the rain and, as some people remember, a “rain of cans and bottles after every act” (something of a festival tradition), the band nevertheless don’t cut their set short too much but are on stage for close to two hours.  Accounts vary about the attendance but they played before an estimated 100,000 people this night.  

Highland are the first and only label to commercially release the only tape source in circulation for this show.  It is a poor to fair recording.  There is significant distortion and drop-outs in the first couple of minutes but does clear up a bit during the course of the show.  There are cuts between several songs and one at 12:31 in “Gates Of Delirium” chopping out a big part since it goes from the battle section into “Soon.”

They play close to the standard set of the 1975 Relayer tour, opening with “Sound Chaser” followed by “Close To The Edge.”  “To Be Over,” which was a constant in the set list since they started touring for Relayer the previous November, is dropped, never to return.  “And You And I” is played and after they play the Close To The Edge track Anderson says, “Thank you so much. Looks like rain. That’s, that’s that’s water. This for everybody. From where? From Stroke? This is for the rain.” 

The band proceed to play “High Vibration,” the early incarnation of what would be the first part to “Awaken” recorded two years later.  It made its stage debut the previous month on July 21st in Philadelphia.  But whereas the Philly version is more of an impromptu doodle, Reading is much more developed.  Anderson sings the opening lines:  “High vibration go on / to the sun, oh let my heart dreaming / past a mortal as me. / Where can I be?”  And scats the rest.  The rest of the band play the same melody that is recorded for Going For The One but in a different key. 

One of the legendary discussions in Yes mythology is the extent of Patrick Moraz’ participation on this track.  It is evident that this is the first new piece of music the band worked on after the release of Relayer and the version played on this night is close enough to the final recorded version to support the claim that Moraz deserves some credit in its development.  Nevertheless it is a magnificent, magical moment in the overall festival to hear Yes responding musically to the elements. 

The latter half of the set is restful with “Leaves Of Green” from “The Ancient” being played solo as is “Long Distance Runaround.”  Anderson jokes about the rain saying “I think I’ll just put my trunks on” and “I’m just going to run a diving board and everything” during the acoustic set.  The show ends with a long version of “Ritual” and “Roundabout” as the only encore.  Overall, this is one of the earliest releases by Highland (issued in 1997) and is probably not available now.  It is rewarding to those who stay with the tape and who venture past the mediocre sound quality.  This is Yes at one of their artistic and commercial peaks and is a fantastic document to listen to. 

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