Formation and breakthrough (1968–1971)
The band's logotype used since 1972 designed by artist Roger Dean
In 1967, bassist Chris Squire formed the rock band Mabel Greer's Toyshop, with singer and guitarist Clive Bayley, drummer Bob Hagger, and guitarist Peter Banks. They played at the Marquee Club in Soho, London where Jack Barrie, owner of the nearby La Chasse club, saw them perform. "There was nothing outstanding about them", he recalled, "the musicianship was very good but it was obvious they weren't going anywhere". Barrie introduced Squire to singer Jon Anderson, a worker at the bar in La Chasse, who found they shared interests in Simon & Garfunkel and harmony singing. That evening at Squire's house they wrote "Sweetness," which was included on the first Yes album. Meanwhile, Banks had left Mabel Greer's Toyshop to join Neat Change, but he was dismissed by this group on 7 April 1968. In June 1968, Hagger was replaced in the nascent Yes by Bill Bruford, who had placed an advertisement in Melody Maker, and Banks was recalled by Squire, replacing Bayley as guitarist. Finally, the classically trained organist and pianist Tony Kaye, of Johnny Taylor's Star Combo and the Federals, became the keyboardist and the fifth member. The newborn band rehearsed in the basement of The Lucky Horseshoe cafe on Shaftesbury Avenue between 10 June and 9 July 1968.
Anderson suggested that they call the new band Life. Squire suggested that it be called World. Banks responded, simply, "yes", and that was how the band were named. The first gig under the new brand followed at a youth camp in East Mersea, Essex on 4 August 1968. Early sets were formed of cover songs from artists such as the Beatles, the 5th Dimension and Traffic. On 16 September, Yes performed at Blaise's club in London as a substitute for Sly and the Family Stone, who failed to turn up. They were well received by the audience, including the host Roy Flynn, who became the band's manager that night. That month, Bruford decided to quit performing to study at the University of Leeds. His replacement, Tony O'Reilly of the Koobas, struggled to perform with the rest of the group on-stage. After Bruford was refused a year's sabbatical leave from Leeds, Anderson and Squire convinced him to return for Yes's supporting slot for Cream's farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 November.
After seeing an early King Crimson gig in 1969, Yes realised that there was suddenly stiff competition on the London gigging circuit, and they needed to be much more technically proficient, starting regular rehearsals. They subsequently signed a deal with Atlantic Records, and, that August, released their debut album Yes. Compiled of mostly original material, the record includes renditions of "Every Little Thing" by the Beatles and "I See You" by the Byrds. Although the album failed to break into the UK album charts, Rolling Stone critic Lester Bangs complimented the album's "sense of style, taste, and subtlety". Melody Maker columnist Tony Wilson chose Yes and Led Zeppelin as the two bands "most likely to succeed".
Following a tour of Scandinavia with the Small Faces, Yes performed a solo concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 21 March 1970. The second half consisted of excerpts from their second album Time and a Word, accompanied by a 20-piece youth orchestra. Banks left the group in 18 April 1970, just three months before the album's release. Having expressed dissatisfaction with the idea of recording with an orchestra as well as the sacking of Flynn earlier in the year, Banks later indicated that he was fired by Anderson and Squire, and that Kaye and Bruford had no prior knowledge that it would be happening. Similar to the first album, Time and a Word features original songs and two new covers–"Everydays" by Buffalo Springfield and "No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed" by Richie Havens. The album broke into the UK charts, peaking at number 45. Banks' replacement was Tomorrow guitarist Steve Howe, who appears in the photograph of the group on the American issue despite not having played on it.
The band retreated to a rented farmhouse in Devon to write and rehearse new songs for their following album. Howe established himself as an integral part of the group's sound with his Gibson ES-175 and variety of acoustic guitars. With producer and engineer Eddy Offord, recording sessions lasted as long as 12 hours with each track being assembled from small sections at a time, which were pieced together to form a complete track. The band would then learn to play the song through after the final mix was complete. Released in February 1971, The Yes Album peaked at number 4 in the UK and number 40 on the US Billboard 200 charts.
Yes embarked on a 28-day tour of Europe with Iron Butterfly in January 1971. The band purchased Iron Butterfly's entire public address system, which improved their on-stage performance and sound. Their first date in North America followed on 24 June in Edmonton, Canada supporting Jethro Tull. Kaye performed his final show with Yes at the Crystal Palace Bowl that August and was fired shortly thereafter. The decision was made after friction arising between Howe and himself on tour, and his reported reluctance to play the Mellotron and the Minimoog synthesizer, preferring to stick exclusively to piano and Hammond organ. Anderson recalled in a 2019 interview: "Steve and Chris came over and said, 'Look, Tony Kaye... great guy.' But, you know, we’d just seen Rick Wakeman about a month earlier. And I said, 'There’s that Rick Wakeman guy,' and we’ve got to get on with life and move on, you know, rather than keep going on, set in the same circle. And that’s what happens with a band."
Fragile, Close to the Edge and Tales from Topographic Oceans (1971–1974)
At the time of Kaye's departure, Yes had already found their new keyboardist – Rick Wakeman, a classically trained player who had left the folk rock group Strawbs earlier in the year. He was already a noted studio musician, with credits including T. Rex, David Bowie, Cat Stevens and Elton John. Squire commented that he could play "a grand piano for three bars, a Mellotron for two bars and a Moog for the next one absolutely spot on", which gave Yes the orchestral and choral textures that befitted their new material.
Released on 26 November 1971, the band's fourth album Fragile showcased their growing interest in the structures of classical music, with an excerpt of The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky being played at the start of their concerts since the album's 1971–1972 tour. Each member performed a solo track on the album, and it marked the start of their long collaboration with artist Roger Dean, who designed the group's logo, album art, and stage sets. Fragile peaked at number 7 in the UK and number 4 in the US after it was released there in January 1972, and was their first record to reach the top ten in North America. A shorter version of the opening track, "Roundabout", was released as a single that peaked at number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
In February 1972, Yes recorded a cover version of "America" by Paul Simon. The single reached number 46 on the US singles chart. The track subsequently appeared on The New Age of Atlantic, a 1972 compilation album of several bands signed to Atlantic Records, and again in the 1975 compilation Yesterdays.
Released in September 1972, Close to the Edge, the band's fifth album, was their most ambitious work so far. At 19 minutes, the title track took up an entire side on the vinyl record and combined elements of classical music, psychedelic rock, pop, and jazz. The album reached number 3 in the US and number 4 on the UK charts. "And You and I" was released as a single that peaked at number 42 in the US. The growing critical and commercial success of the band was not enough to retain Bruford, who left Yes in the summer of 1972, before the album's release, to join King Crimson. The band considered several possible replacements, including Aynsley Dunbar (who was playing with Frank Zappa at the time), and decided on former Plastic Ono Band drummer Alan White, a friend of Anderson and Offord who had once sat in with the band weeks before Bruford's departure. White learned the band's repertoire in three days before embarking on their 1972–1973 tour. By this point, Yes were beginning to enjoy worldwide commercial and critical success. Their early touring with White was featured on Yessongs, a triple live album released in May 1973 that documented shows from 1972. The album reached number 7 in the UK and number 12 in the US. A concert film of the same name premiered in 1975 that documented their shows at London's Rainbow Theatre in December 1972, with added psychedelic visual images and effects.
It is a fragmented masterpiece, assembled with loving care and long hours in the studio. Brilliant in patches, but often taking far too long to make its various points, and curiously lacking in warmth or personal expression ..."Ritual" is a dance of celebration and brings the first enjoyable moments, where Alan's driving drums have something to grip on to and the lyrics of la la la speak volumes. But even this cannot last long and cohesion is lost once more to the gods of drab self indulgence.
—Melody Maker review of Tales from Topographic Oceans, 1973.
Tales from Topographic Oceans was the band's sixth studio album, released on 14 December 1973. It marked a change in their fortunes and polarised fans and critics alike. The double vinyl set was based on Anderson's interpretation of the Shastric scriptures from a footnote within Paramahansa Yogananda's book Autobiography of a Yogi. The album became the first LP in the UK to ship gold before the record arrived at retailers. It went on to top the UK charts for two weeks while reaching number 6 in the US, and became the band's fourth consecutive gold album. Wakeman was not pleased with the record and is critical of much of its material. He felt sections were "bled to death" and contained too much musical padding. Wakeman left the band after the 1973–1974 tour; his solo album Journey to the Centre of the Earth topped the UK charts in May 1974. The tour included five consecutive sold-out shows at the Rainbow Theatre, the first time a rock band achieved this.
Relayer, Going for the One, Tormato and the Paris sessions (1974–1980)
Several musicians were approached to replace Wakeman, including Vangelis Papathanassiou, Eddie Jobson of Roxy Music and former Atlantis/Cat Stevens keyboardist Jean Roussel. Yes ultimately chose Swiss keyboardist Patrick Moraz of Refugee, who arrived in August 1974 during the recording sessions for Relayer, which took place at Squire's home in Virginia Water, Surrey. Released in November that year, Relayer showcased a jazz fusion-influenced direction the band were pursuing. The album features the 22-minute track titled "The Gates of Delirium", which highlights a battle initially inspired by War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Its closing section, "Soon", was subsequently released as a single. The album reached number 4 in the UK and number 5 in the US. Yes embarked on their 1974–1975 tour to support Relayer. The compilation album Yesterdays, released in 1975, contained tracks from Yes's first two albums, the B-side track from their "Sweet Dreams" single from 1970 titled "Dear Father", and the original ten-minute version of their cover of "America".
Between 1975 and 1976, each member of the band released a solo album. Their subsequent 1976 tour of North America with Peter Frampton featured some of the band's most-attended shows. The show of 12 June, also supported by Gary Wright and Pousette-Dart Band at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, attracted over 100,000 people. Roger Dean's brother Martyn was the main designer behind the tour's "Crab Nebula" stage set, while Roger and fabric designer Felicity Youette provided the backgrounds.
In late 1976, the band travelled to Switzerland and started recording for their album Going for the One at Mountain Studios, Montreux. It was then that Anderson sent early versions of "Going for the One" and "Wonderous Stories" to Wakeman, who felt he could contribute to such material better than the band's past releases. Moraz was let go, after Wakeman was booked on a session musician basis. Upon its release in July 1977, Going for the One topped the UK album charts for two weeks and reached number 8 in the US. "Wonderous Stories" and "Going for the One" were released as singles in the UK and reached numbers 7 and 25, respectively. Although the album's cover was designed by Hipgnosis, it still features their Roger Dean "bubble" logotype. The band's 1977 tour spanned across six months.
Tormato was released in September 1978 at the height of punk rock in England, during which the music press criticised Yes as representing the bloated excesses of early-1970s progressive rock. The album saw the band continuing their movement towards shorter songs; no track runs longer than eight minutes. Wakeman replaced his Mellotrons with the Birotron, a tape replay keyboard, and Squire experimented with harmonisers and Mu-tron pedals with his bass. Production was handled collectively by the band and saw disagreements at the mixing stage among the members. With heavy commercial rock-radio airplay, the album reached number 8 in the UK and number 10 in the US charts, and was also certified platinum (1 million copies sold) by the RIAA. Despite internal and external criticisms of the album, the band's 1978–1979 tour was a commercial success. Concerts were performed in the round with a £50,000-central revolving stage and a 360-degree sound system fitted above it. Their dates at Madison Square Gardens earned Yes a Golden Ticket Award for grossing over $1 million in box office receipts.
In October 1979, the band convened in Paris with producer Roy Thomas Baker. Their diverse approach was now succumbing to division, as Anderson and Wakeman favoured the more fantastical and delicate approach while the rest preferred a heavier rock sound. Howe, Squire and White liked none of the music Anderson was offering at the time as it was too lightweight and lacking in the heaviness that they were generating in their own writing sessions. The Paris sessions abruptly ended in December after White broke his foot while rollerskating in a roller disco. When the band, minus Wakeman (who had only committed to recording keyboard overdubs once new material would be ready to record), reconvened in February to resume work on the project, their growing musical differences, combined with internal dissension, obstructed progress. Journalist Chris Welch, after attending a rehearsal, noted that Anderson "was singing without his usual conviction and seemed disinclined to talk". By late March, Howe, Squire and White had begun demoing material as an instrumental trio, increasingly uncertain about Anderson's future involvement. Eventually, a serious band dispute over finance saw Anderson leave Yes, with a dispirited Wakeman departing at around the same time.
Drama and split (1980–1981)
In 1980, pop duo the Buggles (keyboardist Geoff Downes and singer Trevor Horn) acquired Brian Lane as a manager.
At this point, the departure of Anderson and Wakeman had been kept secret from everyone outside the Yes inner circle. Seeing an option of continuing the band with new creative input and expertise, Squire revealed the situation to Horn and Downes and suggested that they join Yes as full-time members. Horn and Downes accepted the invitation and the reconfigured band recorded the Drama album, which was released in August 1980. The record displayed a heavier, harder sound than the material Yes recorded with Anderson in 1979, opening with the lengthy hard rocker "Machine Messiah". The album received substantial radio airplay in the late summer-fall of 1980, and peaked at number 2 in the UK and number 18 in the US, though it was the first Yes album to not be certified Gold by the RIAA since 1971. Their 1980 tour of North America and the UK received a mixed reaction from audiences. They were well-received in the United States, and were awarded with a commemorative certificate after they performed a record 16 consecutive sold out concerts at Madison Square Garden since 1974.
After the Drama tour, Yes reconvened in England to decide the band's next step, beginning by dismissing Lane as their manager. Horn chose to leave Yes to pursue a career in music production, with White and Squire next to depart. Left as the sole remaining members, Downes and Howe opted not to continue with the group and went their own separate ways in December 1980. A live compilation album of Yes performances from 1976 to 1978, mixed in mid-1979 and originally intended for release in late 1979, was released as Yesshows, peaking at number 22 in the UK charts and number 43 in the US. An announcement came from the group's management in March 1981 confirming that Yes no longer existed.
Downes and Howe later reunited to form Asia with former King Crimson bassist and vocalist John Wetton, and drummer Carl Palmer from Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Squire and White continued to work together, initially recording sessions with Jimmy Page for a proposed band called XYZ (short for "ex-Yes-and-Zeppelin") in the spring of 1981. Page's former bandmate Robert Plant was also to be involved as the vocalist but he lost enthusiasm, citing his ongoing grieving for recently deceased Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. The short-lived group produced a few demo tracks, elements of which would appear in Page's band the Firm and on future Yes tracks "Mind Drive" and "Can You Imagine?". In late 1981, Squire and White released "Run with the Fox", a Christmas single with Squire on vocals which received radio airplay through the 1980s and early 1990s during the Christmas periods. A second Yes compilation album, Classic Yes, was released in November 1981.
Reformation, 90125 and Big Generator (1982–1988)
Trevor Rabin joined the band when it reformed in 1983 and stayed until 1994 when he decided to become a film composer. Since then he has become a member of Yes featuring Anderson Rabin Wakeman.
In 1982, Phil Carson of Atlantic Records introduced Squire and White to guitarist and singer Trevor Rabin, who had initially made his name with the South African supergroup Rabbitt, subsequently releasing three solo albums, working as a record producer and even briefly considered being a member of Asia. The three teamed up in a new band called Cinema, for which Squire also recruited the original Yes keyboard player Tony Kaye. Despite the presence of three Yes musicians, Cinema was not originally intended to be a continuation of Yes, and entered the studio to record a debut album as a brand new group. Although Rabin and Squire initially shared lead vocals for the project, Trevor Horn was briefly brought into Cinema as a potential singer, but soon opted to become the band's producer instead.
Horn worked well with the band. However, his clashes with Tony Kaye (complicated by the fact that Rabin was playing most of the keyboards during the recording sessions) led to Kaye's departure after around six months of rehearsing. Meanwhile, Squire encountered Jon Anderson (who, since leaving Yes, had released two solo albums and had success with the Jon and Vangelis project) at a Los Angeles party and played him the Cinema demo tracks. Anderson was invited into the project as lead singer and joined in April 1983 during the last few weeks of the sessions, having comparatively little creative input beyond adding his lead vocals and re-writing some lyrics.
At the suggestion of record company executives, Cinema then changed their name to Yes in June 1983. Rabin initially objected to this, as he now found that he had inadvertently joined a reunited band with a history and expectations, rather than help launch a new group. However, the presence of four former Yes members in the band (three of whom were founding members, including the distinctive lead singer) suggested that the name change was sound commercial strategy. The new album marked a radical change in style as the revived Yes had adopted a pop rock sound that showed little of their progressive roots. This incarnation of the band has sometimes been informally referred to as "Yes-West", reflecting the band's new base in Los Angeles rather than London.
Yes released their comeback album 90125 (named after its catalogue serial number on Atco Records) in November 1983. It became their biggest-selling album, certified by the RIAA at triple-platinum (3 million copies) in sales in the US, and introduced the band to younger fans. "Owner of a Lonely Heart" topped the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for four weeks, and went on to reach the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, the only single from Yes to do so, for two weeks in January 1984. Kaye's short-term replacement on keyboards, Eddie Jobson, appeared briefly in the original video but was edited out as much as possible once Kaye had been persuaded to return to the band.
In 1984, the singles "Leave It" and "It Can Happen" reached number 24 and 57 respectively. Yes also earned their only Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1985 for the two-minute track "Cinema". They were also nominated for an award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals with "Owner of a Lonely Heart", and a Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal award with 90125. The band's 1984–1985 tour was the most lucrative in their history and spawned 9012Live, a concert film directed by Steven Soderbergh with added special effects from Charlex that cost $1 million. Yes' mini-LP released in 1985, 9012Live: The Solos, earned Yes a nomination for a second Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for Squire's solo track, a rendition of "Amazing Grace".
Yes began recording for their twelfth album, Big Generator, in 1986. The sessions underwent many starts and stops due to the use of multiple recording locations in Italy, London, and Los Angeles as well as interpersonal problems between Rabin and Horn, which kept the album from timely completion. Eventually, Rabin took over final production, and the album was released in September 1987, and immediately began receiving heavy radio airplay, with sales reaching number 17 in the UK and number 15 in the US. Big Generator earned Yes a nomination for a second Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1988, and was also certified platinum (with 1 million plus in sales) by the RIAA. The single "Love Will Find a Way" topped the Mainstream Rock chart, while "Rhythm of Love" reached number 2 and "Shoot High Aim Low" number 11. The 1987–1988 tour ended with an appearance at Madison Square Garden on 14 May 1988 as part of Atlantic Records' 40th anniversary.
ABWH, Union, and Talk (1988–1995)
By the end of 1988, Anderson felt creatively sidelined by Rabin and Squire and had grown tired of the musical direction of the "Yes-West" line-up. He took leave of the band, asserting that he would never stay in Yes purely for the money, and started work in Montserrat on a solo project that eventually involved Wakeman, Howe, and Bruford. This collaboration led to suggestions that there would be some kind of reformation of the "classic" Yes, although from the start the project had included bass player Tony Levin, whom Bruford had worked with in King Crimson. The project, rather than taking over or otherwise using the Yes name, was called Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (ABWH).
Their eponymous album released in 1989 featured "Brother of Mine", which became an MTV hit, and went gold in the United States. It later emerged that the four band members had not all recorded together; Anderson and producer Chris Kimsey slotted their parts into place. Howe has stated publicly that he was unhappy with the mix of his guitars on the album, though a version of "Fist of Fire" with more of Howe's guitars left intact appeared on the In a Word box set in 2002. ABWH toured in 1989 and 1990 as "An Evening of Yes Music" which featured Levin, keyboardist Julian Colbeck, and guitarist Milton McDonald as support musicians. A live album was recorded and released in 1993 titled An Evening of Yes Music Plus that featured Jeff Berlin on bass due to Levin suffering from illness. The tour was also dogged by legal battles sparked by Atlantic Records due to the band's references to Yes in promotional materials and the tour title.
Following the tour the group returned to the recording studio to produce their second album, tentatively called Dialogue. After hearing the tracks, Arista Records refused to release the album as they felt the initial mixes were weak. They encouraged the group to seek outside songwriters, preferably ones who could help them deliver hit singles. Anderson approached Rabin about the situation, and Rabin sent Anderson a demo tape with four songs, indicating that ABWH could have one but had to send the others back. Arista listened to all four and wanted all of them, but Rabin would not agree to the request. The "Yes-West" group were working on a follow-up to Big Generator and had been shopping around for a new singer, including Roger Hodgson of Supertramp, Steve Walsh of Kansas, Robbie Nevil of "C'est la Vie" fame, and Billy Sherwood of World Trade. Walsh only spent one day with them, but Sherwood and the band worked well enough together and continued with writing sessions. Arista suggested that the "Yes-West" group, with Anderson on vocals, record the four songs to add to the new album which would then be released under the Yes name.
Union was released in April 1991 and is the thirteenth studio album from Yes. Each group played their own songs, with Anderson singing on all tracks. Squire sang background vocals on a few of the ABWH tracks, with Tony Levin playing all the bass on those songs. The album does not feature all eight members playing at once. The track "Masquerade" earned Yes a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 1992. Union sold approximately 1.5 million copies worldwide, and peaked at number 7 in the UK and number 15 in the US charts. Two singles from the album were released. "Lift Me Up" topped the Mainstream Rock charts in May 1991 for six weeks, while "Saving My Heart" peaked at number 9.
Almost the entire band have openly stated their dislike of Union. Bruford has disowned the album entirely, and Wakeman was reportedly unable to recognise any of his keyboard work in the final edit and threw his copy of the album out of his limousine. He has since referred to the album as "Onion" because it makes him cry when he thinks about it. Union Co-producer Jonathan Elias later stated publicly in an interview that Anderson, as the associate producer, knew of the session musicians' involvement. He added that he and Anderson had even initiated their contributions, because hostility between some of the band members at the time was preventing work from being accomplished. The 1991–1992 Union tour united all eight members on a revolving circular stage. Following its conclusion, Bruford chose not to remain involved with Yes and returned to his jazz project Earthworks.
In 1993, the album Symphonic Music of Yes was released and features orchestrated Yes tracks arranged by David Palmer. Howe, Bruford and Anderson perform on the record, joined by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the . The following Yes studio album, as with Union, was masterminded by a record company, rather than by the band itself. Victory Music approached Rabin with a proposal to produce an album solely with the 90125 line-up. Rabin initially countered by requesting that Wakeman also be included. Rabin began assembling the album at his home, using the then-pioneering concept of a digital home studio, and used material written by himself and Anderson. The new album was well into production in 1993, but Wakeman's involvement had finally been cancelled, as his refusal to leave his long-serving management created insuperable legal problems.
Talk was released in March 1994 and is the band's fourteenth studio release. Its cover was designed by pop artist Peter Max. The record was largely composed and performed by Rabin, with the other band members following Rabin's tracks for their respective instrumentation. It was digitally recorded and produced by Rabin with engineer Michael Jay, using 3.4 GB of hard disk storage split among four networked Apple Macintosh computers running Digital Performer, the first album ever recorded with such software. The album blended elements of radio-friendly rock with a more structurally ambitious approach taken from the band's progressive blueprint, with the fifteen-minute track "Endless Dream". The album reached number 20 in the UK and number 33 in the US. The track "The Calling" reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and "Walls", which Rabin had written with former Supertramp songwriter and co-founder Roger Hodgson, peaked at number 24. It also became Yes's second-to-last charting single. Rabin and Hodgson wrote a lot of material together and became close friends. Yes performed "Walls" on Late Show with David Letterman on 20 June 1994.
The 1994 tour (for which the band included side man Billy Sherwood on additional guitar and keyboards) used a sound system developed by Rabin named Concertsonics which allowed the audience located in certain seating areas to tune portable FM radios to a specific frequency, so they could hear the concert with headphones. In early 1995, following the tour, Rabin, feeling that he had achieved his highest ambitions with Talk, lamented its disappointing reception as being "just wasn't what people wanted to hear at the time" and noted at the conclusion of the tour that "I think I'm done" and returned to LA where he shifted his focus to composing for films. Kaye also left Yes to pursue other projects.
Keys to Ascension, Open Your Eyes and The Ladder (1995–2000)
In November 1995, Anderson, Squire, and White resurrected the "classic" 1970s line-up of Yes by inviting Wakeman and Howe back to the band, recording two new lengthy tracks called "Be the One" and "That, That Is". In March 1996, Yes performed three live shows at the Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo, California which were recorded and released, along with the new studio tracks, that October on CMC International Records as the Keys to Ascension album, which peaked at number 48 in the UK and number 99 in the US. A same-titled live video of the shows was also released that year.
Yes continued to record new tracks in the studio, drawing some material written around the time of the XYZ project. At one point the new songs were to be released as a studio album, but commercial considerations meant that the new tracks were eventually packaged with the remainder of the 1996 San Luis Obispo shows in November 1997 on Keys to Ascension 2. The record managed to reach number 62 in the UK, but failed to chart in the US. Disgruntled at the way a potential studio album had been sacrificed in favour of the Keys to Ascension releases (as well as the way in which a Yes tour was being arranged without his input or agreement), Wakeman left the group again. (The studio material from both albums would eventually be compiled and re-released without the live tracks onto a single CD, 2001's Keystudio.)
Yes live performance June 1998
With Yes in disarray again, Squire turned to Billy Sherwood (by now the band's engineer) for help. Both men had been working on a side project called Conspiracy and reworked existing demos and recordings from there to turn them into Yes songs, and also worked on new material with Anderson and White. (Howe's involvement at this stage was minimal, mainly taking place towards the end of the sessions.) Sherwood's integral involvement with the writing, production, and performance of the music led to his finally joining Yes as a full member (taking on the role of harmony singer, keyboardist and second guitarist).
The results of the sessions were released in November 1997 as the seventeenth Yes studio album, Open Your Eyes (on the Beyond Music label, who ensured that the group had greater control in packaging and naming). The music (mainly at Sherwood's urging) attempted to bridge the differing Yes styles of the 1970s and 1980s. (Sherwood: "My goal was to try to break down those partisan walls—because all of the music was so good. There are people who won't listen to Genesis, say, after 1978, but I can't imagine that. I love all music. That was the one thing I tried to do, to bring unity. During the time I was with Yes, you heard new things, and classic things. For that, I am proud — to have aligned planets for a moment in time.") However, Open Your Eyes was not a chart success; the record peaked at number 151 on the Billboard 200 but failed to enter the charts in the UK. The title single managed to reach number 33 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
For the 1997/1998 Open Your Eyes tour, Yes hired Russian keyboard player Igor Khoroshev, who had played on some of the album tracks. Significantly, the tour setlist featured only a few pieces from the new album, and mostly concentrated on earlier material. Anderson and Howe, who had been less involved with the writing and production on Open Your Eyes than they'd wished, would express dissatisfaction about the album later.
By the time the band came to record their eighteenth studio album The Ladder with producer Bruce Fairbairn, Khoroshev had become a full-time member (with Sherwood now concentrating on songwriting, vocal arrangements, and second guitar). With Khoroshev's classically influenced keyboard style, and with all members now making more or less equal writing contributions, the band's sound returned to its eclectic and integrated 1970s progressive rock style. The Ladder also featured Latin music ingredients and clear world music influences, mostly brought in by Alan White (although Fairbairn's multi-instrumentalist colleague Randy Raine-Reusch made a strong contribution to the album's textures). One of the album tracks, "Homeworld (The Ladder)", was written for Relic Entertainment's Homeworld, a real-time strategy computer game, and was used as the credits and outro theme.
The Ladder was released in September 1999, peaking at number 36 in the UK and number 99 in the US. While on tour in 1999 and early 2000, Yes recorded their performance at the House of Blues in Las Vegas, releasing it in September 2000 as a DVD and live album called House of Yes: Live from House of Blues. This would be the last album to feature Billy Sherwood, who saw his role in Yes as creating and performing new music. Realising that the rest of the band now wished to concentrate on performing the back catalogue, he amicably resigned from Yes at the end of the tour.
Later in the year, Yes embarked on the three-month Masterworks tour of the United States, on which they performed only material which had been released between 1970 and 1974 (The Yes Album through to Relayer). While on tour, Khoroshev was involved in a backstage incident of sexual assault and parted company with the band at the end of the tour.
Magnification and further touring (2001–2004)
In 2001, Yes released their nineteenth studio album Magnification. Recorded without a keyboardist, the album features a 60-piece orchestra conducted by Larry Groupé; the first time the band used an orchestra since Time and a Word in 1970. The record was not a chart success; it peaked at number 71 in the UK and number 186 in the US. The Yes Symphonic Tour ran from July to December 2001 and had the band performing on stage with an orchestra and American keyboardist Tom Brislin. Their two shows in Amsterdam were recorded for their 2002 DVD and 2009 CD release Symphonic Live. The band invited Wakeman to play with them for the filming, but he was on a solo tour at the time.
Following Wakeman's announcement of his return in April 2002, Yes embarked on their Full Circle Tour in 2002–2003 that included their first performances in Australia since 1973. The triple compilation album The Ultimate Yes: 35th Anniversary Collection was released in July 2003, reaching number 10 in the UK charts, their highest-charting album since 1991, and number 131 in the US. On 26 January 2004, the film Yesspeak premiered in a number of select theatres, followed by a closed-circuit live acoustic performance of the group that was released as Yes Acoustic: Guaranteed No Hiss later on. A 35th anniversary tour followed in 2004 which was documented on the live DVD Songs from Tsongas.
In 2004, Squire, Howe, and White reunited for one night only with former members Trevor Horn, Trevor Rabin and Geoff Downes during a show celebrating Horn's career, performing three Yes songs. The show video was released in DVD in 2008 under the name Trevor Horn and Friends: Slaves to the Rhythm.
On 18 March 2003 minor planet (7707) Yes was named in honour of the band.
Hiatus, side collaborations, and new line-up (2004–2010)
After their 35th Anniversary Tour, Yes described themselves as "on hiatus." During this period, Anderson toured both solo and jointly with Wakeman (for concerts focused largely on Yes material); Squire released his long-awaited second solo album, and White launched his own eponymous band White (subsequently joining fellow Yes-men Tony Kaye and Billy Sherwood in CIRCA). Wakeman also continued to release solo material, as did Howe, who released three solo albums and also reunited to record, release and tour with once-and-future Yes bandmate Geoff Downes in the reunion of the original Asia line-up. Various members were also involved in overseeing archival releases.
In May 2008, a fortieth anniversary Close to the Edge and Back Tour—which was to feature Oliver Wakeman on keyboards—was announced. Anderson has said that they had been preparing four new "lengthy, multi-movement compositions" for the tour, but he had expressed disinterest in producing a new studio album after the low sales of Magnification, suggesting that recording one was not "logical anymore." The tour was abruptly cancelled prior to rehearsals, after Anderson suffered an asthma attack and was diagnosed with acute respiratory failure, and was advised by doctors to avoid touring for six months.
In September 2008, the remaining three members, eager to resume touring regardless of Anderson's availability, announced a tour billed as Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White of Yes, with Oliver Wakeman on keyboards and new lead singer Benoît David, a Canadian musician who'd previously played with Mystery and with Yes tribute band Close to the Edge. Anderson expressed his disappointment that his former bandmates had not waited for his recovery, nor handled the situation "in a more gentlemanly fashion," and while he wished them well, he referred to their ongoing endeavours as "solo work" and emphasised his view that their band "is not Yes." As Anderson was a co-owner of the Yes trademark, the remaining members agreed not to tour with the Yes name. The In the Present Tour started in November 2008, but it was cut short in the following February when Squire required emergency surgery on an aneurysm in his leg. Touring resumed in June 2009 and continued through 2010, with Asia and Peter Frampton supporting the band at several shows. In October 2009, Squire declared that the new line-up "is now Yes".
Fly from Here, Heaven & Earth, and album series tours (2010–2015)
In August 2010, it was announced that new material had been written for Fly from Here, Yes' twentieth studio album. Asserting that all studio recording was to be carried out by "the line-up that actually ... does the work," Howe dispelled rumours that an invitation to sing on the record had been extended to Anderson, who subsequently announced a new project as an ongoing collaboration with former Yes members Wakeman and Rabin.
Yes then signed a deal with Frontiers Records and began recording in Los Angeles with Trevor Horn serving as producer. Much of the album material was extrapolated from a pair of songs written by Horn and Geoff Downes around the time that they had been Yes members during 1980 and the Drama album. During the recording sessions, the band thought it would be wise to bring Downes back to replace Oliver Wakeman on keyboards, reasoning that he was closer to the material. Upon completion of recording in March 2011, and post-production a month later, the album was released worldwide that July. Fly from Here peaked at number 30 in the UK and 36 in the US.
In March 2011, Yes embarked on their Rite of Spring and Fly from Here tours to support Fly from Here, with Styx and Procol Harum supporting on select dates. 2011 saw the release of the live Yes album and DVD, In the Present – Live from Lyon, taken from the band's previous tour. Trevor Rabin joined the band in playing "Owner of a Lonely Heart" at one show in Los Angeles, CA.
In February 2012, David was replaced by singer Jon Davison (pictured)
In February 2012, after David contracted a respiratory illness, he was replaced by Glass Hammer singer Jon Davison. Davison was recommended to Squire by their common friend Taylor Hawkins, drummer for the Foo Fighters. Following the announcement Anderson expressed his disappointment that "they had to get yet another singer after the guy who replaced me became ill," claiming that he offered to "get back with them" due to his being "healthy again," and expressed his view that "they have let a lot of fans down."  Davison would join Yes to complete the band's scheduled dates across the year.
From March 2013 to June 2014, Yes completed their Three Album Tour where they performed The Yes Album, Close to the Edge and Going for the One in their entirety. During the tour, they led a progressive-rock themed cruise titled "Cruise to the Edge". A second cruise happened in April 2014, and the band headlined the November 2015 edition. The show on 11 May 2014 in Bristol was released as Like It Is: Yes at the Bristol Hippodrome in 2014, featuring performances of Going for the One and The Yes Album.
Heaven & Earth, the band's twenty-first studio album and first with Davison, was recorded between January–March 2014, at Neptune Studios in Los Angeles with Roy Thomas Baker as producer and former band member Billy Sherwood as engineer on backing vocals and mixer. Squire described the recording process as "a very enjoyable experience" and Baker someone "really good to work with", and indicated that the writing process for the album involved Davison traveling to Howe and Squire's homes to write and develop the new music. Howe reflected that he "tried to slow down" the album production in hopes that "maybe we could refine it ..." and compared it to the success of the band's classic works in which they "arranged the hell out of" the material.
To promote Heaven & Earth, Yes resumed touring between July–November 2014 with a world tour covering North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, playing Fragile and Close to the Edge in their entirety with select songs from Heaven & Earth and encores. The show in Mesa, Arizona was released in 2015 as Like It Is: Yes at the Mesa Arts Center which features the performances of Close to the Edge and Fragile.
Chris Squire's death, Yes featuring ARW, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction (2015–2017)
In May 2015, news of Squire's diagnosis with acute erythroid leukaemia was made public. This resulted in former guitarist Billy Sherwood replacing him for their 2015 summer North American tour with Toto between August–September, and their third annual Cruise to the Edge voyage in November, while Squire was receiving treatment. His condition deteriorated soon after, and he died on 27 June at his home in Phoenix, Arizona. Downes first announced Squire's death on . Squire asked White and Sherwood to continue the legacy of the band, which Sherwood recalled "was paramount in his mind ... so I'm happy to be doing that." Yes performed without Squire for the first time in their 47-year history, on 7 August 2015 in Mashantucket, Connecticut. In November 2015, they completed their annual Cruise to the Edge voyage.
In January 2016, Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman announced touring as Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman (ARW), having previously revealed in 2010 that they were working together, and that they had begun writing new material. Their tour, An Evening of Yes Music and More, began in October 2016 with a set of Yes songs from several eras. Wakeman stated that Squire's passing inspired them to move forward, feeling that "following the very sad passing of Chris ... it was the right time to get together and produce both new music and perform some of the classic material as we feel it should be performed." 
In 2016, Yes performed Fragile and Drama in their entirety on their April–June European tour. Trevor Horn sang "Tempus Fugit" with the band for two UK shows. This was followed by Drama and sides one and four of Tales from Topographic Oceans performed across North America between July–September. White missed the latter tour after he underwent back surgery and needed time to recover which led to American drummer Jay Schellen taking his place. White returned to the group on a part-time basis on their 2016 Japanese tour that November; until February 2017 Schellen continued to sit in for White on most shows, with White playing on some songs. A live album from the tour, titled Topographic Drama – Live Across America, was released in November 2017 and is Yes's first release not to feature Squire. In February 2017, Yes toured the US which included their headline spot at the 2017 edition of Cruise to the Edge, continuing to play Drama and half of Tales from Topographic Oceans.
On 7 April 2017, Yes musicians Anderson, Howe, Rabin, Squire, Rick Wakeman, Kaye, Bruford and White were inducted into the 2017 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Days after their induction, Anderson, Rabin, and Wakeman made a formal announcement of their new name of Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman, a name which they had used occasionally since early 2017. in which they called themselves "the definitive line-up of the greatest band in the history of progressive rock" and announced a tour that autumn. Of the name-change, Anderson has said: "The fans want it, we want it and it's our right to use the name" and "as long as I can sing, I want to keep Yes going ... whatever I do is Yes."
While acknowledging Anderson's partial ownership of the Yes trademark, Yes' management warned of potential confusion for ticket-buyers created by the concurrent use of the Yes name, a sentiment echoed by the other band's management in their challenge for them to similarly "identify their key members" in promotions. That confusion has been highlighted in press references to the groups as two distinct "versions", " factions" or "incarnations of Yes," and in one local media outlet, where their tours overlapped, who stated: "Yes is coming ... Twice." Anderson clarified the origins of ARW's use of the Yes name in a June 2018 interview, revealing that it was originally a suggestion from Squire's wife Scotland, after it became clear that her husband would pass away, to authorize ARW to use the Yes name, and that Howe and White, who co-owned the name with Anderson and Squire, had agreed and "been really cool about it". Members of both acts have expressed reluctance to reunite, though each has remained amicable regarding avoiding legal challenges to one another's use of the name. 
Yes toured the US and Canada with the Yestival Tour from August to September 2017, performing at least one song from each album from Yes to Drama. Howe's son Dylan joined the band as a second drummer, the first time since the Union Tour that Yes had two drummers playing simultaneously. The last seven shows were cancelled following the unexpected death of Howe's son and Dylan's brother Virgil.
50th anniversary and continued touring (2018–present)
In February 2018, Yes headlined Cruise to the Edge involved original keyboardist Tony Kaye as a special guest, marking his first performances with the band since 1994. This was followed by the band's 50th Anniversary Tour with a European leg in March, playing half of Tales from Topographic Oceans and a selection of songs from their history. The two London dates included an anniversary fan convention which coincided with the release of Fly from Here – Return Trip, a new version of the album with new lead vocals and mixes by Horn, who also performed as a special guest singer during the leg. A U.S. leg in June and July also included guest performances from Kaye, Horn, Tom Brislin, and Patrick Moraz, who had last performed with Yes in 1976. The tour culminated with a Japanese leg in February 2019. Schellen continues to play as a second drummer to support White, who has had a bacterial infection in his joints since November 2017. The tour was documented with the live album Yes 50 Live.
In June and July 2019, Yes headlined the Royal Affair Tour across the U.S. with a line-up featuring Asia, John Lodge, and Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy with Arthur Brown.