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Yes’ Steve Howe on Missing Alumni: ‘It’s Not About Jon and Rick Now’

The 44-year long (and counting) path that Yes has traveled has never been the smoothest ride. Several lineup changes, questionable career moves and near-soap opera like drama has always been a subtext to their music, and guitarist Steve Howe would like to put a stop to that.

Recent years have seen the band reactivated and re-energized, but not in their familiar form. Original lead vocalist Jon Anderson has been absent from all Yes activity since 2008, when health issues made him unable to tour. At that point, the band brought in a new singer, Benoit David.

David, previously employed in a Yes tribute band, toured and made one album with the band, 2011’s well-regarded ‘Fly From Here.’ In 2012, he was replaced with singer Jon Davison, formerly of Glass Hammer and Sky Cries Mary. “He was a great find,” Yes guitarist Steve Howe told Classic Rock Revisited, “He has a very rich sounding voice.”

Along with Howe, the band still includes longtime drummer Alan White, keyboardist Geoff Downes (also of Asia) and their sole original member, bassist Chris Squire. But what of the iconic Anderson, and keyboard legend Rick Wakeman, also absent from the current lineup — is there any chance of the “classic” Yes reuniting?

“Well, how in the hell do I know?” Howe said. “I wouldn’t particularly say that it is on the agenda. We are realistic people, so in the sense of realism, for Yes to evolve, we had to be a strong group and we had to have people who were committed to it to warrant a position in the band.”

It seems the ability to play on a team is what’s important to Howe now: “What Yes needs now is that everybody in this group needs to accept that we look at the entire career of this group. We don’t just look at little pockets when certain people were in the group — we don’t do that anymore. We look at the group as a whole. Of course, we do focus a lot on the ‘70’s, but there were a few lineups there.”

“It is not about Jon and Rick now,” he flatly concludes, “It is about who can do these tours and who can perform the repertoire from 1968 to 2012. I’m not going to say Rick and Jon can’t do that. I will say that I don’t think that is what they want to do.”

Next: Yes’ ‘Close to the Edge’ Turns 40’

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