July 17, 2002

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Yes
In a Word (1969- ) (Rhino/Elektra)

To those who grew up with Yes as a British institution, there are two possible responses to the release of 30-plus years' worth of its quintessential "progressive" rock: either it conjures up hazy days of stereo-side introspection in which you marveled at the band's intricacies, or it makes you want to run as far away as possible from the band's doomed declamations and swooping, arbitrary tempo/key changes. They are pretty much the antithesis of "rock and roll."

This collection and overview, five discs worth of it, covers the band's entire career, from their humble beginnings as a jazzy, hippie ensemble covering Beatles and Byrds obscurities to their middle period of immense popularity when guitar wizard Steve Howe dominated the band, to their post-Close to the Edge decline and resurrection with the cut-and-paste masterpiece "Owner of a Lonely Heart."

In retrospect, it's clear much-maligned session drummer Alan White, replacement for original pounder Bill Bruford, kept a heartier pace than Bruford and stopped some of the band's weaker material from sinking. Howe's guitar lines sound better today than ever as wonders of imagination. And singer Jon Anderson's warble is still the epitome of wimp – his chirp renders great songs like "Yours Is No Disgrace" and the King Crimson-esque "Heart of the Sunrise" almost unbearable. Still, as THC-enhanced ephemera goes, this set is classy stuff. Yes plays with Rick Wakeman Sat/20, 8 p.m., Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View. $29.50-$55. (650) 967-3000. (Johnny Angel)