Yes, 1969. I've read multiple testimonies that the original lineup of Yes could delight crowds, but this album doesn't reflect such power. In an interview (Source: something I read somewhere) guitarist Peter Banks said that neither the producer nor the editor assigned to work on the album was accustomed to working with rock bands, and kept telling them to turn it down. They refused to believe that if you're playing rock loud, you're doing it right. Perhaps this blunted the results. There is something this uneven but charming post-Beatles recording does demonstrate, though: one of Yes's big breaks came when Sly and the Family Stone couldn't make a show, and Yes filled in. Even though Sly Stone has more funk in his earwax than Yes has in its entire discography, the two bands had more in common than is obvious. Sly's band was integrated along racial and gender lines, while Yes was all white guys, but both bands integrated an array of popular musical modes into ambitious, multifaceted songs without seeming like dilettantes.
Time and a Word, 1970. Guitarist Peter Banks told interviewers that he had a quarrel with the producer of this album; being a young man Peter did the only honorable thing and threw a guitar at the guy. It's no surprise that large chunks of Peter's guitar work got replaced with orchestration on the finished album. and that Peter was fired. According to Wikipedia, his last band was named Consolation in Isolation, which was also the title of an instrumental he recorded a couple decades before his death. We can surmise he had a tougher life than he might have had if he hadn't thrown the guitar.
The Yes Album, 1970. New guitarist, new producer, new success. I used to assume this was the first really successful Yes album because of guitarist Steve Howe, but now I think the arrival of producer Eddie Offord was the exponential upgrade. Offord midwifed their best work. This time out, Yes expanded their ambitious suite song structures and crafted some of their concert chestnuts, like Starship Trooper, which ends on a riff that can be expanded, inflated, and fiddled with all night. One can measure Yes's artistic decline by how long and bombastic Starship Trooper became in concert. My favorite ditty from this album is Perpetual Change, which mixes its musical themes, tempos and moods with aplomb, and includes some of the most cogent, tough-minded lyrics they'd ever write. Tough-minded lyrics were not to be a Yes mainstay, but they did it once.