If it were 10 years ago I would've answered CTTE, but right now I'd have to say TYA. Odd pick right?
I've grown fonder of it's unique beauty over the years and I can't think of a better place to start with if you're getting into Yes.
Yours is no Disgrace alone is worth the entire album. And yes I know, no Wakeman, they're not tearing down walls or púshing the envelope as intensily as they did with CTTE, but there are a lot of strong and memorable ideas here. TYA sort of paved the way for the kind of stuff they would eventually experiment with down the road, and they were already flirting with some of the structures that would soon become a trademark. Everything starts somewhere, a small start, you can't bend the musical fabric with one single thunderstruck, and if it weren't for TYA they would've never challenged themselves as artists and find the drive to keep pushing and creating something unique.
I've always felt that Fragile was a transitional album, with the band as a whole sifting through colors, textures trying to figure out what works and what to do with this new world of conceptual and creative possibilities. You can see a couple of nods to their past, some of the melodies reflect that, evoking the atmosphere and climate they were coming from but at the same time, these gentlemen are growing into a unit, marching forward and exploring new ideas. The result is a beautiful blend of old and new, lacking in coherence here and there but just as valid and timeless as everything else they've put out since the band's inceptin.
CTTE is a force of nature, I won't argue with that. It is galvanizing from start to finish and you can really feel that this unit is now very aware of it's strengths and comfortable with their artistic and aesthetic achievements. But where did it all began? TYA, the seed of what Yes was going to become. When I think about Siberian, And you and I and the title track, I feel like they belong side by side with TYA, they're just as relevant and groundbreaking. On different levels of creativity and fluidity, yes, but I find it impossible to diminish one in favor of the other.
Big things have small beginnings