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The Ladder

Review by Gary Hill

For some bands, the music industry seems to cause a paradox. In order to survive as an artist, one must have a certain degree of commercial success, but to the hardcore fans, doing so can bring forth cries of "too poppy". With The Ladder, Yes seems to have found a winning compromise. Two songs qualify by most definitions as "epic" and several other cuts provide definite prog elements. On the other hand, several tunes have definite pop radio potential. The balance is further achieved by accessible elements in the progish material, and a quirky texture to many of the more pop cuts.

Yes is Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White, Billy Sherwood and Igor Khoroshev.

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Track by Track Review
Homeworld (The Ladder)
An ambient intro leads to a guitar dominated segment that heralds the arrival of the vocals. The piece (by most definitions an epic) then moves into a groove oriented segment with classic Yes textures and structures. This in turn gives way to a bridge that calls to mind Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe. The presence of some Beach Boysish vocals here takes from the track just a bit, in the opinion of this reviewer. An instrumental break begins with a drone that is solid rock and roll with a classic Yes leaning to it, and an ABWHesque vocal segment. Next Igor shows his particular strength at reproducing others' sounds while making them his own. First he pulls in a The Yes Album sound, which gives way to tones that could easily fit on Close To The Edge. This break calls to mind both Kaye and Wakeman without copying them. This The Yes Album/Close To The Edge/The Yes Album inspired segment gives way to a triumphant ABWH styled vocal buildup. Eventually, the cut works its way to a balladic segment that ends the cut. This movement is based mostly on piano, vocals and guitar.
It Will Be A Good Day (The River)
Although not extremely progish, this cut is quite uplifting. It is a number that feels a lot like Anderson solo material. That said, the number features some very nice work from Howe and an Onwardish bass line. The number also features a triumphant and joyous ending segment.
Lightning Strikes
Coming out of a playful, almost Disneyesque intro, the number takes off with a somewhat Caribbean textured mode. This gives way to a fast paced Yes rocker, quite popish, but still trademark Yes (rather in the mode of Tormato). Although the overall feel is quite radio friendly, elements of classic Yes abound. Echoes of ABWH's Teakbois also appear. This one is quirky enough to appeal to the old time Yes fans, while still bringing in the top 40 crowd. A definite winner, this one features an awesome bass break.
Can I?
This brief cut is basically a world music take on We Have Heaven.
Face to Face
A techno oriented beginning rhythm section with some classic Squire/Howe interaction over the top, this one also feels a lot like Tormato era Yes with some Tales From Topographic interplay going on at times. Dramatic accapella/instrumental alternations lead into a powerful instrumental break with strong Tormatoish modes. "See the truth, not to mention the promise made."
If Only You Knew
Although this cut features a nice classically oriented intro, this is one of the weaker numbers on the disc. With its inherent lightness, this is one that probably would have been better served making its appearance on an Anderson solo album.
To Be Alive (Hep Yada)
This track really grows on the listener. It is quite dramatic, and plays out like a very Yes oriented take on an Anderson solo theme. It features a quite intriguing and rather complex arrangement.
Starting off in a considerably classic Yes mode, this one quickly changes gears toward the pop end of the spectrum. When the vocals hit, it is in the form of a funky segment. Feeling a bit Rabin eraish, this one does, however, feature some trademark Howe guitar work. Later movements of this cut call to mind both Drama and Tales from Topographic Oceans. This is a very powerful piece, and one of the stronger ones on this CD.
The Messenger
A very funky/bluesy intro segment gets this one off in fine order. Then, the first verse comes in in an emotional classic Yes mode. A triumphant buildup then takes the piece. The choruses are quite catchy, but still very prog oriented. The cut features a bluesy acoustic solo and a considerably strong instrumental movement. It shift gears after a time, moving into a dramatic TFTO oriented mode. This cut is really classic Yes brought into the new millennium in high fashion.
New Languages
From keys to guitar to bass, this cut starts in a very time-tested Yes traditional instrumental style. The intro almost feels like the classic Yes lineup's take on the track Cinema with some CTTEish textures for good measure, and a `70`s influenced R & B groove at times. The cut then dissolves into a popish verse segment (quite Jon solo effort in style). The epic then evolves in funky modes, while still quite Jonish. It triumphantly builds then into very Yes ensemble oriented material. The next transition is into strong rock and roll territory with some impressive work from Mr. Howe. The cut seems to alternate between modes that are very Anderson solo oriented and those that are trademark Yes. There is an instrumental break that is very much a conglomeration of The Yes Album and Tales From Topographic Oceans in nature. This cut is very quirky, very Yes and features some killer Howe guitar work. "Is there something that I'm 'sposed to teach, Is there something that I'm 'sposed to find as I reach?"
9 Voices
This cut is a reworking of the Your Move segment of I've Seen All Good People with all new lyrics.
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