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Progressive Rock CD Reviews


Keys To Ascension

Review by Gary Hill

The majority of this 2 disc set is a series of live recordings from the three SLO concerts that Yes did in 1996. The live material is augmented by two new studio cuts. Much of the live material here does not have the passionate intensity of other live Yes recordings, but the inclusion of several tracks not found on other official releases makes up for this shortcoming. The performances are technically quite good, also. The two new studio tracks are certainly superior pieces of music. In fact, "That, That Is", while using some uncharacteristic Yes stylings (which has seemed to alienate some Yes fans) really is a very wonderful epic that can stand up to most of the band`s `70`s catalog.

This incarnation of Yes is Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman and Alan White.

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Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Siberian Khatru
Jumping in right at the end of the transition out of "Firebird Suite", it feels a bit anticlimactic for longtime Yes fans. This high-energy progger is performed quite faithfully here, but it seems to lack a bit of the passion of old. Howe`s solo on the outro section is, again, very well performed and exciting, but does not pack quite the punch of the Yessongs version.
The Revealing Science of God
Not often performed live, this number is definitely a treat for Yes fans. The epic, originally from Tales From Topographic Oceans, covers a lot of musical ground in its 20 plus minutes. This is another technically strong cut that feels a bit lacking in the passion department as presented here. The uniqueness of the inclusion on this set makes up for that, though, and some sections do feel passionately performed.
This is a live rendition of Yes` arrangement of Paul Simon`s America. The piece has always been a crowd pleaser, although Yes has not frequently performed it. It is a powerful cut.
Featuring a lovely acoustic guitar intro, this is a pretty performance of a pretty love song. This piece seems to echo nicely around the hall, and Steve Howe adds some juicy guitar riffs to the piece, another first live entry. Although not necessarily a fan favorite, this is a very solid track and a good inclusion here. This one really feels as if it is played with a lot of feeling.
This is the only official live recording of this epic piece. It begins with a beautiful piano solo that is played with a definite fire. In fact, this whole piece really seems very alive. This one showcases the musical talents of all the members of the band in a progressive rock arrangement full of drama and numerous changes. "Awaken" certainly is a masterwork.
Disc 2
A bit overplayed, this song is well performed, and certainly classic. However, since there are live versions of this song both on Yessongs and Classic Yes, the inclusion here seems redundant.
Starship Trooper
This is a strong performance of a fairly early Yes prog classic. This tune has always been an audience favorite, and a powerful number.
Be The One
The first of the new studio tracks on this album, the intro here feels much like an Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe track. The verse is in a mode that seems a bit like a combination of late Rabin era Yes, classic Yes and Jon Anderson`s solo career. The chorus is in a strong ABWH based mode. There is a harder rocking segment to this piece that is quite wonderful. The texture of this segment is great and it features some fiery guitar work from Howe. The only complaint about this movement is that Wakeman is pretty much nonexistent there. In fact, Wakeman`s presence almost feels like an afterthought on the entire composition. However, this harder portion, which comprises a large percentage of the cut, really makes the piece. In classic Yes style, the track includes many varied segments.
That, That Is
Arguably the best Yes cut in quite some time, this remaining studio number is an epic piece. Beginning with a textural keyboard segment, acoustic guitar takes over for a while in a wonderfully intricate display of fretboard proficiency. The song then jumps to a bouncy sort of mode that is interspersed with more of these acoustic meanderings. Gradually during this segment, the other instruments join in at different points. When the bouncy segment returns, it evolves into a chant movement with very jazz moded drums. This portion transforms to just drums and voice before going to electric based rock. This new segment (the early verse movement) has a very nice groove to it. As the next portion of the song emerges, it jumps out of that segment. Almost an extension of that movement, this one is in a more solidly rocking mode, but still with a strong groove. As the song builds, some of the guitar work, although not technically amazing, really creates a nice tone, and is a bit reminiscent of the Tormato album at times. The piece then continues to move into more melodic segments that continue to progress the momentum. This one really features a lot of solid prog in its numerous changes, and it definitely feels like a modernization of the classic Yes stylings. Amongst the various movements, it features a beautiful piano and vocal portion. Eventually the song comes full circle returning to the bouncy acoustic based stylings, then into the drums/chant textures. From here a prog instrumental break emerges that really screams "classic Yes". From that point forward, this is a very strong prog number that certainly proves Yes still have the magic in them.
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