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Yes - 1996 - "(New) Keys to Ascension" (2CD, 85 min, UK)


*****+

Disc 1:                  (40 min)
1. America               (10 min)
2. Be the One            (10 min)
3. That that is          (20 min)

Disc 2:                  (45 min)
1. Mind Drive            (20 min)
2. Foot Prints           (10 min)
3. Bring Me to the Power (7 min)
4. Children of Light     (5,5 min)
5. Sea Language          (2,5 min. approx.,
                          as well as the other
                          songs playing-time)

All tracks by Yes, except "America" by P.Simon/arranged by Yes,
and Sea Language by Wakeman/Howe.

Jon Anderson - vocals, harp
Chris Squire - bass, b/vox
Steve Howe   - guitars, b/vox
Rick Wakeman - keyboards
Alan White   - drums

In my opinion, there was no reason whatsoever to divide the latest material of these Prog-Titans into two parts and to mix it with excellent, but old live songs. Taking into consideration that a great cover-version of a quiet, weak in the original America (of Paul Simon) was never included in the programm Yes albums, now we have a NEW full-blooded double work from the band! Just use your CD-Recorders, if you have it, and you're free be an original new producer of that album.

Disc 1. Paul Simon's America was included in the highly obscure compilation "Yesterdays" (1975), but in this new rearrangement in conformity with the true great old stylistics of the band that song shines now like a diamond! For me personally this is just a new song of Yes. Be the One begins slowly with Jon's vocals supported mostly by acoustic guitar and gentle keyboards. The subsequent events develop in accordance with so dearly loved old Yes traditions. Fast and energetic themes are suddenly replaced by melancholy moods and the other way round.

That that is is the longest and the best piece from the first disc. Opened with distinctive arrangements of Howe's clear acoustic guitar the song moves three minutes later into expressive bombastic Prog in the vein of The Gates of Delirium from "Relayer". In the next moderate part Anderson sings with some African intonations. Different themes replace one another every one or two minutes with constant changes of tempos. Lots of acoustic, electric, and of course, bass guitar solos, beatiful piano arrangements. Excellent singing and drumming. Nearer to the end the composition returns to the intensive realm with an unexpected coda. Together with the tracks from "...Topographic Oceans", the title-song from "Close to the Edge", The Gates of Delirium (and the first from the next disc!) this is one of the best complex compositions Yes ever created.

Disc 2. The mind-blowing Mind Drive begins gently only with acoustic guitar arrangements. Two minutes later the theme developes with bass, synthesizer and "warlike" drums. After the forcing of intensity the composition moves again into a realm similar to The Gates of Delirium, but not for that long. Over the next 5-6 minutes the melancholy is a dominant mood with slightly sad vocals to the accompaniment of acoustic guitar solos or soft interplays between bass and synthesizer. In the middle of the song the "heavy" intensive sound is reconstructured with masterly bass and electric guitar solos and again "warlike" drums. Very dramatic vocals add to a fantastic mood. After a long instrumental piece with virtuoso solos from each musician the piece is closed with "spacey" synth flashes.

Foot Prints, a light, full-of-hope song is made nevertheless with all the ingredients of the "distinctive" Yes sound and beautiful arrangements. Based mostly on various bass themes this one contains lots of skilful, virtuoso arrangements from Wakeman. The song ends with bright acoustic guitar passages. Bring Me to the Power contains more varied moods: from optimistic to mellow sung by Jon mostly to the accompaniment of acoustic guitar. The second part of the song can be quite compared to the first part only except for an excellent elecric guitar solo between the voice-based art. As always, we have extremely varied themes from the dynamic bass. A dazzling synth-solo closes the track. All of these short tracks, as well as the first two songs from the disc 1 can relate to the compositions from B-sides of "Close to the Edge" and "Relayer".

The first part of Children of Light in conformity with the title is a bright vocals-based piece more typical for "Union" than early Yes. And the rest three minutes contain a mellow, bland meditation not in the Yes' stylistics at all. Though it's not a bad song, I am glad to see it as the last on the album. Because the last track is so bad, really! If you've heard some ambient albums from Wakeman or collaboration works of Steve Howe and Paul Sutin in the same stylistics, you can imagine what it's like. Sea Language is just a dull short new-agy instrumental "played" only by Wakeman and Howe.

Summary. Incidentally and fortunately, the last three minutes from over 80 minutes of mind-blowing Yes music absolutely cannot affect the whole wonderful impression. "(New) Keys to Ascension" is the fourth most complex and interesting album after "Tales from Topographic Oceans", "Relayer" and "Close to the Edge". It's a great surprise for old Yes friends. And if you should ask me of the fifth best, in my opinion, Yes album I'll say "Tormato". Both "Keys..." are released by British "Castle Records" and have an excellent quality. content

VM. 24.12.1998


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