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Yes
Heaven & Earth Nick Reed , July 2nd, 2014 12:32

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It would be nearly impossible to find a band with a more checkered history than Yes. While they've had inconsistencies over their 46 years of existence, they've never wavered in their dedication to unpredictable, bizarre lineup changes, and the drama that comes with them. There's far too much of that to cover in this review, but let's just say that Yes were perhaps the 70's premiere prog rock act, with an incredible run from 1971 to 1974 that still holds up as some the very finest music the genre had to offer. But, like most of those prog rock bands, they couldn't keep it up for too long. Prog fell out of favour and the band tried their hand at new things, at one point even scoring a number one single with 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart'. Of course, that edition of Yes was dominated by Trevor Rabin and had little to do with the group that recorded Close To The Edge; but that's Yes for you. Even when it seems like they're cooked, they find a way to rebound.  

Case in point: when Jon Anderson suffered a severe asthma attack in 2008, the group unceremoniously booted him and replaced him with Benoit David, the frontman of a Yes tribute band that they found on YouTube. Keep in mind the fact Anderson was their singer for about 40 years; he appeared on every single Yes album except Drama. What's more, they recorded a new album with David - 2011's surprisingly decent Fly From Here, a sort sequel to Drama. David faired well, but he also got sick, so the next man in line was Jon Davison, the current singer of Tennessee's Glass Hammer, who looks and sounds he could be Anderson's son. And so the show goes on.

Heaven & Earth is Yes' latest album, and unlike Fly From Here, this one's all new material. The lineup: Chris Squire, Jon Davison, Alan White, Geoff Downes, and Steve Howe. Jon Davison is absolutely the right choice for the band. While Benoit David had to throw his voice to sound like Anderson, Davison just naturally sounds that way, and if anything his voice is even more ridiculous. He writes the same sort of obtuse, nonsensical lyrics that old Jon did. Naturally, they also saddled him with the majority of the songwriting duties (he's credited on seven of the eight songs - no other band member has more than three).

Heaven & Earth is an odd duck in the Yes discography. I mean, the Yes discography is full of odd ducks, but this time, they don't sound anything like classic Yes or the Rabin-era Yes. Some of these songs are on the longer side, but this is not progressive rock; if Starcastle was one degree of prog removed from Yes, then Heaven & Earth is about three degrees removed from Starcastle. This is a pure shot of Adult-Oriented Pop, and it's not completely without compare in the Yes catalogue - Talk, Open Your Eyes, and The Ladder had a number of limp, smiley-face pop songs, but there's even less edge on the songs here. It's almost as though the band tried to put together an album full songs like 'I've Seen All Good People', without the corresponding 'Your Move' bit that ties everything together.


Here's what this album sounds like. First, there's Downes, whose keyboards are all set to soft, angelic tones, playing bits that are either tasteful but ignorable, or really doodly ('Believe Again', 'Step Beyond'). Howe is usually somewhere in there, strumming something way in the background or taking some time to insert half-speed guitar runs in random spots. Davison sings his bits, often with Squire backing him up, and those are often the best (or prettiest) parts of the album - Davison sounds like he's about to burst into tears on half these songs. White plays these dinky rhythms that might as well be from a drum machine; he's so undermixed that you can barely hear him. And Squire is halfway asleep almost the entire time - when he's audible you can hear the dust rattling off his bass. Okay, so imagine what all that might sound like. Now, reduce the tempo by a good third or so. These songs are shockingly slow; even for a band of grandpas, there's so little energy that it feels as if everyone's going to spontaneously doze off at any moment. It's almost like an MC Escher house of lethargy; this shouldn't even be possible. Every single instrument seems to be quieter than every other instrument, and the songs feel like they're constantly slowing down, even though we know they aren't. Try getting one of these songs stuck in your head, then go back and listen to it again. What the hell?


And that's the thing - these songs will get stuck in your craw, for better or worse. It may be an easy album to tear down, but truthfully, I kind of like some of these songs. There's no energy and the performances are dry, but Davison certainly knows his way around a pretty melody; 'Light of the Ages' and 'To Ascend' have a certain ethereal beauty to them. Some of it is catchy - the delicate harmonies in 'The Game' and 'Step Beyond' are great, and at least the verses of 'Believe Again' are nice. Sometimes they even sort of benefit from the surreally listless tempos; if the album's concept is ascending to heaven, then these songs do make you feel like you're dying. Now none of them really work from start to finish, but at least most have something going for them, with the exception of 'In a World Of Our Own', which pretty much bites it, I'm afraid (my God, does the spectre of death loom hard over that one).


Still, it's not good news if you're a longstanding fan, particularly since Fly From Here at least featured a band that resembled Yes. The only glimmer here is the closing 'Subway Walls'; finally Squire plays more than a couple of notes at a time, and you can hear them shift time signatures and jam for a couple of minutes like they used to. Again, it's far too slow; like most of the other songs, you get the feeling that the song may have worked fine if only they had recorded it 20 years earlier. Like everything Yes have done in the last three decades, it's mostly just odd and frustrating. Even the most hardcore of Yes fans may forget that this exists in a couple months. Let's just stay tuned for the inevitable 50th anniversary Yes album, featuring a completely inaudible Squire and White, the return of Jon Anderson, Wakeman's grandson, and the ghost of Peter Banks. You can't really rule it out, can you?

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Ned
Jul 3, 2014 8:40pm

Great review. On point. Exactly. Why even bother with this lineup or the name Yes. It should just be - Heaven and Earth by the former members of Yes (Squire, White and Howe), Asia (Geoff Downes) and Glass Hammer (Jon Davison) playing at half speed! lol

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Rip Torn
Jul 3, 2014 11:48pm

An admirable attempt by the reviewer to find something positive in an album that has no redeeming features. If you listen carefully, you can hear the roadies firing up the life-support machines.

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nonseptic
Jul 4, 2014 8:26am

a couple OF months

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George Miller
Jul 4, 2014 2:42pm

I think at this point YES should concentrate on their back catalog!!

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Steven Sullivan
Jul 4, 2014 8:45pm

Interesting review, and it accords with some of the others from people whose opinions I respect. I think you got your parts of 'I've Seen All Good People' reversed, though. The easy listening part is 'Your Move' . The rock part was 'All Good People'. From your review it sounds like the new album is too much 'Your Move' without enough 'All Good People'.

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Baggieboy
Jul 7, 2014 8:27pm

In reply to Rip Torn:

Yes died when Jon Anderson left..

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Scaramouche73
Jul 10, 2014 12:00pm

I don't know what album the reviewer was listening to, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Some if what he said was true, the mix is pretty bad, but that's Roy Thomas Baker for you and it makes you think what the abandoned 1979 album would have sounded like with RTB at the helm. Alan White sounds laboured like he did at the recent concert I attended, but he us getting on a bit now, and Chris Squires base didn't cut through the music like we are wont to expect. But the album is strong. Great songs and great melodies. Steve Howe shines like the moon and the sun and Davisons vocals and writing ability makes it a cert that he is the future of the band going forward. Rick Wakeman once said that he hoped a version of Yes will continue long after the original members are dead and gone.. I thing Davison will be the start of that.

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Paul Collier
Jul 10, 2014 12:59pm

I must admit that I hoped this latest offering from YES would be better but I am disappointed. Very disappointed. My conclusion is that we have long since heard the best of YES.

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Kev
Jul 25, 2014 1:26pm

An accurate review. I have been a yes fan since I was 16 years old and I'm 48 now, this album is sooooo boring! It's worse than Talk. I was expecting much, much more. Maybe next time!

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Firefly
Jul 25, 2014 10:34pm

I really enjoyed this album.Better than Anderson era Yes of Magnification and The Ladder.Subway Walls alone is better than any song on those albums.It's nice to see them do something unique and not try to do bad attempts at 70's epics.Yes fans get stuck in 1972 when prog was at it's peak.Let Yes be of this time and not try to recapture 1972,you can't live in the past forever enjoy it for what it is,new and different.

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Pat Barclay
Jul 29, 2014 6:21pm

Still listening to this album. I don't find it unlistenable, but when my wife called me to ask how I liked it (she told me where to find it to listen to), I said it sounded like "Yes elevator music". Way too laid back...this style is good for a song or two, not an entire album. Good for playing as background music, but not a whole lot to sink one's teeth into. I had not heard that Davison had replaced David, and he does a really nice job. The final cut "Subway Walls" is perhaps the one saving grace on the album.

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andrew ward
Aug 19, 2014 9:57am

Completely agree! As a longstanding fan i find the songs slow and uninspired. Maybe it'll make sense when i'm 70. Live, they're still awesome however.

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Mike d
Aug 28, 2014 10:36pm

I'm a long-time YES fan so maybe a bit bias but there are a few tracks that have stuck with me…notably Believe Again & Step Beyond. I wish the "original" guys had a bigger hand in the writing though…there are a couple of real stinkers here. I'm not holding out for the next great YES album, I don't think that's gonna happen but a few good songs with some signature YES rifs definitely makes buying the album with it for me.

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Hal Totten
Aug 30, 2014 8:58am

Been a die hard Yes fan from the beginning. Also a HUGE fan of Glass Hammer. This album is definitely influenced by Davison, which IMHO is a good thing. I expect that another album will be coming out in a year or so and they will change directions again... This IS the mark of a good band.Not playing the same thing over and over IS A GOOD THING!

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John
Sep 18, 2014 2:52pm

As I sit here listening to the Gates of Delirium, I am reminded of a true Masterpiece.
I have tried so hard to listen to this piece of crap Heaven & Earth. The vocals, keyboards, and bass are horrendous. Send this person Davison back to Glass Hammer (which is another prog band wannabe) or whichever former band he came from. I could not even make it through the two short 4-minute songs without cringing. Even if Starcastle reformed today, and even without the late great bassist Gary Strater they would blow away these former and at one time the greatest Progressive band of all time. I knew it was close to edge for Yes when they backstabbed Jon Anderson and hired wannabe falsettos from tribute bands.
So much for the band, I have seen so many times, I have lost count. Thanks boys for all the great memories. Unfortunately, Heaven & Earth has already become a bad memory! I even tried donating it to the local library, but even they rejected it.
PLEASE no more new Yes albums! I will just continue to listen to all the albums from Yes’s inception up to Magnification. Yes without Jon Anderson, it was truly all we knew.

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louis ratana
Oct 13, 2014 1:21am

Need Trevor Bad

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louis ratana
Oct 13, 2014 1:23am

In reply to louis ratana:

Rabin that is

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Gabriel
Nov 4, 2014 12:13pm

Is this the new Alphaville(Forever Young).
Shame on you Chris!
Geoff Downes, why do have so many keyboard if you can not play on them.
Sorry for guys who played once "in Heaven", but now they're on the "Earth".

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Alan
Nov 12, 2014 6:47pm

On balance, I think the review is fair. On first listening this album sounds like an album of outtakes, of a much grander work; some good ideas that simply didn't pan out. Jon Anderson could belt out lyrics like "High vibrations go on" and he could make you believe the universe was speaking directly to him, angelic voiced Davidson, is just unable to deliver on that level. Anderson's voice is like the jam in a jam doughnut, without him, you're just eating a doughnut, sweet yes, satisfying, no.

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Clark
Mar 17, 2015 5:43pm

After seeing the new live performance on TV, I am convinced that Alan White is not living. He looks and sounds like a puppet. His playing is weak and lacks any of the "fills" he used to be so good at. Bruford retired, so should he.

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Clark
Mar 17, 2015 5:43pm

After seeing the new live performance on TV, I am convinced that Alan White is not living. He looks and sounds like a puppet. His playing is weak and lacks any of the "fills" he used to be so good at. Bruford retired, so should he.

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