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Yes - Keystudio CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.55 | 462 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'Keystudio' - Yes (54/100)

Keystudio is one of the best-intentioned failures in progressive rock history.

Is it simply a compilation, or an overlooked Yes studio album? The record should state its the former, as it technically offers nothing past the fresh studio cuts on the Keys to Ascension albums. Even so, putting an hour of freshly written material together begs to be judged as a full-length. While Keys to Ascension (and Keystudio, by extension) would salvage the band's waning quality and get them out of the AOR rut, Yes' return to progressive rock isn't as propitious as I would have hoped. The bold attempt at multiple epics and instrumental fireworks would thankfully pave the way for The Ladder and Magnification, but for the sake of Keystudio, it sounds like Yes were still getting back on their feet.

Rick Wakeman originally wanted Keystudio to be released as a proper full-length; while I had initially wondered why he didn't get his wish, I'm sort of glad the band decided to veto him. While Yes made the right move to return to progressive rock after the tragically dull Open Your Eyes, the classic quality is nowhere to be seen. Nothing on Keystudio is outwardly bad- some parts are even truly impressive- but the proggy edge seems contrived. The structures are mechanical, the longer song structures often feel like pop tunes that were forcibly drawn out. The hooks are none too effective, and every moment of brilliance on a track is offset by an idea equally as dull or complacent. I'm really happy Yes got their head out of the dirt and tried to reclaim what they were best at, but the magic wasn't so quick to return. Seriously; Jon Anderson- a middle-aged British progger- chanting on about being 'strung out on crack time' in the ghetto is utterly ridiculous, and not in the way that would endear them to me at all.

If there's an issue with the material, it's consistency. "That, That Is" and "Mind Drive" are two of the longest, most conventionally 'epic' works Yes have ever crafted. Both are endowed with incredible ideas; "Mind Drive" in particular is seen by a few fans as one of the band's best works, and a few of the most fiery instrumental passages might suggest I should agree with them. As start-to-finish compositions however, there isn't a track on Keystudio that doesn't escape problems of flow and consistency. The two epics are the worst contenders for this- so many of the ideas feel dull and uninvolved; in contrast, "Close to the Edge" was utterly captivating even during its least involving passages. It's a case of a band trying to replicate their former glory, and not quite replicating the formula.

If something portrays Keystudio in a positive light, it's everything that came before it. Union and Open Your Eyes made it evident Yes had no idea where to go with their sound, and half of Talk was equally as terrible. With their one-time leader Trevor Rabin out of the picture, it wasn't looking likely that Yes would find their way again. The Keys to Ascension duology was a blessing for Yes fans, and while they were far more impressive on the merits of their live showcase of classic material, the studio material at least showed that Yes weren't going to rest on the laurels of their 70s material. Even if Keystudio is a mixed success at best, the Keys to Ascension series would beckon in a brief renaissance for Yes, continuing with the far-more engaging The Ladder and culminating in their latter-era masterpiece, Magnification.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |


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