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Yes - Keys to Ascension CD (album) cover

KEYS TO ASCENSION

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

4.09 | 464 ratings

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TCat
Prog Reviewer
4 stars In Memory of Chris Squire....You will be missed

The dream line-up of Yes was back once again (minus Bruford, but White is a great drummer, so we can easily overlook that). They came together to do a 3 night series of concerts in San Luis Obispo, California to demonstrate the miracle of performing some of their most challenging and epic songs in a live setting. However, there was a lot of overdubbing involved from the studio to make things more consistent, especially with Jon's vocals. The thing though, is that there is some extension to some of the songs, especially with "Starship Trooper" that make purchasing this set worthwhile. Of course, the entire set is not on these two discs, some other tracks were saved for a second volume. Yes includes 7 live tracks and 2 new studio tracks on this album. So you get some excellent live versions and 2 new songs with this amazing lineup.

"Siberian Khatru" is from the "Close to the Edge" album and it is a pretty faithful rendition with a few additions. "The Revealing Science of God" is from "Tales of Topographic Oceans" and is amazing to hear both of these extensive tracks in a live setting, it's so amazing to hear this music or even imagine the band being able to perform these tracks live so well. Plus, there is the fact that the sound is soooo much better on here than it was on "Yessongs" or "Yesshows" and so it is a much better document of a live performance, even as wonderful as "Yessongs" is.

"America" is so much better that the studio version recorded in the 70s. This cover song of a Simon and Garfunkel classic was never released on any studio album, so to hear it performed live like this is quite amazing. But it is done so much better. I always considered the original cover a little weak and unsure, but this live performance gives the Yes version the sound and execution it deserves. If that isn't enough to convince you to get this album, then the versions of "Onward" from "Tormato" and "Awaken" from "Going for the One" should be. "Onward" is done so beautifully here. I never noticed it much before, probably because of the fact that it was on one of Yes' worst albums, but here it is paired with a lovely number written by Howe, and it turns the so-so song into something quite beautiful. And then "Awaken" will send chills up your spine because it is performed so well here, especially Wakeman's organ solo.

On Disc 2, "Roundabout" of course shows up and it is a decent enough version, at least it is the full version and not a cut up version which was the practice for a lot of Yes live albums (Including "The House of Blues" concert which frustrates me to no end that they would do a shortened version of that in a live setting). But "Starship Trooper" is the best version of this song altogether. I love the original studio version, don't get me wrong, but, this version extends the "Wurm" segment much longer, where on the studio version it fades just as what sounds like an amazing guitar solo starts up. In this version, after the build up that occurs with Howe's strumming, the song continues without fading. However, you expect Howe to perform that great guitar solo at the same place as in the studio version, but instead you get a great solo from Wakeman first, then the pay off is that guitar solo is finally fully realized. After that, Wakeman and Howe trade off back and forth with continued soloing. It is a Yes fans dream come true. This is worth the price of the album.

There are two long new tracks following this. They are both pretty good, "Be The One" is a nine minute 3 part song which is decent, but nothing real exciting. However, "That, That Is" is a 19+ minute epic that is excellent, very reminiscent of "Topographic Oceans" but more modern sounding.

Overall, this is an excellent album with only a few weaknesses, those being the first 2 tracks not really offering anything new and the 1st of the studio tracks being a little weak. The thing that make is worthwhile are the tracks "America", "Onward", "Starship Trooper" and "That, That Is" This still ends up being an excellent addition to any prog or Yes collection. 4 bright stars.

TCat | 4/5 |

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