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Yes - Keys to Ascension 2 CD (album) cover

KEYS TO ASCENSION 2

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.97 | 450 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars " Gone are the days in black and white, children of light don't be afraid"

This is the better of the two KTA collections, both in terms of the live tracks and the new studio recordings. The album, which is performed by the classic line up, was released around the same time as "Open your eyes", sending confusing messages to Yes fans. While this album, like its similarly named predecessor, implied that the prog Yes were back together and set on a course towards their indulgent best, the Sherwood/Squire led "Open your eyes" pointed almost exactly in the other direction. The confusion arose because Rick Wakeman left the band before KTA2 was even released. Yes signed up with a new record label, who wanted to put something out quickly. The Sherwood/Squire side project "Conspiracy" therefore mutated into a Yes album, with Anderson and Howe joining in along the way. Billy Sherwood is actually involved here too, but only as producer, he does not perform on the album.

Anyway, enough of the history lesson. Here we have another excellent bunch of Yes classics performed live, including "All good people", "Going for the one" and the wonderful "Turn of the century". The highlights inevitably though are "Close to the edge" and "And you and I". The early song "Time and a word" is given a welcome dusting off and delivered as a softer, almost unplugged version, with Wakeman adding some superb piano. We may have heard these songs a thousand time, both live and in their original studio form, but they still sound as fresh and invigorated here as they have always done. That said, I have heard better live mixes of "Close to the edge". The keyboards are much too far back, especially on the climactic part of "I get up I get down" which is virtually a (fine) bass solo.

More space is devoted to the studio tracks here, with five in total occupying one entire disc. The discs here are rather short though, this one running to just 45 minutes. Of the studio tracks, "Mind drive" is the best, being an 18 minute piece which has suggestions of some of their classic progressive works. The song was more recently revived by the band for live performance on their 35th anniversary tour. I would not describe it as a Yes classic by any means, as it sounds a bit messy at times. It is though a decent stab at rekindling the old days. On the plus side, the piece includes one of Rick's great synth bursts, similar to that on "The revealing science of God".

It may be just coincidence, but the tracks get progressively shorter on the second disc, cumulating in the brief Wakeman/Howe instrumental "Sign language". Along the way, we have the fine "Foot prints", which includes further notable keyboard work by Wakeman. Indeed, Rick is far more obvious on these songs than he was on the first KTA studio tracks. "Bring me to the power" is for me the weakest of the bunch, being a rather loose, scrappy affair which might appeal more to those who enjoyed tracks such as "Sound chaser".

"Children of light" was co-written by Anderson and Squire along with Vangelis. It is perhaps therefore not surprising that it is similar in style and sound to Jon and Vangelis' "State of independence". The latter section of this two part piece "Lifeline", is a haunting Wakeman and Howe composed instrumental. If I was being fussy, I'd suggest that it would have made more sense to combine "Lifeline" and "Sign language" into a two part piece instead. They sit together rather nicely.

In all, an enjoyable mix of the old and the new, which perhaps heralded a false dawn in terms of the classic Yes line up reverting to their roots.

The whole package is adorned in another classic Roger Dean cover. KTA 1+2 were subsequently packaged together as a 4 CD collection, while the studio tracks from both sets were re-issued as "Key studio". As I mentioned in my review of KTA (1), I would have preferred the live and studio tracks, to have been kept separate for release purposes. I am not sure if these count as official studio releases by the band (not that it matters particularly) but the combination of classic Yes tracks played live with new, and in relative terms weaker, studio tracks does smack a bit of marketing over common sense.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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