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3 stars Not the album I hoped. Yes, this is a different one... very different. The 21 st studio album is... 1. Believe Again, beautiful song, Yesi. It's ok. 2. The Game, a pop song fron Chris. Ohhhh, there are Billy Sherwood harmonies style... 3. Step Beyond, not great. Simply a song. 4. To Ascend. I love this one, a Beatlesque sound. Very good Alan. 5. In A World Of Our Own, another pop song. 6. Light Of The Ages. A very good song. Also, I love this one. 7. It Was All We Knew, did I said something about pop song. 8. Subway Walls, the only prog one. Well done. Thank you Geoff.

I'll buy the album. But... I think that the new direction isn't for me... I prefer tours, but none new album. A last ReUNION tour.

Sorry Steve, but sounds about Asia + Billy Sherwood + Alan Parsons + Supertramp...

Report this review (#1199414)
Posted Saturday, June 28, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars A Mediocre Starcastle album or Yes wannabe Tribute Band?

Full Disclosure :

It took me a while to warm up to the Fly From Here album and I recall scoring it around 2.5 stars. After many more listens I'd probably give it a 3.5 today. I doubt I'll have the same reflective moments about Heaven and Hell, I mean Earth, although that might be a better title given it's impact on this reviewer.

Production :

As with most Yes albums the technical aspects of the recording can be considered world class. I found the sound a tad muddy with the crisp clear sibilance missing from things like cymbals and the Hi-hat. But production is so much more than recording quality. The mix is a little heavy on drums when they do little more than provide a thin rhythm section at best. Is this really the same Alan White that played on Relayer? The instrumental sections are relegated to the background for the most part with the odd exception of a synth or guitar solo.


Song Writing :

The song writing here is far from being up to the Yes standard we've come to expect. I'm at a loss to find a standout track on this album as every one of them seems to be void of any real emotion or sense of energy for that matter. Song after song plods along, never picking up and speed or creating a sense of interest for the listener. To Ascend never takes off and then coasts to the end of the runway tired and out of gas. With the follow up tune In a World of Our Own I ask myself, 'Is there such a thing as Progessive Blues?' Then more and more of the same. Subway Walls starts off with promise but then deviates into a lazy attempt at sounding progy. 'Ladies and gentlemen. The progressive Yes has left the building!'


Originality :

This is where Yes appears to having an identity crisis of sorts. They have produced an album that sounds like a Yes album but have done nothing to define who they are now. Geoff Downes takes to doing Wakemanesque MiniMOOG solos rather than putting himself in the music. When Moraz stepped in for Wakeman you knew there was a new guy in town and he owned it. I've also reached the point of boredom with bands trying to replace singers with singers who sound exactly like the singers they've lost. Get over it and move on. I don't really care who is singing for them on this album because I know it's not Jon Anderson and yet it's no different from Jon Anderson. Just another voice without any originality


Performance :

The performances on this album are fair I guess, given that the writing is as lackluster as it is. There isn't any flourish here, no chops. Maybe that's what happens after you turn 65. Geoff Downs organ solo in Subway Walls is uninspired and by the numbers, almost as if to say 'There you go, my Hammond solo, now let me get back to holding cords'. Alan White brings nothing of interest to the percussion section on this album. Any middle of the road bar drummer could have done it. Steve Howe provides maybe three little solos here but they pale on comparison to stuff he even did with Asia. Chris squires bass playing is again fine but not outstanding. It's hard to excel when the bar is set so low. Hey Chris, here's an idea for you'Emerson Squire and Palmer. That's right, ESP!! Now I'd buy that for a dollar!


General Impressions :

Yes seems to be suffering from an identity crisis. For all intents and purposes this is the Drama Yes band. The music here in no way reminds us of that once great collaboration that brought us 'Machine Messiah', 'Into the Lens' or 'Tempus Fugit'. Yes have picked through the yes 'sound files' and have been very careful to put just the right amount of Yes sound into this album and in doing so have become a reflection of what they have never been. A watery version of themselves. While this review has garnered a 1.35 (lowered to 1 star) I still wouldn't even recommend it to completionists.


Total = 27/100 (27% of 5 stars)


Report this review (#1199444)
Posted Saturday, June 28, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars Close to Las Vegas, faraway from home...

After the masterful "Relayer" 1976 , in between 1977 "Going for the One" and 1978 "Tormato", Yes made a 180 degree market-wise strategic move in their image and music direction. The new Yes image was no longer an "out of this world" cosmic one, they turned around the Roger Dean masterful imagery and "Hipgnosisided" their art covers (not the logo,yet). They polished up their image to look more like modern "this world citizens" into the upcoming and shining 80's . All rock, prog and jazz musicians, legends or not, fell prey, for the new temptations this new technology and markets offered. As far as image, clothing, art covers or even lyrics, I could not care less!

But what started as a joke, became a self-parody with its inherent damage also to the music they composed. Yes became a self imposed parody of themselves and worst of all, this started this horrendous decline in their artistic direction and musical goals. What once was a self demanding quest for musical perfection, turned into overly indulgent songwriting (or the compulsive need to fit mainstream markets).

But whatever I think, there were huges amounts of people, who could not care less for the bio and were completely caught up with this new Yes "model". And Yes, always so positive, realized this and started to focus solely on these less demanding, easy to please and eager to pay audiences. (You know, a kid's education costs a fortune!)

Anyway, if it was not for the constant "we are YES, don't forget", gentle reminders (flashbacks included), "HEAVEN & EARTH", 2014, composition wise, sounds like a band of top-notch mature music teachers/composers, playing some kind of sterilized and humorless Steely Dan's like L.A.'s life music, versus some kind of extra corny (which is like way too much) "Bread" (a 70's pop band), clean-cut love songs, performed in some super luxurious and glittering (like Wakeman's 70's red-orange cape) West Coast's Hotel,(in fact it was recorded in L.A.!) to a bunch of people who pay good money for this kind of "chat if you like", "bring me my drinks !", environments (not that far from elevator music, to set things straight!).

With some masterful decorations along the way by Squire and Howe, even though virtuously performed, composition-wise nothing stands out, no news under the YES, once refulgent, sun!

Half Yes is not Yes, without Anderson is very un-YES, and then again, even if Anderson shows up again and dresses like Elvis and Wakeman returns dressed as himself, (or Moraz by the way), they will never, and there is no real monetary need to be, that "classic" YES again. But you and I know, that what was once the undisputable epitome of a prog all-stars band, is no longer among us (well, since 1976, in fact!).

**2 "Another uninspired, close to boring (instead of to the edge), top performers (hats off to Steve Howe!),YES project " , PA stars!

For the "die-hard" DRAMA or Fly from Here or Asia followers.

Report this review (#1199514)
Posted Sunday, June 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars only 3 stars cause yes was a band who carry me so much feelings when i was young , sure it's not yes 70' ( really far from it ) , some tracks are , like the last acceptable , but that' all , even the voice of jon davidson is great , steve howe is too old & dont bring surprise with his sound making only small soli very poor , .my point of view : ok they are legend musicians but may be it's time to close the chapter cause the yes identity is dead since a long time , i can understand it's hard for them to stop their passion but TIME is like that , you can stop it ( it's the same for everybody ) , so with this last opus more deceived than enjoy ,,,,too much great bands today better than last yes work , EVIDENCE//////
Report this review (#1199576)
Posted Sunday, June 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars Yes were the soundtrack to my life as a teenager in the 1970's. Their music made high school bearable for me and I really wanted to love this new album. But try as I might - I don't. The major letdown seems to be that none of the music is memorable. Or passionate. Here's what I mean: As complex and intricate as Close to the Edge is - I can still hum the chorus and some of the verses to myself when I take the dog for a walk. Classic Yes knew how to offset challenging time signatures with musical and vocal hooks. This version of the band seems to have lost that magic component. It's funny, but the Davison's former band Glass Hammer seems to have more in common with classic Yes than the actual band (Yes) as it is now. The Glass Hammer disc 'If' comes to mind. On further reflection, Downes' keyboard prominence gives the whole project a tired 'Asia' feel to it in the end. And the Roger Dean cover? I really like the blue background structure and also the foreground organic element as separate objects but my brain has trouble reconciling the perspective to merge them together... So: It's not a horrid effort but falls far short of what I had hoped for.
Report this review (#1199612)
Posted Sunday, June 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars First I must say that I just heard Jon Davison is an admirer of Jon Anderson and would love to meet him someday. The fact that his voice is very similar but not as true "Jon Anderson" as some would like should have nothing to do with grading this album.

With that in mind....this album has the softer side of YES. And I love it!

My review:

Believe Again...

Davison is finding "a new found freedom" by realizing his dream of heading up the band he has idolized for so long. It is evident that he takes the task seriously. Howe's guitar playing and White's polyrhythmic drumming are fabulous along with Downes ethereal keyboard touches. Not my favorite of the album but a solid, light & wispy opening track.

The Game...

Howe starts this one with some slide guitar work which kicks off the mood for this one. Squire's bass work is up in the mix here while Davison's vocals " fade out" sails over everything. The harmonies are pitch perfect and blend together nicely. There are some spots where Davison ends of phrases are sung differently than Anderson, but again, Davison is his own man. Props to him for being himself on this one!

Step Beyond...

Love the way this one starts YES song I know of has started out like this one. What a groovy, happy song it is! When Howe kicks in, classic YES is brought to mind. "Beyond...Beyond...." after the arpeggios by Downes... beautiful! Great job on this one YES!!!! Favorite track so far.

To Ascend...

Classic Howe and Squire at the this 70's folk feel. Davison sings it from the heart here. "Taking the time on a wing and a prayer". Most ethereal song on the album. Ranks up there with Step Beyond.

In A World Of Our Own...

White's opening leaves me wanting more. Plunks on the keyboard remind me of a Paul McCartney Beatles song...who isn't influenced by the Beatles though? Like the marimba, vibraphone sounds in this one. Simple, straightforward, no frills. No chills here however.

Light Of The Ages...

Love the walking Squire bass line. And Howe on the slide again....superb playing here sir! Any song with word "Cosmos" catches my attention. Davison is enjoying this song it is evident. Can't wait to see this one live!

It Was All We Knew...

Nice groove here. Chord progressions are pretty standard. Harmonies between Howe, Squire and Davison are tight. "Sweet were the fruits, long were the summer days" I can almost taste them and feel the heat! Squire, Howe and Downes playing in unison is quite refreshing. Howe once again, outstanding job picking out those solos.

Subway Walls...

OK favorite song of all. This song starts off like some futuristic world is being created right before our eyes. Strings, timpani and xylophone....brilliant! Squire's bass playing on the melody is tasty. When Davison joins in I'm brought back to mid-70's YES. "One glimpse, way out of the ethereal electric revelation" love this lyric. Switching time signatures seal this one as my favorite by far on Heaven & Earth. Another one I would love to see them perform live.

Heaven & Earth is obviously not Jon Anderson YES. But it most certainly is YES.

Remember, these great men have spent hours and hours rehearsing and putting together what they believe is their best effort. Their purpose is not to compete with past albums with different line- ups or outdo their previous efforts. Music is supposed to please the ears, open our minds and soften our hearts. For those of us not so talented, we should ALL show appreciation for what our beloved band has put together here.

This album does all that for me and I hope all true YES fans as well.

Bravo guys!!!! Thanks for making a very enjoyable album to add to my huge YES collection.

Report this review (#1201197)
Posted Monday, June 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars A new Yes album is something that exists in the year of our lord 2014, and it goes by the name of Heaven & Earth. No hype, despite the band's efforts, was present. Dread is a more appropriate word for many who just simply hoped it would all end. But, no mercy killing would suffice for this progressive rock dinosaur, opting for a brand-spanking-new album, with another replacement (for Benoit David, the original replacement for long-standing vocalist Jon Anderson) by the name of Jon Davison. The immediate issue with this is that Davison is just a fourth-rate Jon Anderson imitator, and a poor songwriter to boot. How this all came to be is one big mystery to be honest, and Heaven & Earth is really just a victim of not only horrendous songwriting, but atrocious production as well (as done by Roy Baker Thomas, known for his work with Queen). The combination of the band's sound, and Thomas' style of sleek production don't mesh well in the slightest bit.

From the instant it begins, it all seems so bland and uninspired, from the SNES-tier synthesizers by Geoff Downes, or the hesitant playing by Steve Howe. Vocally, the album is sub-par, but it is probably the only positive point of Heaven & Earth. The instrumentation however, is lacking and quite far too restrained, most notably the leisurely playing on In A World of Our Own, or the incredibly droll The Game with lyrics that make even the most novice songwriter look like Bernie Taupin in comparison:

"We all know the rules, the game/Us fools, still we play the same?"

"Through fleeting days and all that greys/It's times like these as true love stays/I always knew through thick and thin/It's here that I'd begin again."

Now, there was never an expectation of an epic on the scale of Close to the Edge or Awaken, nor was there an expectation of songs like Hearts or Shock to the System. However, from the day it was announced, there was the lurking expectation of not only potential (and very likely) disappointment of yet another terrible Yes album, but at least a decent effort of making something worth listening to. Yet, that is not the case, and Yes has gone above and beyond to make the newest atrocity for the progressive rock genre.

Throwing in generic moog solos is not progressive. No Steve Howe, tossing in legato triplets over and over, and over again is not innovative in the slightest bit. None of this tripe, all fifty-two minutes of it, is progressive at all. More akin to a dying breed, latter-era Yes is regressing. While something like Fly From Here worked for reviving an ancient track long forgotten by the band and expanding upon it, and throwing in a few new tracks that filled out the running time, Heaven & Earth just doesn't work at all. In comparison, Big Generator seems like a progressive rock classic, and if Yes can create something that allows me to say something like that, then it truly must be time to give up on the band.

To say no to Yes.

Report this review (#1201236)
Posted Monday, June 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars To cut to the chase straight away, this is a pleasant album, no more no less. In Yes's case I find this to be a good thing because to my ears the previous few albums weren't, in fact I found them to be quite annoying. Fly From Here was a boring rehash of fairly boring material, Magnification was a snooze fest and I'd have to go back to The Ladder as the last album of theirs I enjoyed a lot and still do. On the flipside, nothing here is exciting in any way, it just trickles along and now and again you'll probably tap you foot to a rhythm. Possibly. Heaven and Earth contains a lot of songs that are ok to hear if you lower your expectations just a bit and listen to them without constantly reminding yourself that this is in fact Yes. It then takes on an identity of its own, although it's a small identity. Honestly, how many decades back is it that Yes were actually Yes? Either you accept that or you don't, I mean, come on, they have reinvented themselves for better or worse several times without bothering about expectations, but some people have apparently failed to notice and accept this for a quite some time. Yes has been uninteresting for a very, very long time now, questionable personnel choices have been way more interesting than the music. Just a few thoughts that spring to mind: - Jon Davison does a very good job by not trying to emulate Jon Anderson. Apart from the natural high pitch of his voice I can't detect many similarities; he's apparently comfortable being himself. Good for him. Benoit David was quite bad in that respect. As an aside I'd like to say that I can't understand the view that Yes without Jon Anderson isn't Yes. JA was instrumental in fabricating some of Yes' most horrendous atrocities (Talk or Open Your Eyes, anyone?). This album is miles better than those albums, go figure. - Why is it that most drummers upon reaching a certain age seem to think that less is more? Well, they couldn't be more wrong! If a drummer such as Alan White loses his balls, he should go and join an old folk's dance band. The man has achieved great things in the past, the magnificent Relayer is a case in point, but the last albums have made me wonder if he isn't suffering from arthritis or something. Deep Purple's Ian Paice is another case in point, just tired old men - The bass is still interesting and great, 'nuff said. Good old Chris. - Steve Howe? Well, sadly on here he sounds undistinguished, but on the other hand I doubt that the spirit of these songs would allow great guitar pyrotechnics. That's just the spirit of Yes nowadays. - The keyboard player, whassname, is adequate, I doubt even Rick Wakeman could light much of a fire under mid tempo songs such as these, but as I said, he doesn't have to, that wouldn't be in the nature of these tracks. - The vocal harmonies are nice. Period. they are probably the main connection to the Yes of old and still good. One thing that does disturb me quite a lot is that all songs are a bit samey. A lot samey, actually, after a while the album starts to drag. As I would rate the previous albums 2 stars and this seems better, I think I'll have to give it 3 stars. I can't picture myself listening to it very often though. It's easy listening, and I suppose that's ok.
Report this review (#1201510)
Posted Tuesday, July 1, 2014 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
2 stars 'Heaven and Earth' - Yes (34/100)

The following review is based on a digital promo copy, distributed via promotional platform.

For whatever reason, I got the weird idea in my head that a good album cover was a promising indicator of a good album. It seems weird to think I've had that misconception; after all, most of the time the musicians don't have all that much to do with their album's visual art. Still, in the case of Yes' career, the covers usually say a lot about the records themselves. Roger Dean has provided a visual feast for all but a handful of the band's best works, and created a lavish counterpart to Yes' equally elaborate music. Fragile and Relayer are two of my favourite covers for two of my favourite albums- even the deceptively plain cover for Close to the Edge has become iconic. Then, as the band began to turn sour, the beautiful artwork began to disappear- the uninventive covers for Talk and Open Your Eyes said all they needed to.

Roger Dean returned to the band a few more times over the years, but none seemed so momentous as Fly From Here, an album I met with eager anticipation. Even if that album's long since lost its favour with me, I couldn't help but feel the same sense of excitement when Heaven and Earth was announced. Once again, Roger Dean unveiled an incredible cover that sought to capture my imagination. The skyscape felt liberating just to look at, and from the way the band members would talk about it in promotional materials, part of me was expecting a true return to form for Yes. This was going to be the album myself and others had been waiting for.

Was I right? No. No. No. No. No. No. I think it would be unfair to call Heaven and Earth a 'terrible' album- it's melodic, appropriately performed and doesn't turn its back on the band's prog rock history like the worst of their discography did. Yet, there isn't a single thing about the album that stirs or excites me. We see plenty of films where a brilliant 'outside the box' madman is reduced to a docile wreck in a mental institution, be it a result of medication or a lobotomy. If Yes' classic material was that brilliant madman, Heaven and Earth has seen the dreaded lobotomy come to pass. I'm sure the album was a well-intentioned effort to bring progressive rock back into the fold, but it completely lacks the energy and sense of adventure that would have made it work.

It wouldn't be fair to call Heaven and Earth a pop rock album, although part of me would like to. Yes (or whatever you'd like to call 'em nowadays) have created merely a shadow of progressive rock, one with all of the toys and trinkets of the genre, but none of the sophistication we would normally look for in it. Even the album's most ambitious piece- the nine minute would-be epic "Subway Walls"- colours within the lines so much so as to induce a coma. When they're ambitious enough to emerge beyond the fold of adult-oriented rock (a trend their hosts in Frontiers Records are dreadfully synonymous with), the orchestrations are tired and predictable.

If there's anyone in the band who could potentially save or revitalize Yes, it's Jon Davison. I've long-been a vocal (pun intended) fan of Jon Anderson, and for a time couldn't bear to think of Yes without their classic vocalist. While Trevor Horn and Benoit David felt awkwardly placed, Jon Davison fits Anderson's shoes like they were made for him. His work in Glass Hammer- particularly 2014's Ode to Echo- has impressed me, and I can't think of another vocalist in progressive rock who would do such a good job of filling the vacancy. On Heaven and Earth, his vocal gifts are apparent, but his performance feels equally as safe and tame as the rest of the band's mid-tempo tedium. "Subway Walls" and the single "To Ascend" have some genuinely nice melodies, but more often than not the memorable hooks are only so because I find them saccharine and irritating.

I guess 'length extension' is an indicator that Yes were truly aiming for a proggier approach this time around, but it's honestly squandered what may have otherwise been mediocre pop tracks. I'll admit that some of these tracks had more potential than the finished product. "Believe Again", "The Game" and "Light of the Ages" feel minutes overdrawn. The constant mid-tempo, cheer and shallowness runs throughout the entire album. There's a sense of individual identity for each song while you're listening to them, but by the end of it, I cannot help but feel everything except "Subway Walls" flows together into a single, sterile blur.

I don't like Heaven and Earth, I don't even necessarily dislike it. It doesn't provoke or stir me in the slightest, save for the gross feeling of disappointment that's come with the knowledge that one of my favourite bands has truly 'lost it' creatively. The nasty part of me wants to say that Yes have gotten too old, but that's not true at all. Artists never get too old, but they do get tired. Like the god-awfully disappointing Dream Theater album from this past year, I get the sense that Yes feel like they have to prove themselves anymore. Their career is legendary in the canon of rock music, and a bad post '70s album isn't going to change that. However, for the sake of Heaven and Earth, I'd suggest you keep your hopes down for this one. Even if Jon Davison proves to be a great fit for their existing work, you can be rest assured that the creative days are indeed over for Yes.

Fortunately, Yes' largely wonderful career can still be heard in a host of countless other progressive bands. If you're looking for music like the glory days of Yes, there are some amazing newer bands to check out- I'd personally recommend Wobbler from Norway. Heaven and Earth rests among the greatest musical disappointments of the year, and as the years go by, I predict it will be reduced to a footnote in the band's history. Yes will forever remain one of my favourite ever bands, but if Heaven and Earth is any indicator, it may be time to give things a rest permanently.

Don't let the album cover fool you... this album is almost completely lifeless.

Report this review (#1205135)
Posted Thursday, July 3, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars My first impression of "Heaven And Earth"...

Jon Davison is excellent! An obviously better fit for YES than Benoit David (the previous vocalist featured on "Fly From Here"). I'm not a big fan of that cd and I'm afraid that this album is even worse. The material is substandard and... no rock whatsoever!!! The production sounds (for lack of a better word) cheap. It has a demo-ish quality to it. As for the arrangements... worst I've heard on any YES album (and I own each and every one).

The opening track "Believe Again" is by far the best! The Game is ok. Step Beyond and To Ascend are weak. In A World Of Our Own is really poor. Light Of The Ages has a decent chorus but way too long. Sleep inducing! It Was All We Knew is not good at all. The final cut, Subway Walls, has the first sign of prog on the cd, but somehow, still falls flat. Better than most of the album, but that's not saying much.

The drums on this record sound weak & thin. If I didn't know they were performed by the great Alan White, I'd have never believed it. The keyboards fair even worse. Dated sounds and uninspired playing. Not even close to the monster playing we've come to expect from YES. Uninspired playing all around.

I happen to love the Trevor Rabin era of YES. Even if you don't (and I know that's the case for many of you), you have to admit, that incarnation of the band rocked! This plays as just a step above new age music.

The worst thing I can say about this album is that it was very hard for me to get through, resisting the urge to skip to the next track or turn it off altogether. I was happy when it ended. This ranks as my all time least favorite YES recording. If there's a next album with this line-up, I hope that things improve drastically, in all respects but especially in the song writing department.

Proceed with caution!!!

Report this review (#1205369)
Posted Saturday, July 5, 2014 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars Ok, the cover is superb and it surely brings back memories of old. However, the music inside the CD has very little to do with classic Yes. Having said that I must admit I liked this album a lot. Because it fits my taste. There is almost none of the symphonic progressive rock they used to deliver so supreme during the 70´s. The songs are light, melodic, very well done and performed. Surprisingly inspired sometimes, specially considering their rather insipid previous studio output, Fly From Here.

The first thing I noticed is that Jon Davidson was an excellent choice to replace Jon Anderson, He sound a lot like Anderson without sounding like an imitation of him. His timbre is very natural and it fits so well you hardly miss Yes former singer at all. The instrumental part is another story entirely: they don´t sound like Yes. Or at least the Yes sound we expect from the likes of Howe, Squire and White. The guitar parts especially are very subdue, it looks like someone influenced by Howe than Howe himself. Squire is ok, I guess,. but still he does not do much noodling here. Downes keys are also good, but not as majestic and powerful as Wakeman or even Kaye. I guess they just did their best with the songs they had.

And the songs are as far away from symphonic Yes as they could be. They´re good, but comparatively simpler, melodic stuff. Almost prog pop if you will. Still, they are good and some parts are very classy.. Sometimes bordering the excellent mark like the last and longest track of the CD, Subway Walls. The lyrics are what one would expect if Anderson was still in the band. No better, nor worse. The production is top notch. No real bad track to be found, surprise!

I was not going to listen to this CD if a friend would not lend it to me. I thought I had enough of today´s Yes. And it surprised me in a good way. different, ok. Not close to their 70´s stuff, yes. But still better than much of their latter tunes. That´s something.

Rating: 3 stars. To listen without prejudice.

Report this review (#1206970)
Posted Tuesday, July 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars Horribly disappointing, even though I didn't think much of their last album anyway. It's pretty much bland, repetitive AOR for the most part, with most of the tracks plodding along. There's nothing much above mid-tempo and they seem to think they can get away with simply repeating the chorus for the second half of the song. There's no energy in the songs, it's almost as if they're playing at a tempo that suits their age. The only exception is the final track (in 17/8 time, apparently), which is the only one that really deserves the 'prog' category and that stretches them musically but even that is only mid-tempo. Most of the songs were actually quite dreary, to be honest. I found myself wanting to jump to the next track at about the three-quarter stage of each song (because I knew that the rest of the song was simply going to be more of the same).

To put this into context, I have been a fan of Yes since they started, seen them live on several occasions and enjoyed each gig immensely and, until lately, I've looked forward to each album release, even though I've long since given up on them releasing anything approaching CTTE. But this album is profoundly dispiriting, a pale shadow of a once great band.

Report this review (#1207153)
Posted Wednesday, July 9, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars I've been a fan of Yes music on and off for almost 40 years. I first saw them on the Relayer tour and was absolutely blown away. So I really wanted to like this album, despite the bad comments on here and elsewhere.

Listening to the opening notes of the first track I thought 'OK, not too bad - quite recognisable as Yes, I'm OK with this, its still good. Quite nice chorus, nothing to write home about but OK, its still good.

Then the guitar solo kicked in and I had to concede that no, they're not still good, they're a pale shadow of themselves, both playing and writing. Steve Howe sounds like he's afraid to touch the strings, and Alan White's playing is truly bland - did the producer just cut and paste those bars?

I'd like to say that the rest of the album got better. Oh how I wish I could say that. But no.

If they were sounding like a Yes tribute band it wouldn't be too bad, but its even worse than that. Remember those 'Top of the Pops' albums from the seventies where you got bland, cheesy covers of chart hits? This is it folks...

I was truly saddened to hear this album - how could they put this out? A great, great band reduced to this. No, I don't want them to call it a day because that would be really sad, but please guys, take your time next time and write something halfway decent.

Report this review (#1207510)
Posted Thursday, July 10, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars I have enjoyed this album more than I thought I would. At first blush it reminded me of Open Your Eyes, tuneful but ultimately forgettable. And while the tracks have an easygoing relaxed approach, I feel that is the maturity of a band that doesn't have to prove something. And yet there are some particularly musically challenging parts, particularly in "Subway Walls," a piece that combines sweet chord progressions (and some very Classical/Baroque riffing from keyboardist Geoff Downes) with various asymmetrical meter sections and tasteful playing from Howe, Squire and White. That mix of "sweet" and "challenging" works for me in the large on this album even if it is not on the epic scale of "Close to the Edge" or "Gates of Delirium." That was Yes then; young and brash staking their claim in the music world. Heaven and Earth is Yes now; calmer, more relaxed and contented.

Jon Davison ably fills the vocal duties previously filled by Benoit David and Jon Anderson. He sounds like his own man although his range is similar (and Benoit sounded like himself on Fly From Here as well). His songwriting credits are of course the strongest on this album and he has given Yes a slightly new direction; quite different from the last album.

Back in the day I would be upset with a band when they didn't break new ground or stretch things as far as they could in the prog arena. Perhaps my mellowing with age is commensurate with Yes doing the same.

Report this review (#1207514)
Posted Thursday, July 10, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars With an artwork by Roger Dean and the hire of Jon Davison, from Glass Hammer, people had great expectations about the last Yes album, entitled 'Heaven & Earth'. However, Yes evolved with time, and the time they played progressive rock is long gone. After listening to the whole album, I quite understood people's disappointment as the elements earlier mentioned let predict a return to form that finally never come. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the material. In fact, melodies are well crafted, Jon's voice is very convincing and as moving as the original Jon's voice, with trademark Yes vocal harmonies and the support of Chris Squire in backing vocals, and Geoff and Steve adding some soothing colors to the whole. Geoff even proposes a broad range of sounds with piano, rhodes and Hammond besides synths. I read many critics on Alan White's drumming, it's true that they are not very creative on the album, but they fit quite well to the format of the music proposed, which leans more towards mainstream pop than progressive rock. Some highlights include the onomatopeic vocals on "The Game", the mischievous swirling keyboards on "Step Beyond", the marching rhythm rising from verse to chorus on the very Roger Glover's Butterfly Ball-esque "In A World Of Our Own" and its humble guitar, the dubious bass on "Light Of The Ages" and the Enid-like orchestral overture to "Subway Walls" and its further dancing drums. The sunny "It Was All We Know" is more forgettable than the other tracks and spoils a bit the whole. Overall, an album quite pleasant to listen to, on the softer side of Yes (think "Wonderous stories").
Report this review (#1212982)
Posted Sunday, July 13, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars I cant begin to describe how disappointed I am by this album. As more of a metal fan generally I gravitate towards the heavier Yes moments like Tales and Relayer but I have been known to like 90s Yes too. Benoit didn't really fuss me on their last record even though he got alot of bad press and from some live recordings I heard of the new guy, I thought he'd do a great job. In Glass Hammer he is plenty competent but this just watered down garbage. What do Yes truly think of this release and their fans to release such garbage. Weak, legacy destroying - I hate it. Worst "prog" album of their career and 2014. What would 1969's Yes think if they heard that this is what they'd be making 45 years in the future? I would think they would be sick.
Report this review (#1213313)
Posted Sunday, July 13, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars It pains me to write this review. I really, really want a Yes that album that I can love, or even like. This new album isn't that. Instead my favorite band of all time has delivered an album that quietly plods along, fails to inspire, and then politely ends. Lady's and gentleman, this is the worst studio album Yes has ever released (IMHO).

Here are some of my thoughts on previous albums just so you know where I'm coming from. Fly From Here - I really liked it and I still listen to it. Bumpy Road didn't inspire me though. I think Benoit's voice is beautiful and suits the Drama era material. Magnification - I loved it except for "Soft As A Dove". Yes I loved it The live recording was great fun too. The Ladder - Yep, another one I loved. A few weak moments, but overall I though it was great. OYE - Good with some very good moments. I really like Fortune Teller, OYE, Love Shine, The Solution are my faves. Talk - Yep, I loved a lot of that too. Walls was a little mushy but still good. Silent Spring was awesome. now let's go way back Big Generator - Just OK. 90125 - Very good, but not great from beginning to end. Union - (feel free to flame me, I can take it) I loved it. I loved the concert - Awaken was transcendental. I saw them the day Trevor Rabin became a US citizen. I don't really care how little Steve Howe was on the album. Jimmy Huan did a great job. ABWH - Loved it. OK, Let's Pretend was a bit soft for me. Tormato - Pretty good but a bit sappy. Candyfloss anyone? The bonus tracks are awful though. Drama - Loved it except it was too short. I like Trevor Horn's voice because it sounded urgent. GFTO - I love this album except for the title track, which I though was too shrill and soulless. TFTO - lot's of chops, not a lot of soul, listened to if a few times Relayer - Loved it. TYA, Fragile, CTTE - masterpieces of course

I own them all the Yes albums, even YesShows as badly as it was recorded. (I still need the remastered Yessongs)

Other current fave bands: Big Big Train, Porcupine Tree & SW, Cosmograf, Steve Hackett, Mystery, Hogarth+Barbieri, and on and on. I don't like Dream Theater, post Wetton King Crimson, and Gentle Giant. And finally, no, I don't like Glass Hammer (I've tried, but I just don't.).

Clearly I'm overcompensating here to prove my prog and Yes love.

I am not part of the camp that says Jon Anderson is required for a proper Yes album (although it certainly helps). I saw Jon Davidson live with Yes and thought he was very good. I also thoroughly enjoyed Benoit David in concert on the Drama and Fly From Here songs.

I try to take every Yes album as a separate entity and just enjoy them for what they are.

I've listened to the new album several times and nothing seems to move me. I hear bits of the Beatles, maybe some Bread (yes, that old Bread), and even some hints of the Yes song Sweetness. It's all very nice like kissing your sister. Safe, perfunctory, and passionless. It's just too pleasant, and I mean that in a bad way.

Now I pick on the musicians individually: I must admit that I'm growing tired of Steve Howe's riffs just spicing up a song without being the song's backbone. To my ears the guitar on this album seems one dimensional compared to the tones used on Fly From Here. I don't know how to describe it other than saying it's stale.

Geoff did a fine job that any studio keyboard player could have done. I don't hear Geoff invested in the music. It seems he's doing his best to fill in the moments that would have been otherwise awkwardly quiet. This album could have used a bit more drama (pun intended) from the Asia's song Countdown To Zero.

Jon's voice is good. Maybe it's too much like Jon Anderson's, because I keep thinking how smooth and sweet it is but without that North England rasp and accent. All the other lead singers of Yes (Trevor H, Benoit, and Chris too) are more unique and identifiable. I encourage Jon to gargle with whisky on the rocks with a splash of eau de Joe Cocker. Less Josh Groban, more Kurt Cobain; Less Pat Boone, more Little Richard. Less ..... You get the idea.

Chris, oh Chris. I know he's got monster chops and great musical ideas, but the only thing I hear of him on this album is his tone. Also, since Chris is the leader of Yes, I have to hold him responsible for mediocrity of this latest album. Chris, I'm disappointed.

Finally there's Alan, the gentleman and spine of Yes. His work on this album is about as exciting as a Buick without Tiger Woods or Payton Manning (Yep, I'm American). I love Levin, White, Torn (especially Cheese It, The Corpse). I know Alan has the chops and the creativity. But I don't know what happened on this album. Who's idea was it for Alan to play more like Ringo Starr than Alan White? Has time finally taken it's toll? Does Alan still care? I seriously hate to be critical of Mr. White. Of all current and former Yes members I think he has the most integrity.

The song writing seems to be completely dominated by Jon, which for me isn't really a good thing. "Cookin' at home" catches my ear every time is passes by. I'm afraid the song writing is what undoes this Yes album the most. I believe that Yes has heaped all the writing duties on Jon, but Jon just doesn't write Yes songs. They're pretty, their cosmic, but they're toothless.

Bottom Line (and it's a bit harsh): Stick a fork in Yes, they're done. I don't like to give negative reviews. I want to be encouraging. But this is an album that should have never been released. There's not a single song I want to sing along with, and not a single song that would get me off my bum and dancing in the aisles.

I'm giving this album a lone star. If this album was released by a band with lesser talents I might have given it two, but under no circumstances more.

Report this review (#1213694)
Posted Monday, July 14, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars Yes did their worse album already called "Fly From Here", so there's no way possible to make any worse with such solid vocalist as Jon Davison. His voice allone makes this litenable album. I personally don't so much enjoy the way that album was produced. I Think it's too polished. This kind of simple songs would require more edge around them. I liked singing and backing vocals and quitar solos. What I didnt like so much was drumming and the sound of drums. Also keyboard intro on "Subway Walls" sounded really silly. Anyway, this is not Yes's poorest album, because that honour belongs to " Fly From Here"-album. It's little hard to understand ones who give one star reviews. There are many worse albums on Earth (and Heaven) than this one.
Report this review (#1214114)
Posted Wednesday, July 16, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars I so, so wanted this to be a good album. I listened and waited for it to "get going" - it never did. Time to put these old guys out of our misery. Jon Davidson has not helped, but only kept the corpse alive. I recall the day, in early 1971, I walked into the local record shop and heard the Yes Album. Whoever would have thought it would come to this. The perfect definition of gereatric rock.

The previous outing - the "Buggles out-take" album - was weak enough, this one is an embarassment. The advert on the back of Prog Magazine talks of a "new masterpiece" - they're laughing at us.

Report this review (#1214310)
Posted Wednesday, July 16, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Having listened to the album once, here are my impressions:

Once again Yes delivers with this album a substandard effort... that is nonetheless actually filled with good music. It is not memorable -not at all-, not very proggy and far from revolutionary original or creative. But if we stop all the blind hate, give the album a chance and we're open- minded and listen carefully to the music instead of paying attention to the band's name, fame and past glory, or the man singing (I really can't stand all that "no Jon Anderson, no Yes"), it's a nice record. So, as a conclusion I'll say that, yes, it IS disappointing, but only mildly: as it could have been much better, it could have been much worse. It is not another Open Your Eyes; not to me, at least.

Rating: Three stars; good, absolutely non-essential.

Report this review (#1214589)
Posted Thursday, July 17, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Like so many others, I eagerly anticipated the release of this album. I only became a Yes fan in June of 2011 (I knew of Yes ever since "Owner of a Lonely Heart" was a hit) but how rapidly my interest in their music took on. My Amazon order history shows that I ordered "Fragile" and "Close to the Edge" in mid-June as my first purchases of Yes albums, and before August was done I had wrapped up purchasing all the studio albums, including a five-disc digipak of "Keys to Ascension" and the non-Yes album by Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe. Ever since then, Yes have been my favourite band second only to Rush.

Unlike so many others who have followed Yes' career since their glory days in the 70's, or at least since the 80's, I acquired their entire studio catalogue in two and a half months and not only read the Wikipedia article on them, but also read reviews of each album and purchased Chris Welch's "Close to the Edge: The Story of Yes". So as I listened to all this "new" music, I also gained an understanding of the band's history and the general opinions of each album. I knew there were some like "Open Your Eyes", "Big Generator" and "Union" that were going to test my music enjoyment boundaries. Nevertheless, each album always had a couple of songs that I felt like listening to frequently enough.

I was disappointed but perhaps not surprised really to read all the negative reviews that "Heaven and Earth" had garnered. Yes fans tend to be extremely critical of Yes music, and where other lesser bands may receive more favourable reviews for more mediocre material, Yes are unforgivable for producing anything that doesn't live up to the "The Yes Album" to "Going for the One" period. So once again, disaster!

But I don't think so. "Heaven and Earth" is less "prog" than much of their previous releases, including "Fly from Here". It's gentler and softer than many songs in their catalogue, and the musicians rarely seem interested in showing off their skills as masters of progressive music. However, I find myself enjoying the songs for what they are, in spite of the fact that this album is overall more cheery and light that what I usually choose to listen to ("Heart of the Sunrise" is more like my style).

The focus on this album would seem to be melody and that supported wonderfully by Yes' trademark vocal harmonies. From the first track of the debut, Yes established themselves not as a band with a lead vocalist and backing vocals but as a band with a lead vocalist and harmony vocals. Three voices sharing the lead to create some wonderful harmonies to complement the melodies of the songs. This can be heard throughout much of "Heaven and Earth" with "Believe Again" being my favourite of the lot.

I had some concern about Jon Davison as the lead vocalist because on Glass Hammer's "If" I felt he lacked the emotion and depth of Jon Anderson (who it seemed he was intentionally trying to emulate). But I haven't felt that here, though that may be thanks to the strong harmony vocals provided by Squire and Howe. As non-Anderson line-ups tend to last for only one album, I would welcome a second album with Davison on the lead mic.

Addressing the issues of lack of prog or rock, it's true that traditional Yes moments are found only here and there and not up to full potential at that. The "prog" instrumental section in "Believe Again" sounds promising at first, but Steve Howe only repeats the same runs on his fretboard and Geoff Downes sounds ready for a wild keyboard solo but only lets of a couple of finger flashes across the keys. There's a bit of a rock section in the first half of "Step Beyond" which sounds great as the song's opening is very candy floss, and two of the most out-of-place-for-Yes songs "In a World of Our Own" and "It Was All We Knew" actually let Steve Howe play something that sounds almost like he's still got it. As almost everyone has pointed out, "Subway Walls" is where the music gets a proper prog treatment, and one wonders if Yes hadn't done that on at least two other tracks then would this album have scored a star or two higher.

I agree that this album is softer, more cheery, and makes the great musicians in this band sound a little tired. At times, especially Steve Howe seems to have run out of ideas, and Chris Squire doesn't really start moving until "Subway Walls". However, I also know very well that Yes albums from "Tormato" onward tend to disappoint before they reward. Many people who didn't like "Drama" at first now praise it and even "Fly from Here", which received so many unkind words upon its release is now seen more favourably by some.

Perhaps all the negative reviews helped brace me for what was to come, but I am enjoying this album so far. True, like with Deep Purple's "Now What?!" and Rush's "Clockwork Angels" the initial honeymoon feeling will wear off and only a few songs will be invited for regular additions to daily playlists. But for now I like it and I accept it as the latest chapter in Yes' history. As if to affirm this, I went ahead and ordered a ticket to see Yes in November. I hope they play a few songs from the new album. It would be a shame to have it brushed under the mat and replaced entirely by the nostalgic classics.

Report this review (#1214942)
Posted Friday, July 18, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars I became very happy when I read that Yes were going to release a new record the summer 2014, their nineteenth studio album, released fourty-five years after their debut. I hadn't so big expectations though. I didn't though them to be especially innovative and that they probably would reuse a lot of themes from the past. The old Yes members are still members: Chris Squire(bass), Steve Howe(guitar) and Alan White(drums) and two are new: the singer Jon Davison and the keayboard player Geoff Downes.

After three listenings through the album I want to say that Jon Davison is a very good Yes' singer with a voice similar to Jon Anderson's but not too similar. My second impression is that this is something new, that Yes doesn't sound like it has sounded before. On fly for me the band tried to make another symphonic masterpiece (the title track) but I don't really think they managed. It feels like the band is more comfortable now and play the music they want to play today, instead of living in the past.

Of course I miss old Yes, which were heavier and more crazy, symphonic and frenetic. This doesn't sound like the classical Yes and unfortunatley it isn't prog. But still am I enjoying the album a lot and think it sounds fresh. It is a collection of catchy songs without high intentions but the music is well performed and honest.

My two favourites are the two last songs: "Subway Wall"(7/10) and "It was all we knew"(7/10). The first of those has a pleasant guitar theme which gives me children song thoughts, i like the chorus and the organ solo. The length makes it perhaps also more interesting. The second is very catchy with a schlager melody in perhaps a Greek way. This soft and catchy clothing introduces a heavy rock fanfare which reminds me of the rock'n'roll intro of Going for the one.

On the album's first song "Believe again" there are things I like such the guitar solo in the middle and many of the instrumental parts even if I think the chorus is quite boring(6/10). "The game" is a mixture of higher intentions and a populistic structure and I like also that(6/10). "In a world of our own" is also worth mentioning. It's a song not very unlike the eighties' Yes and I liek the structure as well as the vocals(6/10).

A lot of the feautures of the album aren't so interesting, It's not a masterwork we are talking about. I find "Light of the Ages" a bit boring(5/10) and "Step Beyond" rather bad(4/10). The last named uses a computer sounding melody that goes aroung and some repeated silly lyrics, and I don't like the result.

Over all do I think Yes' "Heaven & Earth" is a decent work that makes me happy and makes me respect these guys that still do their music exactly as they please. I also enjoy Roger Dean's cover which doesn't look like the earlier ones. I will actually give this record three stars and I definitely think Yes fans should give this a try.

Report this review (#1215253)
Posted Saturday, July 19, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars OMG?.!!!!! Yes have become the antithesis of what I always loved about them the most!!!! They used to have intricate arrangements/time changes/lush vocals/magical poetic beautiful lyrics, that took you to another world, another dimension. Every song would be a story, an adventure never knowing where they are taking you. They were soooo much more interesting and progressive than any other band. NOW, It's BUBBLEGUM, it's top 40 MOR, (well actually it's not even that good)?it's crap!!!! And I thought the last album was bad?. Cheezy lyrics and melodies, completely ONE dimensional, nothing left to the imagination. I tried, I really tried, and the more I listened to the songs, the more I hated them. The band was NEVER together when this album was recorded, they each put their own parts on, maybe a couple of them would get together, BUT the synergy and creativity never happened. Hard to believe these are the some of the same guys who wrote "Close To The Edge". Wow, I'm still shocked. These guys should at best retire from TRYING to write new material. Tour till ya die, PLEASE just play the music that touches our hearts and souls.


Report this review (#1215370)
Posted Saturday, July 19, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars Sometimes before I buy/download a new album, I listen to some samples. Never even thought that I should have done so with 'Heaven and Earth': I had been looking forward to this for so long and it was from one of my favourite bands.If i had listened to this- and it saddens me to say this- I would not have bought it. Yes music takes me somewhere else but this latest album left me cold. I kept on waiting for the next track to get going, but it never happened. This is 'prog lite' or 'soft prog' and not a patch on 'Fly from Here' The sound and production made me think as I listened 'well, I know that Steve has left ASIA, I didn't know that he had left YES as well....' It pains me to have to be sarcastic about a great band. I listened to 'Heaven and Earth' yesterday morning.....last evening I had to listen to a show from the 35th Anniversary tour just to remind me how wonderful this band really are.
Report this review (#1218759)
Posted Monday, July 21, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars It seems the whole earth and his wife has already posted an opinion on this album even though it was only released yesterday. Jon Davison from American Symph prog outfit Glass Hammer replaces David Benoit with hopes of a return to classic YES that clearly was never going to materialise. This is 'OAP YES' and some have said that its just a sad pastiche or tribute. I wouldn't go along with that. The songs have a lot of warmth and I like the richness of melody that pervades throughout. There are even some nice hooks here and there. This makes a refreshing change to my ears to the deathly dark sound of so much modern prog. A touch of light goes along way. I would say this is actually a classy pop album and if it had been marketed as something other than Yes and no Roger Dean album cover maybe some would have been more forgiving and not posted hysterical 1 star reviews. OK Alan White is a bit ploddy but its not that worrying while I like Downes contribution , not too showy but you can hear the odd hammond/piano bits in the backgound and some good synth parts. Howe plays in and out of the music adding some lovely guitar licks while Squire is just solid but his bass is always clean and on the mark. Davison does an uncanny Anderson impression , probably a bit too much at times, but I think he's written a decent set of lyrics.

On the whole this is pleasant slab of 'easy listening prog' or even 'Dad prog'. WIth all the hot weather in the UK this laid back approach is not totally unwelcome. Leave the heavy dark stuff alone for a while and enjoy some warmth!

Report this review (#1218993)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
Metal / Heavy / RPI / Symph Prog Team
2 stars Is our beloved band from the 70's is starting to show their ages? Listening to this new CD, I was picturing the band playing in a small club with small speakers at a rather slow pace. There's no more big symphonic soundscape from Rick Wakeman, no more big bass's sound of Chris Squire, in the latter, it's unacceptable, because he hasn't been replaced here... Steve Howe is still carrying the song as much as he can with is unique style of playing. Also the drums of Alan White are so quiet. One positive thing is the voice of John Davidson that doesn't make me miss Jon Anderson.

Was I expecting too much after the average "Fly from Here"? The fact is there are no terrible songs on this CD, the songs contain some delicate and forgettable melodies and the entire release has 2 progressive songs; "Light of the Ages" and "Subway Walls". These are the only ones with cool breaks and more symphonic structures. The music is soft as the production compare to the Yes sound. We have to wait to the song "It was all We Knew" to hear some heavier guitars parts from Howe, and Squire is shaking his bass for the first time on the song "Subway Walls", which is the closer the band gets from the style of the past. There are some nice breaks with the drums and the bass along with some nice keyboards parts.

I can't rate this more than 2.5 stars. It's a disappointment for me, but I have to admit that I didn't know what to expect. In interviews, the band said that they did this album in a hurry and it shows. Probably that the band was satisfied for at least making a CD to support another tour that fans will follow for the classics.

Report this review (#1219455)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars OK, so those expecting the new Yes album `Heaven and Earth' to be a prog-rock blowout are in for a disappointment. Great. Now that's out of the way, let's move on and see if this album does anything right or worth bothering with, which of course the answer is yes! What we have here is the most gentle work from the band to date. Oh sure, some smart-ass listeners will gleefully rip this album apart, happy to dig the knives into a defining progressive band that have mostly been irrelevant for the better part of...many years now (add your own timeframe to when Yes lost you as a fan!) and look on them as an easy target. Yes' time as a cutting-edge, experimental and artistic band may be long gone, but that doesn't mean they are incapable of releasing something worth listening to. At least they're writing original material all their own, not useless cover versions most older pop/rock artists are forced to rely on, and that even includes some dismal efforts from prog bands that should know better.

Accusations that this is more soft rock/pop than true prog are absolutely correct, but look back, poppier softer tracks have appeared on Yes albums right back when they started in the late 60's, and have maintained through just about every one of their albums since then. The band now works in a fancy AOR style, but thankfully they're still offering music that sounds better and more intricate than anything a band like Asia have done recently. The key to any enjoyment listeners will gain from this disc will come from how much they can stomach pleasing, melodic and tastefully played adult rock music. It's frequently polished and perhaps a little overproduced to within an inch of it's life in many spots (early Queen maestro Roy Thomas Baker ensures this is a very lavish sounding release, much more `full' sounding that previous album `Fly From Here'), but to it's credit, almost every track on `Heaven and Earth' has a strong chorus with clever layers of group harmonies, melodies that really grow after several spins, and subtle playing with many moments of true Yes characteristics on display. Glass Hammer ring-in Jon Davison also comes out more successfully and with more personality intact with his Yes involvement than previous singer Benoit David did (a usually great singer in Mystery who got to display none of his real character at all on the previous disc), so let's hope he gets another chance to prove his worth in further studio efforts.

First track `Believe Again' is a little too sedate for an opener, a slow-tempo tune with a slightly drippy vocal, bland unmemorable verses and only the briefest of instrumental passages in the middle that is more of a tease because it never really launches, but thankfully on repeated plays the positive chorus harmonies prove very catchy and hummable. `The Game' is a stronger overall tune, a foot-tapping melody emerging throughout silky smoth verses with a positive chorus, Steve Howe's constant little electric guitar fills very joyful. With a looped Moog pattern that may drive listeners crazy, the jaunty `Step Beyond' is probably a little too cute and very repetitive. Some nice jazzy flavours and fiery licks from Howe almost save `In A World of Our Own', a fairly annoying `political statement/protest' song with some truly cringe-worthy lyrics, but the groaning stop/start keyboard crunch in the middle is pathetic and uninspired. Despite some of the melody drifting a little close to the Beatles `Eight Days A week', `It Was All We Knew' is kept simple and therefore easily the best of the poppier pieces, nice fiery guitar bursts from Howe throughout, a sun-kissed reflective lyric and an upbeat chorus that is hopelessly romantic in the Jon Anderson/classic Yes tradition.

The fourth track `To Ascend' is the first sign of greatness on the disc, a lush and thoughtful acoustic ballad that works best when it remains a little darker, and there's a nice heightened drama that gradually builds throughout around exquisite and varied group harmonies. `Light of the Ages' then thankfully dials up the prog, an intricate and dazzling arrangement that slowly unfolds through grand orchestral rises, ethereal guitar strains, gentle piano movements from Geoff Downes and a stirring vocal from Jon, making it a real triumph for the album. The album then concludes on the dazzling `Subway Walls', the proggiest piece with plenty of open spaces for the band to privide their own unique instrumental flourishes. Nice drum tension and build from Alan White, Chris Squire's chunky bass weaving forwards and backwards throughout, rippling Hammond organ runs from Geoff Downes and slow-burn guitar ugency full of flare from Steve. It frequently hints at the inspiration and potential that this current formation of the band could offer so much more than nice Dad-rock, and is possibly better than anything on the previous studio album.

Here's the thing...Yes have nothing more left to prove. They're one of the innovators of the first wave of progressive music that got the ball rolling, and they're responsible for some of the defining releases of the genre as well as a bunch of other solid albums. Their importance to prog rock is cemented, and they no longer need to try to challenge themselves or listeners with anything truly groundbreaking. But, if you have a lot of love for the different eras of the band, you may enjoy what is simply easy to listen to music from a band that is slowly starting to wind down. It's now looking like `Magnification' was their last truly impressive swansong, but it doesn't mean forgiving and understanding fans can't enjoy a set of undemanding and pleasing adult rock that makes for a decent background listen, and if you listen closely...there's still little tiny traces of that classic Yes magic waiting to be discovered.

Three stars.

Report this review (#1219754)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Yes has been my favorite Band of all times, every time that i bought a CD i have been surprised how different it was from the previous Album, Yes never made 2 Fragiles, or 2 Close To Edge or 2 Tales, in the 80s gave us quality Pop Rock with 90125 and Big Generator album that barely can be called progressive from a purist point of view. Yes has never done the same album twice, and Heaven and Earth is not different. It is like no other Album that YES has created, recorded, performed. Yes it is a bit slow, but it is very enjoyable. It does not have Epics in it ( neither had 90125). I think Jon Davidson does a very good Job at Channeling Jon Anderson, in style and delivery, i have heard Jon D in the past and he has an uncanny resemblance to Jon Anderson. The Album is a bit Light on material, but at the sametime is refreshing, i am hearing a band that is flexible enough to do an almost pop Album, and at the same time see them in concert and watch them play the old Progressive Epics that we all love. I think Yes records the material that they have at the moment, sometimes it is Brilliant sometimes is just Good. The beauty of Yes is they always surprise you with every new Album.
Report this review (#1219790)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Containing some of the most renowned members in the classic rock community, the band Yes has made its footprint in history of rock music. With a varying sound throughout their lifetime, Yes has dabbled in the fields of progressive rock, pop rock, and synth rock. Even today, their music is a collaborative influence of everything they have learned from the past.

Before I begin this review, I have had the chance to read what others have said about this album. I was very disappointed to see mostly negative reviews of this album, criticizing the direction of the band while comparing this lineup and their musical style to Yes of the past. I would like to respond to those critiques that this lineup of Yes simply cannot be likened to Yes of the past. The Yes that has produced fantastic albums like "Fragile" and "Close to the Edge" has passed, even back in the 80's when that lineup produced the album "90125." Any argument over musical style is long overdue, because decades have passed since their dramatic shift in genre. With over forty years gone by since their inception, creating some great memories from Yes' prior work, it is unfair to make a comparison between who they are now to who they aren't. Comparing "Heaven and Earth" with albums like "Fragile" is like comparing apples with oranges; it simply doesn't make sense to do so.

With that said, I first listened to "Heaven and Earth" without bias, as if this were the first album released by a new band. In doing so, I have thoroughly enjoyed this album. Considering this album to be a poppier version of progressive rock, the rhythm and beat is very catchy and gets stuck in my head very easily. The songs may be less complex than Yes' prior work, but is easier to listen to, and can be more appealing to a wider audience. Using a groovy drum rhythm, White helps lay the groundwork throughout the album for each member of the band. He is best featured in "In A World Of Our Own" and "Light of the Ages," with precise hits and harmony. The bass guitar, provided by Chris Squire, also complements the drum work and guitars, employing bass lines that act as a signature over the entire album. Although less complex as albums in the past, I feel the bass guitar help set the stage for his band mates.

The legendary Steve Howe does it again, doing a tremendous job throughout "Heaven and Earth." His presence is felt in the songs "Light of the Ages" and "Subway Walls," using classic techniques that were present since the early Yes years. His sound and scales are so unique that I can determine he is playing just by listening to him. Lighter songs like "It Was All We Knew" and "To Ascend" bring the softer side of Yes, reminiscent of songs like "Turn of the Century." Being one of my favorite guitarists, Howe fails to disappoint me as he shows his versatility throughout the album.

One thing I was surprised about in this album compared to past albums is the keyboard-dominated sound of Downes. This sound is established early in the songs "Believe Again" and "Step Beyond," which uses an expansive selection of effects. The use of keys in this album is a nod to their prior work in the 80's and 90's, yet innovative enough to expand the sound towards a new direction. The song "Subway Walls" is an example of Downes' ability, as the beginning of the song uses a symphonic sound to introduce their longest track. The song then shifts into a perfect amalgamation of old and new, of pop and progressive rock, and portrays Downes at his finest, especially during his solo halfway through the song. By far my favorite track on this album, "Subway Walls" shows each member at their finest.

The one member of the band that I was the most interested, yet most concerned with coming into this album was their new singer Jon Davison. Having replaced their previous singer whose tenure only spanned one album, I wondered how this would affect the band and the album. Even more, I wondered if Davison would even come close to the legendary Anderson in vocal and lyrical talent. After listening to this album, I believe strongly that if Anderson had to be replaced, Davison was a great choice to do so. His high falsetto voice is comparable to Anderson in his youth, but doesn't necessarily mimic him. Davison's writing style is unique, and even surpasses their previous singer Benoit David in ability. I enjoy listening to Davison's vocals, especially in the songs in the ballad "To Ascend" and another one of my personal favorites "The Game." I cannot help singing to "The Game" because of the catchy lyrics and range of vocals.

Despite much criticism, I am proud to stand against the crowd and state that "Heaven and Earth" is a successful album to me. Each member of the band shines in separate songs, only to show their brilliance in unison towards the end of the album. I recommend this album not only because of the recognition towards such an amazing and timeless band, but because this album truly is a unique and surprising listening experience. For lovers of Yes, along with fans of classic rock, progressive rock, and pop rock, please give this album a chance and support "Heaven and Earth."

Report this review (#1219800)
Posted Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars My review of this album is for what the album is, not what it could or should have been. Listening to this album in my car, my wife said: "this is a nice album". And I think this sums it up. It's a nice album.

It all starts up very good, the first song got my hopes up for a while. Then it's mostly downhill from there with some exceptions, second song "The game" is really ok along with "It was all we knew". The ending is quite good also, with their most progressive song "Subway walls", the last minute and a half in that song is the best they can muster. All in all we have two good songs, two ok songs and four poor ones.

Although, I feel that the songs are very positive and light, a thing that's rare in progressive rock unfortionately. For that alone, I like the album. I will add this album to the rare list of progressive rock albums that I can play when my wife is present.

On the negative side, besides that half of the songs are mostly poor quality wise, the guys in the band sounds tired. One thing is to write poor songs, another thing is to sound tired when you play them. That is not ok.

No way near as bad as "Open your eyes" or "Talk" but it's the third from the bottom of the album catalogue.

A nice but tired album.

Report this review (#1219844)
Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I am giving this album a little help by rating it a 4. Some of you have given it a lot of hate. I do not find this album to be bad at all. Is it the most essential album in your prog collection? No. But I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't for bands like Yes your favorite album might never have existed. If you were expecting another CTTE or Relayer, these guys have been making music for 45 plus years. I would admit that they sound old and tired. Who woudn't? May be because I'm not that young anymore, I can relate. Like others have said, a very pleasant album. 3.8 stars.
Report this review (#1220071)
Posted Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars All bets are off, believe the hype? Yes opt for pure pop and AOR!

Nothing wrong with a bit of nice pleasant music, with nice pleasant harmonies, nice pleasant lyrics with a nice pleasant album cover. Nothing wrong at all. This is an album to throw on after a hard day's work, with your feet up and a cuppa Hazelnut Coffee. Aaah yes, this is so relaxing, so peaceful. Not much Prog to wade through, no complex musicianship to adjust the ears to, easy to comprehend lyrics, just a pleasant mind relaxing album that lulls you into a dream. Only problem is this is Yes we are talking about; the band that brought us complex Progressive classic albums such as "Fragile", "Relayer" and "The Yes Album" (Starship Trooper is still my all time fave Yes masterpiece), the band that brought us masterful conceptual treasures like "Tales From Topographic Oceans" (one of the most revered or maligned Prog excess albums, depending on your tastes), and epic music such as Close to the Edge. Even the last effort "Fly From Here" at least embraced some prog and had one colossal epic to indulge in (a great track heard live by the way, a genuine highlight of the 2012 Melbourne concert I attended).

Let's look at the content of this music that kind of blends in as one huge syrupy dreamy AOR excursion (even my wife who shuns Prog would love most of this and it would sit proudly in her collection alongside her other easy listening music such as Michael Buble, and Guy Sebastian, rather than all that "dreadful King Crimson, Hawkwind and Van der Graaf Generator rubbish that you always listen to!")

There are some highlights on "Heaven and Hell... er... Earth" amidst all the commercial music, but you have to open your ears wide to find them. Light of the Ages stays with me in a good way and Howe showcases some skilful guitar work, and the melody is a grower. The opener Believe Again definitely stands out as a gem with a gorgeous melody and lovely keyboards from Downes and excellent lyrics that are uplifting but still leave room for intelligent reflection. Yes, Yes, this is a great song, and one worth hearing for sure, so the album opens with a killer track; although not progressive I love the keyboard sweeps, Howe's awesome riffing, and Jon Davison's vocals are supreme.

Subway Walls is one of the definitive highlights with a touch of innovation in the time sig and Squire's bassline is totally cool. It sounds like the band have a spark of creative ideas shining through here with a wonderful instrumental break, and Jon's voice is excellent and the switch into half time feel works perfectly. Howe even shines with some really great guitar licks, and it has the feel of a majestic atmosphere in the likes of And You And I (though not a shadow of that masterpiece, mind you). But this diversion into innovative musicianship is actually an annoyance as it shows what the band could have produced on the whole album, yet the album closes with this track and it is too late to salvage the album with a mere three decent tracks.

The lowlights are many, oh so many, but they still grow on the listener, like fungus on a toadstool. I speak of dainty ditties such as the maddeningly sugar sweet saccharine strains of It Was All We Knew, sounding like a Summer drive down to The Partridge Family's mansion. It languishes lyrically in lala land with "Sweet were the fruits, long were the Summer days, it was all we knew" then the harmonised "all we knew" chimes in on cue; surely the band are capable of better than this. I could envisage this being played on the radio and competing nicely with anything by The Eagles, or Air Supply, except they have better songs. Heck, Asia came up with better than this, and I can envisage all the pretty ladies in the crowd dancing to these boilers. White's drumming is so restrained he sounds like a session musician, he hardly strays from a straight 4/4 beat from the get go. I know you can play White, I heard you once in concert.

Let's talk about The Game, so lovely yet so dull, I think if Rick Wakeman heard this he might laugh and say "these old codgers have really lost the plot". Yes can play no doubt, nobody can take that away from them, but here they have abandoned everything that made them stand apart as innovators and shakers of prog rock. The lyrics offer very little worth pondering, "I am standing here at your door with all my defences down, we all know the rules the game must fools still we play the same as if our days remain" and "the love we gave along the way, along the waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay". Cue the nice guitar music and harmonised dadadas and lalalalas. Oh, by the way bot fades out; can you believe it, a Yes song that fades out, how droll.

Next is Step Beyond with a torturous synth line that is akin to the 80s synthpop sound at its absolute worst. The lyrics are sung in a corny rhythmic time to the music "you told me so, if I don't let go, I'll never know, what freedom brings" then there's the cheesy chorus "beg, steal, run, and hide." Oh this is so sing songy its ghastly, and it has a dance feel; I can see the band bopping to this. I guess it is a happy song, but oh so hackneyed. Howe tries to save it with a cool guitar lick but it's not enough. It was at this stage on the album that I looked over at my HiFi system and saw globules of honey dripping down out of the speakers.

As To Acend began to play I swear I saw sugar raining down from the ceiling. This is the song to raise up the lighter to, or these days it would be an iphone, and we wave it as we all sing in unison. Ahhhhh isn't this lovely, so peaceful, so interminably clichéd and saccharine. Where is the innovative ground breaking thought provoking lyrics we have come to expect? On Starship Trooper it was "Sister bluebird flying high above, Shine your wings forward to the sun, Hide the mysteries of life on your way", but now on To Ascend it's "taking the time, on a wing and a prayer, a wounded bird in the hand, with the eyes of a child come to understand, I will open the book, raise the pen, let it reinvent my life again, take me from where I am, as a free bird flies from the hand to ascend, to asceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeend". Of course a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, I get it. In that section alone there are at least 3 clichés and it just comes across as lazy song writing. In A World Of Our Own is not much better with "right back where we began, why can't we be like we were then, living in a world of our own, living in a world of our own, living in a world of our own, living in a world of our own". You get the picture, and it pretty much just locks onto that idea and the band seem content with that. Okay, that's' another one in the can, boys, next!

It is such a safe album, nothing innovative really to speak of, no power. It doesn't have enough power to knock the fluff off a peanut. Howe plays it safe, Squire plays it safe, White plays it safe, Downes is always safe so no surprises there, actually everybody plays it safe, and it has the unmitigated effect of alienating us old Yesaholics, and I am not sure how it will affect those newcomers to the band. If they heard "Topographic" after this their brain might go into meltdown. So Yes have gone the way that Genesis did in their final stages and it is not an experience that will please the older Yes fanbase.

Don't compare Yes to their past glories? Why not? They are Yes! Not some band rising up from the overcrowded AOR scene. Yes! Well, that's my take on this and the album will sit very nicely alongside other mediocre Yes projects such as "Union", "Talk" and "Big Generator". At this stage I had to think is it actually the worst Yes album? Let's see. Is it worse than "Big Generator"? On that album I had heard Rabin saying on the documentary that this was the most difficult album he had worked on, with a foot note to the fact that Anderson hated the changes in direction and musical differences were creating tension in the ranks. Okay, "Heaven and Earth" is not quite THAT bad. Is it then as appalling as "Union"? That album was a catastrophe, and album producer Jonathan Elias should be lynched by the prog community for deliberately replacing Wakeman and Howe's solo prowess with inferior so called session musicians, creating a hyper soundscape of saturated noise. Is it then as bad as "Talk"? No, cos at least Trevor Rabin is not on "Heaven and Earth". So it's perhaps the 4th worst Yes album, but that is no consolation. Nor is the awesome Roger Dean cover; which is false advertising; a promise of the great Yes of old which simply doesn't deliver the goods. 3 songs save it from a complete disgrace, but as an old Yes fan I was bitterly disappointed and I did not have high expectations after reading the reviews. However I expected something better than this. If I want to hear syrupy commercial easy listening music I will put this on, and it will remain in pristine condition as the CD will rarely leave its cover.

Ah well, it's only music. So let my passionate opinions rest at that, after all it's only an opinion, and I don't have to listen to this album again. I can always put on the 70s classics such as "Fragile" and revisit the glory days when Yes blew my mind and were the ground breaking movers and shakers of the Prog scene. Despite their pitfalls, Yes will remain in my heart as an essential brilliant band that I will always cherish.

Report this review (#1221417)
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars Heaven and Hell for Yes fans Previous comments have outlined the weaknesses of this album: Lack of dynamics and energy. Weak song writing (Was this really the best material available after all those years? If yes, why not engage brilliant songwriters such as Neal Morse for help? Yes has always been a great arrangement band, they practically re-invented "America"!!) Weak lyrics that sound like they are trying to emulate Jon Anderson's lyrical ambitions. On "Fly from here" they did stay away from that and did much better. Feeling that they are going through the motions, attempts to repeat past glories without new ideas. Why did they have to rush the production? If record sales don't matter anymore and they can only make money by touring, they might as well not have put out this record and done more concerts. The best I can say is that "Heaven & Earth" sounds surprisingly like a weak Jon Anderson Solo Album. 1.5 stars
Report this review (#1222079)
Posted Friday, July 25, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars No. This album is not like "Relayer", "Close to the Edge", "Going for the One".... No. It is not entirely Progressive Rock in musical style. Does it mean it is a bad album? No.

No. There is not Jon Anderson singing and composing the songs. No. There is not Rick Wakeman playing the keyboards. Does it sound like YES? Yes. This line-up still sounds like YES. And more than in their "Fly From Here" album which in my opinion sounded more influenced by THE BUGGLES (Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn).

The most characteristic sound from the "old" YES in this album comes from Steve Howe`s guitar playing, in my opinion. Geoff Downes` keyboards playing and arrangements sound a bit more in the background in comparison to his role in ASIA and more particularly in comparison to the "Fly from Here" album, on which he was one of the main songwriters with producer Trevor Horn. Maybe he has a more prominent role in his song called "Subway Walls", a song which he co-wrote with Jon Davison. Alan White also plays good drums, but the drum parts are not very complicated. Chris Squire plays bass but in a more relaxed way, but his backing vocals still are very good and very characteristic from him for the general sound of YES. The recording and mixing of this album is good, and the production in general sounds more "simple" and "light" than in their previous album.

Jon Davison sings very well, and he is the main songwriter in this album. He sounds more closer to Jon Anderson in the sound of his vocals than Horn or Benoit David, but he still retains his own style. He does a very good job in this album as YES`s lead singer

In general, this album is really "very relaxed" in musical moods, maybe too much for some fans, and maybe it lacks some of the "old" "power" and "heaviness". Maybe the most Progressive song is "Subway Walls", with some changes in rhythms and good solos by Downes and Howe. But maybe the general "sweet musical atmospheres" are the main troubles for some fans to really like this album as an album from YES. I really expected worst things from this album. But I like this album, not a lot, but it is good anyway.

The cover design by Roger Dean is very good.

Report this review (#1222984)
Posted Friday, July 25, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars A clear division of labour in evidence, here. Two styles of music separated by a thousand valleys. "Believe again", "To ascend" , "Light of the Ages" and "Subway walls" face to the left ;the rest face resolutely to the right. To the left lies something akin to prog and distant memories of a band called Yes; to the right lie Tales of Unadulterated Garbage. Four out of eight is better than none out of eight but not nearly as joyous as eight out of eight. Time to re-shuffle this pack, or to pack up altogether maybe? Let's hope for better things ahead.
Report this review (#1224492)
Posted Saturday, July 26, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars I find very astonishing to read so many negative reviews about this new album. I refuse to fall in this kind of collective condemnation. So many notes between 1 and 2 stars, how can we explain this ? Maybe a lot of people thought Yes could produce, in 2014, a masterpiece of modern prog music ?

I did not. We had to be aware Yes will never create a new "Close to the edge" or a new "Awken", not even a new "Mind drive". We just had to expect an agreable record and that's what it is : a nice collection of very pretty melodies full of beautiful harmonies in the typical Yes' manner. Probably, "Heaven and earth" is the most melodic record Yes has ever made.

The writing is quite good, the musicianship is skilled, more especially the guitar (though Howe's "it was all we knew" is the only weak moment of the album), Davison's voice is very close to Anderson's (in spite of some clumsiness, more especially in "Subway walls"). The entire disk reflects a great musical sensitivity and a perfect homogeneity. Surely, this is also the softer record Yes has ever made.

Ah ! I think I understand now why so many reviewers are disappointed : there is no heavy riff. Yes did not make any contractual reference to heavy prog, that's it ! Indeed. I could not say the contrary. No saturated guitars, no inflamed keyboard solo, no acute shouting, no thundering drums ; just soft and beautiful melodies.

In the mid 1990's, when they were reborn ("Keys to the ascension"), these musicians would have transcend the wise "Light of the ages". But this time is over. "Believe again" and "The game" are very decent true Yes songs, "To ascend" flows serenely and we nearly recover the great past some short moments in the bass parts and the keys/guitar bridge of"Subway walls".

I would have given 4 stars to this record, their best one since the Keys to the ascension. But I will give it 5 stars to balance a little bit the impressive flood of severe criticisms. "Heaven and earth" is quite an appropriate title for this record. But "Hell and flood" could reflect the predominant evaluation it gets here ! Unhappily...

Report this review (#1225474)
Posted Monday, July 28, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars Wooowww, what else can I say, coming from Zappa-Krimson school I admit I am totally incapable to find 1 interesting second of music on this record, I stopped properly listen to yes back in 1995 after they did Talk which I feel it is a pretty decent album, simply because they started to really be a thing of the past, after Trevor Rabin left, creativity left with him, obviously this statement will not be happily received by hard die dinosaurs yes fans... Keys to ascension studio material was extremely disappointing to me, then they went even lower with open your eyes, the ladder has a few listenable moments such as homeworld, still good musicianship there, magnification is absolutely irrelevant, fly from here absolutely no need for its existence, but this! this goes beyond whatever I expected, I knew it was going to be dull, but this is right there on the embarrassing line, YES was a great band and they certainly did things of a great importance in prog music, there wasn't any need other than making money to make such a travesty of record, it is extremely low and even sad. I won't even mention the vocalist stuff. RIP YES. One start because of the art work.
Report this review (#1225698)
Posted Monday, July 28, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have to be honest, after reading all the reviews panning this album, I was dreading listening to it. I figured it was going to be another disaster like Open Your Eyes. Well, I got my copy last week and I have to say, I really like it. In fact, I like it a immensely more than Fly From Here, 90125, Talk, Big Generator, Union, and the aforementioned Open Your Eyes.

No, it's not Close to the Edge, Fragile, Relayer, Going for the One, or any of the 70s masterpieces, but it's not trying to be either. The compositions are strong, the vocals and musicianship top notch, and it's a consistently strong listen from beginning to end. I honestly can't find a bad track on the album.

Report this review (#1226328)
Posted Tuesday, July 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars The seventies were many many years ago and one can produce, if one is so inclined, works that mimic the masterworks of that time. Some very good albums arose that way and i do enjoy listening to bands that adhere to the use of vintage instruments and recording techniques, and most of all, the musicianship ethics and free for all spirit of the decade i most love, BUT..those bands did not produce those masterworks themselves and therefore i can accept Yes not being inclined to attempt to produce CCTE 2 or Re- Relayer or TFTMountains..or even anything similar to GFTO or TYA. What i cannot apologize is the fact the band became an uninspired bunch of geriatrics that make albums without really wanting to, without any spirit or inventiveness. I do enjoy most of this pop album and that's why i give it 2 stars, in particular 'Subway Walls' is quite pleasing. But it just isn't good enough, not by a long shot, to merit the hallowed YES stamp on it. At least Open Your Eyes had some spirit to it. The previous effort deserved at least 3 stars. Not this one. And let me finish by elaborating a bit on the performance of the involved musicians. Jon Davison is a good singer, far from having the quality of Jon Anderson he still does well for his writing skills it is obvious Jon D. does not care much for prog..pop is definitely where he feels at home. Alan White is actually, imho, a bit better here than most of the band's albums since Keys. Steve plays it nice and clean and safe here, very unedgy and bland. I do not think Geoff Downes is a good fit for Yes. He never was. It suffices to listen to the myriad crap he was mostly responsible for in Asia to reach this conclusion.Chris's tone is present but that's it..very basic and average performance from my favourite bass player. The production lends an helping hand to the blandness of the album. 2 stars. To give it more would be highly unfair to the band's back catalogue and to the inspired prog work that fortunately keeps flooding our ears and soul.
Report this review (#1226348)
Posted Tuesday, July 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Yes trying to pull a 'spiritual' Jon Anderson album, essentially trying to ay they can do what Jon does without him. I find this album difficult to review for the following reasons; although it's not disasterous it's not what it could have been. The music is pleasant, the tunes are catchy, but it lack drive of Chris Squire's bass, with a little bit of more instrumental interplay a little bit more 'progressiveness' so to speak, I do believe that this album would have equaled the well regarded Magnification album. I think Davison is great, I think he certainly has the songwriting skills his voice sounds great. No I don't think Heaven and Earth is dreadful, it doesn't need to be thrown out in the dump heap. In-fact it is worthy of a few listens, it's more 'meh'. It doesn't offend any of the fans, but merely frustrates you because you know that this album could have been closer to a four star if they made better produciton and arrangment choices, merely by doing some more soundscapes and a little bit of instrumental interplay with Squire and Howe, and it wouldn't be too hard because the songwriting as I mentioned earlier; is fine, the ideas are there, they feel inspired. I have to admit that there is a freshness as Steve Howe has mentioned, as I mentioned earlier it isn't terrible. It's worth a few listens, it is pleasant and uplifting and good on them for doing something different, which is what Yes does do. The only song that annoys me is the chorus in It was all we knew, it sounds a little too Sacharrin for my tastes. I am going to say 2.5 stars round up to 3 stars. Nice, give it a spin but you're not going to come out either loving or hating this album, but slightly frustrated as I mentioned earlier, knowing that this could have been really something good with a few better choices.
Report this review (#1227485)
Posted Friday, August 1, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I quite like Yes' new album Heaven & Earth (H&E). I'll second the reviews by Guillermo and Kjarks, but offer a few comments as well. No, this is not grand classic Yes with epic suites, though I could see some of these tunes being stretched out in concert. But no, it is not simple pop music either, though some songs have more prog element than others. These musicians are beyond simple pop music. Chris Squire has commented that there is more of a folk element to this album (see The music has a fresh feel to it. It is definitely more laid back, but that makes it a good listen if you want to chill with some quality music.

All band members have contributed songs, with Jon Davison presumably having written most of the lyrics. The lyrics are very positive, which was a strong element of classic late '60s/early'70s prog, along with the exploratory instrumentation and playing in prog. It is spiritually uplifting, and has certainly struck a chord with the general listener. I see that H&E entered the UK charts at #20, and the Billboard charts at #26. That's good. It means people will check out other Yes albums, attend concerts by Yes, check out music by other good bands and broaden their musical horizons.

However, as for the low ratings, my observation is that a lot of people who review in the Prog Archives seem to like their music intense, loud and heavy. (Spoiler alert: I'm a fan of jazz and jazz/fusion, and I don't like heavy metal [or rap!].) I like to listen to more intense music sometimes, but nothing gets more annoying or boring than endless guitar shredding, or keyboard shredding, or whatever. Well, maybe comedians who think they're funny because they use excessive profanity are more annoying and boring. But anyway, music needs to breathe. Listening to intense music takes work, and can be rewarding, but mind and body need a break sometimes too. So having more choices from Yes is great, because if I'm wanting something more intense, I can listen to some of the epic stuff, and if I want to chill, I can listen to albums like Heaven & Earth.

Overall, H&E is not Yes' best album ever, but certainly not a bad album either. I think we sometimes criticize too much and don't enjoy enough. We need to stop and smell the roses, or whatever the bright red flowers are on Roger Dean's fantastic cover art for H&E. My son recently saw this lineup of Yes in concert and said it was a great show. I'll say 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

Report this review (#1238890)
Posted Friday, August 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
3 stars I confess. I'm not a huge Yes fan at all. Sure, their classic output is good, and I especially like Relayer. Yet, their sound and their wankery never really jived with me. I especially never really liked Jon's voice. Yet, for some reason, I do somehow like this unnecessary new release from the classic band, "Heaven & Earth". With the amazing cover art, I was actually expecting something even better, but an average, enjoyable album from a band that is over 40 years old is nothing to sneer at anyways.

Yes, I enjoyed this new Yes album. It isn't revolutionary. It isn't even that complex or technical. Indeed, the guys sort of just strum their way through some ballads, for the most part. I was actually impressed with some of the inventive bass lines from Squire, but that's to be expected, right? Yet, the melodies are there. And the songs sound nice enough. There aren't any pretentious, ridiculously long epics. There is, however, plenty of cheese.

Cheese abounds, from some of the sickeningly sweet melodies to the grimace-worthy lyrics in the first half. The album is definitely centered on ballads, and poppy ones, at that. Honestly, they all kinda blur into one soupy, sappy mess of lovesick frivolities. Jon's vocals are so hokey sometimes that I have to grit my teeth a bit. And, yet, there are memorable tracks, like "Light of the Ages". Finally, "Subway Walls" is actually a wonderful track. It's almost like the band wanted to give a nod to their stalwart progressive fans, as it is indeed an epic of sorts with wonderful instrumentals and real structure. Honestly, this track is awesome.

So, if we step back for a moment, this album isn't anything bad at all. It's not great, or even good, but to slap abysmal ratings on it is probably quite close-minded. It's an easy-going album with some highs and lows. That's it.

Report this review (#1239055)
Posted Friday, August 8, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Whereas I do resent those one-star reviews that had been posted even before the album was released, I must concur with the folks who think the Heaven and Earth is "for the Yes fans only" and contributes very little to the prog's legacy.

But then again, should we expect Yes to churn out a new CTTE or Fragile every couple of years, without repeating themselves?

How about cutting Yes a little slack and judging this album on its own merits, without obsessively comparing it to the band's masterpieces from 40 years ago?

There are pleasant melody lines, matched by the sound quality. I wish the album had more of the old-style Chris Squire "fat" bass guitar sound, but I wish for so many things these days. It is what it is, and it's a nice album to listen to. The artwork is great as well, which is always a plus.

Overall, I'd assign the Heaven and Earth 3.5 stars, rounding up to 4 ..

Report this review (#1242257)
Posted Sunday, August 10, 2014 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars In my estimation, Heaven & Earth sits comfortably alongside Tormato and Yes's eponymous debut. If you find little off-putting about Anderson's deliberately uplifting songs from The Ladder or Magnification ("It Will Be a Good Day (The River)," "If Only You Knew," "To Be Alive (Hep Yadda)," "Don't Go," "Give Love Each Day," "Soft as a Dove"), this album will be fresh and buoyant, any flaws notwithstanding. If, however, you cannot abide clichés or limitless optimism, then you can justifiably pass this one by. While it is not my custom to comment on the rating of a given album or compare it to the ratings of other albums, I'll gladly make an exception this time: Prior to the time of this review's publication, Heaven & Earth had a rating equal to Big Generator and had a lower rating than Union. Uncharitable expectations are no doubt the main culprit. Objections that Heaven & Earth is not a return to Close to the Edge don't do the objector any credit. If you insert this disc for the first time hoping to be transported back to 1973, then you have already condemned it. Such condemnation is harder to summon if you were to load the album into your mp3 player (or portable vinyl record unit for you purists), set foot outside under a gorgeous sky, and go for a walk. And for goodness' sake, smile! It will be a good day.

"Believe Again" The first listen, not of this song but of the album, was still disappointing to me. I remember thinking in the car, "Yes is playing music you can shag to!" (Note the East Carolina usage of the term, dear Brits!) Even my wife, who was with me at the time and despises Yes, made the comment that this was "nice music." Oh dear, indeed. For starters, "Believe Again" does not feel like an eight-minute track. It has a lighthearted quality that breezes by, a perfect match for the graceful and stirring vocal harmonies. Maybe calling it "progressive beach music" will be a bit much for some people (I was, after all, in St. Petersburg, Florida when I first heard it), but for me, that designation in no way lessens my enjoyment of a simple and attractive Yes song that has become my favorite one from the album.

"The Game" Although the second song threatens to bring on a darker mood musically, it stops short of doing so, elevating the listener back into the relaxed mood of before. With delightfully catchy vocal passages and unpretentious musicianship all around, this is a charming song that showcases Yes' ability to dial back on the instrumentation and allow the song to breathe and move as a lissome body.

"Step Beyond" A bubbly synthesizer and a bouncing beat reminiscent of early 1990s pop music makes "Step Beyond" sound like it crept out of a twenty-year-old time capsule, stained with the multicolored artwork of Peter Max.

"To Ascend" The lyrics manage to score a point with every other Yes-like cliché imaginable: "Eyes of a child" and "Wing and a prayer" are but two. Befitting these words are gentle acoustic major seventh chords drifting by like a cloud.

"In A World of Our Own" An unusual one in the Yes directory, this song is a cross between gritty blues and symphonic pop, something a Yes fan might find unpalatable, but really it's like a close cousin to the Electric Light Orchestra, particularly the material from Zoom.

"Light of the Ages" A series of long notes from the electrified slide guitar leads into another acoustic-based song, making this a close relation to the darker songs featured on the previous album, Fly from Here.

"It Was All We Knew" With a main melody that is sweet beyond measure and mundane musicianship (one fine guitar solo excepted), I can understand the distaste for "It Was All We Knew." It's another one that I would label beach music, a label which, may I remind the reader, is not derisive).

"Subway Walls" With a pseudo-classical introduction and an lengthy instrumental passage in an odd time signature, it would seem that Yes was attempting to court fans of their progressive rock classics with their closing number. But at its essence, this is another lighthearted song full of bright melodies and smooth harmonies. The guttural bass riff forming the structure of the verses is the main unusual element, almost not belonging. Speaking of not belonging, the segment in 15/8 feels contrived and tacked-on, even if the organ and guitar solos sound terrific, as though to lend the album some progressive "street cred." But in the year 2014, Yes does not need to demonstrate progressive rock credentials, no matter what the naysayers keep saying.

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Posted Monday, August 11, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album touched me deeply. To be honest, after "Fly From Here" I didn't expect anything from the new Yes album. But after several listening to "Heaven & Earth", I'm more than positively surprised by the musical freshness and creativity by the old masters. This album has its identity, from the beginning to the end, and this is what differs it from the majority of its predecessors, excluding "The Ladder" and partly "Magnification". There is no doubt that Jon Davison has brought some new energy to the band and saved Yes from disappointing mean and lack of expression. "Heaven and Earth" proves that Yes can make a good album without Jon Anderson. A new perspective is open. Thank you Yes! I can't give less than five stars.
Report this review (#1250883)
Posted Saturday, August 16, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Typically, I have always written my review while playing the music of the album being reviewed. But not this time. I do it intentionally for one chief reason: I don't want to listen to the album again and I don't want to force myself to have a listen for the sake of writing the review. And ...probably I only played the album three times with the third one was actually I forced myself to have it spun but ... I could not afford to continue it. Big apology for Chris, Steve and Alan as I have admitted myself being a big fan of YES but in fact I am not a loyal fans. I put my self as loyal prog music fans irrespective who is the band. If the music I consider it as prog and good quality, then I am on it. But if it's not .....whoever plays it I don't really care if I can not enjoy the music.

The only good thing about this album is its fabulous artwork. Oh there is also another thing: the legendary prog band Yes is still producing an album after decades of their existence in the music industry. The other good thing also is that John Davison voice is quite good and quite close to Anderson in some ways. But the music ...which is the most important one is not the one that I expected to be. First, it's quite weak on composition as the main structure lies on the kind of ambient flow with all soft sounds of almost everything: keyboard, guitar, drums and even voice. The dominating sound is really Chris' bass sounds that represent on how he played with The Sync. I can still find the nuances of Rickenbaker in his playing.

Second, melody line is quite weak even though it sounds OK at the beginning of the album, the opening and second track. But on the third track and later I feel so sleepy and get bored with the music that to me does not sound like it moves. It's so flat to my ears as I can not any beauty in its subtleties. I then start to blame on the limited capability of Geoffrey Downes on keyboard innovation. He only chooses simple notes and not really catchy to my ears. If he does play excellent, I think he can provide such inventive keyboard sound being a melody line. Unfortunately, it's not happening at all. There are only mediocre keyboard sounds throughout the entire album - or at least I fail to identify it as he plays so mediocre.

Third, there is basically no changes of styles or I would say the music is less dynamic than typical Yes music in the past. All flow from start to end so flat with no significant changes of style or tempo that truly represent standard progressive music. There is no inventive keyboard sounds like Awaken or energetic guitar work like in Perpetual Change or dynamic drumming like in Roundabout. Nothing that sounds significant in terms of changes.

Fourth, you might consider the structural integrity is quite good as all songs are alike. But this creates problems, obviously, as it becomes sooo boring listen to the music with basically no movement or very little movement from start to end. What structural integrity of an album serves you if at first you don't enjoy any piece of song in the album?

So ...

What should I say? Of course I am not going to give a one star for this lackluster. And I think two-star rating is a good one and I am quite happy to give two stars, meaning's for the die hard fans of Yes. But remember ...there are many excellent prog albums from younger generation that deserve more attention too .... Keep on proggin' ...!

Note: In fact, I like Glass Hamer "Perilous" much more than this album by Yes. Mr Davison should come back or focus with making Glass Hamer better and better... I think.. Yes is history.

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#1253054)
Posted Monday, August 18, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Heaven and Earth" is the ninteenth studio album (not counting Keystudio) and has certainly come in for a lot of negative criticism. Although most of the reviews giving one and two star ratings appeared before the album was even released!! That makes me wonder if those reviewers even listened to the disk or just heard a few low-res samples on the internet, or are diehard fans of old school Yes who don't think the band can exist without Jon Anderson.

Having listened to the album many times since it arrived in the post a few weeks ago I have absorbed the music and all its nuances to feel that I can offer an objective unbiased review.

First thing to comment on is the artwork which is a fine piece of Roger Dean painting.

The production by Roy Baker Thomas is first rate, instrumentation is crystal clear.

So how does Jon Davidson perform? I have seen Yes perform live three times since he joined the band and thought his singing was outstanding. He has no trouble reaching those high notes which Jon Anderson could achieve at his peak. In fact I would now prefer to listen to Davidson perform with them on tour rather than Anderson as his voice is not what it was, the last time I saw Yes with Anderson was about 10 years ago during a long tour and his voice was really suffering. On "Heaven and Earth" Jon Davidson is excellent and sounds as clear as a bell. So full marks for vocal performance.

As for the music I can't understand why this album has garnered such negative comment. It is one of their more mellow works probably closer in mood to Tormato than anything else in their discography as some reviewers have noted. Yes are not going to record "Close to the Edge" part 2, they have moved on from that I just wish some "fans" would move on too.

"Heaven and Earth" is one of the better albums that Yes have recorded since "Drama". "Magnification" was a good one but marred by some of those wimpy Anderson ballads that make me cringe. Thankfully the new release is free of those.

The first track on the album is "Believe Again" which is an excellent opener.

The album ends with the magnificent "Subway Walls" which starts with a baroque theme on keyboards. This is Geoff Downes' time to shine.

Steve Howe's guitar playing is outstanding throughout the disk. Chris Squire's bass playing is not too prominent on many of the tracks although he does come to the fore towards the end on "It Was All We Knew" and puts in a fine performance on "Subway Walls". I have never been fully convinced by Alan Whites' drumming, he is a solid player but lacks the flair of Bull Bruford. However, he also makes a fine contribution on this track

The only track I didn't think much of is "Step Beyond". The most off-putting aspect of this is the 1980's sounding keyboards. What was Downes thinking, surely he could have come up with something better than that.

In conclusion, I regard " Heaven and Earth" as a excellent album, it is mostly a fairly mellow recording but contains some superb musicianship especially from Howe who throws in lots of short intricate guitar pieces which are probably his best work in a long time. An album truly worthy of four stars and nothing less.

Report this review (#1256084)
Posted Friday, August 22, 2014 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars One benefit of this album was that it made me appreciate what Yes was attempting on "Fly From Here", which at the time I found to be a dissapointment. Hearing what these old guys (the core band members are all approaching 70) do here makes me understand the previous album a lot more.

The traditional Yes sound does still exist, but much more understated than ever before. For example, Believe Again is mostly a pop-based song, like much of the Trevor Rabin Yes lineup, but has a much more prog styled break section, that brings the entire track to life. Most of the pieces are performed in this way, sometimes using guitar, sometimes bass or keybaords to spice up the music. It also helps that Jon Davison's voice sounds very much like a young Jon Anderson, giving the music a more familiar tone than when Benoit David was in front. While not as lush and exciting as classic Yes, is does provide for a nice relaxing listening experience.

There are two standout tracks, Light Of The Ages and Subway Walls. The first, written by Davison, has a very Anderson-like sense of rhythm, and would have fit well on a classic albim like "Going For The One". The second, the closing track written by Geoff Downs and Davison, is a powerhouse of a track, that more closely resembles the strong pieces on "Drama".

While I can't say this is a masterpiece, with the toning down of the majority of tracks, I do enjoy it immensely. I still miss Jon Anderson in the band, but I feel this lineup is not as weak as I initially thought.

3.5 stars, rounded up.

Report this review (#1259101)
Posted Monday, August 25, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars "I don't want to end up like grandmaster Max Roach, the American living legend, he of the MacArthur Foundation Grant. Last time I heard him, and it was shortly before he passed away, there was daylight between him and the bass player. Not even close. How are the mighty fallen. You don't want to see Muhammad Ali in the ring again, do you? Get outta here."

- Bill Bruford, The Autobiography, 2009

Two major changes happened to Yes in the time between Fly From Here and this one. First: in one of the all-time great ironies, Benoit David came down with a serious respiratory illness, needed to be replaced for a tour in 2012, and learned through a magazine interview Squire gave that he was out of the band for good. For his replacement, Yes turned to one Jon Davison, another high-pitched vocalist in the Anderson mold, and somebody who had spent a couple of years as the lead singer of Glass Hammer. I've only heard a pretty small amount of Glass Hammer, a Tennessee-based prog band that started in the 90s and was still going strong when Davison joined, but based on what I've heard (some scattered YouTube clips, plus Davison's first album with the band, If, which seems to be the best-regarded of the albums he did with Glass Hammer), it would be hard for me to come up with a band that would appeal to me less. While Davison didn't have much to do with the actual music that I've heard from Glass Hammer (his contributions were mostly limited to his singing and to some lyrics), he is nonetheless the front man of those performances, and if his Anderson-knockoff vocal approach doesn't hurt the music he sings over, it doesn't help things either.

The second change was much more important, however, and it not only ended up amplifying whatever fundamental problems the band had at this point, it also helped make the new inclusion of Davison much more important than it should have been. Trevor Horn, who had produced Fly From Here and had provided a great deal of direction in the process of making that album, decided to leave and do other things. Well, the band had to find somebody to produce them, and they ended up settling on Roy Thomas Baker, a choice that seems innocent but should have sent a shiver of horror down the spine of every serious Yes fan when it was revealed. Baker's production credits are pretty decent on the whole, but I'd far prefer that Yes had hooked up with somebody with no history with the band rather than the person who had been in charge for the aborted Paris Sessions back in 1979. The selection of Baker (not to mention the inclusion of Billy Sherwood, who had some mixing responsibilities) makes it seem like the band had tried to get on board with anybody who had worked with the band in some capacity at some point, and I can't help but think of a lonely drunk flipping through his contacts on a Friday night and trying to find an old girlfriend to hook up with. The only choice that could have horrified me more would have been Jonathan Elias.

So why is it that replacing Horn with Baker would horrify me so much? There are a couple of main reasons. The first: back in 1979, the sessions with Baker heading things up essentially left the band for dead, and it was only when Horn and Downes came to replace Anderson and Wakeman (with Eddie Offord in tow) that the band was able to revive itself and make another pretty strong album (which I still insist Drama is). That the situation reversed course, with Horn leaving after helping to revive the band and squeezing a pretty good album out of them, then bringing in Baker to replace him, strikes me as rife with symbolic badness. The second: with Horn heading things up on Fly From Here, the album could be summarized in ways that would make it seem promising despite the sketchy circumstances that led up to its creation. It was a chance for something like the Drama sequel that never happened, with Howe/Squire/White tapping into a version of themselves from long ago! It didn't matter that they didn't have a bunch of new material ready, because there was a whole bunch of interesting old Buggles material, waiting to be updated and given a Yes sheen! Geoff Downes could tap into his interesting younger self, the interesting Buggles keyboardist who did such a good job on Drama, and ease the nausea of everybody who didn't really like what he'd become with Asia! With Horn's departure, all of this fell apart. Whereas the Fly From Here group+producer combo be spun as "the Drama band, together again, plus an acceptable Anderson/Horn proxy," the lineup suddenly became half of Asia plus the somewhat ideas-bereft Squire and the rapidly declining White (who puts on one of the all-time great "keep getting dem checks" performances here), plus an Anderson-wannabe from a Yes-wannabe band. Whereas it had been ok for Squire and Howe to not contribute a great deal of new material, since so much of Fly From Here was reworked older material, suddenly there was no older material to rework, and the band had to call on Davison to contribute a lot to the songwriting (he has a full or partial credit on 7 of the 8 tracks, while none of the other members are credited on more than 3). Whereas Downes had shown a good balance between the approaches of his younger self and his current self on Fly From Here, this album has Downes reverting entirely to his current self, and unfortunately his current self is nothing like the vibrant but restrained player that made me like The Age of Plastic and Drama so much. The point is, Horn's departure, without being compensated by the arrival of an equally strong hand that could provide clear leadership, set off a significant chain reaction that created a circumstance that would lead to a bad album unless all of the parties involved stepped up their game significantly ... which they didn't.

I've listened to this album several times, hoping (though with rapidly dwindling faith) that my propensity towards finding more to like in a given Yes album than many people typically do would prompt me to like it more than others tend to. What ultimately ends up dooming my feelings towards this album is that I can't figure out what this album generally does well (or, at the least, what this album generally does well that would fall within the bounds of what I tend to value in rock music, prog included). There are some instrumental passages that I like: I enjoy the brief stretches at the beginning of "Believe Again" and "The Game" with Howe's sustained notes on electric guitar; I enjoy the majestic Howe-driven passage that occupies the first minute of "Light of the Ages"; I like the out-of-nowhere "don't worry we're still prog" bit jammed into the middle of "It Was All We Knew." Of course, the passage at the beginning of "Believe Again" is immediately swallowed up by a chintzy rising synth line that inexplicably functions as a crucial element of a middling pop song that has the audacity to last 8 minutes when it can barely sustain 4. There's a "we've got to do some Yes stuff here" lengthy instrumental passage in the middle, a "dark" break to contrast with the cheery banality of the rest, but it's one of the least interesting Howe passages ever on a Yes album, with one of the dinkiest guitar tones I can think of, and I'm fairly amazed that this passage made it into release.

"The Game" is one of Squire's two contributions to the album, and it's essentially a sequel to "The Man You Always Wanted Me to be" in that it contains a co-writing credit from former Syn-mate Gerard Johnson, though this one does not have Squire singing. It's also significantly less interesting to my ears than its predecessor, which may have been my least favorite track on Fly From Here but at least was pretty memorable throughout and had a nice combination of Squire/David harmonies up against decent Howe soloing. This one does itself no favors by lasting nearly seven minutes when it could get by with four or five, but I quite like the combination of Downes' keyboards with the decent vocal melody and that fun hook in the backing vocals. The "climax" sections at the end of each verse section seem a little overwrought to me, and Howe's guitar parts seem to get weirdly tangled up in knots in some spots, but I basically like most of his parts, and I like the song more than I don't. Meanwhile, if "The Game" is more or less the counterpart to "The Man You Always Wanted Me to be," then "It Was All We Knew" is more or less the counterpart to "Hour of Need" (it's another mid-tempo Howe semi-ballad, though without any "Your Move" throwback guitars), and while I kinda like the guitar line that drives the song forward and the mid-section instrumental passage (even if it sounds like something the 70s version of the band would have done if on tranquilizers), it also has the same issues as "Hour" with lyrics that don't quite mesh with the meter of their attached tune (I seriously cannot be the only person who hears this problem in these two songs), and the song ends up seeming a bit clunky.

All of the rest of the songs feature Davison as one of the credited songwriters, and all of them are problematic in their own way. The aforementioned "Light of the Ages," at the very least, has that nice opening stretch, but it completely disappears without an explicit reprise after the opening minute (there's probably a cannibalization of elements of this introduction found somewhere else in the song, but it hasn't jumped out at me), and it gives way to a song that alternates decently atmospheric balladry with awkward melodrama over the next six-plus minutes. I do like the ending repeated "I will follow" near the end, though. The Davison/Howe collaborations are the aforementioned "Believe Again" (bleh) and "Step Beyond," a clunky shuffling pop-rock song built around a pedestrian guitar line over a pedestrian beat and a silly keyboard line that amused me the first couple of times I heard it but started annoying the crap out of me by the third listen, and I just don't like it at all. The Davison/White collaboration is "To Ascend," which is five minutes of go-nowhere fluffery with lyrics like "Taking the time/On the weekend of prayer/A wounded bird in the hand/With the eyes of a child come to understand" and "Take me from where I am/As a freed bird flies from the hand." Listening to this is like stuffing yourself full of marshmallows; right after you're done, you're hungry again and your stomach hurts, and a few hours later you regret it all over again. This is on the short list of Yes songs that provoke a feeling of rabid irritation within me, and I'm the guy who will defend "Wonderlove" and "Love Shine" to anybody who wants to throw down.

The album's other Davison/Squire collaboration, "In a World of Our Own," is a sort of jazzy/music-hall shuffle, and I like the idea of the song more than I like the final product. I can actually very easily envision this having been featured on a (completely hypothetical) Squackett follow-up project to A Life Within a Day, with Steve Hackett and Roger King finding some way to take the core idea and either give it a darker edge or go the other way and accentuate the music hall aspects for all they're worth. Amanda Lehmann could have taken lead vocals, Gary O'Toole or Jeremy Stacey could have messed around with the drum part a bit, Hackett could done something a little more adventurous with the guitars ... alas, it was not to be, and a decent melody and framework is largely wasted.

Finally, the album concludes with a nine-minute Davison/Downes collaboration in "Subway Walls," which is somewhat in the "New Languages" mold (remember that one?) in that it has a long dramatic introduction that eventually gives way into a herky-jerky pop song with a meant-to-be-rousing chorus interspersed with noodling instrumental passages to boost its prog cred. Now, I'm not an enormous fan of "New Languages" (which I still consider to be a good 4:30 pop song unnecessarily bloated into a prog epic), but it has this one beat in every way; the opening instrumental passage of "Subway Walls" is filled with bombastic keyboard and xylophone parts that should be beneath Yes, the verses of the pop section are nowhere near as memorable as the "New Languages" one, the chorus doesn't even come close to the one in "NL" (which doesn't just have the chorus but also has that great transition from the herky-jerky verses), and the instrumental passages are much duller here than there. This one also has a big bombastic coda (not just instrumental, but also featuring Davison/Squire singing lines that culminate in a big "TRANSCEND!!!!!!" over the instrumental parts) that breaks the mold, but while Howe's soloing is actually pretty decent in this part, it comes across as too little too late.

The knee-jerk defense from somebody who wants to defend this album (I'm definitely not saying this is the only possible defense, but it seems like it's a common one) could likely take the form of something like "It's unreasonable to expect something like Fragile or Close to the Edge, just accept it for what it is!!!" The problem I have with this album is not that there isn't anything that lives up to the standard of "Roundabout" or "South Side of the Sky" or "Siberian Khatru"; this would be a completely unreasonable expectation if somebody held reaching this level as a pre-requisite of enjoyment, and I certainly do not have this expectation. The problem I have is that I don't believe anything on this album lives up to the standard of "Into the Storm" or (if we're dipping into the list of reworked older material) "Sad Night at the Airfield" or "Life on a Film Set," and there's little on here that I would perceive as living up to the standards of perfectly decent Life Within a Day material like "Aliens" or "Perfect Love Song." Furthermore, as much as the material on the album strikes me as falling in the range of middling to bad, there's also very little in the way of a diversification effect in tempo and style to boost it up at least a little bit. Ok, there's a smidge of variation in presentation (boring pop vs boring prog-pop hybrids, I guess), but only a smidge; if ever a Yes album absolutely needed a Howe acoustic guitar instrumental or three, it's this one. Or, for instance, couldn't Squire's songs have been reworked to give him a more prominent place in the vocal mix, maybe making him the clear lead in spots? Again, this comes back to the question of leadership; the band really needed to have somebody around to throw out a bunch of goofy ideas that might be unworkable on their own but could spur the band to try something unusual, instead of settling for the path of least resistance in so many cases. As for the "accept it for what it is" argument: there's too much good music in the world for me to force feed myself something like this, even if it's from one of my very favorite bands.

Now, with all of these downsides, a once unthinkable question had to be considered as I listened to this repeatedly: could it be that Yes had finally made an album that I could consider worse than Union? After all, as awful as it might be, Union does have three songs I genuinely enjoy ("Masquerade," "Lift Me Up," "The More We Live - Let Go"), whereas this album doesn't have any songs that I like even as much as those. So, I broke my long-ago vow, popped the entirety of Union onto my iPod, gave it a full listen for the first time in many years ... and holy hell, that album is awful and definitely worse than this one. No, this album may not live up to the best material of Union, but it also doesn't have anything as astoundingly soul-sucking as the three-song "Angkor Wat"/"Dangerous"/Holding On" sequence, not to mention other low points like "Shock to the System" or "Silent Talking." Honestly, this makes sense to me: as bad as much of this album might be, it's still the genuine product of a past-its-prime version of Yes, whereas so much of Union was the product of Jon Anderson, Jonathan Elias, and the bowels of Hell. With that perspective in mind, I can rank this album a nudge above Union, which is something, I guess.

It's presumptuous to insist that anybody should retire from recording new music if they don't want to; Yes really wanted to keep touring at this point, and (best as I've been able to gather, though it's possible I'm misinterpreting what I've read) they had an obligation to have an album out before the 2014 tour where they'd be playing Fragile and Close to the Edge in full in addition to material from a new album, so this album pretty much had to happen. I will say this instead: if this is genuinely the kind of music that the various members of Yes (especially Howe/Squire/White) wanted to make at this time, and if they were genuinely satisfied with the final product, then this means that they had, by this point, lost all connection to the younger versions of themselves, the ones who made so much music that has made my life and the lives of others so much better. Fly From Here retained that connection, and so did Magnification, and so did The Ladder (Open Your Eyes didn't really, but I still like it for other reasons), but this album suggests that it was gone for good. As hardcore as my fandom might be, and as much as I've tended to find some level of enjoyment in pretty much anything Yes has done in its old age (or, for that matter, in the bulk of its career), I just can't get behind this album when it sounds like the product of a listless, directionless, old version of the band. Yes, it charted respectably, but it came out in 2014, when so few albums were being sold that charting numbers basically became pointless, and it's hard to envision a scenario where, 50 years after release, the album would be regarded as anything but an embarrassment.

Report this review (#1261033)
Posted Tuesday, August 26, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Softer side of Yes! Not so bad album at all. Last song is excellent and I also like an opening track and To Ascend which is a very beautiful tune. The Howe composition, It was all We Know, is catchy. The worst song is Light of the Ages which is just dull. The cover art is one of the Dean's best works.One thing is disturbing me. Is it really so, that if you want to sing in Yes, you have to sound like Jon Anderson or your name must be Jon? Ok, as I said not bad at all, but maybe next time a bit more rock album. Three and a half stars.
Report this review (#1264906)
Posted Saturday, August 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars There is nothing particularly wrong about this album, all the key elements that had make Yes the best (prog) Rock band ever, are still here but displayed softer, slower and quieter. Howe is in very fine form, and that is enough to make a very good Yes Album. If you are an Anderson's widow, you should be surprised to listen to a young Jon Anderson clone singing lead vocals here. A priori, the only daunting thing is the involvement of Billy Sherwood but, thankfully, his presence doesn't spoil the overall effort, wich is miles away from the shame that Open Your Eyes was.

Not a Masterpiece, although a very nice listening experience.

Report this review (#1265127)
Posted Saturday, August 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars Wow, that was painful. I have read with great interest the many reviews of this album, marveling at the discrepancies of the many opinions, which have ranged from "exciting", to "breath-taking" to down right " God-awful". I must say, after hearing H&E for the first time, and as a long time Yes fan, I must agree with those, who have deeply criticized this mockery of this once great Band. I refuse to listen to this again, lest it taint the great memory I have for the Men who once transported Me through Topographic Oceans and took Me to the Heart of the Sunrise. R.I.P. Yes?..
Report this review (#1266015)
Posted Tuesday, September 2, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Born to be Mild

I was sitting in bed the other morning idly browsing the progarchives site and I find myself staring at the 'Heaven and Earth' page with a banner add for some investment company titled '15 minute retirement plan'.

That really does say it all - a hastily cobbled together product to boost the pensions of a once great band.

Not sure why I'm even writing this as by now we all know what a disappointment 'Heaven and Earth' is. I don't think anyone was expecting another 'Gates of Delirium' or CTTE, and I agree with other reviewers that we should take this album on its own merits, its just unfortunate that H&E is devoid of any real spark or emotion. Its an album of fillers, any one of which would be the track you skipped over on another Yes album to get to the good parts.

I can just about forgive the 'twee' ness, after all Yes are no strangers to a bit of cheese now and then, and oddly enough its the pleasant, sing-along material that stays with you afterwards which I suppose is a good thing. 'Believe Again' and 'The Game' do have a nice, pleasant chorus, but it quickly merges into one big MOR mush after a while. Its just, I don't know, all so safe and inoffensive. Its heartbreaking, but not in the good way.

I've gone for three stars because, after all, it is Yes, and its really not a 'bad' album as such - its too bland for that.

it occurs to me that with 'Heaven and Earth' Yes have invented a new sub-genre: 'Retirement- home Prog'.

Report this review (#1267372)
Posted Thursday, September 4, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars Utterly boring, boring, boring. It took me three attempts to get from start to finish. I finally did and what a disappointment. Sorry, but I can only call it "elevator muzak". Inoffensive. Emotionless. Empty in all possible senses. I know that we cannot expect another "Close To the Edge" from the guys, but the reason to put THIS on the market escapes me. Cash in? I doubt that it sells at all. I do marvel at the thought how different we and our perceptions of music are, because I just cannot understand what justifies those five-four-three star reviews, even having read them. Firmly only for comletionists. Thus, one star.
Report this review (#1267413)
Posted Thursday, September 4, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars I feel like I've just eaten 40 kilos of gummy bears.

Like quite a few people, I didn't actually think Fly From Here was that bad. Sure, a lot of it was down to Benoit David, and the titular suite had enough glimpses of those stellar melodies from the last two Mystery albums that I love so much, but on the whole I thought the album was okay.

Unlike quite a few people, I have never really liked Yes, ever. Now, a whole lot of you are going to be shouting "then what the hell are you doing here! Piss off!", and I completely understand that. Yes are a band that have been constantly recommended to me, but aside from "Roundabout" and those aforementioned moments on the Fly From Here suite, I have never understood any of the praise this band has gained. And yet here I am, reviewing this new album from them, which has had near universal panning from fans and critics alike. I guess I'm a bit of a masochist - I regularly come towards these sorts of albums knowing I will hate the hell out of them with no expectations, just ready to write a scathing review. It's therapeutic, in a way, writing my feelings on such complete an utter garbage. Admittedly, this is nowhere near as fun as the panning I gave Transatlantic's Kaleidoscope earlier this year (an album which is no better than this), since everyone seems to hate this (not just me). But after listening to this album a whole two times (!) I can't help but feel that the sick feeling in my stomach wasn't worth any form of therapy, and to answer the people questioning why I'm here - I don't need to be a Yes fan to know that this album is mind-numbingly bad.

What gets me the most about this kind of modern symphonic prog revival music is how utterly vapid and empty everything sounds. From the fluffy synths to the light guitar lines to the bouncy bass to the soppy AOR vocal melodies, everything just sounds so inoffensive. If saying the word wouldn't get me stoned to death, I might even call it "gay", in both the modern meaning relating to flamboyant homosexuality and the traditional meaning relating to saccharine happiness. Listening to this sort of music is like watching a show like the Teletubbies - everything feels so joyous and happy and wondrous and amazing, but in such a fake sort of way, that you can't help but feel there's some seriously dark [&*!#] going on. Are Yes all collectively on laughing gas? Is that how they can make music so lifeless and empty and somehow be happy with it? Honestly, it's a better theory than most. One of my favourite writers, Conor Fynes, noted in his review that it feels like Yes are an insane villain after a brain-altering lobotomy, and I can totally get that vibe. Aside from bits on "Subway Walls" (which has a bunch of other problems to pull it down), all of this album feels like it was written on some mind-altering chemical, but not one of the ones that does anything exciting - more like an anaesthesiac or a sleeping pill.

In terms of the vocalist change, I was actually happy that Benoit David left, if only for the reason that his fantastic voice is better suited with more competent songwriters, but Glass Hammer's Jon Davison as a replacement only made me even more expectant of this album's inevitable failure. Although I know some people who condemn this album and love Glass Hammer's work, I have always felt the same sort of disdain towards them as I do to Transatlantic or The Flower Kings. They're all competent musicians, but none of their music has any sort of punch, it just kind of floats around in the clouds being happy, with synth lines in 7/8 and long winded guitar solos coming along for the ride. Davison isn't a bad vocalist, but his voice to me is so utterly uninteresting that it just sort of meshes in with the uninteresting synth and bass and guitar and drums to make some sort of uninteresting soup. Benoit David has a real knack for a strong vocal hook, so even though the music surrounding him on Fly From Here was as soggy as half- hour old weet bix, he managed to punch his way through the clouds to bring some rather pretty and memorable melodies to the table. Davison has no such skill, unfortunately.

Most of this album just sort of floats by aimlessly without much really happening, all at the same level of emotion (read: none). But I think that when you have music that is completely flat, the terrible moments that come really, really stick out. The synth line that runs through "Step Beyond" is absolutely atrocious. It reminds me of the sort of "music" sounds you'd find in a children's toy, and it's kind of tolerable for a while, but when the kid starts pressing the sound button every five seconds, you have to resist the urge to grab the toy, furiously it apart, smash the batteries and make the child drink the acid from your bleeding hands. It's just that maddening. And it makes everything else in the song so much worse - like when someone does one thing to annoy you, and then you start getting annoyed at literally everything they do. The vocal melodies on it are just so cheesy and pathetic, like they're from a children's sing along show when the kids are learning the names of the colours. And then there are the guitar lines, which really just feel like Steve Howe is playing them because he's expected to as a guitarist. "Oh yeah what key are we in? Oh ok, I'll just play a scale at the end of every bar. Luckily I can still remember what a scale is!"

I think calling this music 'progressive rock' is an enormous push, and not just because it's really poor. There are longer tracks here, but most of them just feel like cheap AOR songs extended to nine minutes because "Yes are supposed to have long songs". There are no diverse or interesting parts here, no groove changes and no great song structures. This, to me, is exactly like those bands that call themselves "prog" because they have synthesisers and moronic concepts. Genre-wise, this album is like every terrible symphonic prog revival album from the last 10 years, but without any of the prog in it. Of the three "prog" tracks here, none of them really do anything other than go in one direction and keep going. There is no climax, no build, just a linear progression of lifeless to lifeless. The first minute of "Subway Walls" is literally the only time this album reaches out of generic AOR, but once that poor organ line comes in, it's straight back to nothingness. But it's not just the terrible prog - "In a World of Our Own" sounds like an 80's pop song, but it hasn't even got a super-catchy chorus to go with it. I recently did sound tech for a musical production of ELO's failed Xanadu album, and I can tell you that every single one of those songs beat this, because although they were cheesy as hell, they embraced it and used it to be super fun, but this is just so half-done, even as a pop song.

So is Heaven & Earth really that bad? I really want to say that no, it isn't, since it's just empty music, not the worst thing in the universe, but the truth is that this album does leave me feeling physically ill. It's is so basic, it's so flat, it is so uncomfortable. On the whole it's just there and it's inoffensive, but there are little moments like the "whooaa whoaa" in the back of "The Game" that turns that nauseous feeling into a little bit of bile at the back of your thought. I would compare this to adult contemporary, but honestly half way through this album I'd give anything to hear Celine Dion come in and put some damn life into it. When I picture this album being played, I picture a bunch of old men sitting down in their rest home waving their arms in sync to "whooa whoaa". There's just no punch to anything here, and in the little moments where we hear a guitar line with a bit of energy (there's one in "Step Beyond"), the rest of the instruments just do nothing to match it, especially Jon Davison's voice. While I can't exactly say this is the worst thing in the universe, I think that music that is so lifeless and so middle-of-the-road deserves such a low score, especially since this is clearly just a cash-grab album and an excuse to tour. Sickeningly soppy and worth every bit of the hatred it's getting.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:

Report this review (#1271197)
Posted Saturday, September 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars What a dull and schmaltzy affair Heaven and Earth is!! Karaoke Yes all wrapped up neatly with a bow and ready for an elevator.

I'm sorry, but it is NOT too much for a Yes fan to expect creative, intelligent music. Instead, we get a squishy, safe record that satisfies none of a Yes listener's musical senses.

If Yes wants to make this kind of fluff, call it something other than Yes. Labeling this a Yes product and capitalizing on a 'name' brand showcases the obvious greed of the the record company and musicians. Sad to say I spent money on this unmemorable effort.

1.5 stars.

Report this review (#1271233)
Posted Saturday, September 6, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I really wanted to like Fly From here. I was hoping for a return to drama-style harder edge prog rock. Unfortunately, I didn't get that and as much as I tried, I just didn't love the album. So when I picked up Heaven & Earth, my expectations weren't sufficiently lowered. Despite being excited by another gorgeous Roger Dean cover and the promise of 4/5 of the Drama line up, I knew not to expect too much. And Yes didn't deliever too much.

However, I find myself really loving this album. The melodies have stuck in my head and I have played it innumerable times in the past weeks. What's weird though is that it isn't a great Yes album. It's barely a good Yes album. It's Yes-light. It's pleasant, professional elevator-Yes. If I didn't know it was a Yes album, I'd be praising the songs and referring to this unnamed band as "sort of like Yes but poppier" Sort of like Yes. That's a good description. It's really excellent sort-of Yes.

I love Yes. I love this album. And yet, those two statements aren't related. Because this fails as a Yes album. But succeeds as a good light rock album.

It's not bad in an Open Your Eyes way or generic mainstream like Big Generator or even interesting mainstream like Talk but neither is it prog rock Yes a la Drama or CttE. I guess the closest thing I can compare it to is that (to me, dreadfully boring) Anderson/Wakeman album from a couple of year ago, but done really well.

So should you get this? If you are a Yes diehard and all things are measured against Fragile and TfTO then probably not. If you like the lighter side of Yes and can appreciate something that is more Yes-like than actual Yes, give it a spin. You'll probably still be disappointed but it is worth a listen.

Report this review (#1283817)
Posted Thursday, September 25, 2014 | Review Permalink
1 stars No. My goodness, no.

Beautifully written songs put through an industrial-grade production blender to produce porridge. Fodder. Cotton wool for the ears. Music that begs to be played as the background to something else. Music that never, not for a second, commands attention. No feathers ruffled. Nothing out of place. Music so scared to offend it misses any chance it had to delight. Unambitious. Safe.


If this were food it'd be the stuff they feed you after a major operation while you're waiting to resume your life. Which is exactly how you feel waiting for this album to end. Waiting. Waiting...

Look, if you don't want to be compared to your years of greatness, don't hire a soundalike vocalist. Don't come up with a Roger Dean album cover. Don't pad your AOR songs out to prog length. I cannot tell you how much I prefer the risks you took when you made 90125 (yes, risks) than the deathbed music you've come up with here - six terrifyingly meaningless black holes of suck sandwiched between two marginally acceptable sub-YES numbers.

Here's a plan: stick 'Believe Again' and 'Subway Walls' together with the 'Fly From Here' suite and you've got a decent three-star album.

Anything rather than this soggy, samey exercise in limp banality.

YES. Does it blend? Yes it does.

Report this review (#1284004)
Posted Thursday, September 25, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I really can't understand the fuzz around this record. Is it a kind of Asch conformity thing or am I getting mellow as I get old? By the time of the release of Open Your Eyes (1997) I heard Steve Howe say that they were trying to unite the best of the 70s and the 80s Yes. Well, Heaven and Earth did it. First I appreciate the fact of the band moving on to something else and not simply repeating old formulas. Jon Davison proved to be a helpful and talented hand in the writing department. I don't dislike any of the songs. According do Davison, they were paying more attention to the harmony side of it and I can see where he is coming from. To Ascend is one of the best Yes tracks in many years. Subway Walls, the opening track and The Game are all very fine, so is Light of the Ages. In a World of Our Own has a Beatlesque feel to it, and Step Beyond and It Was All We Knew have a childish (not in a pejorative way) cadence. The arrangements are fine, the drums is good (not pedestrian as I read here) and, as mentioned before, the harmony is strong, emotional (what music should really about) and there is no lack of good guitar licks.

It only isn't rated as five stars in respect of the magnificence of Close to the Edge.

Report this review (#1293711)
Posted Saturday, October 18, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars Had I taken a Blindfold Test on this work, I would have thought that it was a moderately promising, young Neo-Prog band, somewhat inspired by YES. But for YES, under Squire's dominance, it's yet another disappointing release - as if Squire was aiming at willful mediocricity. Not quite Pop, but barely Prog-Related.

The only highlight here is Davidson's youthful, yet strong and clear voice - as if he was Jon Anderson's younger brother. Engaging Davidson was a minor coup by Squire, but that fine voice alone is not sufficient to make poor compositions sound good.

Squire, Howe, White play well - as usual - but it's the weak tunes that fail to excite. Add Geoff Downes on Pop-ish, skinny keys and one can't even talk about a missed opportunity, akin to an accident scene. "Move along, move along, there is nothing to see here."

Report this review (#1320882)
Posted Sunday, December 7, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars I really like Subway Walls! It is one of my favorite songs from 2014!

Now for the bad news...

Pretty much the rest of the album.

Is it the lead singer? I say no. A lot of people complain about Jon Davison as the lead singer. I like the choice, personally. I liked his work with Glass Hammer, and the sounds-like-that-other-Jon quality I find rather comforting. I'm not going to get caught up in the "who's the better singer" debate. Jon Davison is certainly qualified to be here.

Is it the musicianship? Certainly not! In fact I applaud the band for showing more than their usual restraint in their arrangements. (Actually they are too restrained) Many of the songs from their "classic" period suffered from a bit of instrumental overload in sections IMHO.

Is it the production? Absolutely not. The sound is clear and crisp and the instruments are easily distinguished one from another.

Is it the material? OHHHH YEAHHHH!!! It's sluggish, forgettable even for AOR standards, and let's face it, uninteresting. Hooks? Almost nonexistent. Progressive? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

"To Ascend" isn't too bad. A nice poppy ballad, in case the world needed another one of those.

Did I mention I really liked Subway Walls. A LOT.

I don't mind bands making money. For example, I understand why Genesis forsook their roots when the cash started pouring in. But they had the good sense to write catchy (sometimes uptempo, hint hint) pop songs with good hooks. This album doesn't even have one of those. So it gets lost in the no-man's land of bad pop and really bad progressive rock.

So download Subway Walls and skip the rest of this album, unless you a huge Asia fan. Final rating: 2.65, rounded up to 3 stars for Subway Walls. Did I mention that I liked that song?

Report this review (#1353001)
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2015 | Review Permalink
2 stars Good Steve Howe starts this off with a nice introduction of notes fading in, just fine so far. Then it gets bubbly. Really bubbly. I mean frothy soap bubble bubbly, as if producer Roy Thomas Baker had scrubbed any and all edge out of the music. The sound is bright and clean, even sumptuous. This is nice music. Too nice. Perhaps the band as a whole has decided to outdo Jon Anderson's la-la-la style of happy songs and create the feel good album of their career. Only it doesn't feel particularly good. It feels like something is missing, which is ironic given that there are virtually no gaps in the music. Every little pause, every potential touch at drama, is filled by the lush production. Background drones, echoes, layers of instrumentation and vocals all smooth the sound out to a bland surface, even if they are all expertly done. Claude Debussy once said that music is the gaps in between the notes. If that is true, then this album qualifies little as music. That the songs are more precious than melodic is also part of the problem. None of them truly stand out. When I finish listening to this the sensation that remains is of a brightly lit cloud softly refracting in numerous shades of yellow, orange, and pink. This would be beautiful in an actual cloud, but not so much in music. Much of the playing is also pedestrian. Whenever some sort of edge comes into play, such as on Step Beyond, it is counteracted by opposing instrumentation. Howe's choppy guitar is smoothed over by the keys of Geoff Downes. In fact, I find his presence the strongest on the whole album. The keys are layered thickly. Howe does a great job on blending in with them, but it is too little to raise this album very high. To paraphrase a professor of mine, sometimes an album soars like an eagle but what we have here is a turkey pretending to be an eagle. Yes may have striven for creating a little bit of musical heaven, note my cloud imagery above, but they have given us an album that is more like a dimming fog than a billowing cloudscape. These kinds of images just keep presenting themselves to me as I listen. A fog can refract different colors of light and I think that looks cool, but again, that is not a good metaphor for music. It is not the quality of musicianship, not really. Jon Davison sounds good to me, I rather like his voice, and the background vocals of Howe and Squire sound good also. The playing is as clean as the production and precise. The problem with this album is not so much the lush production or the simplistic parts, although these augment the true root. No, the problem is the songs themselves. Any song or album requires good musicianship no matter the genre or style. For a band of the status of Yes, good musicianship is a given, and we find it here. But the best musicians need something good to work with, and with a genre such as rock, even prog rock, there needs to be good songs at the foundation, whether instrumental or vocal. The band does not have much to work with and no one is to blame but the band members themselves. After all, they wrote this album. My favorite moment is the final section of the closing number, Subway Walls. Overall, this song contains all the problems of the album in general, but that last section is truly uplifting and even energizing. If only they could have captured that feel more often. Heaven and Earth, an album I was anticipating with unusual excitement, especially after the very good Fly From Here, has proved my greatest disappointment from what is arguably my favorite band ever. Yes are among the elder statesmen of Prog, and one would hope that their profound abilities and august experience would result in an absolute masterwork, especially given the slow rate of releases these days. Great composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, all produced their greatest works at the ends of their lives. John Coltrane took his music into higher and higher levels. Steve Hackett has never sounded better than he does now. The latest album from Rush is their best in decades. And Yes? They seem to be trying to appeal to the brony crowd and to attract tweens who do not yet know better when it comes to the music they listen to. It has its merits but it is difficult to recommend this album very highly. I will admit that it does provide a pleasant listen in itself, just not one that deserves the moniker of Yes. There is nothing offensive about it, and mayhaps that is what actually offends. Pleasant I say in the sense that soft pillows and cushy chairs are pleasant; in the sense that a sunrise plieing above a verdant landscape of rolling hills and shaded dells is pleasant. Sign me up for that, but I require a little more edge to my music, a little more inspiration, a few more rough spots, and some of those gaps that Debussy loved so well
Report this review (#1354912)
Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2015 | Review Permalink
2 stars Heaven & Earth has some good moments, but it is definitely not a good album. Some highlights of this album include an interesting instrumental break in the middle of "Believe Again" with the guitar notes going up while the keyboard notes are going down and the fun, exciting 7/4 ending to "Subway Walls." Most of the album, however, is either boring or cheesy. "The Game" is practically the definition of generic, and "Step Beyond" sounds like it was written for little kids. Also, the lyrics on this album are like Neil Peart at his worst times a million and are cringeworthy.
Report this review (#1389995)
Posted Sunday, March 29, 2015 | Review Permalink
1 stars Who is this band and what have they done with Yes?

In response to their opening song, I desperately want to Believe Again. But when I listen to H&E and then play some of their previous material (even as recent as Magnification), I can only pine for what used to be.

There is nothing worse than wanting to like an album beyond just inoffensive background music. It used to be that Yes would command/demand your attention. This album just isn't there for me. Even as I try to listen to it on its own merits without comparing it to older works, there is no spark. To quote Gertrude Stein, "There's no there there".

After trying several times to play this all the way through and find some redeeming qualities, I sadly have to classify this album as Unlistenable.

Previously rated as 2 stars, I am now downgrading it to one star. Heartbroken that this was Chris' last Yes album, he deserved better.

Excuse me while I go play "Astral Traveller".

Report this review (#1398243)
Posted Monday, April 13, 2015 | Review Permalink
1 stars The previous Yes album "Fly From Here" was pretty much a disgrace. So a new lead singer joins the line up for "Heaven & Earth" who is supposed to sound like Jon Anderson. Ok, so everyone knows what Jon Anderson sounds like right? Imagine his voice being washed out of all emotion and feeling, and you will have an idea of what Jon Davison sounds like, the new lead singer. Anderson didn't really have the strongest voice in the world, but at least he had emotion and feeling. Davison has a weak voice and sounds like he is singing songs for a children's show like Sesame Street. Bleah!

If that's not bad or embarrassing enough, the rest of the band sounds like they are as washed out as the singer. And most of them are long time vetrans of the band. This is watered down pop music and that's all it is. It is even worse than a lot of pop music. Madonna has more grittiness than this album.

What a sad thing to happen to what was one of the most important and best progressive bands ever. Now they are hardly even a shadow of themselves. This is not Yes. It isn't even a bad copy of Yes. What it is, is a bad progressive band that sounds like they hardly even knew the first thing about prog, and that just can't be Yes, right? Tell me that it's true that the Yes name was hijacked and is now being held for ransom. This is just terrible and it makes me sad. Where is Chris Squire? It says he is in the band, but I hardly hear any bass, and this is definitely not the trademark bass sound that he is so famous for. What is Steve Howe trying to do here? It's like he is mimicking himself and doing a poor job of it. I don't even want to talk about Geoff Downes, who only shined on "Drama" because of the awesome material he had to work with. Other than that, he is famous for making terrible choices with band line ups.

This album is bad, bad, bad. There is no prog and there is no emotion and everything is bland. I can't take it anymore....Arghhhhhhhhhh! Quick someone put on "Relayer" or "Close to the Edge" before my eardrums decide to revolt and shut down all together. 1 star. Drivel!

Report this review (#1411309)
Posted Saturday, May 9, 2015 | Review Permalink
2 stars This review is being written some 14 months after the release of Heaven And Earth, the album which would prove to be the studio swan song of the great Chris Squire, who sadly passed away about a year following its release.

This, it is tempting (very tempting) to write a review that tells all that this is a fantastic way for the great man to have left his imprint upon the world.

Tempting, yes, but it would be wholly inappropriate. For said imprint, I am afraid you need to go back a far while in history.

As others have commented, this is not an album of epics. It is a song based album, and, as regular readers of my reviews know, I do not regard this as a bad thing. It basically depends upon the songs. If they are great, the album is. Pretty simple concept, really.

The songs are not terrible. They are, in the main, pleasant. Surprisingly, given his antipathy in the past to anything resembling a song based album as far as Yes are concerned (although not, of course, with Asia), the main man whose mark is all over the album is Steve Howe. His playing is sublime. On Subway Walls, he tries his best to pick the tempo up at the end to something resembling a rock album, and almost succeeds.

Downes contributes suitably well played light keys (I say this as someone who greatly admires his work with Asia), Squire is, well, Squire without the bombast, whilst White is barely noticeable, as if he completely disappeared during the mix.

And what of Mr Davison, then? He is, well, erm, pleasant. He has a pleasant voice. He has a voice which can pass in tone for a certain Mr Anderson. But, Mr Anderson he ain't. Sorry, he just isn't. Probably the most striking album of Yes with Jon which this bears resemblance to in both approach and tone is The Ladder, an album I loved. That had a lot of songs, and when Anderson belted out If Only We Knew, a paean to his wife, he sounded as if he meant it, and he didn't half belt it out. Davison does not belt anything. I am sorry, but it sounds for all the world as if he is merely going through the motions, pleasantly.

And therein lies the rub. The Game is, perhaps, the best example of a track on this album which, with an Anderson contributing, could have been a classic Yes commercial track. As it is, it is unutterably bland. Nice enough, yes, but just damned bland, and those who know me well know full well that I adore good commercial progressive pop rock. This just doesn't cut the mustard.

To Ascend really stands out for me on this theme. A track which has Squire written all over it, with his characteristic (gorgeous) voice, a melodic bass line, backed by soft acoustic guitar (there is a drum somewhere, but not so that you would really notice), this could, and should, have been something exceptional, special, beautiful. As it is, it is just....oh dear, damned pleasant. Never has such a nice word been used to such ill effect.

Light Of The Ages is an attempt at good old fashioned Yes cosmic grandiosity, Howe slide guitar wonderfully wailing, with some very good Downes tinkling. It is, perhaps, the closest this album comes to being enjoyable, but is, ultimately, ordinary, without the atmosphere we, rightly, come to expect from such a group of virtuosos.

This is not a turkey of an album. It was touted as being a statement of intent by the band, a record of Yes in 2014, with the past banished forever (excepting, of course, in the live shows, because it is, naturally, the classics which keep the punters rolling in). Well, I defended, rightly, Genesis right throughout the so-called sellout phase, because, you know, they produced some staggeringly good music, stuff I play with pleasure regularly, and music that will live in my mind forever.

This is nothing like that. It is not an Open Your Eyes. It is not a turkey.

It is, like, pleasant. It is a nice album. And it is fantastically unforgettable.

I did not expect a classic album from the band who released Relayer, CTTE, Fragile, or even Tormato and The Ladder. I did, though, expect better than this. Even Fly From Here had a marvellous suite, beautifully produced and performed, to recommend it. This has no such thing, and, as such, is, in my opinion, an album only for us diehard collectors who have to have all that the band released.

Two stars. Simply not good enough, a statement I take no pleasure in writing at all.

Report this review (#1459739)
Posted Saturday, September 5, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
1 stars Within the first minute of Heaven & Earth you will know that something very, very bad is going to happen. When the second song begins your heart will start to sink. By the third song... the reality that this schmaltzy, torpid, bland, gutless, uncreative, tepid, sentimental, down-tempo, anemic, and magnificently disappointing album is the last thing Chris Squire will ever perform just sort of makes you want to cry.

Heaven & Earth is irredeemably bad; as in, probably the worst album that Yes has ever produced.

The songwriting is a flat-line of meandering melodies that wander through the songs' unfortunately long running times. "Step Beyond" literally sounds like music from a children's TV show. The band's instrumental performances are actually kind of insulting. Howe noodles in the background as if he's so bored with the compositions that he's just going to practice in the background. White's drumming is pedestrian and unexciting on every level. Chris Squire sounds like he's mostly just helping keep time. And Downes keyboards... I just don't have words to describe how ineffective they are.

And let's talk about the band's new singer, Jon Davison. Do you know what happens when you make a copy of a copy? He's just awful, and the lyrics he's singing are so bad that they will probably induce nausea in most listeners.

Yes' performance here barely has a pulse. This is the worst album Yes has ever made, yes it's even worse than "Union" and probably "Open Your Eyes." The band seems to be falling asleep to songs that are lazy, boring, plodding, and unambitious, and it hurts my heart.

Songwriting: 1 - Instrumental Performances: 1 - Lyrics/Vocals: 1 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 1

Report this review (#1464770)
Posted Friday, September 18, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars As a hardcore prog and YES fan, I am surprised they released a decidedly non-prog album. I can empathize with the disappointment voiced by many long time fans of Yes- the archetype of Prog. And that's where my criticism ends.

After my initial WTF experience hearing this mostly sedate and decidedly non-prog album, I realized there was something else unique and artistic happening here. I keep listening to this album- not primarily as a prog fan, but as a fan of emotional and complex pop music long gone from the airwaves. YES remain great songwriters, composing amazing hooks with top production- this album puts current popular music to shame. There is not a bad track on this album.

This is Yes's most innovative album since Drama.

Report this review (#1723009)
Posted Wednesday, May 17, 2017 | Review Permalink

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