9 November 2014

Yes - Heaven And Earth

I don't hear much from these perennial prog rockers on a regular basis even with their Facebook page as one of my likes, nor was I aware of the impending release of this album. And in fact, the only person in the world who brought it to my notice was Eddie Carter himself. So, minus the great Jon Anderson, who claims to have been pushed rather than walk out, and the equally talented Rick Wakeman (whom it appears now has other interests to pursue in life) we have album number 21 from Yes.

While a big prog rock fan, I've never really put in much time for Yes, and I've always maintained their best years were in the early 1970s, The Yes Album I really enjoyed and Going For The One, even though it came about the time that Punk Rock was hammering mercilessly on the door. The Eighties is where they took a more commercial route and not something I was ever keen on. They went for something more popish and less imaginative, but as Voltaire once said, "All is for the best in the best of all." Mind you, he probably wouldn't have bothered buying 90125 if he'd have heard it.

So here we are in 2014, and Yes, with the talented Steve Howe back in the foray having had a number of brief sojourns have landed us with this latest offering. It sees them attempting to retrace their steps back 35 or 40 years with some prog rock tasters. And with voxman Jon Davison as a seemingly natural replacement for Jon Anderson, he really does sound like a carbon copy for his predecessor, even if he wasn't quite born into the prog rock world when The Yes Album was launched.

Make no mistake, Yes have recorded plenty of real deal uplifting material in the forty years or so they've been together, but with Heaven And Earth, I'm struggling to find any enjoyment out of it. Yet it all starts a little promisingly with Believe Again which sets out to be an enriching number. After a couple of listens I must say it does feel airy but as I said earlier, Mr Jon Davison clearly seems to have trained his tones on his predecessor. Good keyboard loops too from ex Asia and Buggles member Geoff Downes which dominate proceedings.

Steve Howe performs well on the opening track too, then his introduction on the next track The Game are an encouraging sign but I lament to say that this is the only plus point. The chorus is flat, the chord structure is just not up to scratch and I just find it all too uninspiring. Very forgettable I'm afraid to say and likewise some of the content behind Step Beyond isn't much of a muchness to me. I really didn't think that you could get away with writing no more than four words in the chorus, although it does have some redeeming features in the little synth snippets and the whole affair does feel much rockier. Good showing albeit marginally.

Next we have To Ascend, I can envisage it's trying to follow the same rhythmic pattern as Believe Again, but with basic guitarring and piano work it's just not going to get off the ground. And nor will In A World Of Our World, lyrically it isn't very well written and even the glockenspiel backdrops can't bring it up to scratch. Just so damned frustrating. At least the opening part of Light Of The Ages is more encouraging and harks back to the pinnacle of Yes's 1970s creative zenith only to be let down by verses which appear not to blend well with the beat. Even as a prog rock piece the closeout just feels too drawn out by two minutes.

The following track couldn't come soon enough, It Was All We Knew, and again lacking in impact and depth although the instrumental bridge is a noteworthy little pleasant piece of Steve Howe wizardry. Still not enough to win me though. And while the closing track Subway Walls doesn't feel very inspiring at the beginning, it does start to gather momentum, I do like Chris Squire's basswork. He's the last remaining original band member and given his merits he has been seriously underemployed on this album.

Not of Yes's finest moments, in fact far from it. From what I see the main problems that Heaven And Earth has is first the lack of musical direction, six out of the eight tracks here are just not enough to keep the ears plucked up nor do they capture my imagination once. Second, Alan White just doesn't appear to show conviction in his drumming or put any imagination into how the songs should be rhythmically dictated. What I will say is that their latest recruit in Jon Davison has the soft overtones and whimsical approach to carry the Anderson mantle, but only if Yes can get their heads together as shown in their previous outings because from what I've listened to on Heaven And Earth, there's much work afoot.

3 out of ten. Not for everyone but played well.
Best Track : Believe Again

Buy Heaven And Earth here on Amazon
Listen to the album here on Spotify
Deezer listeners can click on this link here
Official Yes website here on this link
Official Yes Facebook page here

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