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Keys to Ascension

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Album Review

Yes, this time consisting of Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, and Alan White, got together for three nights in March of 1996 in San Luis Obispo, CA, to cut Keys to Ascension, the group's fourth live album in 28 years, which is rounded out with two new studio creations. Four of the seven live tracks are covers of songs that the band originally recorded between 1970 and 1974. The group has aged well, and Keys to Ascension is a more satisfying album than 1980's Yesshows. "Siberian Khatru" has less intensity but more lyricism than it did 23 years ago, making it slightly less dramatic — the ending lacks some necessary attack, replacing it instead with more articulate guitar. Tales From Topographic Oceans is represented by "The Revealing Science of God," which shows off some superb ensemble playing on a 20-minute piece that is most difficult to bring off on-stage, with Wakeman the standout among the instrumentalists. Anderson's falsetto has lowered slightly with age, and lost a bit of its power in the process as well, but the ensemble carries the piece successfully to its conclusion. Nearly as surprising is the presence of Paul Simon's "America," a song they cut back in the early '70s, which comes off as a lot more engaging here than it did back when. "Onward" and "Awaken," from the late '70s, are well represented in beautiful live covers. The new songs featured as studio recordings on the second disc are superior to anything on the more recent Union "mega-Yes" album, with soaring harmonies and very spacious song construction.


Formed: 1968 in Birmingham, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Far and away the longest lasting and the most successful of the '70s progressive rock groups, Yes proved to be one of the lingering success stories from that musical genre. The band, founded in 1968, overcame a generational shift in its audience and the departure of its most visible members at key points in its history to reach the end of the century as the definitive progressive rock band. Their audience remained huge because they had always attracted younger listeners drawn to their mix of daunting...
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