on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2014 22 Jul

The 21st album of Yes: „Heaven & Earth“

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | 2 Comments

Yes have nearly always been an overdose of kitsch. As time goes by they once in a while get a kind of nostalgic reevaluation. Rick Wakeman, a keyboard player coated with sugar like no other in  pop history, has been part of the game. That they were once called „prog“ casts a dark shadow on the whole idea of „prog rock“! Believe it, or not: they are still well and alive (that is the good news), and now, with their new opus and its telling title „Heaven and Earth“ they definitely prove that they love big screens, nice singalongs, soft harmonies, and, best of all, that the summer of 68 has never faded away. It’s peace on earth, and the electric guitar is a lesson in playful nirvana. Samsara, samsara, samsaleikum! The most profound moment comes when they sing about „getting to know the empty space / Beneath the surface of common days“. It’s a bit more self-referential than originally intended. Regression therapy has found a new classic! 



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  1. Uwe Meilchen:

    I must admit that I still like to listen to their first four albums, up to „Tales of Topographic Oceans“ once in a while. I still like their music from these records and that the ever shifting moods within one song take me on a mental journey. (It’s a bit difficult to explain!)

    After „Tales …“ the quality of their output became quite patchy and the group members changed almost with every forthcoming album. And after their collaboration with Trevor Horn in 1984 which gave them their „Owner Of A Lonely Heart“ chart success I lost interest completely. – It’s safe to say that this new release and all these concert tours are only a cash-in in has-been success. And Jon Anderson, *the* voice of YES isn’t even featured on this new release. So why bother ?

  2. John Kelman:

    While you and I often disagree – heatedly! – on this subject we come together completely. It“s not with any pleasure, though; back in the day, I loved this band (I mean the glory days from The Yes Album through Going For The One, with the possible exception of the bloated Tales from Topographic Oceans, an album that might have made one good record…but two? Yoikes!). As an aspiring guitarist, Steve Howe was one of my heroes, alongside Robert Fripp, Steve Hillage, Phil Miller and a number of others, but he was one of my biggest…I even played for two years on the road in a prog band in the mid-’70s, and because we had three kickass singers, one of the things we were known for, in the tiny circle where we *were* known (!), was our strong renditions of Yes material from The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge. We had a great keybaoardist, too, and me? Well, let’s just say I was a good mimic,

    I have not gone to see a Yes concert in a long, long time, but YouTube tells me all I need to know. If Van der Graaf Generator can be reinvented in the new milliennium with such power, compositional élan and nightmare-inducing melodrama, with some of its recent recordings (in particular, A Grounding in Numbers) standing alongside some of its best from the ’70s, Yes is a truly (figuratively and, with the exception of Howe, literally) a bloated, pale shadow of its former self.

    Live, the group either has to play its classic music at dirge-like tempi so that Howe (and I don’t report this with any pleasure) can keep up…or if, after criticism about slow tempos, they bring the music back up to speed, Howe’s inability to execute the blistering lines of which he was once capable is made even more painfully clear, as he often becomes so out of synch with the rest of the group as to run the risk of a train wreck.

    As for their new albums? The last album that showed any promise was 1999’s The Ladder…and even that one dissipated quickly after the return-to-classic opening track, „Homeworld,“ after which it was more of the same old same very old (worse: on one track, Yes goes Carribbean on our asses, and I’d rather take Pulp Fiction’s Ving Rhames going Mediaeval on mine…at least the torture would be over…eventually!). Their last record, Fly From Here, was so painfully mediocre that I swore I was done with Yes, and would revel in the possibilities of what might have been by going back and revisiting their classic records….especially Steven Wilson’s new remix/reissue series, which brings a clarity to those albums that poor old Eddie Offord so often seemed to miss.

    But ok, I *had* to hear this new one because die-hard Yes fanboys said it’s a return to form. Well, I will admit that it IS better than FFH….but better mediocre is mediocre still. Turgid, imwon’t say uninspired as that would suggest I knew what was in their minds! but it will say uninspiring…the only real positive is new singer Jon Davison, who is a step up from FFH’s Benoit David, plucked from obscurity by Yes from…yes….a Yes tribute band (Yes goes Karaoke!).

    So, while VdGG still brings it, and I will be in San Francisco to catch two nights of the reformed King Crimson in early October, to find out if they still can too (though of that I have little, if any, doubt ), I am sorry to say that Yes comes in the category of ’should have packed their bags and gone home a long time go.‘

    The last time the group made music of any value was 1977 (some folksj like 1980s Drama, and it ain’t bad…but it‘ star from great or classic); its mid-’80s reinvention by the two Trevors (Horn and Rabin) as a pop-prog band with hits like „Owner of a Lonely Heart“ wasn’t totally awful at the time, and once every blue moon remains a very guilty pleasure. But Yes‘ days of majesty, heroics and pushing progressive rock forward are long behind them. The only thing missing is the headstone, which will, if there’s any honesty, read (and quoting another progressive rock guy who got it right): „Just because you can (well, sort of) doesn’t mean you should.“

    See you in Kristiansand….and I’m with you on Arve & Erik’s records, too!


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