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Yes - Keys to Ascension (DVD) CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.71 | 140 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Me and my darling - she's a beginner in prog - viewed this DVD last weekend (tracks 4 - 11 only), and so I thought to be the eleventh collaborator to finally review it. The opinions are rather strongly divided here, and it's easy to spot the main reason: the visual effects. They do look silly and cheap at times, I admit. They also left my companion with a false impression afterwards, ie. in doubt whether it was a real live concert all the way. Even that's understandable. However, I will place myself on the more positive side of the reception for this DVD.

This 1996 concert in San Luis Opisbo, California, was a historical one. The classic line-up of Anderson, Howe, Wakeman, Squire and White played the classic 70's material, and that only. And in my opinion they did it well. That's enough to place Keys to Ascension among the best of YES DVD's, I firmly believe. I'm familiar with many of them, not all that I have seen on sale.

Stravinsky's fanfare-like music for Firebird opens the show, and YES start powerfully with 'Siberian Khatru', followed directly by the title track of the same album, Close to the Edge. OK, there are some cut & paste material of leaves and streams, is it a problem? Not to me. The happy concert perennial 'I've Seen All Good People' has never been among my favourites and usually I skip it. But the simple early song 'Time and a Word' is given here a fantastic performance, full of beautiful art music oriented decorations from Howe and Wakeman. The visual extras are partly plain Kitsch but they fit together quite nicely with the romantic song. One thing begins to annoy a bit, though: why the concert doesn't proceed seamlessly without the black pauses in between the tracks that give the impression of uncontinuity?

'And You And I' is gorgeous, and also visually concentrating on the live performance, unlike the 20+ minute 'Revealing Science of God' during which the director is indeed often quite lost. What is that spinning thing supposed to be? Why such shaky camera? But it's nice to have the album cover (Tales From Topographic Oceans) present every now and then. 'Going for the One' (accompanied visually by downhill skiers) is among the most annoying Yes songs ever - skip! The romantic 'Turn of the Century' - which I have always loved - is accompanied by cinematic narrative that underlines the sentimental love story. That's quite OK.

'America' is surely not too often heard on Yes concerts. For us it was especially interesting as we both admire the Simon & Garfunkel original. 'Onward' is comparable to 'Time and a Word': a little kitschy visuals but overall certainly beautiful! 'Awaken' is a fantastic choice and allows Jon Anderson to play harp. I love the meditative section, so what if there are some aerial artists that have nothing to do with the song? After so much of serene and romantic prog it's very appropriate to end the massive set with 'Roundabout' and 'Starship Trooper'.

This is a cornucopia of the finest Yes music! It's up to you how much the amateurish visual extras water down the concert experience. I'm not that much bothered, and at times I even appreciate them.

Matti | 4/5 |


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