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Yes - The Ladder CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.27 | 905 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars One of the tracks on this album manages to sum up Yes in the 90's: Finally! The Ladder was the last album Yes released in the 90's, and listening to it makes one wonder why it took them so long to get it right in this decade. After a few hit or misses (Keys to Acension, Talk) and one major dissapointment (you know exactly what I'm talking about), Yes managed to recapture some of the magic from the 70's, while at the same time maintaining a modern-day, fresh sound. Rick Wakeman was absent from the album, but that doesn't diminish the final effort. In fact, all praise to Igor Khoroshev for pulling off one of the toughest jobs in prog rock: not dissapointing Yes fans. So, let's take a look at the songs.

Homeworld is, by far, the strongest song on this album. This is the song that got me into Yes. (Give me a break, I was 7 years old at the time.) Jon Anderson's voice is perhaps his best, high, angelic, but still with a sense of depth that is mystifying. Steve Howe, almost a nonfactor on the previous album, got back to his old self and fit in nicely. Chris Squire, as usual, was critical in the sucess of this song, and for once, Billy Sherwood found a niche in rhythm guitar, adding an additional layer of sound that made this piece brilliant. In all, Homeworld is my second favorite song, upstaged only by CTTE.

From here, the album sinks a little bit. It Will Be A Good Day sounds pretty, but it wasn't what I was looking for. In the same way how one hates to see their favorite sports team settle into a rhythm that they have difficulty getting out of, IWBAGD just didn't strike me as put in the right place.

Things got back on track for Lightning Strikes, which is probably the most upbeat song Yes has ever recorded. With the 7/8 time signature, and a fast beat, this song lingers in your mind long after you listen to it. Then the album bridges into Can I, a short, instrumental, and unimportant piece of sound that probably was Anderson's brainchild. From there, we go to Face to Face, which runs with the best bass line Squire's made since Foot Prints. Add in some solid Steve Howe guitar, and some fantasic harmonies from Anderson, Squire, Sherwood, and possibly Howe, and this song leaves me satisfied.

Here though, is the low-point of the album. If Only You Knew is waaaaay to syrupy, and is next to impossible to swallow down. Memories of the band's previous effort spring into my mind.

The next three tracks add a new sound to The Ladder. To Be Alive consists of a beautiful melody accomanied by exotic sounds not heard since The Ancient. Anderson's voice shines here yet again. Finally is exciting and triumphant; Yes' declaration to the prog-world that they still have something to offer 30 years later. The Messenger, Yes' tribute to Bob Marley, is downright funky, a word I never thought would be able to describe Yes.

I like Flucktrot's choice to combine New Language and Nine Voices, so I will do so as well. New Language starts out powerful, with some delicate organ/guitar interplay that could make you forget its not Wakeman. Solid drumming by Alan White caps off an energetic opening by segueing so nicely (something Yes has mastered over the years) into a Sherwood driven, Squire backed melody with superior lyrics by Anderson. New Language seems almost like a modernized, condensed RSOG from Tales, creating a very pleasing sound. The last 3:20 of the album is Nine Voices, a duet with Anderson and Howe that was everything From the Balcony wasn't. Beautiful, sensual, and most importantly, technically rich, Nine Voices was a great way to cap off the album.

For me, I will always need this album inside my heart (I couldn't resist). But from an independent standpoint, if you enjoy 90's prog, you shouldn't pass this album up. While it does have its lowpoints, they are few and far between, making The Ladder one of the more satisfying works Yes has put out in some time.

AmericanKhatru | 4/5 |


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