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Yes - The Ladder CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.27 | 930 ratings

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3 stars A corker opening track, and you just know they've fired their best shot. Too many YES albums have flattered to deceive, and a couple just clunked from the start, so the listener sits and waits for the other shoe to drop.

It doesn't take long. 'It Will Be a Good Day' returns us to the mire of their late eighties/nineties output, where the ambition to pen a rock staple outmatches their compositional ability. A five minute yawn.

But what's this? 'Lightning Strikes' is just wonderful, a fun stomp, the first part of what I think of as a three-part song. Energy, verve, woo hoo! I doubt this little ditty will be to most proggers' taste, but I like it muchly. 'Can I?' reprises 'We Have Heaven' from 'Fragile' with a continuation of 'Lightning Strikes' shuffle beat. The trilogy is finished off by 'Face to Face', featuring the same beat and some YES tomfoolery. This three-parter isn't top-drawer YES - 'Face to Face' drags a bit - but my goodness it at least has some adventure about it. The band has finally broken out of twenty years of straightjacketing, when they seemed to think music was all about variations on the classic rock formula.

See, this is what you get when you finally decide to make an album YOU want to listen to, not just some putative audience.

But, sadly, this is the high-water mark. An inoffensive ANDERSON-dominated ballad follows, another five-minute yawn, and the listener begins to look anxiously at the track listing. 'To Be Alive' leads into a series of saccharine platitude-laden tracks with none of the dynamism present earlier in the album, and plenty of pop-mystical new age sentiment. 'The Messenger' sees SQUIRE emerge from the fridge in which he's kept chilled to play a nice sinister bass lead-in, which the band squander a golden opportunity to make something of. 'New Language' is a disappointment, again fading into mediocrity after a good opening. Don't be fooled by its length: it's another rock track extended by a couple of solos that certainly don't stretch either the talents of the musicians or the mind of the listener. A mellotron pokes its hoary head over the parapet during this song, and for the life of me I can't work out why. The album finishes with a self-indulgent ANDERSON number. Dispensable.

So. Given that there's an hour's music here, about twenty to thirty minutes is redeemable, depending on your taste and tolerance for vanilla rock. That's not bad for post-87 YES. But it is not the return to form we'd all hoped for.

russellk | 3/5 |


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