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Yes - The Ladder CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.27 | 905 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This album was such a relief following the sheer rubbish that preceded it - a Yes album we could all love and empathise with, a volume of work which at least felt like a Yes LP, even if you still couldn't compare it with essential seventies works.

Bruce Fairburn produced the album, and died shortly afterwards. Some cruel people suggested that it was simply the strain of producing a band that had in the previous ten years nearly torn itself apart. He apparently told them to simply go out and make the best Yes album you can. You can tell from listening to it that they tried their best to take him at his word. It is a sunny and fresh work, a joy to listen to.

Homeworld starts proceedings off very nicely, this is a soundtrack to a PC game of the same name. Howe especially shines with some exceptional guitar work on this.

It Will be a Good Day is a commercial piece that, crucially, does not try to replicate the old Yes West feel, the biggest mistake on Open Your Eyes. Lightning Strikes attempts the same trick, with Khuroshev adding some nice brass effects. On Can I, we are even treated to a modern version of We Have Heaven, and it works very well, with great vocal harmonies to a backdrop of percussion, bass, and low lying keyboards.

Face to Face is too frenetic for me, and a misguided attempt at commerciality which fails on the basis that it is a weak track. However, If Only You Knew more than makes up for this, This, to me, is one of the finest love songs ever written and performed by the band. Clearly inspired by Anderson's second wife Jane, it tells a simple story of how love for your partner can change your life for ever and certainly for the better. I had just met my future wife when this was released, and she took the Eurostar train to France (rather reticent about this), and she said that this track kept her going throghout the journey. Anderson, therefore, at his best, able to inspire love and devotion in the most unlikely suspects.

To be Alive (Hep Yadda) starts nicely, with nice keyboards backing Anderson, but degenerates into a slighlt messy poppy track with not much direction.

Finally announces itself with a Howe rush, with Squire then coming in with a pulsating bassline. Khuroshev plays a lovely keyboard solo half way in, after which Anderson reminds us all why we love his voice and lyrics so much with a soaring lyric, with Howe accompanying magnificently. When Jon sings I can feel the earth coming, you are lifted, in the best tradition of Yes from days past.

The Messenger features Squire with a hard bass and Howe playing subtle acoustic guitar. The track then rocks as it moves forward with a cohesion that was simply missing from certainly the previous two studio efforts, and Howe especially plays marvellously with Sherwood backing well.

New Language is the second epic on the album at just over 9 minutes. Apparently a tribute to Bob Marley, this feels like a very old style Yes track, especially with Howe's playing. It could almost be 1971 at the start! The whole piece feels so Yes, with coherent vocal harmonies, strong bass and drum rhythm sections, Howe playing the frets as if he really means it, and a good keyboard backdrop.

Nine Voices is a great way to finish off the album, a piece inspired by American Indians in the same manner as Anderson's Toltec album, it features Anderson and Howe playing together in a manner not heard since Going for the One - indeed the flowing vocals and playing reminds one of that album.

Four stars for this album, a complete refreshing return to greatness from a band who we thought had completely lost it. Essential listening for all Yes fans and prog fans generally.

lazland | 4/5 |


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