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Yes - The Ladder CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.28 | 809 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Yes: The Ladder [1999]

Rating: 6/10

The 90s were a strange time for Yes. The band's output during the decade was a roller-coaster ride of high highs and low lows. Yes was stuck in a cycle of releasing weak material and redeeming themselves by following it up with excellence. This 1999 release was the album that finally broke this cycle: if Open Your Eyes was a bizarre vacation, then The Ladder is a peaceful return home. This album is a very good piece of crossover-ish symphonic rock that features many classic Yes elements, along with significant world music influences. However, while the Keys to Ascension albums were a triumphant return, The Ladder is merely a good one. This album is inconsistent, containing both excellent moments and moments that fall just short of greatness.

"Homeworld (The Ladder)" is a fantastic opener with excellent vocal harmonies, throbbing bass, strong keys, and a great chorus. The soft piano/vocal reprise at the end is particularly excellent. "It Will Be a Good Day (The River)" is centered upon Anderson's vocals and a simple chord progression that almost sounds like it's being played on a samisen. The tribal influences on the fast-paced "Lightning Strikes" are somewhat reminiscent of "Teakbois" from the ABWH album, but aren't quite as effective. This song sounds rather flat. The tribal sounds continue on "Can I", an interesting a-cappella interlude featuring African chanting from Anderson. "Face to Face" is another energetic track similar to "Lightning Strikes", with a strong bass riff and catchy vocals. "If Only You Knew" isn't particularly interesting; however, as with most Yes ballads, it is difficult not to like due to Anderson's wonderful vocal work. "To Be Alive (Hep Yadda)" may be the most ridiculously uplifting song Yes has ever written. It's centered on a sitar-sounding riff and a vocal chant. Unlike many happy Yes songs, it avoids silliness and remains genuine. It's one of my favorite songs here. "Finally" is another high-energy track; it's generally dull with the exception of the spacey section near the end. "The Messenger" is an effective tribute to Bob Marley. The song doesn't do much more for me, although I do like the conclusion. "New Language" is an excellent track that opens with a heavy intro that moves into a groovy rock song centered on more vocal harmonies. Howe plays a superb solo during the song's Mellotron-laden conclusion. "Nine Voices (Longwalker)" is a subdued acoustic closer with great vocals and soft percussion.

It pains me not to give The Ladder a full "excellent" rating. Every song here is a pleasure to listen to, but many don't manage to be as soaring as "Homeworld", as moving as "To Be Alive", or as intriguingly multifaceted as "New Language." If this wasn't Yes, then this album would deserve a slightly higher rating, but these musicians' true capabilities aren't quite being fully displayed here. While I very much enjoy The Ladder, if falls short of excellence when looked at objectively. Regardless, there's plenty for fans to appreciate on Yes's final 90s album.

Anthony H. | 3/5 |


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