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




Symphonic Prog

3.70 | 125 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Hey director, the guitarist is over here!

When Rick Wakeman got back together with Yes after a lengthy sabbatical, the classic line up of the band recorded some new material, and performed live in three concerts in San Luis Obispo in California. The results of all this were released on CD as the hybrid albums Keys to Ascension parts 1 and 2, both of which include live tracks plus new studio material. This DVD is a recording of the live performances, apparently in its entirety (running to well over 2 hours). Not only does it therefore offer an entire concert in one package, it also omits the generally disappointing studio tracks.

The audio/video experience captured here is truly superb. Clearly, none of the chemistry which the band had enjoyed over many years had been lost, the performances being as tight and proficient as ever. They chose to play safe with the set list, focusing entirely on selections from their classic (70's) material. This though makes for what is arguably their strongest live set , with little room for complaint about missing standards.

Among the epic pieces present are "Close to the edge", "Revealing science of God", "Awaken", and "And you and I", all delivered with a power and majesty which other bands can only dream of achieving. The more recent albums, notably the Rabin era works, are ignored completely, even "Owner of a lonely heart" doesn't get a look in.

The renditions of the tracks are as a rule faithful to the original versions, and to those on previous live albums. "Awaken" however, which had not been performed live for many years is lengthened slightly, more due to a general slowing down than to any additional improvisation. It thus becomes even more majestic than the GFTO original. The track, which was clearly something of a sleeping giant, is afforded headline status being the final track of the main performance, and justifies the slot magnificently. Wakeman is in his element here, summoning up his armoury of keyboards to help him to fulfil a truly virtuoso performance. The final climb to the song's crescendo, which is a highlight of the GFTO original, is quite overwhelming here.

The other track which finds a new lease of life here is "Starship trooper". An extended final section is added, which involves Howe and Wakeman trading lead alternately as the volume builds and the pace quickens, finally breaking loose in a cacophony of melodic colours. Yes really rock here! Yes fans who have not heard this interpretation of the long time favourite, are well advised to do so.

I get the impression, but am unable to confirm, that there has been a certain amount of post performance overdubbing by the band. Anderson's vocals in particular look to have been touched up.

While the musical experience offered here is truly magnificent, the presentation of the DVD leaves something to be desired. The sound quality is OK, and includes 5.1 surround, but visually it is at times disappointing. The animation added to most of the tracks is superfluous and unnecessary. There is a rather amateur appearance to said animation, which only serves to distract from the band's performance. The reason for the visual effects may in part be due to the fact that the director appears to have had some difficulty in deciding which band member to focus on when Anderson is not singing. Whether Squire's triple necked bass confused said director into thinking he was lead guitarist, or Howe's flat steel guitar perhaps appeared too much like a keyboard is a matter for conjecture, but it does tend to detract from the overall visual experience. There's nothing in the way of extras on the DVD either, but given the length of the concert, this is perhaps reasonable. Given the recent return of Wakeman at the time though, an interview would have been nice.

In all, a superb record of the band's live performance, spoiled only by some inadequacies in the visual presentation.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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