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Yes Keys to Ascension album cover
4.04 | 616 ratings | 35 reviews | 36% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Live, released in 1996

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1 (65:23)
1. Siberian Khatru (10:16)
2. The Revealing Science of God (20:31)
3. America (10:28)
4. Onward (5:34)
5. Awaken (18:34)

CD 2 (50:38)
1. Roundabout (8:30)
2. Starship Trooper (13:04):
- a. Life Seeker
- b. Disillusion
- c. Würm
3. Be the One (9:49):
- a. The One
- b. Humankind
- c. Skates
4. That, That Is (19:15):
- a. Togetherness
- b. Crossfire
- c. The Giving Things
- d. That Is
- e. All in All
- f. How Did Heaven Begin
- g. Agree to Agree

Total Time 116:01

Line-up / Musicians

- Jon Anderson / lead vocals, guitar, harp
- Steve Howe / pedal steel, 6- & 12-string acoustic & electric guitars, 5-string bass (2.3), backing vocals
- Rick Wakeman / keyboards
- Chris Squire / bass, piccolo bass (2.3), backing vocals
- Alan White / drums, backing vocals

- Billy Sherwood / mixing (2.3,2.4)

Releases information

Recorded live at the Fremont Theatre, San Luis Obispo, California on March 4-6, 1996
except "Be the One" and "That, That Is" which are new studio tracks recorded 1995-96.

Artwork: Roger Dean with Martyn Dean & Gottlieb Bros. (design)

2CD Essential ‎- EDF CD 417 (1996, UK)
2CD CMC International Records ‎- CMC 0607686208-2 (1996, US)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Prog Zone & NotAProghead for the last updates
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YES Keys to Ascension ratings distribution

(616 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(36%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (16%)
Collectors/fans only (1%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

YES Keys to Ascension reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars I missed this bit of info (the classic Yes reunion gig) back then, but then gain the prog web forum groups where not really efficient or even active back in 95, and even if they had been, It'd probably have heard it too late (I only started my web addiction a small decade later), but the Yes classic quintet reunion was most likely a real buzz, especially for those living in the new world. I was quite surprised when I saw this Roger dean logo double Yes affair, because I'd been used to these awful and very disappointing 80's and early 90's releases, but I brought this set home with only a tiny listen in the record store. The double album coming with a Dean artwork is a bit of a strange deal, as the group chose not to do a 70's Double-Live thing, but opted to fill the rest of second disc with two lengthy recently recorded tracks, forgetting the rest of the live material from their reunion concert.

As such, it was probably a smart move, because it brought much exposition to those new tracks, but knowing now that a second set came later, I can't help but feeling manipulated. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy with the two Keys sets, but I'd have been happier with a Keys Live and another Keys studio set. Anyway, on to the first disc and the more obvious selection of tracks from that reunion gig. It was a real pleasure to hear Awaken and the S&G cover of America. I was a bit wary of the TFTO track, but they chose the better track from that sub-par album, but it's still the low point of that concert, AFAIAC. Onward is a bit of a surprising choice, but it works rather well. The studio stuff is not bad either also but those two tracks (That That Is and Be The One) sonically strongly remind me of the Drama album. Actually they made me re-discovered this album that I had sort of discarded as the beginning of the end for the group, until this double set.

The announcement of this album made me jump up and down when they reunited and were planning a world tour playing all their classic tracks. Before we got a chance to see them on the European continent, they had released the atrocious open Your eyes album, but when they did tour for that album, the set list was very similar to that of San Obispo, with hardly any newer tracks. The following Keys To Ascension 2 set hass a lesser choice of live tracks, but a so-much better selection of new studio tracks, so I'd be hard-pressed to choose one over the other.

Review by Guillermo
4 stars This live album has very good recording and mixing. But it seems that as in many live albums done by many bands, there are some studio overdubs, but it doesn`t matter. In some parts of the songs the band sounds like they didn`t rehearse very much the songs. "Siberian Kahtru" has a very good guitar solo in the end. "The Revealing Science of God" (the best song from "Topographic oceans" in my opinion) is a very good live version, despite Wakeman`s solo in the end was different as in the studio version. "America" is good too, but it is one of the songs where they sound like they didn`t rehearse enough. "Onward" has a guitar introduction by Howe and good keyboards by Wakeman. "Awaken" is very good, a very "inspired" live version. "Roundabout" was played with the acoustic guitar intro, and the acoustic guitar is present in other parts of the song, like in the original version and like in ABWH`s live version. The "Starship Trooper" live version has a duet of solos by Wakeman and Howe in "Würm", and I prefer this version than the live version of "Yesssongs". "Be the One" is very good. In this studio song, the guitars are at the front, and it sounds like Wakeman wasn`t present in the recording session and that he added his keyboard parts as overdubs days later, because he is only in the background, without having influence in the whole sound of the song."That is, That is", the other studio song, is also good, with many different parts which in the end sound as a whole song. Here, Wakeman`s keyboards are better.
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars It's clear in my mind the first time I saw the CD of this album sometime ago in 1997, I was really amazed with the fact that one of my favorites during 70s was "Yessongs" live album where I really appreciated highly (musically) and nowadays I see a modern "Yessongs" that reincarnates itself into "Keys to Ascension". Again some classic tracks were performed by one of prog heroes. Even, some tracks are exactly the same: "Siberian Khatru", "Roundabout", "Starship Trooper". I purchased directly this CD from our local disc store, Aquarius Pondok Indah, Jakarta. I was so sure that it's gonna be a fantastic live performance.

Yeah, it was a kind of worth investment having this CD in my collection. Eventhough song-wise there were some similarities but they are performed differently, especially with the use of modern sound technology. AS usual in YES live performance, the emotional and musically uplifting track "Siberian Khatru" opens the album on CD1. I can see the huge difference, sound-wise as well as style, from previous live recordings of this track. The bass line is really dazzling, guitar fills are killing, powerful vocal line with no deteriorating quality (my salute to JON!), punchy keyboard work and dynamic drumming. It then continues with a classic "The Revealing Science of God" taken from the first track of "tales from Topographic Ocean" album. I had never heard this track performed live by the band and I didn't believe that the band performed it excellently. Especially knowing that the "Tales" album was considered by most reviews more of JON and HOWE project; and WAKEMAN was not really tuned with this album. Congrats Rick! You performed really well in this album. Marvelous!

"America" (by Paul Simon) is performed with more improvisation on guitar part (especially) and is longer than the studio version. The guitar work of HOWE in this track is really killing! It's a very energetic track that suitable to wake you up in the morning. The fourth track "Onward" (taken from "Tormato" album) is also performed differently - especially on the intro part where HOWE plays more role in filling in the acoustic guitar work, backed up by RICK's keyboard. It's a very enjoyable, mellow and accessible track. It sounds poppy but it's not really pop.

"Awaken"!!!!! What a dream! This track is the best track that I like from the "Going for the One" album that commemorates the first return of WAKEMAN to the band. It's definitely a heart-breaking track. The track start in a slow tempo with nice vocal line by JON "High vibration go on ." and move to moderate tempo. The heart of this track is really when it comes to keyboard solo at the interlude. What a fascinating art creation here! It has a powerful sound, memorable and tasty melodies. By composition, this track is really wonderful. Performed live is even better than the original studio version.

CD 2 starts with acoustic guitar work as an intro part of "Roundabout". Personally, this was the first track that introduced me to the band sometime in the 70s. Performed live in this album is even having more energy and much more powerful. It continues with "Starship Trooper", a track that is very common in any YES live performance as "Siberian Khatru".

There are two new studio tracks in CD 2: "Be The One" and "That, That Is" that are worth commenting. "Be The One" I consider as a new track that was composed in an original style of YES in the 70s. The only difference was probably on the production of sound quality. It starts with a very stimulating drum work by ALAN WHITE followed by other instrument, dominated by HOWE's electric guitar fills. WAKEMAN's keyboard works accentuate the bars where JON's voice start to make its entrance. This track has a powerful melody. "Never underestimate the loving .." It moves to more tasty melody when JON sings "I'll be there, to bring this love in the morning" ..and it reaches the ultimate satisfaction on this part "Be the one, giving in to love .". Oh my God! What an emotionally uplifting track. It then flows to even high tone when it reaches HUMANKIND "So we worked all around amidst the glory of life ." with a killing HOWE's guitar fills! No compromise, this track deserves a very high appreciation in strong songwriting and composition. Four thumbs up!

The concluding track "That, That Is" I consider as an epic (19:14) in the vein of "Tales from Topographic Ocean" album. It starts with a stunning acoustic guitar work accompanied by WAKEMAN's keyboard in relatively long duration. It moves then with the inclusion of soft percussion and some bass line while maintaining the same tagline melody. When vocal line enters the music in a fading-in style (it reminds me to JON's solo album "Deseo") the drumming starts dynamically followed by dazzling bass line by SQUIRE. The music slowly lifting up into a faster tempo. The song goes on with many changing tempos and melodies.It's a fascinating track on par with any track of "Tales" album.

My ultimate goal with this write-up is aimed at giving my deep appreciation to the band as this album I consider as phenomenal as classic Yes album live albums like "Yessongs" and "Yesshows". The difference is that it contains new studio tracks that are at the same quality with any other classic tracks. As for a recommending you to purchase this album, I think is not a major issue we have at our hands, as this album is MUST HAVE in your collection. It's a pity if you don't have it. It's a MASTERPIECE. Call me a naïve person and I don't mind as this is truly a MASTERPIECE! (Note: in the middle of writing up this review, I received a short message on my mobile phone from my prog friend in Jakarta, Teguh, who reminds me about the dream came true for Indonesian Yesmania - including Teguh and me - of being able to watch YES second leg tour in Singapore - 25 Sep 2003). Gatot Widayanto, Indonesia.

Review by Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars As England football managers are fond of saying, this is very much a game of two halves. Disc 1 is an excellent live set that manages to take in highlights of their back catalogue from late 60s to mid 80s. The sound quality is excellent (overdubbed to hell and back, but fine by me) and they sound like they're enjoying themselves for once. "The Revealing Science Of God" is an interesting inclusion here - presumably Wakeman got over his snit and decided to forego the curry and the 6 pack and concentrate on playing. The real gem on this disc is "Awaken" - I've always felt that the version on "Going For The One" seemed sort of unfinished. The version on here is about 3 minutes longer, and it makes all the difference. I'd recommend "KTA 1" on the strength of this track alone. Sadly, disc 2 is a bit of a let down. "Roundabout" is played well enough, but they sound like they're just going through the motions. "Starship Trooper" contains some unnecessary and tedious noodling from Wakeman and Howe - at this stage of their careers, they don't have to prove anything. As for the studio tracks, they sound good but are extremely forgettable. Jon Anderson tries a different style of lyrics on "That, That Is" but quite honestly he sounds more convincing as a cosmic pixie than as a narrator of gritty urban reality. Kudos to him for trying, though. Four stars for disc 1, 2 for disc 2.
Review by Muzikman
5 stars I am on a mission to listen to everything that Yes has ever recorded, even if I am doing it backwards. Recently I reviewed Keystudio, which was a compilation of outtakes from these two discs, Keys To Ascension (1996) & Keys To Ascension 2 (1997).

Jon Anderson's enduring falsetto has left an indelible mark on progressive rock; his distinctive rich vocals are unparalleled and continue to entertain audiences worldwide. These two discs offer exceptional live tracks as well as excellent studio work. The "classic lineup," which is on tour currently working their way through their huge volume of music, is in stellar form on each of these wonderful two discs sets. Yes, you will hear many of the songs that you have heard repeatedly on live albums before but I sincerely promise that they will not disappoint. Every time you do hear these songs they have something new to offer, a subtle nuance or atmosphere that features another instrument in their all-start lineup, or Anderson approaching his vocals in different way. They always manage to keep you interested with incredibly good musicianship and lead vocals that have not faltered after nearly thirty-five years.

Both discs offer progressive rock entrancements like the magnum opuses "Mind Drive" and "That Is, That Is," which both clock in at nearly 20 minutes each. That one thing you can always count on with Yes, they create multi-leveled songs such as classics like "Close To the Edge" and "And You and I" as if it were a matter of course rather than a long difficult task.

Complete songs within songs, a story within a story, and musical journeys that will live on until the last light goes out in the vast universe. that is how I picture their legacy. Somehow, I cannot imagine any other group that I have heard in this genre play and perform on such a level of consistency and value year after year as they do. I seriously doubt that their output can be duplicated, much less emulated. In a genre known for such intricate and complex arrangements demanding the most intense musicianship there are few that can separated as unique and out of the ordinary, this band is one of those few.

I read a few overly critical reviews of these two albums and took it with a grain of salt. I know anything that this band creates is outstanding and a step ahead of all the rest. If you concur with my thoughts and have not purchased these two fine CD sets then I suggest you do so.

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars I bought this double CD, as it had so pretty Dean covers, and there were some old and new epic tracks on it. But damn, I was personally quite disappointed by this album. I wonder why, as at least the line-up is their classic one? Maybe the song selections and the versions of them weren't that good after all? "The Revealing Science of God" is an interesting selection though, but I prefer the original version much more. Also "America" worked better during the 70's... The new compositions didn't differ from their normal quality standards of their recent material : Not good in my opinion. Maybe if I had witnessed this show myself I would have been a bit more pleased by this album. At least the small poster included was worth of putting on the wall.
Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Excellent live-album with two very good studio tracks at the end. On the live tracks, the band plays just as good as on any Yes-concert in the 70's. The classics are included ("Siberian Khatru", "The Revealing Science of God", "Roundabout" and "Starship Trooper") and is greatly performed.

I like the production on the album (very solid but also soft) and the studio tracks are quite good, like a mix of 70's and 90's Yes. Again, solid musicianship and excellent production!

Overall; a gem for Yes-fans! I highly recommend it. 4.25 stars!

Review by Matti
4 stars My 100th review!

Back to '96: for some years prog had been less in focus for me. YES was naturally one of the bands I had come to know well in my early prog-listening years and which I had as LP's, not as CD's. Buying this new 2CD was an impulse purchase that had a strong effect. It brought YES (of the 70's) back to the top for me. The song selection was appealing: 'Siberian Khatru', 'Revealing Science of God', 'Starship Trooper', 'Awaken', 'Roundabout' and 'Onward' performed by the classic YES lineup - and so well, as if they hadn't got any older - was a memorable rendez-vous. Simon & Garfunkel cover 'America' was a new thing for me and I liked it immediately. Clever prog arrangement!

Two new long studio tracks... well, they were interesting to hear but haven't been listened that much (though I prefer them to most of the later YES I've heard). It's for having classics like 'Awaken' on CD that still makes this worthy for me. Very peaceful 'Onward' also became my favourite at the time as it has a beautiful acoustic guitar intro and a little different guitar playing than the original, and as Christmas was nearing.

Much better than Keys 2 which has more new studio material. I have rejected the temptation to buy Keys to Ascension DVD that I've seen once; I want this CD to remain as a sort of a turning (back to classic prog) point in my music history.

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars (Great) Old songs, (OK) New songs

The first of two double CD albums co-produced by Billy Sherwood and bearing the "Keys to ascension" name. Both collections are a mix of live performances and new studio tracks. Rick Wakeman is back on board (again!), thus reforming the TFTO line up. The concert performances, recorded at San Luis Obispo in California, are superb. The tracks included in this volume are some of Yes' true classics, i.e. "Siberian Khatru", "Starship trooper", "Revealing science of God", etc., all performed flawlessly.

The highlight of this part of the set is undoubtedly "Awaken". This sleeping giant does indeed awaken, the rendition here being slightly slower in parts, bringing out the full majesty of the piece. In particular, the powerful section towards the end becomes a cacophony of magnificent fanfares with a wall of sound lifting things ever higher, before Jon Anderson brings us slowly back to earth with the peaceful conclusion. A genuinely awesome piece.

This was the first time "Revealing science of God" had been performed live since the tour to promote TFTO. It lacks the extended intro recently uncovered by the re- mastering of the album, but is nonetheless a fine performance. It is also good to hear the legendary non-album cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "America" given a dusting off.

There does appear to be some liberal overdubbing of the performance, especially in respect of the vocals, but give the lengthy sabbatical enjoyed by the band, this is perhaps forgivable.

Unfortunately, the studio tracks are nowhere near the same quality. Wakeman appears to have had very little input to them, either in terms of song-writing or performance. Only two tracks are included, but they last for a total of almost 30 minutes. Normally with Yes, this would imply that these would become some of their more significant works, but neither "Be the one" or "That, that is" will ever fall into this category. "Be the one" is a lengthy but ubiquitous softer Yes number, while "That, that is" is more diverse but overlong and very indulgent.

The studio tracks from volumes one and two were subsequently gathered together to form a single CD entitled "Key studio". It would perhaps have been wiser to have done this from the outset, and released the live performances as a separate triple CD collection.

One other disappointment is the absence of the introductory "Firebird suite" music, the opening chords of "Siberian Khatru" starting the album off.

In all though, the excellent live performances of some of Yes' best works make this a worthy live collection. Do not however expect too much of the studio tracks, even if they appear to be of epic proportions.

Review by ZowieZiggy
5 stars For the last fifteen years or so (from the date of this effort - 1996), Yes produced very poor albums (to say the least) but commercially they were quite successful (at least for "90125" : six million albums sold, I remind you). Trevor decided to quit in May 1995. Tony left the band as a musician but will be involved in their management. So, logically, Steve and Rick came back. The decision was made on July 12 during a meeting in L.A.

The legendary line up is there again. : Chris, Jon, Alan, Steve and Rick. The rehearsals started in October (the 25th) but Rick only joined in January 1996. At this time, three band members were living on the West coast : Chris, Jon and Alan so they decide to perform a few dates around there. The choice of San Luis Obispo was taken on February 8. This choice is quite bizarre : SLO is in the middle of nowhere basically : halfway through Frisco and L.A. Of course, Jon is living there and that's probably the answer. The venue : the Edward's Fremont Theater.It is said that the acoustic is exceptional. Capacity : 800 seats ! The least we can say is that they were not really confident to recover their past aura.

I found a superb message posted on the Internet ages ago. Here it is in full, non edited version :

N o t e s F r o m t h e E d g e. THE Internet YES Source A Message from Yes. July 14, 1995.


A message to Yes fans from Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, RickWakeman, and Alan White:

21 years ago, at Stouffer's Hotel in Cincinnati on Chris' birthday, March 4, we, the members of Yes (Jon, Steve, Rick, Chris, and Alan) decided that if the world was still together and that we were able as musicians to work together, we would unite in 1995 on the 4th of March in order to perform yet again not just for one album or one tour, but for the next five years in order to take the band and its fans into the 21st century and beyond. A document was created which we all signed that evening in the year 1974. Thankfully, not only for ourselves but for Yes fans around the world as well, we have decided to follow this prophecy through into THE FUTURE!

Be ready. KNOW that you are part of the future. KNOW that you were part of the past. KNOW that we will deliver the true YES MUSIC.

Isn't it wonderful ? I will give you more details about the genesis of these concerts in my review of "Keys II".

With "Keys I" Yes had the good idea to release a double CD with some thirty minutes of new studio material and eighty five minutes of great live, classic YesTracks. This was a brilliant way to recreate the YesFeeling amongst the disappointed fans.

It is amazing that I purchased this double CD when I was on holiday in California (almost half the World West from where I live - Belgium). I was visiting Santa Barbara (which is not far from San Luis Obispo) in 1999. I stopped at a secondhand record shop and I saw this double CD. If I except their compilation work "Classic Yes", I had not bought any YesAlbum since GFTO in 1977. Since the track list seemed very attractive and the price was very low (ten bucks or so) I decided to get it. This was a very good decision of mine.

Let's start with the new material.

"Be The One" is a wonderful, melodious YesWork. The feeling and passion that come out here are just great. It is really a pity that we had to wait for such a long time to get a great song like this (the last one as far as I am concerned was "Machine Messiah" from "Drama"). How great this band can be while it sticks to its past grandeur. By its beauty, this song definitely reminds me of "&Y&I", although in some parts it rocks like "Siberian"! (CTTE where are you )? The end could have been more performant, it sounds as if it was only a demo number.

"That, That Is" is in terms of lenght another epic. Very nice acoustic guitar intro (during 3'40"), then we get a "tribal" moment for about fifty seconds, then the track really starts with Jon's entry on the vocals. These are not so smooth as usual. It is obvious that they wanted to reproduced CTTE but this is a MAJOR challenge. There are more emotion in Jon's voice from minute eleven onwards (for about 4'30") : this part is great. The band than comes into action for a solid instrumental break. The finale being a great YesMoment. IMO, it lacks a bit in consistency and if compared to CTTE, some of the TFTO epics ("The Revealing Science" or "The Remembering"), "Gates" or "Awaken" it is sub-par, but still a great YesTrack. Forget about the crappy FM and AOR times and welcome back to YesEpics (this is the ninth of the genre).

What can I say about the live parts ? They were all recorded in SLO in March 1996 (from March 4, through 6). The CD opens "Siberian" but without the traditional "Firebird" What is immediately noticeable is that the sound is great (nothing to do with the crappy one from "YesSongs"). I have also the feeling that the band was really enthusiast to be together again.

"The Revealing Science Of God" : finally a piece from TFTO on a live YesRecord ! I wrote in my review of this double album that both "Revealing" and "The Remembering" contained an awful lot of text and that it should be a nightmare to render these live. Can you imagine that Jon could do it again more than twenty-two years later with only a few weeks to rehearse (Rick joined effectively on January 28). This is awesome. This version is slightly shorter than the original but very nice. Melodies are superb, the whole band as it always was before. It seems as if there had been no break since 1977...

"America" : the first official live rendition for this wonderful cover from Simon & Garfunkel. Fabulous. "Onward" : a delicious acoustic guitar intro (a bit flamenco influenced) from Steve and gorgeous vocals from Jon and Chris. Very, very emotional.

Then, "Awaken" : slightly extended (by some three minutes) and another epic from the glorious days (IMO). This audience has been attending something VERY special. Rick is brilliant. The middle section is longer and very smooth. The last seven minutes are a pure jewel. A symphony of guitar and keys, a strong rythmic (bass and drums) and sensational vocals. Heaven is REALLY close. Almost at hand. I quote : "High vibration go on, To the sun, oh let my heart dreaming Past a mortal as me. Where can I be"?

"Roundabout" is just beautiful. Acoustic guitar intro, then rocking, then melodious. On par with the studio track and the best live rendition I know (I have the same feeling for "Starship Trooper").

I rated YesSongs emotionally (it was my entry YesAlbum in ...1973) with five stars (which is a bit overevaluated). I will do the same for this one. For three reasons : 1. It is my new reunion with the band (which still lasts so far - 2007), 2. The live tracks are just superb (no stuff like "Mood" or "The Fish") with fantastic sound, 3. The new studio work is just great. Five star my YesFriend for this great YesComeBack !

Review by NJprogfan
3 stars I must admit up front that this mostly live album is very hard to judge. Yes, it has some of their best songs, Yes, it's very well played by all and Yes, Jon does some fantastic singing. Yet, those two new songs just drag it down to death. "Be the One" is just plain boring with a lackluster and plodding beat. I'm not the biggest fan of Jon's lyrics, especially when they're as sappy as in this particular song. But it's "That, That Is" which gets the absolute lowest marks. Minister Jon and his pontificating is unbearable. I can deal with the metaphysical Yes lyrics as much as the next Yes fan, but when the lyrics try to be updated and, (choke) urban-themed, well you just crossed over the line to cheeseville. Oh, the song starts out extremely well for about 4 minutes with Howe's beautiful acoustic guitar playing which is joined by a very original techno-like beat but at about the 4 minute mark the beat changes and we head into the abyss. Honestly, you have to hear the lyrics to believe it. I think it's the worst lyrics written by Jon ever....UGH! The music itself is a hodgepodge with no melody that hooks you in. It's pretty much a patchwork style epic with only the beginning to brag about. So, for all those who are thinking about purchasing this disc, get it mainly for the great live selection, especially to hear "The Revealing Science Of God" which Jon sings wonderfully, and the fantastic version of "Starship Trooper" with Wakeman's great keyboard assault towards the end. But, when you get to the new songs, listen once, then never again.
Review by febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

We're now in 1996 and when i didn't expect anything else after the average TALK, and surprise, one day i go to my music retailer and i see this double CD from YES with the old logo, the artwork from ROGER DEAN. First looking at the titles, i thought it was another compilation, but to my delight, no, it was a new live recording by the reunited classic line-up of ANDERSON, HOWE, WHITE,SQUIRE and even RICK WAKEMAN is present.

Not only they are performing live, but we also get treated to 2 new numbers, i won't classify as ''bonus'' as they both make 3O mns of new YESmusic (3/4 of an LP). This is not a stadium or arena live recording, as maybe YES at this time of their carreer was maybe no longer a big draw to attract big crowds as before. So they all came together in SAN LUIS OBISPO, California where JON ANDERSON now resides. So to play it safe, they play in an amphiteater there with......less than 1000 people in attendance.

IF not as mesmerizing as YESSONGS (who can top that anyway), this a darn good concert playing some of the best tunes of their rich repertoire. We get the best song of TFTO with an excellent rendition of ''The Revealing science of god'', also you can hear an 18mn long version of ''Awaken'' also arguably the best song from GFTO. Don't miss either ''Starship trooper'' and ''America'' the cover from SIMON & GARFUNKEL. The band is top notch, especially JON ANDERSON singing better than ever and STEVE HOWE on top of his game.

As i mentionned earlier, there are 2 studio tracks: a 10mn nice classic YES sounding ''be the one '' and a great multi part epic ''that, that's it''. This is very difficult to compare with the stuff from the 70s because the level of quality has been raised very high back then, so it will never be fair for the new material to compete for the hearts of YES fans. But what i can say, that's very good music that could have been included on any album from the golden era. This is YES. The YES with the old logo, the YES with Roger DEAN, the YES we used to love .

And who else among the old bands was progging so well in 1996??

Only 5 stars for this great return.

Review by progaardvark
COLLABORATOR Crossover/Symphonic/RPI Teams
5 stars Finally, after 16 years of pure, unadulterated nonsense, Yes releases something truly worthwhile for the progressive rock world. Keys to Ascension is a 2-CD set which contains seven tracks recorded live during their reunion tour of the classic lineup of Anderson, Howe, Squire, Wakeman, and White. It also contains two newly recorded studio tracks timing in at 9:50 and 19:14 respectively. The live tracks are amazing and in my opinion the best produced live material the band has ever released, including the material from Yessongs. After all, recording machinery has come a long way since the 1970s. Truly a stunning return for a group many thought was dead after their 1994 release of Talk.

The studio material is incredibly better than anything the group had done since Drama (or maybe even Relayer). Instead of writing material for the radio like they had done for the previous four albums, they put together two lovely pieces of artwork. Both songs are refreshing and it is quite evident that none of them have lost their musical talent and skill. An important contribution to symphonic progressive rock and another five-star masterpiece. Don't forget to get the companion Keys to Ascension 2. It is just as worthwhile.

Review by Zitro
4 stars Excellent live album, on par with yessongs in terms of overall satisfaction. While the musicians are not young anymore and some of the improvisational nature of the past is gone, they still know how to put a good show here. The sound quality is excellent and the songs are carefully played to excellence.

The standout here is "The Revealing Science of God". This song is a dramatic improvement, polished with smarter arrangements, modern sound, and great choice of sounds. However, many of the other songs are only slightly behind. The rocker "Siberian Khatru" is played with at least as much energy as in Yessongs, making it an addictive and fun listen. the symphonic ballad "Onward" features an extended acoustic guitar intro and the song overall sounds as good as the studio version. the epic "Awaken" has a better sound quality than the studio version and is more dramatic, though the modern feel hurts it a little in the middle soft section. The last song worthy of mention is "Starship Trooper" and its guitar-organ duel of fiery solos. On the other hand, "Roundabout" has been heard a trillion times live by Yes fans and "America" sounds a bit messy and unrehearsed and while it improves on the original, I never found it a very good song to begin with.

The studio songs, while it is exciting to hear the classic lineup again writing new music, are not on par with Classic Yes. "Be The One" is clearly overlong and focuses on few ideas, which were never impressive to my ears. "That, That is" is probably on par with the Tales of Topographic Ocean epics quality-wise, but it is very different. Lyrics are less ambiguous, darker, and based on urban lifestyle. The song is very diverse and has moments of brilliance: the Howe-driven first 4 minutes, and the beautiful main theme played with acoustic guitar.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Yes's 1996 concert during which Keys to Ascension was recorded features a spectacular set list, pulling from a variety of albums, and has the always welcome lineup of Anderson, Howe, Squire, Wakeman, and White. "Siberian Khatru" boasts a full sound, with a dominant bass and great keyboards. The vocals are as good as they've ever been. I feel the lead guitar is mixed too low to be fully enjoyed. It is to my delight that "The Revealing Science of God," my favorite Yes song ever, got a place in the set list of this recorded show. There is also a faithful rendition of the Paul Simon cover "America" here. "Onward" features maestro Steve Howe, who delivers a delicate introduction to the song on classical guitar. "Awaken" is a fair bit disappointing, primarily because there are no background vocals during the main lyrical section, and Anderson sounds naked singing it on his own. Fortunately, the version of "Roundabout" performed here is not the weak, edited version Yes bothers to play just to say they had it in the set list. The last moment of the song is powerful, the whole band joining in to give it that final punch. "Starship Trooper" is a thick rendition with an extended jam at the end, over which Wakeman and Howe trade solos, the former using a more symphonic approach, the latter reaching far into country and western territory. For the most part, Yes delivered an exciting set here with very little to complain about. See my review of Keystudio for my assessment of the studio tracks.
Review by TheGazzardian
4 stars I find it harder to rate live albums with more than two star ratings. For the most part, they are oriented towards those who are already fans of the music, and as such, only the best should surpass that two star rating, for only then will 'the masses' be interested.

This album is an example. I have yet to hear Yessongs (ironically, considering it's Yes' 'classic' live recording), and my opinion might change after hearing it, but if asked to recommend just one Yes live recording, it would be this: Keys to Ascension (1). I might even go so far as to recommend this album were I asked to recommend just a single Yes album, for this album has one of the best cross sections of Yes' discography.

If I had been a fan of the band in 1996, I think this album would have been a dream come true. After 18 years (since Tormato), the classic lineup re-unites properly? (Not in an Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe or a Union way?)

I think that the band missed their own music, missed what they could do. Given the chance to show what they could do again, they were really able to put passion into the music. These are some of the best versions of these songs I have heard. Some of these songs even surpass their studio counterparts. For sure, Onward never sounded as beautiful and delicate on Tormato as it does here, where it is dominated by Steve Howe's guitar instead of Rick Wakeman's keys. The version of Awaken and Revealing Science of God on this disc are both excellent. I love the extended ending in Starship Trooper. Really, each track is a treat.

And, on top of an excellent live album, we have been gifted with two brand new songs! Be The One is an alright piece, does not really match up to Yes' other ten minute epics but it, for sure, is a pleasant listen. But That, That Is is an amazing track. From the build up in the instrumental intro, to the dark undertones of the "CrossFire" section, to the catchy ruminations on spirituality and the wicked things that happen in the world of man, this track quickly became one of my favorite Yes epics. (They have so many good ones that it's hard to rank it, but top 10 for sure ;)

Truly a magical experience, and proof that, with the 'classic' lineup reformed, Yes was still the same beast it had been 20 years prior.

Review by ProgressiveAttic
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A hell of a reunion!

18 years after splitting, the late 70's Yes lineup is back (lets forget about Union for everyone's best interest...) featuring all the power and strength of Yes' classic era. Here we have the expected and the unexpected, the old and the new presented in a unique fashion.

(Every rating is in function of the added value of the particular performance.... if it were just for musicianship and quality of the song it would've easily reached the fifth star)

Although every Yes live performance always adds something new and exciting to the pieces, there is nothing relevantly new about the, otherwise amazing, performances of Siberian Khatru , Roundabout and Starship Trooper (all played live so many times that it is almost a cliché....). 4.25 each

On the other hand, we have rarely performed pieces of the Yes repertoire such as the amazing performance of The Revealing Science of God from the bombastic and pompous Tales From Topographic Oceans (my favorite Yes album), this is quite rare since Wakeman isn't too proud about that album. 5

Then we have a very good rendition of their adaptation of Paul Simon's America (only available as a single released in 1972, on several compilations and as a bonus track on the 2003 re-master of Fragile). This piece is a key element in the development of the "Yes sound"; the original inspiration of this song is a version performed by 1-2-3 (original name of Clouds), a regular act at the London Marquee Club during the mid and late 60's which inspired such artists as Yes, Keith Emerson, King Crimson and David Bowie to make more adventurous and complex music. 4

The outstanding performances of Onward and Awaken take the pieces to a new level. An absolute improvement over the studio recordings in Tormato and Going For the One. The extended sections and instrumentals, along with Anderson's beautiful vocal work make of this performance a gem. 5 each

Be the One starts the new studio recordings section of the album. There is a great interplay between the members of the band and Jon's vocals are just beautiful, a very nice song overall. 4

And finally.... That, That Is closes the studio section with the best piece written by Yes since the 70s, reaching the standard set by Yes' most impressive epics (Revealing Science of God, Sound Chaser, Close to the Edge, etc.). The lyrics aren't Jon's best and there is a lack of the consistency of Close to the Edge, Relayer and Tales...Nonetheless a great piece and I have to say that Steve Howe just shines with this one. 4.80

This album is, without doubt, a gem and a must for Yes fans. The sound quality is one of the best you can find on a Yes live recording (this represents the only advantage of Keys to Ascension's Siberian Khatru , Roundabout and Starship Trooper over Yessongs') + those rare live performances are uniquely amazing and the new studio material presents a quality worthy of a 70s Yes album.

Total: 4.5

If this album only had the "Revealing Science of God", "Onward" and "Awaken" performances or the studio tracks, it still would have been worth buying. This is part of my trilogy of must-have Yes live albums, together with Yessongs and Symphonic Live. Nonetheless, if you are not a Yes enthusiast this is just an excellent addition to your prog rock music collection. Very solid 4 stars.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This was the second Yes release I got after Classic Yes. The first song I ever heard by them was "Owner Of A Lonely Heart", but these two were my introduction to '70s Yes. KTA was the band's most recent album at the time. It was recorded after the TFTO line-up got back together for the first time since Tormato. A big deal for Yes fans at the time but I was only starting to get into them.

The versions of "Siberian Khatru", "Revealing..." and "America" here are really good and sound similar to the studio versions. The only songs here I had heard before were the two that opened disc two: "Roundabout" and "Starship Trooper". The former I knew from the live version on Classic Yes but also heard the studio version on classic rock radio. I never really cared for "Onward" and "Awaken". The latter I thought was one of the worst epics Yes ever did.

I remember not thinking much of the two new studio songs. After listening to this again, I have to say that "Be The One" is much better than I remembered it. Not a bad song at all. Probably the best song they did since "I'm Running" which was the best song they did since "Machine Messiah" which was.... On the other hand, "That, That Is" has not only a stupid title but some awful, preachy lyrics too. I'm sorry Jon, you may have lived in LA but I don't think you're qualified to talk about the inner city problems there. The music sounds forced and the song is way too long.

I really like the Roger Dean cover artwork; I think it's one of the band's best album covers. This was a great introduction for me of the band's more epic side. This is nothing special if you already have the '70s studio albums. You're better off getting Yessongs and Yesshows before this. 3 stars.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Rick Wakeman. He's in Yes, he's out of Yes, he's back in, then he's out again. Here he's beck in, and we should be thankful for that. This is the first of two sets of albums, each containg live tracks from a concert in 1996, and some new studio recordings.

On this album, the live tracks are great. And the band is in amazing form, playing some songs that don't seem to have been played that often by Yes. There's Siberian Khatru and a complete version of The Revealing Science Of God, sounding much better than the original on "Tales From Topographic Oceans". And a fine version of America.

The only flaw in the live tracks is Roundabout, where it seems like Chris Squire is trying to hard to push the beat, and keeps getting ahead of the drums.

The two studio tracks are good, the better of them being That, That Is, a twenty minute epic. Both of them sound more like the songs on ABWH than any full Yes albums, but they beat any of the Yes-West tracks.

Review by thehallway
4 stars Keys to Ascension "Part One" has a live:studio ratio of about 3:1. The package was rather innovative for this fact alone, but helped by the presence of a) the classic line-up inc Wakeman, b) Roger Dean's brush strokes on the cover (albeit spoiled by some vulgar colour alterations) and c) refreshingly good music!

Refreshing why? Because it was probably the first above-average Yes release for over a decade. Some of the band's concert staples are here once again... do I need another version of 'Siberian Khatru' and 'Roundabout' though? Probably not. What's more significant is that 'RSoG' has lurked its way into the band's set for the first time since 1973, and sounds fantastic. Rick's keyboards sound like they are glowing with forgiveness as they navigate this epic piece of music. Paul Simon's 'America' and 'Onward', a Squire ballad from the Tormato album, are also well executed here and make for an interesting concert overall. However 'Awaken' suffers from a thin sound that never matches the studio version; this song only really worked on stage during the 8-man Union tour. What about the two studio tracks here?

Yes seemed to go back to their progressive days with these songs, and it would continue on 'Keys 2'. The magic is not all lost but there is certainly something going on that prevents this music from sounding as good as the 70's stuff. Perhaps it is Alan's drumming, which has only gotten harder and harder over the years. Or it maybe the less-than-impressive "modern" keyboard patches favoured by Rick in the 90's. The moog only makes some brief appearances unfortunately. Despite this, the music is quite cool in places, especially the cross-rhythms on 'That, That Is' which include 7/8 and 15/16. At times tribal, at times rocking, and at times brimming with cheesey synth pads, it really is quite variable. Jon's lyrics seem to deal with drug addicts as well, which just isn't right for him!

Some exciting music is to be found here, new and old. Elements of this collection however, are dull because they appear on every Yes live album. The studio tracks are not always to my taste but perfectly admirable for Yes at that time.

Review by Anthony H.
5 stars Yes: Keys to Ascension [1996]

Rating: 9/10

Keys to Ascension is an absolutely magnificent return to Yes's glory days. This is the first album in eighteen years to feature the band's signature lineup of Anderson, Howe, Squire, Wakeman, and White; it finally showed Yes shedding 80s pop-rock drudgery and truly returning to their progressive rock sound. Thus, Keys to Ascension (as well as its sequel) is a double-layered musical statement: both a return to form and a step forward. The album accomplishes this by including both live performances of 70s songs and new studio material.

The live tracks here constitute one of the greatest live albums ever. Every song is extraordinarily well-recorded. Each instrument is apparent and balanced perfectly within the mix; the recording manages a distinct live sound while avoiding gruff background noise and crowd-cheering. The songs are expertly performed with passion and soul. In fact, many of these renditions come close to exceeding the studio originals. Particularly notable in this regard is the fantastic cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "America", an extended eighteen-minute version of "Awaken", and a gorgeous rendition of "Onward" with beautiful classical guitar from Howe. The greatest highlight, however, is an absolutely jaw-dropping extended "Starship Trooper" that manages to soar above the song's original recording. The added keyboard solo at the end ranks among one of my favorites of all time, and Howe's guitar work is nothing short of incredible.

The two studio tracks are epics in their own right. "Be the One" is an uplifting song with soaring guitar and keyboard lines. Anderson sounds wonderful here. The nineteen-minute "That That Is" opens with an extended classically-influenced section centered upon Howe's acoustic work. This section transitions into a fairly heavy segment with atypical lyrics about drug abuse. Lighter sections follow, with excellent vocal work and emotional piano playing. Squire and Howe play off each other particularly well during the song's conclusion.

While the original material is quite excellent, it doesn't come close to the flawless live performances. This doesn't stop Keys to Ascension from being a masterpiece, though. This album truly captures the magic present when these five musicians play together, and it contains all of the spirit and musicianship that make Yes such an incredible band.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars The revealing science of Yes

The Keys To Ascension releases are notorious for their weird editing and release history. This first Keys To Ascension release came in 1996 and was a single CD album featuring seven live tracks and two new studio recordings. This was followed by Keys To Ascension II the year after. The latter too featured a mixture of live tracks and studio tracks. All of these live tracks were recorded during three shows at San Lois Obispo, CA, USA, and (like the studio tracks scattered over these two separate releases) featured the classic line-up of Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, and Alan White. In the year 2000 a DVD video from these shows was released featuring the same live tracks (but omitting the studio tracks), and in 2001 came Keystudio--a single disc holding only the studio tracks from both Keys To Ascension albums (plus some extra minutes of music added). Notoriously, none of these releases feature the correct order of the tracks as they were played on the night(s). The DVD had annoying fade-outs between the tracks and equally annoying visual effects added on top of the live footage. To add insult to injury, the otherwise beautiful Roger Dean artwork was weirdly (dis)coloured. (In 2010 was released a set which featured both of the original Keys To Ascension albums as well as the DVD with the original artwork restored to proper colours. Since I don't own this new release I cannot comment on whether the DVD is identical to the separately available DVD that I have, but the audio-discs are available for streaming on Spotify. Sadly, the opportunity to restore the songs to the correct running order was not taken advantage of.)

I usually never rate the same material twice and since I have already rated the DVD version (as well as the Keystudio album), why do I bother to rate these discs as well? Well, the answer is that I gave the DVD a low rating (two stars) mostly due to its technical defects, not because of the music (and Keystudio is only the studio songs). True, not all of these performances are among the band's best, but these live recordings do deserve a higher rating than I was able to award the DVD. The live version of The Revealing Science Of God is particularly noteworthy and is simply fantastic. This, my favourite track from the Tales From Topographic Oceans album, is rarely played live and the present live version is the best I've heard. Onward and America are also not among the most frequently played and make for interesting choices. Awaken too is magnificent. Keys To Ascension I sits very well alongside other strong Yes live albums

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Keys to Ascension 1' - Yes (74/100)

As well-intentioned as some of their reinventions may have been over the course of their career, Yes have been notoriously bad at handling lineup changes since their golden period ended with Tormato. Drama and 90125 could both be argued as successful evolutions in their own way, but those moderate success have long been outshadowed by the string of bumpy failures that followed them. Union marked a particularly horrible moment wherein two lineups attempted to collaborate. Open Your Eyes tried to pick up the pieces after Trevor Rabin's departure as guitarist and resident composer, resulting in some of the most anaesthetic music this side of Kenny G. I need not mention the recent failure Yes have had with their latest 2014 garbage; dwelling on these insults to Yes' once-glorious career has the pleasant effect of making the Keys to Ascension duology feel that much more meaningful in context. Instead of trying to reinvent themselves into another AOR-induced oblivion, Yes appear to have a moment of lucidity after Open Your Eyes wherein they seem to understand the shape of their career the way their listeners do. Virtually everyone can agree Yes released their best material in the classic lineups of the '70s, and that's exactly what the band try to reconstruct here. Keys to Ascension I is the best thing released by Yes in years, and while the predominantly live content on album is not quite so appetizing as the thought of relatively 'fresh' material by the classic, proggy Yes, it's undoubtedly the best thing they had released in years.

For the first time in years, Yes appear to have been taking their listeners into consideration. While the 90125 era earned them just as much (if not more) of a fanbase, it's Close to the Edge, Fragile and The Yes Album that contemporary listeners take heed of. Whether it's due to external outcries for the 'old Yes', or simply a result of the classic members being in the right mindset, and in the right place and time, Keys to Ascension is a throwback to the Yes of old. Both parts feature live and studio tracks; of the two, Keys to Ascension 1 offers the superior live half. Yes have never shirked away from the lofty aim of realizing their biggest epics on live records, and this side of the duology is no exception. To me, Keys to Ascension 1 fills in the gaps that the disappointing Yesshows from 1980 failed with; Tales from Topographic Oceans and Going for the One each offered epics that could work wonders in the live sphere, but with the faded inspiration the band had going for them at the dusk of the 70's, Yesshows ended up feeling much more dull than it rightly should have been, especially in the wake of the marvellous first live LP, Yessongs. Here, on top of some of their best live staples (including the energetic "Siberian Khatru" and "Roundabout"), Yes perform two epics. "The Revealing Science of God" is realized beautifully here, and makes for a far better live demonstration of Tales of Topographic Oceans than Yesshows' choice of "Ritual". Even better still, Yes perform the masterful "Awaken" in all of its neoclassical glory. That epic is like hearing a symphony transposed onto rock instrumentation, and I feel the same sense of awe here as I did first hearing it on Going for the One

While Keys to Ascension 2 offered more (and better) studio material, the pair of studio tracks that round off this release are impressive. While the quality is not up to the standard to which I hold their old stuff (only "Mind Drive" from the second part dares to compare), it's refreshing to hear the band sound like they're really trying again. It would be a pipe dream to hope Yes would pick up where they left off in the '70s; the influence of their career since still weighs heavily in the music; the punchy Rabin production is here, as well as the unfortunate schmaltz of Union and Open Your Eyes. "That, That Is" has some moments of brilliance, but suffers from an aimless structure and many parts that feel as if they'd have been best kept in a pop song. Specifically, the de facto 'verse section' of the compostion has the same chippy and rushed vocals that made "Almost Like Love" off Big Generator the wreck that it is. While Yes have clearly set out to write epics here, they still seem stuck in pop mode, and as a result, these two tracks often feel like a pair of muddled pop tunes that had their instrumental sections branched out. With that in mind, Keys to Ascension 1 doesn't excite me as much as I was hoping it would; even if the live material is spot-on, both albums in this duology are made or broken based on the studio material, and neither "Be the One" nor "That, That Is" carry much magic in them. Luckily, the second album would fare better in this department.

My biggest gripe (or confusion) with Keys to Ascension is the structure of the duology itself. There's no harm in a live album, but the mix of live performances of the '70s material with a handful of fresh studio tracks feels odd. Yes are clearly trying to revive the excitement and respect created by their classic material here, and as great as it is to hear live renditions of "The Revealing Science of God" and "Awaken" especially, it's difficult to feel so excited about a band releasing recordings of songs that were close to thirty years old at the time of Keys to Ascension's release. For better or worse, the studio material was (and is) the most promising thing on the album, but we're left to hear these recordings without the benevolent context of an album structure. And yes, I know Keystudio compiles all of the studio work from the two halves together, but it should be seen as a compilation, rather than the songs' native home. Neither side of Keys to Ascension has ever achieved much attention compared to the classic work, and I'm left to wonder whether that would have been different, had the studio material been originally released together, and the album sported as a flagship in their discography, rather than the ancillary role live albums tend to fall into.

Both in the studio and live tracks, there is quality here. For the live set, Yes offers the experience the disappointing Yesshows should have been, giving Going for the One and Tales from Topographic Oceans in particular the representation they deserved on a live album. While the studio material isn't quite as successful in living up to the expectations I'd have for the classic lineup, "Be the One" and "That, That Is" offer a much-needed reprieve from the nonsense Yes put out throughout the 90s, though for my money, Keys to Ascension 2 offers a stronger set of studio material. Ultimately, Keys to Ascension 1 covers the ground of the classic Yes quite well, and makes for an excellent live album. I'm just not convinced it goes any farther than that.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars In Memory of Chris Squire....You will be missed

The dream line-up of Yes was back once again (minus Bruford, but White is a great drummer, so we can easily overlook that). They came together to do a 3 night series of concerts in San Luis Obispo, California to demonstrate the miracle of performing some of their most challenging and epic songs in a live setting. However, there was a lot of overdubbing involved from the studio to make things more consistent, especially with Jon's vocals. The thing though, is that there is some extension to some of the songs, especially with "Starship Trooper" that make purchasing this set worthwhile. Of course, the entire set is not on these two discs, some other tracks were saved for a second volume. Yes includes 7 live tracks and 2 new studio tracks on this album. So you get some excellent live versions and 2 new songs with this amazing lineup.

"Siberian Khatru" is from the "Close to the Edge" album and it is a pretty faithful rendition with a few additions. "The Revealing Science of God" is from "Tales of Topographic Oceans" and is amazing to hear both of these extensive tracks in a live setting, it's so amazing to hear this music or even imagine the band being able to perform these tracks live so well. Plus, there is the fact that the sound is soooo much better on here than it was on "Yessongs" or "Yesshows" and so it is a much better document of a live performance, even as wonderful as "Yessongs" is.

"America" is so much better that the studio version recorded in the 70s. This cover song of a Simon and Garfunkel classic was never released on any studio album, so to hear it performed live like this is quite amazing. But it is done so much better. I always considered the original cover a little weak and unsure, but this live performance gives the Yes version the sound and execution it deserves. If that isn't enough to convince you to get this album, then the versions of "Onward" from "Tormato" and "Awaken" from "Going for the One" should be. "Onward" is done so beautifully here. I never noticed it much before, probably because of the fact that it was on one of Yes' worst albums, but here it is paired with a lovely number written by Howe, and it turns the so-so song into something quite beautiful. And then "Awaken" will send chills up your spine because it is performed so well here, especially Wakeman's organ solo.

On Disc 2, "Roundabout" of course shows up and it is a decent enough version, at least it is the full version and not a cut up version which was the practice for a lot of Yes live albums (Including "The House of Blues" concert which frustrates me to no end that they would do a shortened version of that in a live setting). But "Starship Trooper" is the best version of this song altogether. I love the original studio version, don't get me wrong, but, this version extends the "Wurm" segment much longer, where on the studio version it fades just as what sounds like an amazing guitar solo starts up. In this version, after the build up that occurs with Howe's strumming, the song continues without fading. However, you expect Howe to perform that great guitar solo at the same place as in the studio version, but instead you get a great solo from Wakeman first, then the pay off is that guitar solo is finally fully realized. After that, Wakeman and Howe trade off back and forth with continued soloing. It is a Yes fans dream come true. This is worth the price of the album.

There are two long new tracks following this. They are both pretty good, "Be The One" is a nine minute 3 part song which is decent, but nothing real exciting. However, "That, That Is" is a 19+ minute epic that is excellent, very reminiscent of "Topographic Oceans" but more modern sounding.

Overall, this is an excellent album with only a few weaknesses, those being the first 2 tracks not really offering anything new and the 1st of the studio tracks being a little weak. The thing that make is worthwhile are the tracks "America", "Onward", "Starship Trooper" and "That, That Is" This still ends up being an excellent addition to any prog or Yes collection. 4 bright stars.

Review by Modrigue
3 stars Keys to Yes

3.5 stars

This double live/studio album was my first encounter with YES and also a very good choice to discover their enchanting world. After their FM period during the 80's, the musical direction taken by the band could not last anymore during the explosion of grunge, hip-hop and techno explosion of the first half of the 90's. Thus Jon Anderson decided then to reform the 70's classical line-up (with Alan White instead of Bill Bruford) and to go back to the progressive successful format that made them famous.

The live part simply compiles one of the best tracks from their 70's studio records, except "Time and a Word" and "Relayer". There are two curious choices though. The first one is the average "Onward" from "Tormato" (why not "Don't Kill The Whale"?), the weakest YES' album of the seventies. The second is the extended 10 minutes cover version of SIMON & GARFUNKEL's "America". Original, groovy and charming, but a little out of place. The studio version was initially released as a single in 1972 and can now be found in the remastered 2003 Elektra edition of "Fragile". Overall, the live renditions are pretty good.

The studio part consists in two compositions from 1995-1996. "Be The One" is simply one of YES' best songs of the 90's! A melancholic and catchy fantasy prog track that rocks! The 19 minutes suite "That, That is" has a few good moments, however unfortunately does not overall present the same interest. These two tracks are now compiled in the "Keystudio" album, released in 2001.

Better than Volume II, "Keys to Ascension I" is one of the best YES' live albums. Furthermore, the cover art is very nice. Recommended to the band's fans and ideal for newcomers to discover their magical music!

Review by patrickq
1 stars Please Note: This is a review of only the studio tracks of the first Keys to Ascension album.

Some album has to be the worst Yes album, and I think it's Keys to Ascension. Or, at least, when Keys to Ascension came out, Tales from Topographic Oceans and Tormato could breathe sighs of relief.

Quite a big deal was made when, in 1995, it was announced that the "classic lineup" of Yes was back: singer Jon Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and drummer Alan White. I wasn't as hyped; after all, these were the guys responsible for Tales from Topographic Oceans and Tormato. (To be fair, this lineup also produced Going for the One and later, Keys to Ascension 2.) Sadly, 1995 is the precise point where Yes became a nostalgia act.

Keys to Ascension contains about a half-hour of new material in the form of two songs, "Be the One" and "That That Is." Each appears to have been a rough outline into which the band poured whatever 1970s-Yes-sounding material they had lying around. It seems somehow fitting that the songs were tacked onto the end of the second disk of a heavily overdubbed double-live album of 20-year-old songs like "The Revealing Science of God."

But enough negativity! Keys to Ascension doesn't detract from the band's classic work. I assume that every band releases a dud every so often. Luckily we have Close to the Edge, Drama, Relayer - - and many others - - to enjoy.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars There's a lot of 3 star reviews for this one not so surprisingly. The last time the lineup of Wakeman, Anderson, Howe, White and Squire were together they created "Tormato" so forgive the pessimism going into this one. If they had stuck to just live music it's worth the 4 stars but they add two new studio tracks that are poor at best and we're talking a half hour of music right there. Thankfully they tacked them on the end of disc two so they are easily skipped. The track "The Revealing Science Of God" from "Tales Of Topographic Oceans" is disappointing and surprising given Wakeman is here but money is great isn't it? Highlights for me are four tracks starting with the opener "Siberian Khatru" but also I'm so impressed with "Awaken" for being better than the studio version in my opinion. The atmosphere early is like the Earth is waking up but how about later after a long instrumental section Wakeman comes in followed by Anderson's more passionate vocals. "Roundabout" and "Starship Trooper" are fantastic! So a mixed bag for sure and I'll stick with "Yessongs" when it comes to live YES.

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4 stars Review - #24 (Yes - Keys to Ascension) Keys to Ascension is the fourth live and fifteenth studio album by Yes which was released as a double album in October of 1996. After both keyboardist Tony Kaye and guitarist Trevor Rabin left the band in 1995, they decided to reach out to previous bandm ... (read more)

Report this review (#2570750) | Posted by Prog Zone | Sunday, June 13, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Keys to ascension is a truly great Live experience from one of the best Prog band ever. The highlights in my opinion : Introduction with Siberian Kathru is amazing, full of different styles, full of breaks : a little summary of what Prog essence is ! Awaken is a long musical travel carried b ... (read more)

Report this review (#598474) | Posted by deckard33 | Thursday, December 29, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I have been listening far too much to this album when I was supposed to listen to unknown gems and unreviewed albums. But this live album + 2 studio tracks is far too good to be ignored. And I only live once too... The big track on this studio album and the main reason for my love of this al ... (read more)

Report this review (#280197) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Sunday, May 2, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Keys 1 and 2 were both mixtures of live and studio tracks, but were also released as separate live and studio albums. The live elements are taken from a whole concert (performed over a couple of nights) reuniting the classic Yes lineup. The sound of these recordings is excellent both in sound qu ... (read more)

Report this review (#202755) | Posted by Peachy | Saturday, February 14, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Just by looking at the tracklist,you can see what they were aiming at - Classic YES They saw witch direction they were heading with mr. "lonely heart" T. Rabin, and they wanted to play something they like to play, and with who they like to play it. So pick up the phone and call mr. Rick Wakeman, ... (read more)

Report this review (#137599) | Posted by Frier_John | Monday, September 10, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I pulled this out recently for some reason, perhaps to reassess the studio material (which I've already reviewed under the Keys Studio release). What struck me again with this release is just how the Yes magic is really still there. The drive and energy of Yesshows and their 70's albums may b ... (read more)

Report this review (#106644) | Posted by | Monday, January 8, 2007 | Review Permanlink

5 stars After many years of Yes' line ups formed by Horn, Downes, Moraz and the return of Tony Kaye, Yes returned to the classic line up to play two concerts in San Luis Obispo, California and to release new studio songs. The result: Yes at their best. CD 1 start with "Siberian Khatru" (as Yessongs ... (read more)

Report this review (#57695) | Posted by | Thursday, November 24, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars GREEEEEEAT !!! The live side is ok. The versions of "Onward" and "Awaken" are more than appreciable... But it's just a teaser for the rest... "Be the one" is a realy good tune with multi vocal arrangements. So the masterpeace of that record is "That, that is"... a piece just as rich and c ... (read more)

Report this review (#13897) | Posted by | Sunday, May 16, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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