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Yes - Keys to Ascension 2 CD (album) cover

KEYS TO ASCENSION 2

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.97 | 450 ratings

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ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer
4 stars "Keys II" was recorded during the three mythical concerts from SLO in March 1996. The full tracklist of the concert (with the right order) is as follows : 1. Firebird Suite, 2. Siberian Khatru, 3. Close To The Edge, 4.I've Seen All Good People 5. Time And A Word, 6. Happy Birthday To Squire, 7. And You And I, 8. The Revealing Science Of God, 9. Going For The One, 10 Turn Of The Century, 11. America, 12. Onward, 13. Awaken, 14. Roundabout, 15.Starship Trooper The only variation will be the song "Happy Birthday To Chris" which will be chanted by the audience at different moments.

In my review for "Keys I" I started with the genesis of these three wonderful concerts. Let's get acquainted with the final preparation of these ones. Early February 1996 (one month before the shows) the setlist was almost defined ("Relayer" will be superbly ignored) . Yes still plan only one show and it will take place in San Luis Obispo (CA) but the date has not been decided yet (somewhere around Easter). It is planned to produce a double CD with thirty minutes of new music.

Mid february, there will be an official announcement through YesWorld : "YES in Concert : *Jon Anderson * Steve Howe * Chris Squire * Rick Wakeman * Alan White* Two special performances to be recorded and filmed March 5 & 6, 1996 - 8 PM San Luis Obispo, CA. Reserved seating: $50 (limit 2 per person)"

From here starts the desillusion of many Yes fans. For many reasons. The price : 50 $ is almost the double of a standard concert at the time. The venue : some eight hundred seats for two nights. The dates : mid-week (Tuesday & Wednesday). The location : SLO is in between L.A. and Frisco (about 200 miles each way). So either you are from the area or you have to make it a two-day trip (adding to the ticket price, hotel accomodation and travel expenses). Short notice annoucement : just over two weeks to organize yourself. The number of tickets available : due to the Yes equipment setup for these shows, about three hundred seats are taken off. The band will also require a hundred seats for "friends & relatives". This leaves very few seats for the true YesFan.

This resulted that some fans were queuing for about TWELVE hours in front of a local record store : "Boo Boo's" where the tickets were on sale ! On March 1st, another date was added. An additional concert on ... March 4th. So, back to the queue again. The video will be shot on the third day (they will have two full rehearsals ...). On the second day, the audience (from Jon's initiative) will chant "Happy Birthday" to Chris. He was obviously the more enthusiast during these concerts, having permanent contact with three other members : Jon, Rick and Alan. There were apparently serious problems between Chris and Steve. Almost no eye- contact.

After the "Birthday" chant, Chris shook hands with the three of them and when he noticed that Steve was tuning his guitar showing his back, Chris just blew him a kiss ... Not the greatest atmosphere for a reunion !

So, let's investigate what we get here. Another YesCombination. Some live tracks, and other studio ones. I guess they are one of the most prolific band from the last 15 years. As a fan, one can only be greatful to Yes. They put so many live performances into records! Most of the time, it has always been a great moment. This second Keys, is no exception : a great live CD and very nice studio work which will not be superseded to date (2007). This live CD starts with an average opener "I've Seen All Good People" but then, it is a pure dream.

Figure out : great live renditions for "Going For The One" and "Time And A Word". This one in particular is beautiful. I like this song very much. The unusual piano introduction is really marvelous. I am always very touched when I listen to it. The acoustic guitar, the backing vocals and the piano of course are FANTASTIC. Do I need to add something about Jon's performance ? This rendition of more than six minutes sounds really wonderful and is the best one available (it is by far superior to the studio version). Then, we get "Close". I am quite biased/enthusiast when I hear this one live : it is such a wonderfull track that you only can LOVE it (studio or live). It is, IMO the best live version available (topping by far the "YesSongs" one). The intro has heavier keyboards than usual. It is also slower (but this will be the case for the whole song). In this rendition, CTTE sounds even more melodious than the original ! The section "I Get Up" is just marvelous, so emotional, so melodious.

Another great YesSong follows : "Turn Of The Century" : ages ago, Yes produced such a great studio album as "Going For The One" (IMO) that I can only be thankful for such a good reproduction of their studio work into a live effort. This version is fantastic : Wakeman in a subtle, background playing; Howe with an incredibly smooth acoustic guitar part and Jon's voice : sublime. Needless to say that the following track, &Y&I is as it has always been : great. Slower sometimes, faster some others (but that's seem to be a TM for these live renditions). It is a beautiful one.

There is not the slightest doubt in my mind : both Keys are the best live albums ever produced by Yes. They really surpass YesSongs. My only wish would have been to get "Gates" or "Heart Of The Sunrise" and skip "I've Seen". But Yes is forgiven since they offered over two hours of their most beautiful songs ever released.

Second CD is the studio one with "Mind Drive" to start with : another YesEpic (the tenth one). Acoustic intro, then a section which is cloning "Watcher Of The Skies" for about two minutes (even Yes did it) ! Jon's entry is quite rocking, but the vocal section soon turns into a nice harmony. Steve takes over with a marvelous acoustic flamenco oriented break. Then, back to Jon for a na´ve and innocent break before we get "Watcher" again. Actually the song is made of some repetitive sections and could (should) have been substantially shorter. I think they extended it to eighteen minutes for the sake of making another epic. But lenght is not all, right ? There are great HoweAcoustic work but this will never be a YesClassic. It lacks too much in powerful, emotional moments and the cloning of "Watcher" is really too obvious. It is also the last epic so far and I am afraid that Yes will never bring another one to our ears.

"Foot Prints" has some FM flavours, but still is a good YesTune : full of Howe's magical guitar as well as good vocal harmonies. With "Bring Me To The Power" Yes tries to recreate another "Roundabout" at least for the first part. The song evolves into a very slow and melodic one with very nice acoustic guitar play and the keyboards in the backgroud are beautiful. We proceed with a weak section (poor AOR) and finish with a complex YesPart. In no more than eight minutes, we have travelled into the YesRepertoire of the last twenty five years. Rather interesting excercise. The weakest track of the album is without doubt "Children Of Light" : it virtually goes nowhere for about four minutes and closes with a nice keys part. "Sign Language" is a sweet and gentle instrumental/guitar track with subtle keyboard play in the background. Not too bad but it is not the best ever thought closing number for a YesAlbum, but hey : this studio CD is good !

The studio numbers from Keys II were produced by ... Billy Sherwood (who already mixed the ones from Keys I). Four stars for the whole of it.

ZowieZiggy | 4/5 |

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