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Yes - Heaven & Earth CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.37 | 549 ratings

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Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars In my estimation, Heaven & Earth sits comfortably alongside Tormato and Yes's eponymous debut. If you find little off-putting about Anderson's deliberately uplifting songs from The Ladder or Magnification ("It Will Be a Good Day (The River)," "If Only You Knew," "To Be Alive (Hep Yadda)," "Don't Go," "Give Love Each Day," "Soft as a Dove"), this album will be fresh and buoyant, any flaws notwithstanding. If, however, you cannot abide clichés or limitless optimism, then you can justifiably pass this one by. While it is not my custom to comment on the rating of a given album or compare it to the ratings of other albums, I'll gladly make an exception this time: Prior to the time of this review's publication, Heaven & Earth had a rating equal to Big Generator and had a lower rating than Union. Uncharitable expectations are no doubt the main culprit. Objections that Heaven & Earth is not a return to Close to the Edge don't do the objector any credit. If you insert this disc for the first time hoping to be transported back to 1973, then you have already condemned it. Such condemnation is harder to summon if you were to load the album into your mp3 player (or portable vinyl record unit for you purists), set foot outside under a gorgeous sky, and go for a walk. And for goodness' sake, smile! It will be a good day.

"Believe Again" The first listen, not of this song but of the album, was still disappointing to me. I remember thinking in the car, "Yes is playing music you can shag to!" (Note the East Carolina usage of the term, dear Brits!) Even my wife, who was with me at the time and despises Yes, made the comment that this was "nice music." Oh dear, indeed. For starters, "Believe Again" does not feel like an eight-minute track. It has a lighthearted quality that breezes by, a perfect match for the graceful and stirring vocal harmonies. Maybe calling it "progressive beach music" will be a bit much for some people (I was, after all, in St. Petersburg, Florida when I first heard it), but for me, that designation in no way lessens my enjoyment of a simple and attractive Yes song that has become my favorite one from the album.

"The Game" Although the second song threatens to bring on a darker mood musically, it stops short of doing so, elevating the listener back into the relaxed mood of before. With delightfully catchy vocal passages and unpretentious musicianship all around, this is a charming song that showcases Yes' ability to dial back on the instrumentation and allow the song to breathe and move as a lissome body.

"Step Beyond" A bubbly synthesizer and a bouncing beat reminiscent of early 1990s pop music makes "Step Beyond" sound like it crept out of a twenty-year-old time capsule, stained with the multicolored artwork of Peter Max.

"To Ascend" The lyrics manage to score a point with every other Yes-like cliché imaginable: "Eyes of a child" and "Wing and a prayer" are but two. Befitting these words are gentle acoustic major seventh chords drifting by like a cloud.

"In A World of Our Own" An unusual one in the Yes directory, this song is a cross between gritty blues and symphonic pop, something a Yes fan might find unpalatable, but really it's like a close cousin to the Electric Light Orchestra, particularly the material from Zoom.

"Light of the Ages" A series of long notes from the electrified slide guitar leads into another acoustic-based song, making this a close relation to the darker songs featured on the previous album, Fly from Here.

"It Was All We Knew" With a main melody that is sweet beyond measure and mundane musicianship (one fine guitar solo excepted), I can understand the distaste for "It Was All We Knew." It's another one that I would label beach music, a label which, may I remind the reader, is not derisive).

"Subway Walls" With a pseudo-classical introduction and an lengthy instrumental passage in an odd time signature, it would seem that Yes was attempting to court fans of their progressive rock classics with their closing number. But at its essence, this is another lighthearted song full of bright melodies and smooth harmonies. The guttural bass riff forming the structure of the verses is the main unusual element, almost not belonging. Speaking of not belonging, the segment in 15/8 feels contrived and tacked-on, even if the organ and guitar solos sound terrific, as though to lend the album some progressive "street cred." But in the year 2014, Yes does not need to demonstrate progressive rock credentials, no matter what the naysayers keep saying.

Epignosis | 3/5 |


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