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Yes Keys to Ascension (DVD) album cover
3.72 | 149 ratings | 17 reviews | 35% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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DVD/Video, released in 2000

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Siberian Khatru (10:16)
2. Close to the Edge (19:40)
3. I've Seen All Good People (7:16)
4. Time and a Word (6:23)
5. And You and I (10:48)
6. The Revealing Science of God (20:12)
7. Going for the One (4:58)
8. Turn of the Century (7:55)
9. America (10:28)
10. Onward (5:48)
11. Awaken (18:33)
12. Roundabout (8:30)
13. Starship Trooper (13:05)

Total Time 143:52

Filmed Live at the Fremont Theatre, San Luis Obispo, California on 4, 5, 6 March 1996

Line-up / Musicians

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

- Billy Sherwood / co-producer & mixing
- Steve Mitchell / DVD movie production and direction

Releases information

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

DVD Castle Music - ID9728CADVD (2000) Sound options: Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1

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YES Keys to Ascension (DVD) ratings distribution

(149 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(35%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (12%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

YES Keys to Ascension (DVD) reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars It's great that finally this live set DVD is featured in this site. It's a legendary show, I would say, at the SLO from one of the finest formation of the band (Well, quite honest, I prefer Bruford to sit in at the drum stools even though Alan White is a great drummer as well. It's probably I like the uniqueness of Bruford's snare drums).

Siberian Khatru is performed flawlessly with a high energy followed with a legendary and masterpiece song from the same title album Close To The Edge. When I watch this song performed in this DVD I could not let my mouth shut - I sung along with Jon in front of my TV while seeing wonderful keyboard work by Rick. Even though, Rick was at a bad mood as during the show he never smile - what's wrong Rick? But this song was performed stunningly! Time and A Word is performed differently and better than the original studio version.

The other interesting tune is The Revealing Science of God from Tales From Topographic Ocean. This album opener has been my all-time favorite since I heard Tales album at the first time. The band has brought this alive on stage with a stunning performance - even though, historically I knew that Rick was in opposition for the creation of Tales. I salute Rick who - despite his feeling - did a great job to complete this song wonderfully. Going For The One is also an excellent song performed energetically by the band.

My ultimate satisfaction was reached when Awaken from Going For The One album is played. Oh man . this track is wonderful, especially the keyboard solo and harps (by Jon Anderson) part in the middle and later part of the song. It's a killing part, I would say.

It's a masterpiece live set DVD - highly recommended!

Progressively yours,

GW - Review #304

Review by erik neuteboom
5 stars Unlike most progrock legends, Yes has provided their fans with many live DVD's and from all era's. Although most fans praise Live Symphonic" as their best work, I prefer this one because it contains splendid renditions of their best compositions, ranging from "Close to the edge" and Going for the one" to "Turn of the century" and "Roundabout". My highlights are the beautifully build-up "Awaken" and the grand finale of "Starship trooper" featuring a captivating duel between Wakeman his Minimoog synthesizer and Howe's electric guitar, goose bumps! The lightshow is very tasteful, it gives an intimate atmosphere. To me this is one of the best progrock dvd's that has been released until now! YES!!
Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I have revisited this DVD a few times and I have to say the setlist is excellent, ' Siberian Khatru' being a perfect opening, the music is well put together, I find the scenic interludes a bit dated though considering this was filmed in 1996, and ' The Turn Of The Century' visuals a bit of a turn off. Musically though I cannot find any fault with the music, Jon Anderson still holds that spiritual ' flower power' like prescence on stage, Squire rules supreme as usual. ' Onward' is particularly powerful and ' And You and I'. ' Starship Trooper' makes for great finale. Having always love the Yessongs live album and Yesshows to a latter degree I think I really need to get the Yessongs DVD just to see the guys strutting their stuff in their prime. They never lack for energy though and whilst there are no extras on this DVD it still is worth recommending for any ardent Yes fan.
Review by Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The KEYS TO ASCENSION DVD, compiled from a series of 1996 concerts, features flawless, energy-charged performances of almost two-and-a-half hours of terrific, vintage Yes material. Sounds good, hey?

BUT (and it's a big but) it also unfortunately contains the dumbest, hokiest video and camera effects that I've yet had the misfortune to suffer through with this new medium. I want more from a good concert DVD than good music. I also appreciate the inclusion of "extras," such as backstage footage and/or interviews, and, more importantly, I prefer the show to be filmed, if not artistically (as with Peter Gabriel's superb SECRET WORLD LIVE), then at least in an unobtrusive, straight-forward fashion (as with Steve Hackett's top-notch ONCE ABOVE A TIME). Well, there are no such extras here, and the viewing experience is all-but ruined for this long term Yes fan by oodles of extraordinarily lame, cobbled-on visual "effects" that look like they were done by a cerebrally-impaired high school kid using early eighties technology. We get dancing black dots, band members' faces in various planets, nature scenes, and WAY too much slow-motion footage. To make matters still worse, the camera operators and/or editors seem to be unfamiliar with the band's music, or even the sounds of various ordinary instruments. A blistering Steve Howe solo? That's when, likely as not, we get a close up of Chris Squire on his bass! Look, chump, if you can't tell lead guitar from bass, then pull back, and at least let me see the full band - I know who's doing what up there!

Wait - there's more bad news: call me a nit-picker, but the various "getups" and hairstyles that these Yes-men choose to appear in public in are lamentably ill-considered, and just plain embarrassing. My wife (who likes Yes' music very much, thank you) soon started giggling at the sight of Jon Anderson sporting what can only be described as a mullet, white high-tops, and what appears to be one of Elvis's old mu mus -- replete with matching white cape. Squire, meanwhile, is clad in seven-league boots (that may well have been cool for a few weeks in the early 70s), and seems to be in serious denial regarding hair loss. Then there's prog poster-boy Steve Howe, hair woefully thinned, but still determinedly, nay -- even optimistically, clinging to his ponytail, and goggling froggishly at the audience in his guise as Elrond (the resemblance is downright disturbing) from The Lord of the Rings movies. Alan White gets the muscle shirt treatment (okay - he's a sweaty, hard-working drummer) and de-rigueur mullet, but Rick Wakeman, at least, shows class, having mercifully opted out of membership in the mullet club, and ditched (or did Jon pinch it, in a fit of jealous pique?) his former trademark white cape, in favour of a tasteful jacket.

True, the musical performances absolutely can't be faulted, but if you watch this one with your wife or girlfriend, guys, steel yourself for some serious snickering from across the room!

Thus, if you only care about the music, you can't go wrong, but this is one to watch with your "eyes wide shut." Yes? More like "maybe." Nice song(s) -- shame about the video!

Review by 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.

Review by Guillermo
4 stars I have read several reviews in several websites (Prog Archives, "Notes from the Edge", which consider this DVD as not good. Particularly the reviews in "Notes from the Edge" made me to avoid to buy this DVD for several years, but now I decided to buy it and look it by myself.

While in my opinion some of the criticisms are right (some say that it looks more like an amateur video), I liked this video. I think that some of the visuals are very good (like the used in "Close to the Edge" and in other songs which used images from nature, Roger Dean YES` cover designs, and in "Turn of the Century"), and others don`t help to see the concert in a right way. Also there are some "visual effects" which are similar to the "Delicate Sound of Thunder" video from Pink Floyd, like "Slow Motion Cameras" which sometimes are good and other times aren`t. Also, there are times when the cameras weren`t focused in the musician who was playing a solo. But in general, I liked the video a lot.

The performances of the songs seem to be the same as the released in the "Keys to Ascension" CDs Vols. 1 and 2. But it was obvious to me that the versions included in the CDs and in the soudtrack of this video have some overdubs, because in the video there are parts on which Squire didn`t sing, but his voice is heard clearly as doing backing vocals for Anderson`s lead vocals! Another example is that there are voices singing "All we are give peace a chance" in "I`ve Seen All Good People" which were overdubed (Anderson, Squire and Howe are shown singing the "dit-dit-dit-"part) or played in the concerts using tapes! Anyway, a lot of live albums have overdubs or the bands use some tapes, so these are minor things.

In 1996 YES was playing with more energy than in recent years, in my opinion. Anderson and the band in general looked in better shape, and Howe moves a lot in comparison to the "Live in Montreux 2003" which I also bought recently. Every member of YES is smiling in this video and enjoying playing together.

The version of "Awaken" in this DVD is very good, in particular, being my favourite song from YES. Alan White is a very solid drummer and he plays the old songs which were originally played by Bill Bruford in his own way, even adding some arrangements which were not played by Bruford, like the tuned cymbals in one of Wakeman`s solos in "And You and I" (In the "The Preacher, the Teacher"" part). White has made those old songs as "his own songs" despite not being the original drummer in those songs. I can`t see why many people still miss Bruford. He left the band a long time ago and he doesn`t want to play with YES again, so, after more than 30 years of being YES`drummer, I think that White deserves to be considered by his own merits and without making comparisons of him with Bruford. In this DVD some camera angles of White playing the drums show clearly why he is considered by many fans as a very good drummer, one of the best in Prog Rock. A curious thing is that he is credited with "Vocals" in the back cover credits of the DVD box, but I never saw him singing backing vocals in any song.

I think that Wakeman also used some old analogue keyboards for many of his solos. Howe changes guitars in many songs like trying to play the songs as he originally recorded them in the studio. Squire used his old Rickenbacker bass in many songs as he did it in the seventies. Anderson looks happy to be playing with this "Classic Line-up" again.

In my opinion, this is a very enyojable concert DVD, very recommendable.

Review by Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Best Yes DVD Ive seen so far. Finally they have the right sound, lights and repertoire. No weak songs, no 80s stuff. Only classics and an inspired perfomance by all band members. Ok, the DVD could be a lot better in terms of production, but it is still a lot superior than Yessongs. And, besides, after 20+ years after their prime they are as talented and capable of putting a fantastic show as they were back then. Wish all singers and musicians grew old like they did!

A must have for any prog fan.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars Don't be fooled by the impressive track list. This DVD features very annoying special effects as well as very annoying editing. At the end of every song, it fades out to a black screen, and back again to the next song etc. It give you the feeling that the songs are not from the same show. The performances are not the most inspiring by the band either.

Worth having if you are a big fan like me, but not, despite the title, the place to start if you want to explore Yes. There are several much better Yes DVD's out there. House Of Yes - Live At The House Of Blues and Symphonic Live are just two examples.

Not recommended to start with

Review by tarkus1980
1 stars This here is a DVD that compiles a trio of shows that Yes did in 1996 in San Luis Obispo, CA, that functioned as a sort of "comeback special" for the band or something like that. Suffice to say that the performances, while not _stellar_, are still quite wonderful on an overall level. It's definitely my advice, if you want to hear the entire concert, to buy the albums Keys to Ascension and Keys to Ascension 2 (both discs would get 4-stars from me) and then take the live tracks and compile them in order on 2 CD-R's (it'll fit, trust me). The ordering is as follows:

Siberian Khatru

Close to the Edge

I've Seen All Good People

Time and a Word

And You and I

The Revealing Science of God

Going for the One

Turn of the Century





Starship Trooper

But you see, I'm not reviewing the music - I'm reviewing the DVD. And the DVD is plain hideous. Some blame can be attributed to the band itself, for sure - the band seems very stiff and cautious in these performances (by their standards), playing everything close to the vest as though they're afraid of what will happen otherwise. This also results in their stage movements being even more restricted than usual - Steve does occasionally show some life, but it's a sad sign when Squire isn't his usual happy-go-lucky self. Plus, Anderson is constipated to an almost hilarious degree - there's little of the goofy looseness that he would become comfortable with in subsequent years.

The main thrust of blame, though, goes to the video editors and choreographers. Simply put, this is one of the most spectacular hackjobs I have EVER seen. The main problem is this - like I said earlier, the performances are taken from three shows. Rather than just including one show's performance for each track, however, the editors decided to try and overlay all three performances into EACH TRACK. For one thing, this results in the video and audio not even being close to synching up more than a few times. There's also the fact that a common trick on the DVD is this - have a "far-off" shot of the band, with a closeup overly on top of it, only from a DIFFERENT NIGHT. This blow is made even worse by the fact that, during the pan-shots of the band, it often appears that the members are the result of poorly done claymation.

Oh, but it gets worse. See, the editors decided they wanted to make this into sort of a modern Yessongs, with "beautiful" graphic overlays and video trickery. Problem is, the effects aren't any good, and they're simply everywhere. It seems that in "Siberian Khatru," we are treated to every possible piece of studio wizardry the producers had at their disposal ... and then in the first ten minutes of "Close to the Edge" we see them all again! There's lame nature-shots, colored overlays (i.e. the whole screen turns blue or gold or whatever), random space images, whatever. All these are terribly distracting, and add nothing positive to the experience.

In short - save your money. Get Yes at the House of Blues or, better yet, Yessymphonic. I'm as hardcore a Yesfan as there comes, and it's still nearly impossible for me to watch this. I would also surmise that a newbie, were he to watch this, could be turned off to the band for ten years, it's that bad.

Review by thehallway
3 stars A promising set-list is spoiled by silly visual effects.

Yes's 'Keys to Ascension' period yielded this video release in addition to the two live and studio albums. The setting is a small theatre in California, perfectly intimate for a great recording of some classic songs. However, the cameramen rarely get particularly close to the band, the mixing has a lot to be desired (quiet drums = seemingly lazy performance!), and the post-production is some of the most annoying I have ever witnessed. Trivial video footage of trees, rivers and planets are superimposed over the band in some attempt to visualise Jon Anderson's lyrics, resulting in a blurry mess where the stage becomes difficult to find. And I've seen better close-ups of musicians on bootlegs...

Having said that, the music itself is great. All five Yesmen are playing well and adding colour to some songs that haven't been visited in a while. 'The Revealing Science of God' comes across particularly healthily, and the version of 'Starship Trooper' on this dvd is one of the best I have seen. It's therefore a great shame that this release is of such poor production quality. This is preventing me from wanting to play the dvd often, because more recent ones look and sound so much better.

This is non-essential for sure, but if it comes as a part of a 'Keys to Ascension' mega-package (as mine did), then there's no harming in having a look.

Review by Matti
4 stars Me and my darling - she's a beginner in prog - viewed this DVD last weekend (tracks 4 - 11 only), and so I thought to be the eleventh collaborator to finally review it. The opinions are rather strongly divided here, and it's easy to spot the main reason: the visual effects. They do look silly and cheap at times, I admit. They also left my companion with a false impression afterwards, ie. in doubt whether it was a real live concert all the way. Even that's understandable. However, I will place myself on the more positive side of the reception for this DVD.

This 1996 concert in San Luis Opisbo, California, was a historical one. The classic line-up of Anderson, Howe, Wakeman, Squire and White played the classic 70's material, and that only. And in my opinion they did it well. That's enough to place Keys to Ascension among the best of YES DVD's, I firmly believe. I'm familiar with many of them, not all that I have seen on sale.

Stravinsky's fanfare-like music for Firebird opens the show, and YES start powerfully with 'Siberian Khatru', followed directly by the title track of the same album, Close to the Edge. OK, there are some cut & paste material of leaves and streams, is it a problem? Not to me. The happy concert perennial 'I've Seen All Good People' has never been among my favourites and usually I skip it. But the simple early song 'Time and a Word' is given here a fantastic performance, full of beautiful art music oriented decorations from Howe and Wakeman. The visual extras are partly plain Kitsch but they fit together quite nicely with the romantic song. One thing begins to annoy a bit, though: why the concert doesn't proceed seamlessly without the black pauses in between the tracks that give the impression of uncontinuity?

'And You And I' is gorgeous, and also visually concentrating on the live performance, unlike the 20+ minute 'Revealing Science of God' during which the director is indeed often quite lost. What is that spinning thing supposed to be? Why such shaky camera? But it's nice to have the album cover (Tales From Topographic Oceans) present every now and then. 'Going for the One' (accompanied visually by downhill skiers) is among the most annoying Yes songs ever - skip! The romantic 'Turn of the Century' - which I have always loved - is accompanied by cinematic narrative that underlines the sentimental love story. That's quite OK.

'America' is surely not too often heard on Yes concerts. For us it was especially interesting as we both admire the Simon & Garfunkel original. 'Onward' is comparable to 'Time and a Word': a little kitschy visuals but overall certainly beautiful! 'Awaken' is a fantastic choice and allows Jon Anderson to play harp. I love the meditative section, so what if there are some aerial artists that have nothing to do with the song? After so much of serene and romantic prog it's very appropriate to end the massive set with 'Roundabout' and 'Starship Trooper'.

This is a cornucopia of the finest Yes music! It's up to you how much the amateurish visual extras water down the concert experience. I'm not that much bothered, and at times I even appreciate them.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Don't get me wrong, the setlist on this show was great, the performance was great, but for heavens sake when someone buys a dvd of a concert they would much rather see the concert in full detail rather than some kinda acid trip-esque...thing. I do like the music on this, and there's some grea ... (read more)

Report this review (#238481) | Posted by Mack888 | Thursday, September 10, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I did my reviewes of the cd versions...same goes here,plus you get to SEE the energy they are investing into the whole job. The mixing of the DVD is weird.It's differnet from song to song,and sometimes the audio doesn't fit with the video. But...,the tracklist and the performance is overall great ... (read more)

Report this review (#137604) | Posted by Frier_John | Monday, September 10, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars First off, the production of this DVD is terrible. The video and audio quality are decent, but half of the time Jon's vocals are out of sync, or you see Howe playing a magnificent solo but only hear basic structure lines. It's shameful of the band to release such a unrefined DVD like this. On ... (read more)

Report this review (#110469) | Posted by OGTL | Friday, February 2, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Ok, let's be honest.. it isn't the perfect dvd and don't forget this used to be a VHS-tape. That can be heard at the sound-quality too, but don't be afraid, it's absolutely not bad! I never noticed this is a combination of two sets and I really don't care either. This is a classic line-up with k ... (read more)

Report this review (#88418) | Posted by ProgRob | Tuesday, August 29, 2006 | Review Permanlink

1 stars In my opinion, this is a mess. First, the DVD is taken from 2 different shows and pasted together. It's quite obvious,when you see shots of Steve or whomever and the video doesn't match the notes! This happens throughout the whole DVD! The space effects are horrible! Ruins the whole production ... (read more)

Report this review (#88359) | Posted by | Tuesday, August 29, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I have to admit that I found it boring the shoots that were made for the Siberian Khatru performance...but the concert is just amazing...the best form Yes is compilated in this DVD...and only Yes classics...the other titles that appear in both Keys albums are missed here...but certanly you wil ... (read more)

Report this review (#35081) | Posted by Carlos | Wednesday, June 1, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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