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Design By Humans
Published On: Fri, Aug 15th, 2014

YES: Heaven & Earth

heaven & earthYes
Heaven & Earth
Frontiers Records

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Yes has been reborn – as Starcastle.

Heaven & Earth marks the debut of another Jon (Davison) who takes over for Benoit David, who took over for the original Jon (Anderson). Got it? Davison’s singing style resembles Anderson’s, but if you’re waiting for the original Jon’s return, you’re missing out on some interesting music.

Yes doesn’t rock as much as they sway now, often resembling the groups they inspired, such as Asia, Druid and the aforementioned Starcastle. The fascinating but sometimes incongruous riffs and confounding cosmic poetry are gone, replaced by balanced melodies and more accessible lyrics.

The group’s strength now lies in the vocal interplay between Davison, bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Steve Howe. “Step Beyond” is a prime example, with giddy, poppy vocals, and quirky syncopated synths provided by keyboardist Geoff Downes. The triple harmonies buoy the breezy “It Was All We Knew,” and provide a leisurely counterpoint to Downes’ eddying keys in “Believe Again.”

Howe solos with surprising restraint throughout, playing fluid passages instead of riffing in his usual attack dog style. His background work and Squire’s buoyant bass balance Downes’ light-fingered soloing on “Light of Ages.”
Yes fans discouraged by bands play-it-safe approach can look to the lengthy “Subway Walls,” which bounces along like a tube train and owes its Bolshoi ballet flavor to Downes’ elegant keyboard playing.

The biggest problem is Roy Thomas Baker’s indifferent production. Two of the most essential parts of the group’s sound – Squire’s booming bass and Alan White’s didactic drumming – are often muffled to the point of extinction.

Yes’ latest will never be confused with classics like Close to the Edge or Fragile, but it’s not as elephantine as Tales From Topographic Oceans. It’s alternately amazing, average or awful – somewhere between heaven and earth.

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YES: Heaven & Earth