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Released: Jul 16, 2014
Genre: Progressive Rock
Label: Frontiers Records
Number Of Tracks: 8
Yes implement a hastened end product only slightly reminiscent of their earlier efforts on their twenty-first studio album, "Heaven & Earth."
Heaven & EarthFeatured review by: UG Team, on july 31, 2014 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: When it comes down to the expectations for the new studio album from progressive rock frontrunners Yes, there are more than enough factors involved to come up with a standout outcome. First and largely, the current band lineup still features veteran members Alan White on drums, bassist Chris Squire, Geoff Downes of Asia fame and guitar virtuoso Steve Howe; even more impressively, Squire remains the only remaining original member of Yes, which attributes a degree of additional authenticity to this latest incarnation.
While definitive frontman Jon Anderson previously left the band once again due to health complications, Yes have since auditioned a revolving door of lead singers. 2011's "Fly From Here" featured a formidable appearance by Canadian vocalist Benoit David, however for their latest offering the band seems determined with the appointment of previously unknown talent Jon Davidson. The present and original frontmen's forenames aren't the only qualities which could easily confuse non-diehard Yes listeners, as their singing voices could almost effortlessly be confused for one another, with Davidson's only revealing subtle notions of distinctive differences.
Incorporate the fact that well known artist Roger Dean, who most notably designed the cover artwork for the majority of the Asia and Yes studio albums, penned the design which decorates the cover of "Heaven & Earth" with the fact that the album was produced by Roy Thomas Baker, who previously worked alongside Free, Queen, and Nazareth, and what we have in front of us should be a standout compilation of strengthfully crafted progressive rock perfected down to the studio touches from a veteran producer
Instead, what we have is an inexcusably abhorrent collection of adult-oriented pop which not only fails to feature the instantly recognizable Yes sound, but also lacks the overall cohesiveness normally found alongside such a collective talent. The contrast between "Heaven & Earth" and "Fly From Here" is appalling, as most of the tenacity from their previous performance seems to have dissipated upon the introduction of an arguably more well suited lead singer at the helm. The usually embracive guitar work of Howe, even during songs where he served as the sole songwriter ("It Was All We Knew"), are largely settled around the use of volume pedals. Similarly, the usually driving bass lines and tone of Squire have been grinded down to a something which could only be described as unoriginal.
It is only during brief periods where the signature Yes chemistry makes an apparent effort to surface, such as the climatic arrangements towards the center of "Light of the Ages" or the nine-minute epic "Subway Walls." While these moments are refreshing breaths of fresh air amongst an uninspired performance, the outcome remains just that: uninspired. // 5
Lyrics: It should once again be noted that Jon Davidson is a remarkable double for Jon Anderson, and is an appropriate fit considering the circumstances. While longtime fans will almost always remain true to the voice which originally reached out through their speakers, Davidson can at least be applauded for continuing Yes. Vocally, Davidson doesn't give a poor performance on "Heaven & Earth," and instead remains true to the groundwork previously established by the founding predecessor. Unfortunately, what remains strikingly vacant are the signature vocal harmonies which originally brought melodic hooks to a new Yes studio album, and are a feature which would complement not only Davidson's admirable range, but the musical direction of this effort as well. // 6
Overall Impression: "Heaven & Earth" is one of the more questionable decisions in Yes' anthology. Surpassing the pop overtones of such classic releases as "Talk" or "The Ladder," the outcome apparent here in the actual songwriting sounds aggressively rushed. Perhaps this can be attributed towards the abbreviated time frame in which the members of Yes had in order to finish their studio sessions before embarking on their current tour of the United States. Davidson has particularly commented that their efforts were rushed in order to make the deadline, which meant compromising any complete band songwriting collaborations and placing "a big prog piece" on the backburner for a future album. Perhaps this means an authentic release will arrive sometime in the future, however despite whether or not this is the case, "Heaven & Earth" still stands as one of the most unimaginative efforts within the Yes catalog. // 5