(All Album Reviews by Sean)
This is the second volume of the half live/half studio double (but separately originally released) album Keys To Ascension I. I mentioned in volume one's review that it's high points were the live tracks. I find volume two to be the opposite. The disc of original material is some of the catchiest 'new' Yes music that I had heard at the time. Far better than the bands actual album, released at nearly the same time, the dismal pop saturated Open Your Eyes (one last stab at Top 40? Why they bothered is what I wonder.....)
Another new epic is served up in this platter called "Mind Drive". I think this attempt at epic writing is better than the one on the first disc, "That That Is". Seems it flows better from section to section and offers up a better variety of changes in dynamics. Howe turns in some beautiful classic guitar work and one of his best (electric) solos in many years. Amazing what happens when he's given a few changes to play over that are a little hard to navigate. The result is something that does not sound like his standard "auto-pilot" soloing he too often falls back on since returning to the fold.
Wakeman turns in a couple great solos that hearken back to Tales. White and Squire are well presented in the mix and remind this listener of their Drama era sound and attitude. Apparently this piece was partially left over from the aborted XYZ (ex Yes/Zep) project in the early 80's. I'm glad it finally saw the light of day and got the full Yes treatment.
No, this piece is not on a par with the 70's works, but it's as close as they have gotten so far. It's a bit forced sounding as well in spots, due to members writing pieces alone and then culling them later with other members parts and creating a piece. I think the results are more natural when they wrote their epics together like they did in the 70's. With all that in mind, I would still recommend this tune as the best reason to get this CD. Reminds me of a cross between Drama and Going For The One.....
The other studio tracks are also good and have more energy than what's on volume one. No really new ideas are here, but lots of classic stuff is revisited. Again it seems Squire and White are in Drama mode, which is a good thing. Wakeman turns in some nice Moog work. Notice that he was added last and is there was more room for solos and atmospheric textures. These tunes obviously guitar and bass oriented with the keys added after the fact. In this case it actually works well.
The live CD is leftovers from the set featured on volume one. I am not too crazy about it. The most lethargic "Close to the Edge" on record appears here as well as the obvious cuts like "I've Seen All Good People" and "And You and I". Of note: three seldom played cuts are included- the lap steel driven "Going For The One", the lush modern day clasical "Turn of the Century" and the title track from the bands second album Time and A Word.
If you were a fan of classic 70's Yes and have not tried Keys yet, give it a try. This is the one a lot of fans had waited for, shame it was a short lived reunion.