Heaven and Earth (2014)


  
1. Believe Again 2. The Game 3. Step Beyond 4. To Ascend 5. In a World of our Own 6. Light of the Ages 7. It Was All We Knew 8. Subway Walls

 

One of those albums that makes you ask “What in the hell actually happened here??” That might be a bit harsh. Throughout Yes’ history, they do somehow manage to put out a very bad album from time to time. With all the lineup changes and experimentations, you’re bound to strike out from time to time. Jon Davison is the new singer. He sounds an awful lot like Benoit David that only lasted one album (the last studio album, Fly From Here. David sounded kind of like Jon Anderson. So the singer really shouldn't be the problem. He does, however, have a fair share of writing credits. Being the new guy, though, this shouldn't have mattered. Unless the well was dry for all others involved.

It sounds like, for whatever reason, they’re trying for a straight up commercially sounding pop album. Again, though, that shouldn’t be a bad thing. It’s just that the songs are completely dull and uninteresting. This is one of those records where you can help but wonder why didn’t anybody closely involved during the production put a stop to this thing and prevent it from seeing the light of day? I can’t imagine anyone in the band listening to this and coming away with any sort of positive feeling whatsoever. Whatever their intentions were when they went into the recording, someone should have spoken up and said “this ain’t right”.

Ironically, superstar producer Roy Thomas Baker is at the helm of this thing. You would think someone with such a high caliber reputation could have done a better job, or at least served as an objective ear to fix this thing. Baker may seem an odd choice for Yes but, then again, so was Bruce Fairbairn and he produced the wonderful The Ladder from 1999. Maybe Baker was just doing as he was told and wasn’t allowed much input.

Even when the band sounds like they’re incorporating elements of their trademark prog-rock sound, they sound unfocused and unsure, and the tracks sound more like unfinished demos as opposed to finished product. Actually, the very last track Subway Walls isn’t that bad, but being that it’s at the end of this monstrosity kills any sort of enjoyment since one’s bowels are quite filled with bile by this point.

What made this thing even more tragic is that this would be the last studio album with founder and mainstay Chris Squire. I’m not sure if his illness was known at the time or not, but the world would lose Squire the very next year to leukemia. It was incredibly tragic that this would be his last record. He deserved so much better.

As I write this review, the band Yes has decided to carry on with Billy Sherwood as Squire’s replacement. I have no idea if there will be another Yes album, but I’m not holding my breath. They’re touring, releasing ubiquitous live albums, and putting out copycat “best of” packages, but without Squire and Jon Anderson, it’s hard for me to call this new lineup “Yes”. It was a great run. It was just sad it had to end with a release such as this.

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