Keystudio (2002)


  
1. Foot Prints 2. Be the One 3. Mind Drive 4. Bring Me to the Power 5. Sign Language 6. That, That Is 7. Children of the Light

 

A clever idea in retrospect. When Yes “reunited” with (arguably) its classic lineup (Anderson, Squire, Wakeman, Howe, and White) for a series of live shows in the mid-1990s, two albums were released back to back, 1996’s Keys To Ascension and 1997’s Keys to Ascension 2 that highlighted the key offerings from these live performances. Both of these albums contained “bonus” studio tracks. Since most diehards were probably a) more excited about the particular lineup reuniting, and b) enamored to have a new, live recording, the bonus studio cuts were a bit overlooked by many.

Well, even though the total number of bonus tracks consisted of only seven songs, these were Yessongs, so these seven tracks totaled over 70 minutes of music. So you could argue that what the band probably should have done instead is release a full length live album and thena full length studio album. Since that didn’t happen, it was fortunate that someone came up with the idea a few years later of at least resequencing the studio cuts and giving them their own album – which is what we basically have here.

Now, let’s be fair. Had they done this in the first place, it’s still highly doubtful that this thing would have burned up the charts. This was the 1990s, and bands like Yes were definitely not in high demand anymore. Still, a few listens to this release tends to make one think that it probably would have been a stronger, more recognizable addition to their calendar had they done it this way the first time around.

The songs average in length more than 10 minutes, with a couple even approaching the 20-minute mark. That can be a bit much for most, but not for the faithful Yes fan. In fact, it’s these types of songs that make the faithful yearn for the early-mid 1970s when Yes was releasing such albums as a norm. These songs definitely have the classic epic sounding trademarks. A lot of time signature changes, a lot of Steve Howe guitar (acoustic and electric), a lot of new age-ish sounding chants and instrumentation, a lot of heavy rhythm interplays between Chris Squire and Alan White, and even some Rick Wakeman sprinkled keyboard elements. The album has a little bit of everything that classic Yes is famous for, and they manage to compile all, or most of the elements together on many of the individual tracks.

Such a formula doesn’t always guarantee success nor approval from the masses. Most Yes fans will attest to a few albums in the band’s history that may have contained the above-mentioned trademarks, but still managed to produce a crappy finished project. I won’t resurrect that argument here as to what those albums might be, but such sentiments are the consensus of most. Here, however, one need not worry. Most, if not all of the songs are professionally produced and recorded, and contain all of the elements that make even the longest Yes songs sound beautiful.

For me, the only song that is a bit of a disappointment is the lead-off track Foot Prints. The chorus (or whatever) is a bit too monotonous and repeated a tad too frequently throughout nine minutes. Still, though, the musicianship more than makes up for the weak spots. In fact, it’s the musicianship on this whole album that makes the record so special. You won’t find any radio friendly tunes here (even if they somehow tried to cannibalize one of these epics into a four or five minute radio friendly edit), but that’s perfectly acceptable. These songs rival the classic Yes sound that was popular a couple of decades ago. This style wasn’t necessarily what newer incarnations of this band where necessarily trying to replicate every time out, but it’s clear this was the point here, and the record succeeds in a mighty big way.

So even though this really isn’t a “proper” release, it’s obvious that it should have been done this way from the beginning. I’m not even sure, many years later, if you can find this album anymore. Fortunately, one can still “make” their own from the original albums.

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