Yes — Heaven and Earth
(Frontiers Records , 2014, CD)
by Jeff Melton, 2014-07-31:
Yes’s first album with Jon Davison can be viewed as both a happy blessing and a saddled curse. The band’s second set of recordings with their fourth lead singer on paper reads like a disappointing recipe for disaster but instead serves as a basis for careful re-invention (a key element to any incarnation of the band). Songwriting and arrangements have been at the core of Yes’s success, and this set is surprisingly strong, if a bit safe. Having Roy Thomas Baker producing brought in a strong pop rock and an AOR radio friendly perspective from his varied and vast resume including the Cars, Queen, Journey, and the Smashing Pumpkins. Vocally the album is a juxtaposition of classic Yes harmonies, especially with Chris’s trademark singing. And Davison’s voice is a much better fit for the band than Benoit David since his range is wider and also his spiritual nature spills out favorably in lyrical contributions to songs such as “To Ascend” and the album opener “Believe Again.” His own song, “Light of the Age,” is perhaps the best composition on the album and certain to be a strong live track (along with “Subway Walls”). The only tune I have trouble with is “In a World All Our Own,” which comes off pedestrian and seems better suited for Asia than Yes; "cooking at home" is simply not a Yes lyric. Steve Howe is also pretty sedate across the disc preferring to play in service of the songs rather than stepping out of the shadows. Overall it’s Billy Sherwood’s mix that makes this recording a legitimate-sounding Yes record and one hardcore fans can dig into. Whatever you do, play it loud.
by Paul Hightower, 2014-08-08:
Yes’s first album of the post-Jon Anderson era, 2010’s Fly from Here, was a strong effort even if large chunks were based on leftovers from the early 80s. Singer Benoit David was replaced in 2012 by Jon Davison, and two years of fruitful touring encouraged Yes to return to the studio, this time under the producing helm of Roy Thomas Baker (a familiar name from the ill-fated 1979 Paris sessions). After having toured classic albums like Close to the Edge, hopes were high that fans might get the return to progressive form they had waited for. Sadly, this is not that album. Sparks of the mighty Yes of old appear in songs like “Believe Again,” “Light of the Ages,” and the mini-epic “Subway Walls,” though most surprising are the spiritual parallels between Davison and Anderson that inform much of the lyrics and explain the sunny vibe that runs through much of the collection. This also helps explain why Davison is a more convincing stage replacement for Anderson, and handing the songwriting keys over to the new guy was a gesture of immense trust on the part of the Old Guard. But whatever fire in the belly and creative genius that produced those 70s classics appears to be long gone, and Squire, Howe, and White seem content on riding their legacy into the sunset without having to prove themselves again. I suppose this is better than nothing, though the nagging sense that these guys can do better is hard to shake.
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