Heaven & Earth Adds Nothing to Yes’ Legacy

Yes’ impressive career spans over 45 years and 20 studio albums, and their sound is nothing short of original. The British band’s progressive rock sound and intricate instrumentals changed rock music forever and influenced notable bands such as Rush and Dream Theater. With that kind of legacy, it can be difficult to constantly improve with each album, and unfortunately Yes’ twenty-first studio effort Heaven & Earth does not live up to the hype.

In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, long-time guitarist Steve Howe explains the inspiration behind the title: “I approved the title Heaven & Earth because basically it sums up the dualistic quality of the known and unknown and the more you look at the known the more you see that there’s even more unknown then you knew before.”

The album, which will be released on July 22, is the first album with new singer Jon Davison. While Davison hits the astounding high notes Yes is known for with their original singer Jon Anderson, he lacks the texture and depth Anderson carried. The fourth track “To Ascend”, a nostalgic ballad, best showcases Davison’s voice and harmonies with the band.

As expected, the instrumentals sound tight and most tracks feature a long instrumental solo, especially “Light Of The Ages” and “Subway Walls”. Unfortunately, the spacey instrumentals are overshadowed by cliché and gospel-ish lyrics that pale in comparison to Yes’ earlier material. In “The Game”, Davison sings, Our lives, the end will validate/ It’s more to do than to say/ What we gave along the way. “Step Beyond” sounds like something straight from a motivational speaker: We settle for small, blind identity/ Forgetting all that we truly are/ Get up off that shelf /Make the bold, the brave leap/ outside yourself.

Heaven & Earth retains Yes’ traditionally progressive sound, but does not experiment enough to add anything significant to their repertoire. Nothing stands out, and its generic sound suggests that it’s a Yes cover band album. Maybe it was wishful thinking to expect something like Close to the Edge, but Heaven & Earth did not even come close.

1 Comment

  1. Darlene Steelman

    July 18, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Wow! I have never been a big YES fan, but I was pretty shocked to read a slightly unfavorable review.

    I think a lot of older bands are a little terrified to go outside the realm of ‘what fans are used to’ because they catch a lot of crap for not ‘sticking with their roots.’

    Nice review.

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