Coming to review a new Yes album is like coming to the holy grail of melodic progressive rock. What do you say about about one of the seminal and most prolific classic prog bands that hasn't been said before? Critique isn't really necessary, description or observation more apropos.
Heaven & Earth is the band's 21st studio album, and the first with new vocalist Jon Davison (Glass Hammer), having replaced Benoit David in 2012. If you're wondering if he sounds like Jon Anderson, he does have that vocal timbre to sound like he's the vocalist for Yes. I was never a large fan of Anderson or the Yes vocal style. You know that phrase, 'He throws a ball like a girl'? Well, generally, I always thought, any Yes vocalist had to 'sing like a girl'. But I get the relationship between the vocal style and the music, so it fits and also makes Yes a bit unique as well.
But Davison has a pleasing smooth style that fits. He also brings significant writing skills to the band, writing most of the lyrics, and collaborating with all members for the the musical arrangements. The result, unlike 2011's Fly From Here, Heaven & Earth is an album of completely new material. And the music sounds like Yes, though likely less progressive rock and more AOR melodic rock. It's not that there isn't technical intrigue, but this is not anything near the art rock experimentation of the early years. It's more like laid back easy listening prog rock that doesn't sound like prog rock. Also, while there are some longer songs, there's none of those mammoth arrangements that swelled some many of their classic album. However, according to interviews, Davison and Downes did have one of those large prog tunes at the ready. Perhaps for the next album?
What is curious, but not unexpected, is the several songs, including In A World of Our Own and It Was All We Knew, that effortlessly blend prog rock with almost pop accessibility. Of the longer pieces, Yes develops their symphonic side with both Believe Again and Subway Wall. The latter song is likely the one song closest to strict progressive rock, and also has some more of Howe recent rock fusion guitar work. In the end, Heaven & Earth is familiar and entertaining territory which will easily please Yes fans and those simply fond of classic melodic progressive rock. Easily recommended.
Heaven & Earth is familiar and entertaining territory which will easily please Yes fans and those simply fond of classic melodic progressive rock. Easily recommended.
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