Yes - Keys To Ascension I

Year of Release: 1996
Label: BGO
Catalog Number: CMC 0607686208-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 116:16:00

There is no shortage of live Yes albums. There is 1973's Yessongs, 1980's Yesshows, the 1985 release 90125 Live: The Solos, and following a series of sold out shows recorded in San Luis Obispo, CA in 1996, we got Keys To Ascension and its follow up, Keys To Ascension II. If you have any of the three previous live releases you may be wondering why you would need either of these later live releases, and I will attempt here to tell you why, in my opinion, you should own both, and more specifically Keys To Ascension, the first of these two recent live CDs that I will review here.

As you know if you have heard Yessongs, the sound quality leaves something to be desired. On the plus side, the triple live album was long on energy and contained nearly all the material from the three preceding releases. On the minus side, Howe's guitar was a bit too distorted on most of the cuts and Wakeman's keyboards were sometimes muddy and were often buried in the mix. On the plus side for Keys To Ascension, the performances are absolutely stunning and perfectly executed, if I may throw such a term around. The sound is as good as might be expected from a studio session and the songs selected for this release are, in my opinion, among the best in Yes' repertoire.

On this release we have seven live cuts spanning the time from The Yes Album to Going For The One, and two new compositions from the band, which I will address later. The live cuts are beautifully performed and recorded and tend to favour the band's "epic" works. Of the seven live tracks, only two come in at under ten minutes and the two new studio tracks are also on the lengthy side, "Be The One" at nearly ten minutes and "That, That Is" running a whopping nineteen minutes. On the minus side, three of the live cuts here have already appeared on other live Yes releases. That said however, we have wonderful, pristine versions of some Yes classics that are not available on any other release.

Of special note are the band's performances of "The Revealing Science Of God" and another fan favourite "Awaken." One of the best reasons to pick up this double CD release is the performance of these two numbers. Musical technology has come a long way since 1978 and, with this more than any other single element, the band finally has the quality of stage and recording equipment to fully capture the sound the band members have been striving to achieve. "Awaken" runs to eighteen minutes plus, three minutes longer than the original, with a much longer center section. This somewhat ambient sounding section benefits greatly from Wakeman's newer digital keyboard arsenal, which among other things, allows him to easily recreate the eight different organ sounds that are needed to get through this keyboard heavy opus. "The Revealing Science Of God" is, in every way, far superior to the version originally released on Tales From Topographic Oceans and, again, Wakeman's keyboards benefit from modern technology, this time from the advances in digital recording gear and much better post-production mixing. Rick's Mini-Moog solos can finally be heard as they were no doubt intended to sound, and the album as a whole has a crystal clean and clear sound that only modern digital equipment can provide. Another interesting aspect of this live set is the obvious pains the band took to insure that the performances captured here were as close as possible to the original arrangements as possible. As an example, the lengthy guitar solos on "America" are virtually note for note copies of the 1972 recording. I guess that this can be looked at in two ways. You can look down your nose at these versions, saying that they are slavishly obedient to the "better" original versions, or one can appreciate these lively renditions of some classic cuts as I do, and consider them as "improved" versions of the sometimes sonically cluttered originals. All the live tracks on this release are graced with very impressive ensemble performance and the vocals in particular are very well done, with little apparent degradation of vocal tone and strength after these many years.

I wish I could speak so highly of the two new studio cuts on this release, but unfortunately there is little real meat here. Both of these tracks are entirely without inspiration and fire and the arrangements lack any memorable textures or instrumental interludes. I hate to say this, but both cuts are just plain boring. The first "Be The One" is entirely forgettable and the second, "That, That Is" is only memorable for its faults. This track is broken into seven sub-sections, ala "Close To The Edge," the second and the last of which share a common musical theme, and sandwich the other sections that have little or no musical cohesiveness. This really seems to be nothing more than seven very weak songs that musically have little if any connection to each other. The preferred method of joining them seems to be Alan's drumming, which just abruptly changes the beat to begin a new part that seems to be totally unrelated to the previous piece. The sections are really joined only by Jon's lyrics, which are actually quite transparent, something that seems a bit jarring, to me at least. Hearing Jon speak so clearly and without allusion about a topical subject is a bit un-Yes-like, but I will admit that he addresses a topic that needs to be talked about. If you are wondering what that subject may be, I'll just tell you to buy it and find out for yourself. This really is a set worth having for the live tracks alone, and if you've enjoyed the material from The Ladder or Magnification then you will surely enjoy these new compositions more than I.

Disc One: Siberian Khatru (10:16) / The Revealing Science Of God (20:31) / America (10:28) / Onward Intro : Unity (5:40) / Awaken (18:29)

Disc Two: Roundabout (8:30) / Starship Trooper: Life Seeker/Disillusion... (13:08) / Studio Tracks: Be The One: The One/Humankind/Skates (9:52) / That, That Is (19:15)

Jon Anderson - vocals, harp, guitar
Steve Howe - electric and acoustic guitars, bass, vocals
Chris Squire - bass, vocals
Rick Wakeman - keyboards
Alan White - drums, vocals

Yes (1969)
Time And A Word (1970)
The Yes Album (1971)
Fragile (1972)
Close To The Edge (1972)
Yessongs (1973)
Tales From Topographic Oceans (1974)
Relayer (1975)
Yesterdays (1975)
Going For The One (1977)
Tormato (1978)
Yesshows (1980)
Drama (1980)
Keys To The Studio (1980)
Classic Yes (1982)
90125 (1983/2004)
90125 Live - The Solos (1985)
Big Generator (1987)
Union (1989)
Yesyears (1991)
Yesstory (1991)
Greatest Hits (1993)
Highlights: The Very Best Of Yes (1993)
Talk (1994)
Affirmative: The Yes Solo Family Album (1994)
Keys To Ascension I (1996)
Keys To Ascension II (1997)
Open Your Eyes (1997)
Yes, Friends And Relatives (1998)
Beyond And Before: BBC Recordings 1969-1970 (1998)
Something's Coming (1998)
Friends & Relatives (1998)
The Ladder (1999)
Millennium Collection (1999)
House Of Yes: Live From The House Of Blues (2000)
Yes, Friends and Relatives - Volume Two (2001)
YesSymphonic (ep) (2001)
Magnification (2001)
Keystudio (ep) (2001)
3 For 1 Box Set (2001)
Original Members Of Yes (2001)
Extended Versions (2002)
Friends And Relatives: Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1 (2002)
Yestoday (2002)
In A Word (2002)
Yes Remixes (2003)
Friends And Relatives: Ultimate Collection, Vol. 2 (2003)
Roundabout: Best Of Yes Live (2003)
The Yes Story Gold (2003)
The Ultimate Yes - 35th Anniverary Collection (2004)
(Re)Union (2004)
Topography: The Yes Anthology (2004)
Inside Yes 1968-1973: A Critical Review (2004)
The Word Is Live (2005)
Live And Solo: The Collection (2006)
Greatest Hits Live (2006)
An Evening Of Yes (2006)
Yesstories: Group & Solo Tales (2006)
Essentially Yes (2006)
The Definitive Rock Collection (2007)
Roundabout & Other Hits (2006)
Live At Montreux 2003 (2007)
Works (2007)
The Best Of Yes: 1970-1987 (2007)
Symphonic Live (2009)
The BBC Recordings 1969-1970 (2009)
Introducing Yes (2009)
Wonderous Stories: The Best Of Yes (2009)
Union Live (2011)
Fly From Here (2011)
In The Present - Live From Lyon (2011)
Heaven & Earth (2014)
Songs From Tsongas (2014)
Like It Is: Yes At The Bristol Hippodrome (2014)
Progeny: Seven Shows From Seventy-Two (boxset) (2015)
Like It Is: Yes At The Mesa Arts Center (2015)

9012LIve (VHS/DVD) (1985/2005)
Greatest Hits Video (VHS/DVD) (1991/2001)
Yesyears: A Retrospective (VHS/DVD) (1991/2003)
Yes: Live - 1975 At Q.P.R. (VHS) (1993)
Live In Philadelphia 1979 (VHS/DVD) (1996/2003)
Keys To Ascension (VHS/DVD) (1997/2001/2009)
The Union Tour Live (DVD) (1999)
House Of Yes: Live From The House Of Blues (VHS/DVD) (2000)
The Best Of MusikLaden Live (VHS/DVD) (2000/2003)
Live In Amsterdam (VHS/DVD) (2002)
Symphonic Live (DVD+CD) (2003)
Yes: Special Edition EP (DVD) (2003)
YesSpeak (DVD) (2003)
YesAcoustic (DVD) (2004/2006)
35th Anniversary Concert: Songs From Tsongas (DVD) (2004)
YesSpeak - YesAcoustic - 35th Anniversary Edition (DVD) (2005)
Critical Review 1968-1973 (DVD) (2005)
Greatest Video Hits (DVD) (2005)
Inside Yes Plus Friends And Family (DVD) (2006)
Acoustic Live (DVD) (2006)
Total Rock Review (DVD) (2006)
Close To The Edge: Rock Milestones (DVD) (2007)
Live At Montreux (DVD/BR) (2007)
The Lost Broadcasts (DVD) (2009)
Rock Of The 70s (DVD) (2009)
Union Live (2011)
Live Hemel Hempstead Pavilion October 3rd 1971 (2014)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin UK

Added: July 6th 2004
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Artist website:
Hits: 997
Language: english


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