English progressive rock band Yes were formed in 1968 by singer Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire – who sadly passed away on 27 June this year from Acute erythroid leukemia, having only been diagnosed in May.
Numerous line-up changes have occurred during the band’s career with the most recent recording line-up, for 2014’s “Heaven & Earth”, comprising Squire together with on/off guitarist Steve Howe (a member of Yes from 1970-1981, 1990-1992, 1995 to date), drummer Alan White (band member from 1972 to date), keyboardist Geoff Downes (band member from 1980-1981, 2011 to date) and vocalist Jon Davison (band member from 2012 to present, also a member of Glass Hammer).
“Heaven & Hell” was released in July 2014. Since that album the band released “Like It Is – At The Bristol Hippodrome” in December 2014, a double album consisting of live performances of two of the band’s classic records – namely 1977’s “Going For The One” and 1971’s “The Yes Album”.
Now, in July 2015 comes another double live album, again recorded on the band’s 2014 world tour, this time under the title “Like It Is – At The Mesa Arts Center” and featuring performances of a further two classic records – 1972’s “Close To The Edge” and “Fragile”, which was their second release of 1971.
Starting the album with the classic nineteen minute title track from “Close To The Edge” means that we are immersed in total progressive rock territory from the off. It’s been said that Jon Davison has breathed new life into the band since he replaced the short-lived Benoît David as vocalist, and I would say that is certainly true to my ears.
Whilst I enjoyed 2011’s “Fly From Here” I did find “Heaven & Earth” to be a more enjoyable album and both “Like It Is…” albums are very good recordings.
If you like classic Yes then I would be very surprised if you didn’t enjoy this new release – although I do understand that for some folks Yes isn’t Yes without Jon Anderson’s distinctive vocals.
“Close To The Edge” is rightly considered a highlight in the band’s catalogue, but it was the previous album, “Fragile”, that was their breakthrough record. “Fragile” began with the unlikely hit single “Roundabout” (edited from 8:29 down to 3:27 it reached number 13 in the US, the group’s highest charting single until 1983’s “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”), alongside three other group performances – for “South Side Of The Sky”, the classic “Long Distance Runaround” and “Heart Of The Sunrise”.
The remaining tracks were showcases for the five then-members of the band – “Cans And Brahms” for keyboardist Rick Wakeman, Anderson’s “We Have Heaven”, drummer Bill Bruford’s “Five Per Cent For Nothing”, Squire’s “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)” and Howe’s “Mood For A Day”. The current respective members take Wakeman, Anderson and Bruford’s roles here with aplomb.
The eleven minute plus “Heart Of The Sunrise”, a progressive tour de force that combines sections in the time signatures of 6/8, 3/4, 4/4, 5/8 and 9/8, is the undoubted highlight of both the original 1971 album and the second disc of this new live release.
The performances here of both albums don’t sound as if they come from a band that’s been around (albeit with differing personnel) for nearly fifty years – this is a great recording of a band who are rightly considered giants of the genre, and a fitting tribute to the talent and longevity of the late Mr. Squire. A recommended addition to your collection…
1. Close To The Edge (I. The Solid Time Of Change / II. Total Mass Retain / III. I Get Up, I Get Down / IV. Seasons Of Man) / 2. And You And I (I. Cord Of Life / II. Eclipse / III. The Preacher, The Teacher / IV. Apocalypse) / 3. Siberian Khatru / 4. Roundabout / 5. Cans And Brahms / 6. We Have Heaven / 7. South Side Of The Sky / 8. Five Per Cent For Nothing / 9. Long Distance Runaround / 10. The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus) / 11. Mood For A Day / 12. Heart Of The Sunrise