Frontier Records (label)
21 July 2014 (released)
21 July 2014
The old phrase 'you can't judge a book by its cover' has also been used to stop us from deciding whether we like an album before listening. In the old days, rifling through records or CDs was a great way to find hidden and unknown gems. But often that discovery was down to liking the cover. If you judge Yes's 21st studio album on just that, it would probably be five stars. Roger Dean is once again the man behind the design - as he has been for most of their career.
But beyond the beautiful artwork, what is there to say about a band whose musical style was decried as unfashionable and out of date by many music critics more than thirty years ago? To adopt a dismissive approach is pointless but there is probably little chance of Yes gaining a new audience with Heaven & Earth.
The band now feature the Jon Anderson soundalike Jon Davison on vocals (since 2012) - and because of this there is a nostalgic feel to the album. Grammy Award winner Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, The Cars, Guns N’ Roses, Foreigner) has been brought in for production duties, but mostly seems to apply a lighter to touch, allowing room for the band's more self-indulgent moments, but without them over-reaching.
Light of the Ages is an example of that, a track written solely by Davison. Elsewhere , fellow band members Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Alan White and Geoff Downes have writing credits across the eight tracks. The album opens with the impressive Believe Again - with a guitar refrain that reminds you of the theme from Top Gun! The Game's opening is reminiscent of Jesus Christ Superstar's rockier moments, while The Ascend's more acoustic feel is one of the album's strongest moments. It's probably not a coincidence that it's one of the shorter tracks.
Lyrically, there are references to the metaphysical (Subway Walls) and the cosmos (Light of the Ages) underlining the band's traditional fixation with things spiritual. Fans may welcome this as one of their best releases for a number of years - but it's hard to imagine the youth of today - so reliant on the quick fix and instant access - coping with tracks lasting more than eight minutes.