Yes’ ‘Heaven and Earth’ disappoints

I’m a Yes fan. I have all the albums and saw them live in 1988, 1991, 1994, 1998 and 2004. I think the three-album run of “The Yes Album,” “Fragile” and “Close to the Edge” in the early 70s is the single greatest run of any band ever.

The band has a new album out called “Heaven and Earth,” and… well… it’s just not very good. And that’s even with the bar set at “hey, the old guys have made a new album” level. (2009’s “Fly From Here” was better.)

Some of the blame lies with the new guy, Jon Davison, since he co-wrote many of the songs. While he does sound eerily like Yes’ classic lead singer, it’s more like a tentative Jon Anderson, as if Anderson was suddenly a little embarrassed to be in front of a microphone.

The songs are listless, lifeless and, even though most are shorter than Yes’ classic works, seem needlessly long. They never rise above a bored kind of midtempo “hey we’re just laying down the demo” vibe. In fact, they sound like the outtakes plastered across the Rhino reissues a few years back.

Producer Roy Thomas Baker apparently opted for a more “live” studio feel, but the guitar solos, drumming and bass work all sound like the band intended to come back later and record it “for real.” Geoff Downes on the keyboards doesn’t seem too interested in providing much more than background filler. And the classic core of Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White are obviously sleepwalking through the sessions. Howe’s solos sound like he just did one take and called it a day.

I had heard that production work in L.A. was rushed as the band was hard up against some scheduled tour dates… It makes me wonder if the reason this album sounds so unfinished is because it’s, well, unfinished.

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