Album review: YES – The Ladder, Open Your Eyes

YES - The Ladder

YES The Ladder (Collector’s Edition CD, Gatefold Digipack)

EarMUSIC/Edel [Release date 20.03.20]

How much was producer, Bruce Fairbairn responsible for the the band’s return to creative form on 1999′s “The Ladder”? Considering that his path through the nineties was littered with hugely successful albums by Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Van Halen and others, it’s a bit of a no-brainer.

“The Ladder” is the first of two more reissues on the EarMUSIC Classics’ imprint.

Every band who’ve worked with Fairbairn credit him him with being an integral part of their recording success. One, as a producer who is a lightning rod for great ideas, and two, as a studio technician who gives their music scope and scale, frequently to a degree that perhaps they had never conceived of. On “The Ladder” he crafts a slick yet spontaneous and deliciously soulful sound, one that often challenged the orthodoxy of the band’s traditional approach.

Two of the key singles, reluctantly peeled from the whole, tell you all you need to know. ‘Homeworld’, a gutsy rock song, with a memorable melody and poppy hook, adorned by the usual bells and whistles, has a real world urbanity of tone, and lacks the artificiality of much of the band’s more recent output at that point.

The blending of light touch ethnic instrumentation and choral forces with rock elements on ‘Lightning Strikes’ leans largely on the contribution of guest musician Randy Raine-Reusch, who scoured Egypt for the right stuff, at Fairbairn’s request. Both tracks are perfect examples of artist and producer sparking off each other.  ***1/2

YES - Open Your Eyes

YES Open Your Eyes (Collector’s Edition CD, Gatefold Digipack)

EarMUSIC/Edel [Release date 20.03.20]

Two years earlier, the band had sucked some disruptive situations into their slipstream, frequently complicating the concept of the band, potentially losing them fans and traction. Enter multi instrumentalist and singer, Billy (World Trade) Sherwood, who had already played with the band. They knew him well. Also a skilled and talented songwriter, Sherwood successfully shopped his material to the band members and a new album was quickly assembled.

It was unarguably among the most commercially inclined, accessible material the band had committed to disc. They spun off two singles. Bristling with vocal and instrumental ideas, the dynamic power and restraint of the ironically titled ‘New State Of Mind’ is something to behold.

The second single release, the emotionally intense, ferociously percussive title track has a cute, catchy chorus which somehow seems to fit, and has a contemporary, get-yourself-informed message. It troubled the USA’s Billboard Top Forty and got the band back into focus with Progrock fans.  ***1/2

Both of these landmark Yes albums will be reissued by the EarMUSIC Classics label later this month in Deluxe Digipak editions.

Review by Brian McGowan

In his show broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 10 May David Randall played a further selection of artists and albums included in the new Features series, “2020 Vision”.

Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
Click the appropriate icons at the top of the page.

Featured Albums w/c 25 May (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 FM Synchronized (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 THE ROCKET DOLLS The Art Of Disconnect (indie)
14:00-16:00 BEN KUNDER Searching For The Stranger (indie)

Power Plays w/c 11 May (Mon-Fri)

THE MERCY KILLS Alone (Golden Robot Records)
DEAD REYNOLDS By Your Side (indie)
THE JAILBIRDS Watery Grave (Golden Robot Records)
ALI MASS & MICKY MOODY These Times (Last Man Music)
MASSIVE WAGONS Bangin In Your Stereo (Earache)
UDO We Are One (AFM Records)

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