Sunday, June 23, 2024

YES – Mirror To The Sky

One of the crosses Yes have to bear is the continual comparison of the current incarnation with the band when in their imperious phase of being seventies prog overlords. But why bother, when it’s clear they’re now two very different bands, connected only by the presence of Steve Howe, and no longer releasing the kind of epic albums which helped define a genre.

This latest album from Yes, Mirror To The Sky, again produced by Steve Howe, continues where 2021’s The Quest left off – an album which was perceived as a major improvement on 2013’s Heaven And Earth, which had many Yes fans despairing, given this was the last album to feature Chris Squire. It’s a double album and the first to feature Jay Schellen as a full-time drum man after the sad passing of Alan White. Mirror continues in the same vein, with Steve Howe claiming this to be a very important album for the band as “it’s demonstrative of us growing and building again, as Yes did in the 70’s from one album to another.” They’ve used the time granted by the pandemic, causing an inability to tour, to continue working on material left over in the studio after The Quest was finished. As bassman, Billy Sherwood says “there was no defined break between albums, we just continued to work on material.”

Certainly, this is a slightly more commercial album. These nine new songs are a varied collection of lush, layered pieces and feature many of the factors which have always been part of the essential essence of Yes, such as exquisite vocal harmonies, top drawer musical ability and a determination not to be confined. ‘All Connected’ has been released as a single and is a nine-minute romp with some stellar playing, a rich vocal tapestry of harmonies and lovely guitar work from Steve Howe, whose exquisite guitar work is a prominent feature all through. ‘Cut From The Stars’, also a single, arose out of Jon Davison’s visit to the Dark Sky Preserve at the Joshua Tree National Park and is one of the better Yes songs for quite some while. As good as both these tracks are, though, they’re unlikely to feature on the radio as between them they run for fifteen minutes. Shorter, more commercial pieces like ‘Living Out Their Dreams’ or ‘One Second Is Enough‘ would probably have been better choices. Or maybe ‘Circle Of Time’, which is almost a love song ..the sooner I’ll be at your door to be by your loving side.  As is ‘Magic Potion’ (no, not the psych classic!) which claims, ‘love is the magic potion.’

However, true to their heritage, Yes include a couple of lengthier pieces, notably the title track ‘Mirror To The Sky’, a tad under fourteen minutes, which sees the band attempting to reconnect with their more complex pieces from earlier albums with some quite adventurous playing and some understated orchestral backing. Luminosity also runs to nine minutes and like most of their longer pieces, there’s lots going on below the surface, including some quite lovely guitar work from Steve Howe.

For all the fan arguments about whether there’s still a place for Yes in the current prog milieu, overall there’s no doubt this is probably as good an album as could reasonably have been expected, and a stronger album than The Quest. Yes are no longer the band of Anderson, Squire and Wakeman and they should be judged on their contemporary merit, rather than against Topographic Oceans.   

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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One of the crosses Yes have to bear is the continual comparison of the current incarnation with the band when in their imperious phase of being seventies prog overlords. But why bother, when it’s clear they’re now two very different bands, connected only by...YES - Mirror To The Sky