Keys To Ascension

Unable to sleep last night I popped in the DVD of Yes’ “Keys To Ascension,” a somewhat sloppily produced concert archive of their 1996 shows that brought keyboardist Rick Wakeman back to the group. My affinity for the 1996 CD sets of “Keys” and “Keys 2” (the other half of the concerts) are strong — I have been a Yes fan since I discovered rock music. One of my strongest memories of summers at the Jersey shore was putting on WYSP 94.1 FM in Philadelphia and hearing “Close To the Edge”, side one, tracked through late at night. I was hooked. The layers of the music, the amazing guitar work of Steve Howe, even the obscure yet ever-hopeful lyrics continuously gave me something new to listen to, to listen for, or to enjoy anew.

After college, marriage, and children, my CD player saw more of “The Best of Sesame Street” rather than Howe & company. But in 1996, I bought “Keys”, and I was hooked again. Yes ascended, indeed, and I’ve re-purchased most of their catalog on CD. Each listen jostles some mellowed brain parts, and provides something to explore repeatedly. This week’s favorites include the closing section of “Wurm” from Yessongs and Steve Howe’s guitar solos on “Turn of the Century” from “Keys 2”.

But in my late-night state of half-listening, half-snoozing, I heard Wakeman’s solo on “Wurm” (from the DVD of “Keys”) differently — and for some reason, it sounded exactly like the piano solo in Cat Stevens’ “Morning Has Broken” (which is played by Rick Wakeman), with Moog replacing Steinway. Something else to ponder over break.

2 thoughts on “Keys To Ascension

  1. Scott Babb

    Yes fans unite!

    I’ve seen Yes a few times. I even made it to the Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe tour. They’re always a great show (even if I’m crammed into those medieval torture devices that pass for seating in Boston’s Orpheum.)

    Squire’s bass is always amazing. Bruford and White are both great drummers (though Bruford’s “every hit sounds exactly the same” electronic snare on the ABWH tour was tiresome.) Rabin and Howe are very different guitarists, but both incredible. HOWEVER…
    Tony Kaye is a good B3 player, but it always seemed to me that he was pushing his limits to keep up with the rest of the band. Moraz is a very good keyboardist. But Rick Wakeman… Wow!

    Wakeman always seems to be able to give each song exactly what it needs and still have plenty in reserve. I’ve read the sheet music to his “Excerpts From The Six Wives Of Henry VIII” on Yessongs and it’s unbeliveably complex. Key changes all over the place, dozens of time signature changes with very few being anything pedestrian like 4/4 or 2/4. I think I remember a switch to 7/8 (or something like that) for a single note, then a change to yet another time signature! Admittedly the song is a mish-mash of many different songs, explosions, and other sound effects, but the fact that he managed to get it down on paper is amazing in itself.

    Can you tell I’m a Wakeman fan?

    Incidently, the first dance song at my wedding was Time And A Word arranged like it’s done on the ABWH album. I played all the instruments onto a multi-track tape deck and had a fellow Sun employee (though she and I both worked for another company at the time) sing it. Sweet!

  2. Jeff Solof

    I’m a big Yes man myself, from my high school days. Up through “Going For the One”. I kind of lost track after them after that. I had the records up through that one, but never got around to replacing them with the CDs. I picked up Yes Songs just to have some of their better stuff on hand, but it’s somewhat sloppily played.

    “Close to the Edge” is my favorite; I loved Relayer too, with Patrick Moraz on keyboards. His “Story of I” album was really cool (I think Prince stole the idea of the unpronounceable symbol as proper noun from him.) Also loved Bruford on drums, though I forget which album he played on.

    Anyway, while my memory’s not much good anymore — it was way too long ago — my memories are quite good.

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