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Keys to Ascension 2
, Album Rock
, Contemporary Pop/Rock
, British Psychedelia
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This two-CD set is that odd musical griffin: a live disc plus a studio disc. While the live material is rendered well, it's dispiriting that two of Yes' three live albums of the '90s rehash material adequately covered in Yessongs and Yesshows. While the appearance of Steve Howe's classical guitar on the lovely "Turn of the Century" is a pleasant surprise, the rest of the live album is nothing that you haven't heard before. The studio disc, at least, is a welcome return to form for the band. It opens with the epic "Mind Drive," a multi-movement suite strongly reminiscent of early Yes; the song's closing instrumental sounds straight out of Tales from Topographic Oceans. Wakeman's parts were overdubbed last here, and it shows: the keyboards are solely for atmospheric effect, ceding the melodic drive to the bass and guitar. Not that Wakeman's presence goes to waste; structured around a "Heart of the Sunrise"-like bass riff, "Bring Me to the Power" gallops through muscular Moog solos and equally slick harmonies. Like the rest of the studio tracks, it's a perfect blend of vintage art rock craftsmanship and gleaming modern production. ~ Paul Collins