Ranking the Discography: R.E.M. Part II: Reckoning (1984)

Like their debut, Reckoning was produced by Mitch Easter and Don Dixon. They intended to capture R.E.M.’s live sound and used binaural recording. The album was recorded faster than usual in order to prevent meddling from I.R.S. to make the album “more commercial”. The album had two singles, and reached #27 in the US and #91 in the UK, and reached Gold status. Many of the songs have watery imagery.

The Tracks:

  1. “Harborcoat”: the album starts with a frenetic-paced opener with some good vocals from Berry and Stipe.
  2. “7 Chinese Brothers”: This song was inspired by The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Hutchet Bishop, in which five boys have special powers. One of which is capable of swallowing the ocean. I like the drumming and guitar work.
  3. “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)”: I’ve watched the video for this song, and it is so weird to see how Stipe looked when the band was starting out. I like the somber feel of the main riff. This is Thom Yorke’s favorite R.E M. song, and one of mine too.
  4. “Pretty Persuasion”: Another one of my favorites. The guitar hits hard and there’s a good rhythm. I think it’s the best song on the album.
  5. “Time After Time (Annelise)”: Another nice somber track with some good bass.
  6. “Second Guessing “: A decent guitar on this one.
  7. “Letter Never Sent”: This has a good rhythm to it.
  8. “Camera”: This is about a friend who died in a car crash. It’s probably one of the darkest songs on the album.
  9. “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville”: This was written by Mills as a plea to his girlfriend not to return to Rockville, a town in Maryland. In fact, sometimes Mike Mills would sing the lead vocals instead of Stipe. It has a good piano solo. It was later covered by 10,000 Maniavs
  10. “Little America”: Not a good closer, but not bad.

Final Verdict: This is a rushed follow-up, and although I like Murmur better, it’s not a sophomore slump.

Grade: B


Ranking the Discography: R.E.M. Part I: Murmur

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of their debut album Murmur, I’ll be ranking R.E.M.’s discography. (Since I don’t normally include EP’s, I’m skipping Chronic Town.)

R.E.M. was formed in 1980 when the four members were students at the University of Georgia. Peter Buck met Michael Stipe in Wuxtry Records, where Buck worked. They discovered they had similar tastes in music, and met Mike Mills through a mutual friend. After their first gig, they brainstormed such names as Cans of Piss and Twisted Kites, before Stipe suggested R.E.M. after a dictionary search. After dropping out of school, they eventually recorded Chronic Town, their debut EP, with Mitch Easter. They signed a deal with I.R.S. Records, and then began work on the full-length debut.

Murmur has received several accolades. It’s in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, and it’s on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums list, at #165. Rolling Stone also listed it at #18 on their Best Debut Albums of All Time list. It had two singles.


Michael Stipe: vocals

Peter Buck: guitars

Mike Mills: bass, backing vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, vibraphone

Bill Berry: drums, backing vocals, percussion, bass guitar, piano

The Tracks:

  1. “Radio Free Europe”: Stipe has admitted that this song was intended not to be understood, and the title was purely selected for its appeal. It’s taken a long time to grow on me.
  2. “Pilgrimage”: I like the vibraphone and bass on this track. The rhythm is nice.
  3. “Laughing”: the guitars and vocals are good on this.
  4. “Talk About the Passion”: this song is about the plight of homelessness. The bass and backing vocals are great.
  5. “Moral Kiosk”: This is one of the few songs that don’t work for me.
  6. “Perfect Circle”: this song was written by Berry and has some great instruments. I like the longing sense of the lyrics.
  7. “Catapult”: I like the bouncy feel of this track.
  8. “Sitting Still”: This has a more traditional feel to it, with a very good mix of folk and punk.
  9. “9-9”: I’ve never been able to get this song.
  10. “Shaking Through “: This has some good energy to it.
  11. “We Walk”: This has a good rhythm to it.
  12. “West of the Fields”: This has a good fast pace.

Final Verdict: When I first listened to this album, it didn’t grab me. Several years later with repeated listens, I’ve come to accept its charm. It’s not an accessible album at first, but give it a listen. It does deserve its many accolades.

Grade: A-

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part XXI: The Quest (2021)

With The Quest, we have a Ship of Theseus situation: it’s the first album with no original members. This is the first album to feature Billy Sherwood since The Ladder. This is also sadly Alan White’s finale (his replacement, Jay Schellen, is one of the guest musicians). The album had 3 singles.


Jon Davison: lead vocals, guitar on track 6

Steve Howe: guitars, mandolin, koto, autoharp, vocals

Billy Sherwood: bass, piano (track 3), keyboards and acoustic guitar (track 5), vocals

Geoff Downes: piano, Hammond organ, synthesizers, Mellotron, and piano

Alan White: drums

The Tracks:

  1. “The Ice Bridge”: Now, this is how you start an album! We have some excellent keyboards reminiscent of “Fanfare For the Common Man” and a cool guitar and bass ensemble. It feels like the kind of song that should have been on the 80’s Yes albums, but in a good way.
  2. “Dare to Know”: This feels like it was left off Magnification, with a beautiful orchestra.
  3. “Minus the Man”: The lyrics aren’t working for me, but I like the instrumentation.
  4. “Leave Well Alone”: This has Howe playing a koto and some sweet rhythm.
  5. “The Western Edge”: I’m not keen on Sherwood’s vocals on this one, but the rest of the song is good.
  6. “Future Memories”: This has a good bassline.
  7. “Music to My Ears”: This one has some great guitar and piano parts.
  8. “A Living Island “: This song was inspired by the pandemic while Davison was on lockdown in Barbados. It’s got some of the best guitar work on the album. The keys come in nice, and there’s some great rhythm too.
  9. “Sister Sleeping Soul”: The guitar and vocals are pretty good on this, but it’s missing a bassline.
  10. “Mystery Tour”: This is a tribute to The Beatles, and to be honest, it’s kind of lame. Good thing it’s the shortest song on the album.
  11. “Damaged World”: I appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t like the vocals on this.

Final Verdict: I don’t know what the critics were listening to, because I enjoyed this album. It had some flaws, but it’s not bad at all.

Grade: B+

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part XX: Heaven & Earth (2014)

With Benoît David fired from Yes due to his respiratory issues, Yes had no vocalist. The late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins recommended Jon Davison, who would begin his tenure as vocalist with this album. It would also be the last album for Chris Squire, as he died of leukemia a year later. This album is not on Spotify.


Jon Davison: vocals

Steve Howe: guitars

Chris Squire: bass

Geoff Downes: keyboards

Alan White: drums

The Tracks:

  1. “Believe Again”: One of the good things about Davison is that his vocals sound very similar to Anderson. The guitars sound nice, but it kind of falls apart during the choruses.
  2. “The Game”: There’s some excellent guitar and keyboards on this, but the rhythm sounds basic.
  3. “Step Beyond”: There’s some unnecessary layering on the vocals during the verses, and the keyboards sound awful. Things slightly pick up during the chorus, but not enough to save the song.
  4. “To Ascend”: This song isn’t excellent, but it’s better than the songs that led up to it. The guitars and keys sound cool, and the rhythm is better as well.
  5. “In a World of Our Own “: The keys and guitar sound great on this, although White still doesn’t quite sound good.
  6. “Light of the Ages”: This is the best song on the album, with some excellent guitar and bass. The rhythm is better than it’s been up until now.
  7. “It Was All We Knew”: The guitar on this is all right, but Downes’ keyboards sound a little strange.
  8. “Subway Walls”: Squire’s bass is excellent on this, making me wonder what he’s been doing this whole album. It’s a good song overall, but not enough to save the album.

Final Verdict: This album is a real disappointment, and I was hoping I’d enjoy it. While Davison sounds like a good fit, the bass and rhythm is overall lackluster.

Grade: D

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part XIX: Fly From Here (2011)

Fly From Here was the first album without Jon Anderson since Drama. It instead features Benoît David on vocals, and Rick Wakeman’s son Oliver Wakeman. (This is their only album with Yes). David was previously in a band called Mystery, and was also a member of a Yes tribute band called Gaia (later renamed Close to the Edge). Jon Anderson was diagnosed with acute respiratory failure. Squire had seen videos of Close to the Edge on YouTube, and saw how closely David resembled Anderson’s vocals. Rick Wakeman was unable to participate, so he recommended his son instead. Trevor Horn, who had produced for Yes during the 80’s, gave David guide vocals to follow. Halfway through the recording, Oliver was replaced by Geoff Downes. Wakeman left with his tracks, which he included on his album Cultural Vandals. David also had respiratory issues of his own. Squire was unsympathetic towards him, and he was replaced by Jon Davison, who would eventually become a permanent vocalist.

In 2016, a new version of Fly From Here was released, called Fly From Here–Return Trip, this time featuring Trevor Horn on vocals. The original version of the album is no longer available for streaming, however I was able to find it on YouTube. Although I listened to both, I prefer David’s vocals to Horn’s, so I’ll be reviewing the original instead.


Benoît David: vocals

Steve Howe: guitars, backing vocals

Chris Squire: bass, backing vocals, lead vocals on “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be”

Geoff Downes: keyboards

Oliver Wakeman: additional keyboards on both versions of “We Can Fly”, “Hour of Need”, and “Into the Storm”

Alan White: drums

The Tracks:

  1. “Fly From Here: Overture”: The opening to the 6-part suite starts with some very sharp pianos and crunchy guitars and some pumped drumming.
  2. “Fly From Here, Part I: We Can Fly”: This is where we first hear David’s vocals, and they sound somewhat similar to Anderson. The overall sound reminds me of Drama.
  3. “Fly From Here, Part II: Sad Night at the Airfield”: The song shifts to a somber tone. I like the piano and chorus, but the guitar feels wrong, as if it doesn’t match the production.
  4. “Fly From Here, Part III: Madman at the Screens”: The melody from the overture resumes, and I kinda like how the band mixes the sounds.
  5. “Fly From Here, Part IV: Bumpy Ride”: Bumpy is a good name for this interlude. It’s got kind of a messy feel.
  6. “Fly From Here, Part V: We Can Fly (Reprise)”: The reprise has a faster tempo with the piano and drums. I wanted to like this suite because I like Yes’s suites a lot. But the song was all over in the place, especially in the middle sections.
  7. “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be”: This has some good melodies on the guitar, but feels kind of simplistic compared to the suite.
  8. “Life on a Film Set”: This song goes back and forth, particularly in the middle. This was one of the best songs.
  9. “Hour of Need”: The album continues to show some late improvement, with some good variation on rhythms from the bass and keyboards.
  10. “Solitaire”: Howe flies solo on this and shows off some nice solos, providing a good interlude before we get to the closer.
  11. “Into the Storm”: The closing song has a steady beat, ending the album on a high note.

Final Verdict: This album was all over the place, and not in a good way. There isn’t much synergy, and as much as I tried, I felt this album was overall average. I do feel that David was done dirty because his version is much better than Horn’s, and you won’t find that version on Spotify.

Grade: C

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part XVIII: Magnification (2001)

During the tour for The Ladder, Igor Khoroshev became repeatedly involved with female security guards, leading to misdemeanor charges. This caused him to be fired from the band, and they were once again without a keyboardist. After an online vote, they chose conductor and longtime Yes fan Larry Groupé. The album was produced by Tim Weidner, and orchestral arrangements were recorded by the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. The cover was designed by Bob Cesca, although it still retained the iconic logo. This was the first time since Time and a Word that an orchestra was used. The album charted at #71 in the UK and #186 in the US. This was the last album to feature Jon Anderson. It was also their first album to be recorded digitally, using Pro Tools.


Jon Anderson: lead vocals, MIDI guitar

Steve Howe: acoustic and electric guitars, pedal steel guitar, backing vocals

Chris Squire: bass, lead vocals on “Can You Imagine”, backing vocals

Alan White: drums, percussion, acoustic piano

The Tracks:

  1. “Magnification”: the title track starts with light and airy guitars, then a rumbling bass before the wood winds and percussion kick in. We hear some beautiful violins throughout the song. The song has great energy.
  2. “Spirit of Survival”:’The song starts with isolated vocals, before some acoustic layers. This is followed by a great bass and drum beat before the song enters full swing. The violins are a beautiful effect, with a great guitar solo at the end.
  3. “Don’t Go”: This has a bouncy feel as the guitars and violins play off each other.
  4. “Give Love Each Day”: This song has a great dramatic violin section before Anderson starts singing. There are gentle chords that build to a powerful chorus.
  5. “Can You Imagine”: This is the only song sung by Chris Squire, with Anderson on backing vocals. Despite this being such a short song, it still has time for some good vocals and guitar, with some nice violins and piano.
  6. “We Agree”: This has an intricate acoustic melody, with subdued vocals that allow the violins and percussion more presence. It has some nice production.
  7. “Soft as a Dove”: This has some nice wood winds at the start, before violins carry the song into a strong midsection.
  8. “Dreamtime”: The violins give this a very dreamy feel, with some nice dramatic ambience.
  9. “In the Presence of”: This suite starts with some beautiful vocals, building into White’s drums. The opening calms down after Howe has an excellent solo, then we get another beautiful melody. The song shifts to a slower tempo, but with an intense orchestra. This was one of my favorite songs.
  10. “Time is Time”: The album’s closer has a gentle feel with beautiful melodies and vocals. It’s a great way to calm things down. 

Final Verdict: For such a late entry in the band’s history, this shows the band can still experiment with a new sound. The orchestra is not a mere gimmick, rather it is a new dimension, allowing the band to create beautiful sections for each song. It really made me wish I could have caught the band with its orchestra. The production is well done, and I think this is far too underrated.

Grade: A+

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part XVII: The Ladder (1999)

The Ladder is the only album to have six members, and the last album to feature Igor Khoroshev. The album is dedicated to its producer, Bruce Fairbairn, who died during the final sessions. It reached #36 on the UK chart and 99 in the US. The album had 3 singles. While I like the Roger Dean artwork, I don’t much care for the square Yes logo.


Jon Anderson: lead vocals, percussion

Steve Howe: guitars, mandolin, koto, backing vocals

Billy Sherwood: guitars, backing vocals, tambourine, shakers

Chris Squire: bass, backing vocals

Igor Khoroshev: piano, Hammond B-3 organ, Mellotron, synthesizers, backing vocals

Alan White: drums, percussion, backing vocals

  1. “Homeworld (The Ladder)” : This is a wonderful opening track, with some excellent keyboard and guitar arrangements and a groovy rhythm. It was used for the PC game of the same name.
  2. “It’ll Be a Good Day (The River)”: This features Howe on a Japanese guitar called a koto. It’s got a good bassline, with a nice airy sound.
  3. “Lightning Strikes”: The rhythm is kind of all over the place on this one, but I like the bass.
  4. “Can I? ” : I wasn’t sure what to make of this interlude.
  5. “Face to Face: Khoroshev has some good keyboards on here, and the rhythm from Squire and White. Howe has a killer guitar on here.
  6. “If You Only Knew”: This felt a little out of place for Yes.
  7. “To Be Alive (Hep Yadda)” : I like the sitars and guitars and it’s got a chugging drum line from White.
  8. “Finally”: You can tell Yes is more willing to experiment again on this album, and this has a nice groove.
  9. “The Messenger “: The song has an almost reggae feel, which makes sense because it’s about Bob Marley.
  10. “New Language “: This is my most favorite song on the album. The opening guitar and keys start it off nice before it hits an intense vibes.
  11. “Nine Voices (Longwalker)”: This is simplistic closer, ending on a gorgeous note.

Final Verdict: This really feels like the Yes I love, with some nice long tracks. Granted, none of the songs go over 10 minutes, but they’re all well done. This is an album with few flaws.

Grade: B

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part XVI: Open Your Eyes (1997)

With Wakeman gone, Yes was without a keyboardist. Sherwood and Squire began to work on material for a new band they were going to call Conspiracy. New management from the Left Bank Organization suggested that they instead reform Yes, and two new keyboardist made guest appearances, Steve Porcaro and Igor Khoroshev. (Khoroshev would become an official member after this album). Two singles were released. The album was the first album not to make a presence on the UK chart, although it did reach 151 on the Billboard 200. It’s the lowest-rated album on Rate Your Music. For many years, it was not carried by Spotify, but has recently been added.


Jon Anderson: lead vocals

Steve Howe: guitar, mandolin, banjo, backing vocals

Chris Squire: bass guitar, harmonica, backing vocals

Alan White: drums, percussion, backing vocals

The Tracks:

  1. “New State of Mind”: This feels closer to when Rabin was still in the band, and feels too simplistic. It’s not bad, though.
  2. “Open Your Eyes”: This does have some good bass and rhythm, but it still feels bland.
  3. “Universal Garden”: This almost feels like it could work thanks to Howe’s guitar work.
  4. “No Way We Can Lose”: This has some light melodies and a groovy beat, and it seems as if the band is trying to make something work. It’s actually a good song. Khoroshev’s keyboards are a good help.”
  5. “Fortune Teller”: This has a groovy bass line, but it still feels like the band is trying to play it safe.
  6. “Man in the Moon”: This is the most chaotic song on the album,and has no cohesion.
  7. “Wonderlove”: This song kind of works, but it seems to fall flat near the end.
  8. “From the Balcony”: This short track ends before it can even try to be good.
  9. “Love Shine”: This track feels kind of basic again.
  10. “Somehow, Someday”: This one tries to have a rising melody, but once again falls flat.
  11. “The Solution “: This tries to have some good layers, but it doesn’t gel.
  12. “The Source” (Hidden Track): This song starts after a couple minutes of silence. It’s not a song at all, just a mishmash of nature sounds and boring vocals. I kept thinking “now is it over?” several times.

Final Verdict: I really wanted to like this album, folks. But it lacks cohesion, and the band feels like they’re trying to play things too simple. Every time a song feels like it might work, it stops.

Grade: D

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part XV: Keys to Ascension 1 and 2 (1-1996, 2-1997)

(Note: this review will cover only the studio tracks on the “Keys to Ascension” albums, as they have both live and studio tracks. The studio songs were later compiled into an album called Keystudio, released in 2001. Neither of the original albums nor the compilation are on Spotify, but you can find all three on YouTube)

In 1995, Trevor Rabin left Yes to pursue a career as a film composer, and Tony Kaye left as keyboardist. This marked the return of the band’s 70’s lineup, as Rick Wakeman returned with Steve Howe. The first Keys included live performances from the Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo, California, with studio songs added on a second disc. The album reached #48 in the UK and #99 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was produced by Billy Sherwood.


Jon Anderson: vocals, guitar, harp

Steve Howe: 6 and 12-string guitars, pedal steel guitar, 5-string bass on “Be the One”, vocals

Chris Squire: bass, piccolo bass on “Be the One”, vocals

Rick Wakeman: keyboards, vocals

Alan White: drums, vocals

Studio Tracks on “Keys to Ascension”:

  1. “Be the One”: This song has a great bass line and a wonderful keyboard from Wakeman. I love that we’re back to the long songs I love from Yes.
  2. “That, That Is”: While I don’t really care for the title, this 7-part suite has an excellent sweeping feel with some beautiful layering from the guitars. The drumming creates an almost hypnotic rhythm. I think this is the better of the two suites, but I do enjoy both.

Rick Wakeman was very proud of the studio tracks and wanted them to be their own album, but the label intervened and released them as part of the second Keys instead. This resulted in Wakeman’s departure from the band.

Studio Tracks on “Keys to Ascension 2”:

  1. “Mind Drive”: The song starts with bombastic synthwave leading into an excellent acoustic section. The bass line creates a dark atmosphere, with a plodding rhythm.
  2. “Foot Prints”: This song is very uplifting at the start, but it loses its energy at one point. However, Squire does do a good job bringing it back, especially towards the end.
  3. “Bring Me to the Power”: This has a nice funky bass with glistening keys and guitar. I kinda like the drums, but not as much as I did on “Mind Drive”.
  4. “Children of Light”: This has a great trippy feel to it.
  5. “Sign Language”: A nice coda to the album from Howe and Wakeman.

Final Verdict: I was almost considering skipping these albums because of the live tracks, but I’m very glad I changed my mind, as it was cool to hear the 70’s line-up one last time.

Grades: Ascension 1: A

Ascension 2: B

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part XIV: Talk (1994)

In 1992, Phil Carson, had established a new independent record label called Victory Music, asked Yes to record an album for them. This would be the final album recorded by the “YesWest” iteration of the band, with Trevor Rabin and Tony Kaye leaving the band after the tour. Rabin would go on to compose movie scores before becoming a soloist. Two singles were released.


Jon Anderson: vocals

Trevor Rabin: guitars, keyboards, vocals, programming

Chris Squire: bass, vocals

Tony Kaye: Hammond organ

Alan White: drums

The Tracks:

  1. “The Calling”: The album’s highest charting single has some excellent guitar work from Rabin. I love the harmonies.
  2. “I Am Waiting”: Another excellent song from Rabin, with a good bass line and drumming.
  3. “Real Love”: Love the bass and heaviness of this one.
  4. “State of Play”: Some more good guitar and organs here. It has a nice groove to it.
  5. “Walls”: I don’t like this single as much as ” The Calling”, but it’s still good.
  6. “Where Will You Be”: Rabin intended this to be a song on an Australian movie. I love the vocals on this.
  7. “Endless Dream”: Yes, we finally get a long suite, for the first time since the 70’s! It starts with a beautiful piano intro before moving into a great 15/8 section. This song is amazing, and this sounds more like the Yes I know and love. It’s no ” Close to the Edge ” or “Gates of Delirium”, but I love it!

Final Verdict: Why did Spotify take so long to add this to their database? This isn’t the 70’s lineup for Yes, but it’s the closest YesWest has come to that sound while still having a more mainstream approach. It’s YesWest’s best album. Don’t let the terrible logo drive you away.

Grade: A