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


Author: rocklobsterjwt

I am a Christian and an anime fan. My blog will cover anime reviews and maybe an occasional story

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