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 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 XI: 90125 (1983)

Following the Drama tour in 1980, Yes disbanded and Chris Squire, Alan White, and guitarist and singer Trevor Rabin (formerly of Rabbitt and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) formed Cinema, while Horn and Downes joined Asia. In 1982, instead of Cinema releasing a debut album, they reformed as Yes with Rabin. Both Jon Anderson and Tony Banks returned to the band, marking Banks’ first time recording with Yes since 1971. While Trevor Horn did not sing lead on the album, he remained as producer. Gary Mouat designed the logo and cover on an Apple IIe computer, and it was named after Atco Records’ catalog number for the album. 90125 had 3 singles, and reached #16 in the UK and #5 in the US.


Jon Anderson: vocals

Trevor Rabin: guitar, keyboards, vocals

Chris Squire: bass, vocals

Tony Kaye: organ, electric piano

Alan White: drums, percussion, Fairlight CMI, backing vocals

The Tracks:

  1. “Owner of a Lonely Heart”: This is Years only single to ever top the Billboard Hot 100. It contains a sample from ” Kool is Back” by Funk, Inc, which was stored in Horn’s Fairlight, creating the famous “pow” noises during the bridge. It’s still one of my favorite Yes songs.
  2. “Hold On “: This song has a good rhythm and I like the keyboards.
  3. “It Can Happen”: This was one of the songs that was originally intended for the Cinema debut. It’s a tad overdone, but I like it.
  4. “Changes”: This feels more like an arena rock song than a prog rock one.
  5. “Cinema”: This is a short instrumental that won Yes their only Grammy.
  6. “Leave It”: I don’t like the vocals on this, but the instruments are good.
  7. “Our Song”: This song is a tribute to Toledo. It has some good guitars and bass.
  8. “City of Love”: This song was inspired by Rabin’s visit to Harlem. I like the keyboard work.
  9. “Hearts”: This is a good closer.

Final Verdict: Like the previous album, this feels like Yes is changing their sound too much. Some programs bands at the time, like Rush and Genesis also evolved to fit the 80’s sound, but they still maintained a prog rock sound. This feels like a mix of pop and rock. I do enjoy this album, but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who has little familiarity with Yes. It’s not their best work, but I don’t hate it at all.

Grade: C

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part X: Drama (1980)

Drama marks the beginning of a change in Yes’s sound. Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes of The Buggles replaced Anderson and Wakeman. After this album, Horn would continue to be a part of Yes, but as a producer. (Downes also became a part of the supergroup Asia). This is the only album where Horn is a vocalist. Wakeman and Anderson both left the band after attempts to record in Paris and London failed. Two singles were released, “Into the Lens” and “Run Through the Light”. The album reached #2 in the UK and #18 in the US.


Trevor Horn: vocals, fretless bass on “Run Through the Light”

Steve Howe: guitar, mandolin on “Run Through the Light”

Chris Squire: bass, piano on “Run Through the Light”, backing vocals

Geoff Downes:Keyboards, Fairlight CMI, vocoder

Alan White: drums, percussion, backing vocals

The Tracks:

  1. “Machine Messiah”: I like the edge of Howe’s guitar. It has a great rhythm on the bass and guitar. Downes’ keyboards are uniquely different from Wakeman’s playing, but I like his style.
  2. “White Car”: I wish this song wasn’t so short. It felt more like an interlude.
  3. “Does It Really Happen”: White has some good drumming on this.
  4. “Into the Lens”: This is a good mesh of the styles of Horn, Downes, and the remaining Yes members. They almost sound like a different band.
  5. “Run Through the Light”: Of the two singles, this feels the most radio-friendly, but that’s not a bad thing. The addition of bass and piano work very well. It’s probably my favorite song on the album.
  6. “Does It Really Happen”: This is really the only song where the mix of sounds doesn’t really gel for me.

Final Verdict: This is an interesting evolution for Yes, as they integrate the New Wave movement into their progressive sound. I do like Horn’s vocals, but I think he’s better suited behind the scenes. Downes does a great job at modernizing the band, but some of the mixing doesn’t work on the whole. I feel this album is underrated. Overall, I liked what I heard.

Review: B

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part IX: Tormato (1978)

Tormato was the last album to feature Jon Anderson until his return on 90125, and the last album to feature Rick Wakeman until his return on Union. It had one single, and reached #10 in the US, and #8 in the UK.


Jon Anderson: Vocals, 10-string guitar

Steve Howe: guitars and mandolin, vocals

Chris Squire: bass, piano, vocals

Rick Wakeman: Birotron, Hammond organ, Polymoog synthesizer, piano, harpsichord, RMI Electra Piano

Alan White: drums, military snare drum, glockenspiel, crotales, cymbals, bell tree, drums synthesizer, gongs, vibraphone, vocals

The Tracks:

  1. “Future Times”/”Rejoice”: I love the pedal effect on Squire’s bass. The lyrics are great.
  2. “Don’t Kill the Whale”: As the title suggests, this was Yes’s contribution to the “Save the Whales” movement. It’s got a beautiful keyboard solo.
  3. “Madrigal”: I love the harpsichord on this.
  4. “Release, Release”: One of the best songs on the album. I love the variety of percussion instruments on this one. I actually looked up YouTube videos to hear how some of them sound. Howe sounds great on the guitar.
  5. “Arriving UFO”: This was inspired by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Wakeman’s work is excellent.
  6. “Circus of Heaven”: I love the wonder of this song.
  7. “Onward”: Howe’s acoustic guitar is beautiful. Squire has a good bass effect.
  8. “On the Silent Wings of Freedom”: Another song with some beautiful effects.

Final Verdict: This alalbum has an excellent variety of instruments and innovation. It seems underrated.

Grade: A

Ranking the Discography: Yes Part VIII: Going For the One (1977)

Going For the One marked the return of Rick Wakeman, who had begun his solo career during his absence from the previous album. It also temporarily replaced Roger Dean as cover artist, instead using Storm Thurgeson and Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis.

While I normally like Hipgnosis artwork, I don’t think this is one of their better pieces. I think Dean’s landscapes fit Yes better.


Jon Anderson: lead vocals, harp

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

Chris Squire: bass guitar, fretless bass guitar, 8-string bass guitar, vocals

Rick Wakeman: piano, electric keyboards, organ, Polymoog synthesizer, choral arrangement on “Awaken”

Alan White: drums, percussion

The Tracks:

  1. “Going For the One “: The title track has some beautiful steel guitars and bass. The lyrics make the song feel like it’d fit a training montage.
  2. “Turn of the Century”: This song is inspired by the myth of Pygmalion. The rhythm changes create some nice flourishes.
  3. “Wonderous Stories”: This single has beautiful guitars and some good rhythm from Squire, probably some of his best work on the album.
  4. “Parallels”: I like the hopeful feel of Aquifers lyrics.
  5. “Awaken”: While this doesn’t have a conceptual structure like the long songs from the previous albums, I love Wakeman’s keyboards and organ parts.

Final Verdict: I feel like this album doesn’t get enough love. It’s not as conceptual as the previous albums, but it shows the start of transitions into shorter material that still allows the band to experiment.

Grade: A