People continue to ask the question are Yes a mere tribute band following the passing of their final founder member Chris Squire in 2015 especially with the loss of Alan White leaving only Steve Howe (Guitars) from the so called “classic” era between 1971-1974 (The Yes Album to Relayer). But Yes have always had controversy surrounding their personnel. Howe replaced original guitarist Peter Banks following his departure in 1970 and Patrick Moraz replaced caped keyboard player Rick Wakeman for 1974’s Relayer and that is without even mentioning the 80’s… don’t even go there. After his final departure in 2008 original vocalist Jon Anderson was firstly replaced by Benoit David (who appeared on Fly From Here and the From A Page mini album) before in 2012 current vocalist Jon Davison formerly of Glass Hammer took over the microphone. Since his arrival Yes have toured regularly performing sets which lean heavily on playing vintage releases in their entirety (The Yes Album, Going For The One, Close To The Edge, Relayer, Fragile, Drama and much of Tales From Topographic Oceans) but have also continued to release new material with the current line-up. Mirror To The Sky features Davison on vocals, guitar and keyboards features Howe on guitar, long time member and former Buggle Geoff Downes on keyboards, Billy Sherwood on bass and Jay Schellen who supplied percussion on The Quest making his debut as a full-time member and replacing the late Alan White who passed away in 2022 on drums. So what do we get from the latest incarnation of these prog veterans.
Mirror To The Sky came from a continuation in the recording process of its predecessor so it is no surprise that it proceeds in a similar vane. First track released to the public ‘Cut From the Stars’ is the band in a familiar Yes mode, full on harmonised vocals, lush orchestration and astral references with just a hint of the 90125 era. As with The Quest‘s ‘Ice Bridge’ this is a comfortable introduction for the long time listener although at a little under five and a half minutes it is far from an epic. Unlike The Quest within its six main tracks MOTS does boast three tracks over the eight minute mark. ‘All Connected’ is the second track to hit the public domain and the first to pass that eight minute threshold as it moves through its simple but effective passages on the theme of human connection, “Connecting, Connecting all our lives, You’re never out of reach, You’re never out of mind”. ‘Luminosity’ also clocks in at around nine minutes and once again finds the Davison/ Howe/ Sherwood writing team in a positive lyrical mood. This positivity seems to be driven by the band feeling very comfortable as a unit during the making of this duo of albums. Billy Sherwood states “It’s nice to think about the future and where things are going to go. The possibilities are endless at this point”. By the time you reach ‘Living Out Their Dream” Davison seems to have fallen into a more natural place showing he is more than an Anderson clone on a very pleasing ditty with Downes influence written large. The relaxed tone of the mid section of Mirror To The Sky is lifted considerably by the centrepiece and title track as the latest Yes line-up prove that they are still capable of pulling out all of the stops on this 14 minute tale on the climate emergency which builds to a suitably bombastic orchestral finale with pleads to “Repair The World – Tikkun Olam”. Main album closer (if you didn’t go for the full 2CD version) ‘Circle Of Time’ as with the opener will put traditional Yes fans at ease and shows that the band haven’t moved to far from the norm. On ‘Circle Of Time’ that comfort is found in Howe’s acoustic strumming and the gentle shake of a tambourine under Davison’s falsetto vocal lines.
As with The Quest this latest release is available as either a single or 2CD version and once again the bonus disc includes three very interesting additional tracks (The Quest‘s ‘Sister Sleeping Soul’ and Beatles inspired ‘Mystery Tour’ display a very different angle and are real eye openers). Here they are all delivered by the pen of producer and guitar maestro Steve Howe as the tribal chants of ‘Unknown Place’, the jaunty ‘One Second Is Enough’ and ‘Magic Potion’ each focus heavily on Howe but also show a different aspects of what is an unquestionably talented outfit. This album brings the band one step closer to finding their own character but is it enough? They’ve done it before and “only time will tell” (sorry wrong Steve Howe band) whether they can convince all of the doubters.
With current touring plans on hold due to “insurance cover issues” it is likely that the next audiences will see of the band will be back in nostalgic mode for the re-scheduled The Album Series, Relayer Tour. Hopefully if they are serious about moving forward they will include a handful of tracks from Mirror To The Sky (& The Quest) within the “other music” segments of the set to encourage the crowd to move forwards with them. Available in a myriad of different formats including 5.1 Blu-ray and in a Yes first the latest Dolby Atmos audio, Mirror To The Sky is bound to continue the questions, discussions and arguments amongst the old guard fans. It wouldn’t be prog if it didn’t… would it?
- Reviewed By Peter Brockwell.
- Mirror To The Sky is released via Inside Out Music/Sony on 19th May 2023.
- Official Website
1. Cut From the Stars
2. All Connected
4. Living Out Their Dream
5. Mirror to the Sky
6. Circles of Time
1. Unknown Place
2. One Second Is Enough
3. Magic Potion