One Track Mind: Yes, “Believe Again” from Heaven and Earth (2014)

Yes is, if we are honest, in a kind of no-win situation with this new album, and with every album for ages.

Heaven and Earth, due in July 2014 from Frontiers Records, marks another iteration of the long-standing prog outfit, after the addition of current frontman Jon Davison. In keeping, “Believe Again,” released today as the first official advance sounds from the project, will be pulled apart in a way none of his earlier music has been. It will be turned over and examined with an obsessive vigor that’s out of proportion with any actual thing he and Yes might possibly be able to accomplish here.

But, that’s nothing new — even if it’s new to Davison. After all, Yes hasn’t put out another album like the career-making Close to the Edge since, well, Close to the Edge. That alienates a certain demo. They haven’t put out another album like the charttopping 90125 since … well, you get the idea. That bothers still another demo. They’ve put out albums that aspire to both, albums that vigorously deny the influence and importance of both. Albums that blend the two, and sometimes fail miserable in trying. Albums that resurrect old ideas, albums that seem bereft of any ideas whatsoever.

Uneasy lies the crown, and all.

But what of Davison, who wasn’t around for any of that — and has clearly (see tracklisting below) had a huge amount of input on Heaven and Earth? It will matter little. That various members of the current group were, or weren’t, won’t either. Yes is a brand, not a band. With the exception of bassist Chris Squire, every member has proven to be replaceable, or at the very least interchangeable. Guys come, guys go, guys come back and then go again, and Yes — always — goes on. Yet, these ideas about what their music should sound like somehow remain. It should be epic! No, wait, it should meld pop and prog!

And so, we have “Believe Again,” a song that sounds something like the music that co-writer Steve Howe has made over the years with keyboardist Geoff Downes in Asia — and something like the quietest moments of Davison’s tenure with Glass Hammer. Maybe, I don’t know, that placates the 90125 crowd. There’s also something, in Davison’s soaring vocals and consciousness-raising lyric, of early-1970s Yes to be found in this track — a salve perhaps for those who think there is no Yes without Anderson.

In the end, of course, it’s really not like any of that. But why, if we are honest, would it be? Even more particularly, why should it be? Those days are gone, as surely as is Anderson — and Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin, for that matter. Davison is only a part-time member of Glass Hammer now, and his tenure with the band was relatively short. The endless fascination, in the end, escapes me. Those albums have already been issued.

Forget all of that for a moment, and consider what the reaction to this new music would be, without the expectations. Without Topographic Oceans and Drama and Talk, and without Magnification. Without the name. Are these just the kind of uplifting, endlessly approachable post-prog ruminations that would have gained a whole new audience for some group called anything other than Yes? I wonder sometimes. I’m sure, about now, that Jon Davison is wondering it too.

Here’s the complete song rundown for Yes’ ‘Heaven and Earth,’ with writing credits …

Believe Again (Davison/Howe)
The Game (Squire/Davison/Johnson)
Step Beyond (Howe/Davison)
To Ascend (Davison/White)
In A World Of Our Own (Davison/Squire)
Light Of The Ages (Davison)
It Was All We Knew (Howe)
Subway Walls (Davison/Downes)

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • Bobby Salvin

    I guess any of the band members could be replaceable if the replacement has the right talant and temperament. I never feld that Trevor Rabin replaced Steve Howe. Rabin wanted to write pop songs. Howe definitely has an interest in the progressive music and a unique style. Tony Levin, no matter how good of a bass player he may otherwise be, did not successfullly replace Chris Squire in the Anderson, Wakeman, Bruford, Howe album. Davison has huge shoes to fill, and so far I’m presently surprised by his talent and temperament. He has a great voice. The importance of Rick Wakeman has been overrated. He has the fewist writing credits, and other keyboard players have come in and taken the band further, particularly Patrick Moraz who was brillant on Releyer.

    • David Carlin

      Bob. Wakeman was under contract to A & M and for some reason he was not allowed publishing credit for many Yes Songs…..

  • Rick

    The fact that Davison has such a “Jon Anderson” voice only infuriates the folks that refuse to listen to YES w/o Anderson, even more. It’s sad, because “those days” really are gone. I appreciate YES for everything they are and are not. Seen them over 30 times. 4 times on the ’08 tour. Twice on last year’s tour. Last year’s tour was almost surprising at just how brilliant it was. And, I can’t wait to see this tour twice in July. YES deserves to make a living . And, I thank each and every one of them for giving me the opportunity to see and hear them.
    IMO, people are missing the boat being overly critical of every YES album. For me, “YES” is a “Live” band. They are, and always have been, one of those rare bands that can be better “Live” than on the LP.

    • Caley McGuire

      With Jon Anderson YES used to have both artistic aspirations and a great degree of integrity. Now, they make a living. That’s a difference by which some fans simply can’t abide.

      • Bobby Salvin

        I see no evidence that Yes is any less artistically driven now than at other times in their past. The fact is that if they cannot make a living, there is no Yes.

        • ceili_dancer

          If you saw Cruise to the edge, you would see some major burn out. Even now, Davison’s voice needs a break, but momma needs a new pair of shoes, so keep going.

          • Nick Kokoshis

            Davison sounds great here, singing Siberian Khatru just last month in May. Singing night after night for months on end is hard work. Give him a chance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNblyV7039I

            • ceili_dancer

              Much like they gave Jon when he wanted to tour, but not as intense as Chris and Steve wanted to?

    • David C

      Rick, you say so matter of factly “those days are really gone”. The sad fact is – THEY DON’T HAVE TO BE.

      • Bobby Salvin

        But those days are gone simply because they are in the past, and they would still be in the past even if Jon Anderson was in the band. Yes experienced a fantastic creative period in the 70s that is the kind of thing that just can’t be reproduced on command. In fact, it may take the influence of new blood in the band from Davison to generate some new creativity. I celebrate the past, but I want to live in the present, which is always about adapting to and making the best of change. If no one in the band is ever suppose to change then Peter Banks should have always been the guitarist.

        • ceili_dancer

          Have you even listened to any of Jon Anderson’s recent work?He is still creating. “Yes” in it’s current configuration is just pimping a name and, like the Jethro Tull song, living in the past.

      • Rick

        David C, I hear you, David. “Those days don’t have to be gone.” I will admit that if Jon Anderson was in YES right now, we may have some good times , for a SHORT time. The thing a lot of people are missing is that these guys are 70 years old. It can’t go on at all, much longer. These guys are OLD MEN.

  • Scott O’Reilly

    I congratulate Nic on managing to use so many words to say so little of substance about the music itself. To be fair, Nic did have a good line here and there – “Yes is a brand, not a band” – but the cynicism to wit ratio is not high enough to avoid the snooze factor. Yes, “Believe Again” is easy to skewer. Fans expecting another Close to The Edge or Fragile may be disappointed that the latest incarnation of Yes sounds a lot like REO Speedwagon. However, “Believe Again” is catchy, melodic, and hum-able in a way that a lot of Yes music isn’t. Besides, there is a lot to like in the new song. For instance, Jon Davison has the vocal chords that can reach those heavenly notes and Geoff Downes sounds like he’s channeling Rick Wakeman. “Believe Again,” finds Yes in a comfortable groove. It is a pleasant, uplifting pop anthem sprinkled with small doses of prog and enough flashes of inspiration to make it a worthy entry in the Yes catalog.

    • Bobby Salvin

      If Yes did turn out another Close to the Edge or Fagile, it may also take some time to tell that the album is of that stature. It may not be immediately apparent.

      • Scott O’Reilly

        Bobby, I agree. “Relayer” probably wasn’t considered a classic when it first came out, but I think the album has grown in stature. “Tales” was pretty controversial and divided Yes fans, but I think it will hold up very well a hundred years from now.

  • David C

    How dare Nick Deriso imply that the new music sucks simply because the fans expectations are too high?! Squire, Howe, and White had the chance to call this band something other than Yes, but they CHOSE to cash in on the “Yes Brand” as the author calls it. With that name comes the high standard that is associated with the big money. So now they want to complain that people are holding them to Yes expectations do they? Too late. Let the chips fall where they may. I listened. I cringed. I lament Squire’s decision to call this Yes every day that Jon Anderson is alive and not in the lineup.

    • M.N Calristein

      Firstly, I don’t feel Benoit David was a flop at all. A different perspective. And while I love Jon Anderson, I have to agree with Steve Howe’s assessment of who to include in the band at this point. If you are unwilling to acknowledge and perform music from the entire history of the band then you are out. Rick Wakeman and Anderson will not perform music from “Drama” and I’m sure wouldn’t perform anything from “Fly From Here” or “Heaven and Earth.” Lastly, I’ve seen all of Yes’ vocalists perform except for Trevor Horn and I welcome Jon Davison who was phenomenal in Camden at Yestival last year. And I look forward to Jon Anderson’s future endeavors which may include Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman.

      • Jim Welsh

        Saw them in Camden too,great show!!!

      • Jeff Blanks

        So they did talk to Jon? Hmm… I understand Steve’s point, but it’s a bit disingenuous for him to hold that over Jon’s head when Jon was a co-founder of the band and Steve wasn’t.

        BTW: They had a Yestival in Camden last year? How did I miss that, I wonder? (I went to the one in ’98.)

        • M.N Calristein

          They had a Yestival in ’98? :) Missed that one. Was it also a lineup of prog bands playing for hours?

          • Jeff Blanks

            No, it was a pretty typical convention. A number of members attended, all separately.

        • M.N Calristein

          I just researched the article I read recently about a project with Anderson, Wakeman and Rabin and unfortunately it’s old news. From 2012.

          • Jeff Blanks

            Yeah, but I think there’s still some hope for it. In the meantime, Anderson has announced a collaboration with *Jean-Luc Ponty* and his rhythm section, along with Jordan Rudess on keys.

    • ceili_dancer

      Inventioning will come and even though they can’t use the name Yes, they will have the spirit and music that is Yes.

    • Jim Welsh

      Omg Dave C,stop sniveling

    • Paul Watson

      “Usurp”, “Stand in the Way”… Blimey… Anyone would think this was Game of Thrones. Oh, the Drama. That’s right, Jon wasn’t on that one either. Trevor Horn the Usurper is to blame for that, the scheming villain. Poor, Jon. What’s a poor traveling minstrel to do….

  • Sean Hansen

    I like it, want to hear more of the album, find the mix a little muddy, the beautiful vocals should stand out more. Trevor and eddy always managed to balance the Vocals against the heavily detailed instrumentation, I don’t see that here. YES fan since 1985 and always will be.

    • ceili_dancer

      Billy Sherwood completed the mixing of each track in one day each. Something was rushed for a reason.

  • ceili_dancer

    Listening to the song, arrangement is muddy. Keyboards are awful and sadly bass is not there. Vocals notes are nice, but no strength behind it. This sounds more like a throw away from an Asia album than a Yes album. I always remembered the weaving that Yes music was, where no instrument held a prominent position for more than a few beats.

  • Jeff Blanks

    I don’t hear Asia, mainly because I can’t imagine John Wetton singing it, even in a lower key. What I hear, of all things, is solo Jon Anderson. It’s OK. The mix does sound a bit rough

    As for a “brand”: What about King Crimson? You could say the same of them. And yet, look what they’ve done since 1995: *Thrak*, *The ConstruKction of Light*, *The Power To Believe*, and the “fractal” side projects–oops, “ProjeKcts”. If Yes is a brand and not a band, then the brand should indicate something about the music we’re getting. Not just anything should get on a Yes album; the music on it should bear the marks of a style, a flavor, a quality, an approach to making music. TBH, I do hear some of that quality in “Believe Again”, even with the I-IV-V-IV chord progression (hey, kind of like “And You And I”). But considering KC’s output since their Nineties reunion, I can see how listeners would be disappointed.

    • Rick

      Funny you mention King Crimson
      . I don’t hear very many complaining about Adrian Belew not being in the current lineup.

      • Mike P.

        That’s because Fripp is the creative driving force in that band, or at least a major creative driving force. I’ve always felt that Squire has done an excellent job in leveraging the Brand Yes, but is not a creative force.. you can see it in every interview he has ever given. Jon, Steve, and Rick are all more focused on the artistic side.

  • Mike P.

    Bottom Line on this one: It’s simply too early to tell until we give the album a few spins and some time. When YES let’s someone new take major creative control (as they seem to have done with Davidson) it can be a mixed bag, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. I for one am not very hopeful for two reasons. The first is that the other two Downes related YES albums were lacking with Fly from Here something so bad I simply can’t listen to anything on it. (alternatively I can relisten to Magnification and the Ladder quite frequently and I enjoy it every time). The second reason is: after decades of listening to them, I am firmly of the opinion that Jon Anderson is the creative spark that helps the band creative music that lasts.. even if it’s not genre defining. There are very few Jon Andersons in the world.. I think Neal Morse is one (Imagine a Neal Morse / Jon Anderson / Rick Wakeman project)… Ian Anderson and Robert Fripp are others.

    The point is that they have second tier creative spark and pop oriented keyboards.. so the mix is not one that is conducive to magic.. Just a reason to tour.

    I think the best thing that can happen is another ABWH or Alternative YES… I don’t care about the name.. as someone else mentioned they are getting much older, so I only care about the output at this time. Jon’s best work is always when he’s surrounded by virtuoso musicians.. so let’s hope he gets some together and kicks his output into high gear, (he’s had creative spurts in the past) so we see a couple of new albums by him per year until he can’t do it anymore.

  • Guest

    I’ve heard the whole album. I promise you that I’m a fan of this band, and I say this with a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat: This is not a good album. Not even close. It sounds weak, rushed and incomplete. I’ve been known to give my favorite artists weeks for a lackluster album to grow on me, but this time I knew immediately that I was disappointed and it only got worse with each repeat listen. Once this thing comes out, the band will be making excuses about why it turned out the way it did. If you read some of the recent interviews carefully, you can tell that they’ve already started. This album is a dog, and the sad part is that they know it.