“To Ascend” stands as one of the more ethereal moments on Yes’ upcoming Heaven and Earth, a canny mixture of Jon Davison’s sun-flecked optimism and Alan White’s — wait, Alan White? Isn’t he the band’s stalwart drummer? And yet, it’s White who co-wrote perhaps the new album’s biggest ballad moment, one marked by the most reserved of cadences.
That’s actually typical, White says, for any song composed away from his kit. “Every time I write a song at the piano, I find it really hard to put drums to it,” White tells Bob Rivers. “It’s really strange — like, ‘OK, now what do I do? … How do I handle this on the drums?’ It took a while to kind of work out exactly what it needed.”
Of course, White has been featured on keyboards going all the way back to his initial studio effort with Yes, 1973’s Tales from Topographic Oceans, which found him working as a principal composer on “Ritual” and filling in for a missing Rick Wakeman on piano. White played keyboards on 2001’s Magnification, and then the supporting tour.
Along the way, White has also had memorable co-composing roles on “Turn of the Century” from 1977’s Going for the One, multiple segments of 1978’s Tormato and 1980’s Drama, as well as “Mind Drive,” the studio-side opening track from 1997’s Keys to Ascension 2, among others.