‘It was all fair in love and war’: Inside Yes’ decision to complete Heaven and Earth without Roy Thomas Baker

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Steve Howe is delving into Yes’ shift from initial producer Roy Thomas Baker to Billy Sherwood during the final mixing process for Heaven and Earth — describing Baker’s approach on the new album as too technocratic. At some point, the guitarist says, Yes simply decided to take the project back under its own aegis.

“We got into it, and it was OK,” Howe tells WMGK’s Ray Koob. “You know, every producer’s got a certain style. Roy’s method was pretty much about the sound. It wasn’t so much about the construction of the songs, like Trevor [Horn, producer of 2011’s Fly From Here], who worked very hard on that. So, Roy kind of let us do most of the music, and twiddled with a lot of knobs. But, I tell you, in the end we really did have to bring it back to Yes Central — because, in a way, I don’t think he was as familiar with our mixing style as say Billy Sherwood, who ended up doing that for us. Well, we did it with him; it was a collaboration. So, we had to kind of pull it back to Yes Central. It was all fair in love and war.”

This isn’t the first time things have gone sideways with Thomas. The producer earlier worked with Yes on a series of late-1970s sessions that were eventually scrapped in favor of a new project with Horn that became 1980’s Drama. Four cuts from that aborted attempt were later collected on an expanded reissue of Drama, including “Dancing through the Light,” “Friend of the Friend,” “Golden Age” and “In the Tower.”

Sherwood, meanwhile, worked with Yes as a mixer, producer, touring musician, co-writer and full-time member through the 1990s, playing a major collaborative role in 1997’s Open Your Eyes and 1999’s The Ladder. Sherwood also worked with Yes’ Chris Squire in the offshoot group Conspiracy and continues in Circa with Tony Kaye, another Yes alum.

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  • feef

    “we did it with him; it was a collaboration” .. so you’re all to blame?

    • Colininla

      Can’t compete with this comment. You nailed it.

  • Kennedy Brandt

    Not really a surprise. The songs all sound clean, consistent, and predictable, ending pretty much as they began. There doesn’t seem to have been much thought to structure at all. They start, they noodle, they end. Next.

  • RawOnions

    The album could use some more intensive musicality to bring it up to snuff with the age-old Yes sound we’ve come to love over the decades.