Keys to Ascension [Video/DVD]

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The definitive version of Yes re-formed to film and record concerts on March 4, 5, and 6, 1996, at the Fremont Theater in San Luis Obispo, CA. The stellar highlights are collected on the 2000 DVD Keys to Ascension. Vocalist Jon Anderson, guitarist/backing vocalist Steve Howe, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, bass guitarist/backing vocalist Chris Squire, and drummer/backing vocalist Alan White were clearly appealing to their rabid core fan base and waving the progressive rock flag proudly, since Keys to Ascension features some of Yes' most complex and rewarding music from 1970 through 1978. The selections are culled from Time and a Word, The Yes Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge, Tales from Topographic Oceans, Going for the One, and Tormato; there is nothing from 1974's Relayer (with Patrick Moraz serving briefly as Wakeman's replacement). Several of the songs are non-hit album cuts. "Siberian Khatru" and "Close to the Edge" make for a powerful opening. "Time and a Word" is gorgeously hypnotic. The mere performance of the epic "The Revealing Science of God" from the notorious double album Tales from Topographic Oceans -- the epitome of excess as cited by prog's detractors -- is a defiant statement. "Turn of the Century" and "Onward" are the biggest surprises. The underrated "Awaken" is another lengthy piece highlighting Yes' signature style. Strong performances of the all-time classics "Roundabout" and "Starship Trooper" wrap up the DVD. Director/producer Steve Mitchell deserves praise for the visual presentation, which often incorporates nature, sky, and space scenes; for the most part these bits are quite effective and smoothly rendered with only occasional, abrupt heavy-handedness. It should be noted that two double CDs -- 1996's Keys to Ascension and 1997's Keys to Ascension, Vol. 2 -- spread out these live tracks as well as seven remarkable new studio recordings; the studio tracks alone were collected on 2002's Keystudio (with "Children of Light" adding a previously unreleased intro).

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