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Yes: Live At The Apollo

by Richard Lynch

It's always been about perpetual change with the English progressive rock band, Yes. So, it's pretty fitting that they would open their new CD and video release Live At The Apollo with their song of the same name. For a group celebrating their 50th year in the music biz it's also kind of strange that this is the first product they've ever delivered to the marketplace. What's that you say?

Captured in brilliant sound in front of an ecstatic audience Live at the Apollo makes a statement that Yes is still a force to be reckoned with. That fact in itself is quite remarkable given the drama of the past five decades. You see, this is actually the latest version of the group that was formed in 2016 when Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman combined their incredible talents and the heritage of Yes to take to the road for a series of concerts celebrating the band's musical legacy from the seventies to the nineties.

How you ask did we get to this remarkable moment that found the guys leading a Yes shaped quintet rounded out by Lee Pomeroy on bass and Lou Molino III on drums in front of a sold-out crowd at the UK's Manchester Apollo theater? Here's the condensed Cliff Notes version. The latest chapter in Yes history dates back to 2006 when the beloved long-term singer for the band Jon Anderson was by all accounts - on death's door. He had developed a chronic medical condition and needed to look after himself. Soon after, his bandmates Steve Howe, Chris Squire and the rest reformed first with replacement singers Benoit David. Next, the curiously named Jon Davison ascended to the role as if there was a begotten line straight to this coveted yet difficult to sustain position in rock.

For most of the time following his recovery and tentative dipping of his talented toe back into performing Jon Anderson would tell every interviewer who would listen - that he had a card up his sleeve. He had been having conversations with fellow Yes alumni Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin - the former the caped keyboardist with an air of mystery from the group's glorious early years. The latter the South African import who helped modernize the band's sound back in the eighties leading to the promised land of unprecedented radio and video success.

Now you're caught up. Except for the fact that beloved bassist and default leader of Yes Chris Squire passed away in 2015 leaving Steve Howe's version of the group with one less claim on the past. Still, here we are in the present where we have the first official product from ARW prominently featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman as restored icons in the prog rock pantheon. Anderson sounds revived and the band gels into a powerful force with full bodied production that places Rabin's vocals and guitars along with Wakeman's keys satisfyingly high up in the mix.

From there they mine territory of the group's epic eras to fine effect. The first disc goes from strength to strength as "Hold On" heads into "I've Seen All Good People". The trend continues as the fan favorite "Lift Me Up" leads to the classic "And You & I". These types of musical pairings are something that other incarnation can't really do - so ARW Yes can offer more diversity pulling from every era of the catalogue. Whether or not they will be more daring remains to be seen as new recordings have been repeatedly talked about but have yet to emerge. Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman has fifty years of experience to call upon. We hope they can make a masterpiece. As Live At The Apollo showcases all the parts are there and the chemistry has kicked in. If I were them I would move heaven and earth to make a damned good album that will make prog and classic rocks fans say in unison yet again - "Yes".


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