House Of Yes

Yes

Eagle Rock, 2000

http://www.yesworld.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/21/2010

In 1999-2000, Yes toured behind The Ladder, their first and, as it turned out, only album of new material with the six-man lineup of Jon Anderson (vocals), Steve Howe (guitars), Chris Squire (bass/vocals), Alan White (drums), Billy Sherwood (guitars/vocals) and Igor Khoroshev (keyboards).  That unit had been touring since late 1997, with Khoroshev coming in late in the recording of October 1997’s Open Your Eyes, which had begun life as a Squire-Sherwood side project, only to be hastily repurposed as a new Yes album. 

The Ladder, by contrast, was a genuine group effort among the six principals, and the subsequent tour saw the group playing some very strong shows.  Whatever Steve Howe might have thought of having a second guitarist in the band – and his body language on stage spoke volumes – Sherwood’s vocals added a richness and fullness to the band’s sound, and his presence on stage gave them flexibility when tackling different songs from throughout their varied back catalog, particularly from the ‘80s/Trevor Rabin era.

These observations comprise the necessary backstory to House Of Yes: Live From The House Of Blues, the group’s 2000 live album taken from an HOB show in Las Vegas (of all places).  The group sounds very strong, playing older material like opener “Yours Is No Disgrace” with just as much fire and grace as newer material like The Ladder’s multifaceted mini-epic “Homeworld.”

If there’s a flaw in this set, it’s that it’s over-reliant on what at the time was newer material.  As always when it comes to Yes, you’re going to find fans on both sides of that argument, because a lot of the longtime fans would much rather hear whatever “the new stuff” might be at any given moment than be forced to sit through their 372nd listen to “I’ve Seen All Good People.”  To which I can only reply: get over it.  Yes hasn’t cut more than five or six tracks since 1977 that measure up to what came before; the older tunes are not just the songs they’re best known for, but in fact their best songs.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Returning from ranting to reviewing, though, let’s be fair: crafting a set list for a band with as big a back catalogue as Yes is inevitably going to be a balancing act, and in this particular instance the set goes a little heavy on the newer tracks.  Again, to be fair, while it’s hardly a classic, The Ladder did have its strong moments.  “Homeworld” is dynamic; “Lightning Strikes” is an interesting and energetic experiment with a bit of a Latin flavor to it; and “Face To Face” negotiates a musical détente between the group’s two principal eras, cleverly melding classic progressive rock with ‘80s arena rock.

Among the challenges the band obviously experienced while constructing a set list was the desire to fit in references to albums that they simply didn’t have the space to play full songs from.  The end result? Non sequitur-ish one-minute snippets of “Time And A Word,” the one tune from their initial two albums that they continued to play throughout their career, and the “Ritual” suite from Tales From Topographic Oceans.  (Whew; dodged a bullet there.)

The less interesting tracks from The Ladder are where this set hits some weak patches.  Anderson tells the story about Ladder producer Bruce Fairbairn encouraging him to write a song about someone who inspired him in his life, which motivated him to write “The Messenger” about Bob Marley.  Marley was a great man and a great musician; “The Messenger,” however, is not a great song.  Oh well. As for the schlocky, Asia-esque “It Will Be A Good Day (The River),” one of the band’s unfortunate latter-day attempts to write a radio single, it’s a mid-tempo tune that manages to be both chirpily optimistic and plodding; there’s simply nothing the least bit exciting about it. 

The last part of the set is the strongest.  “Awaken” is one of the band’s most gorgeous pieces, and sounds great here even if Khoroshev rushes the opening a bit.  Then they move straight into bounding, sing-along set closer “I’ve Seen All Good People,” followed by encores of “Cinema” and “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” from the 90125 album.  On this tour, Howe and Anderson would stay off-stage for the instrumental “Cinema,” with Sherwood playing lead guitar on both it and “Owner,” which works out just fine in terms of recreating the two pieces – both well-constructed, entertaining arena rock with progressive touches. 

They close, rather inevitably, with “Roundabout.”  There are Yes fans who insist they never want to hear this track played live again, but there is a reason why it’s been both the band’s most well-known composition and one of their most frequent closers over the years – it’s a great song to listen to, to dance to, to sing along to, and everybody in the crowd knows all the words.  Deal with it.

House Of Yes documents the band in the midst of one of the many latter-day evolutions it has gone through, trying to stay alive and stay relevant.  That said, it’s a worthwhile album, a crisp recording capturing a distinct moment in the band’s history and featuring fresh recordings of some classics alongside newer material. 

Rating: B

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