Heaven & Earth (Yes album)
|Heaven & Earth|
|Studio album by Yes|
|Released||16 July 2014|
|Recorded||6 January–14 March 2014|
|Studio||Neptune Studios, Los Angeles, California|
|Producer||Roy Thomas Baker|
Heaven & Earth is the twenty-first studio album from the English progressive rock band Yes, released on 16 July 2014 on Frontiers Records. It is their first album with singer Jon Davison in the band's line-up, and the final studio album to feature original bassist and founder Chris Squire before his death in 2015.
It was produced by Roy Thomas Baker, who first worked with the band on recording sessions in 1979, and mixed by then-former and now-current member Billy Sherwood. Upon its release, Heaven & Earth peaked at number 20 in the UK, the band's highest chart performance since their 1994 album Talk. It also entered the U.S. chart at number 26.
About the name of the album, guitarist Steve Howe stated, "In a way, the parallel of saying 'Heaven and Earth' is the same as saying good and bad, yin and yang, up and down, left and right. They're two extremes, but I think the way Roger and I liked it was that in fact the Earth is a physical place where you can measure stuff and you can do quantum physics. [...] But Heaven is an unknown place of no particular destination as far as anybody knows. And yet it doesn't matter whether you're totally tied up in a religious belief or whether you’re spiritual in a way. That doesn't require religious commitment — it just requires awareness to the fact that there’s obviously something out there that we don't know about. [...] it sums up the dualistic quality of the known and the unknown and the more you look at the known the more you see that there's even more unknown than you knew before."
From 6 January to 14 March 2014, the band recorded a new album, their first with new lead singer Davison, in the Los Angeles area with producer Roy Thomas Baker. This recording is Yes' first association with Baker since their aborted recording sessions in Paris in 1979, something bassist Chris Squire described as "a very enjoyable experience" and Baker someone "really good to work with". In January 2014, the band's Facebook page released images of the band rehearsing in the studio with Baker. On 7 March 2014, Downes tweeted that he had completed keyboards for the album.
On 5 March 2014, former Yes member Billy Sherwood announced in a post on his Facebook page that he would engineer the backing vocal sessions, which started the day after. He also confirmed that at least Squire and Howe would also sing backing vocals in the album. In an April 2014 interview, Davison announced that the recording just finished right in time before they had to leave for a tour (i.e. the U.S. & Canada Spring 2014 tour starting on 19 March 2014), stating "we were just kind of throwing everything in at the last minute [...] We just ran out of time and had to get on the road". He also announced that there would be 8 tracks, plus a bonus track (an acoustic version of "To Ascend") in the Japanese release.
Unlike the previous studio album Fly From Here, which was partially based on older compositions by Downes and producer/former member Trevor Horn initially for their duo The Buggles, Heaven & Earth is made of new material only. For his first album with Yes, Davison was fully involved into the songwriting process; Squire stated: "he contributed very strongly to [the new album] in terms of writing, both musically and lyrically. [...] [He] has brought in an interesting quality of songwriting and lyric writing. He has pretty much written all the lyrics for this album". Describing Davison's songwriting skills as "excellent", Howe positively compared Heaven & Earth to Fly From Here in terms of songwriting process: "Benoit [David] wasn't a writer, really. That's why Trevor Horn was involved in writing [...] Jon is really excellent." About writing and recording his first album with Yes, Davison himself commented: "I thought it might be [a lot of pressure] but it turned out not to be at all. I got to know them really well and [their] composing styles and patterns and pace." Davison travelled into various different places in order to meet all the other members separately and compose the songs with them.
Steve Howe stated: "Heaven & Earth has a freshness and different stance from many records we've done before. Hopefully, that freshness will be enjoyed." In another interview, he discussed the fact that there weren't any "epics" (very long songs) on Heaven & Earth: "We have some larger pieces and some of them are quite substantial. I think that's the kind of album it is — it isn't about eating up the time with one big concept, it's more about having different flavors and spices in our music that kind of show off each other. If having a track that leans one way is then followed by a track that leans the other way, at least we're not just doing eight tracks that are all the same." In later interviews, Howe reflects that he "tried to slow down" the album production in hopes that "maybe we could refine it…" and noted that, in comparison to the band's classic works, "YES albums are all about collaboration. Not only in the writing, but also in the arrangements because the skill of the great records in the 70s was definitely that we arranged the hell out of something that was really quite innocent."
Describing Heaven & Earth as "an accessible but still adventurous album", Squire discussed the length of the songs: "there are three that are on the longer side, 9-, 10-minute sort of long songs. So it's definitely got the Yes stamp of arrangement on the album, there's no doubt about that." He also commented on Davison's work as songwriter: "Jon's done a pretty good job. He worked with the other four of us on a couple of tracks each, and we've come together at the end of the album with some very strong music." Howe stated that, although most the songs were written and composed in collaboration, some of them were written by him or Davison alone.
Davison stated that they had "a bunch of extra material" that they did not finish in time for the album, including "a big prog piece" mainly written by him and Downes, which could ultimately be used for the next album.
Release and live performance
Heaven & Earth was released in various territories between 16–22 July 2014. It peaked at number 20 on the UK album chart, the band's highest position since Talk (1994), which peaked at the same spot. It entered the US Billboard 200 chart at number 26, falling to 108 in its second week.
During the Heaven & Earth tour, Yes performed songs from Heaven & Earth (mostly "Believe Again" and "The Game", sometimes "To Ascend") with Fragile and Close to the Edge in their entirety, followed by an encore of their greatest hits.
The album received a mixed reaction from critics. In a mixed review, The Quietus highly praised Davison, describing him as "absolutely the right choice for the band [...] Davison sings his bits, often with Squire backing him up, and those are often the best (or prettiest) parts of the album — Davison sounds like he's about to burst into tears on half these songs", but criticized the lack of energy, especially from White and Squire, and the tempo of the songs considered too slow.
The Guardian stated "the album [has] a rich, 70s sound, and the material is solid enough, flavoured with Steve Howe's distinctive, rippling guitar and Geoff Downes' retro keyboard. What's missing is the ambitious scope of their heyday, and the vitality of the younger generation of progressive rock bands."
|Japanese Albums Chart (Oricon) ||37|
|Scottish Albums Chart||18|
|UK Albums Chart||20|
|Finnish Albums Chart||45|
|German Albums Chart||23|
|Switzerland Albums Chart||29|
|Austrian Albums Chart||56|
|U.S. Billboard 200||26|
|U.S. Top Rock Albums (Billboard)||7|
|1.||"Believe Again"||Jon Davison, Steve Howe||8:02|
|2.||"The Game"||Chris Squire, Davison, Gerard Johnson||6:51|
|3.||"Step Beyond"||Howe, Davison||5:34|
|4.||"To Ascend"||Davison, Alan White||4:43|
|5.||"In a World of Our Own"||Davison, Squire||5:20|
|6.||"Light of the Ages"||Davison||7:41|
|7.||"It Was All We Knew"||Howe||4:13|
|8.||"Subway Walls"||Davison, Geoff Downes||9:03|
|Japanese bonus track|
|9.||"To Ascend (Acoustic Version)"||Davison, White||4:35|
- Jon Davison – lead and backing vocals, acoustic guitar (tracks 1 and 6)
- Steve Howe – electric, acoustic and steel guitars, backing vocals, Portuguese guitar (track 4)
- Chris Squire – bass, backing vocals
- Geoff Downes – keyboards, computer programming
- Alan White – drums, percussion
- Roy Thomas Baker – production
- Dave Dysart – engineering
- Eric Corson – engineering
- Daniel Meron – assistant engineer
- Billy Sherwood – mixing, engineering on backing vocals
- Maor Appelbaum – mastering
- Kate Haynes – sleeve design
- Roger Dean – cover art, Yes logo
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