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Music Review: Yes – Symphonic Live

Yes has returned with a new two-disc CD offering titled Symphonic Live. The music was previously released in 2002 as part of a DVD set of the same name. The group had decided to tour in support of their latest album release at the time, Magnification.

They brought in the European Festival Orchestra, conducted by Wilhelm Keitel, to back them in concert. The resulting sound retains the original structure and intent of their material, but the songs are enhanced with new textures and layers.

This version of Yes contains four fifths of their classic line-up. On board are vocalist and guitarist Jon Anderson, lead guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, and drummer Alan White. Keyboardist Tom Brislin fills in for Rick Wakeman, and he is missed.

I must say that I had lost track of Yes over the last 18 years or so. They were a staple on my turntable during the 70s and 80s, but their 1991 Union album was the last release I had purchased by the group, so it was nice to catch up. Also, since I do not own the music in DVD form, this album had to stand on its own without the visual presence of the group or orchestra.

I found Symphonic Live to be an interesting, creative, and a technically adept album. They wisely chose to mix in their hits and older tracks with some songs from their newest release and it all combined for a superior listening experience.

I had not heard the music from Magnification, so tracks such as “Don’t Go,” “In The Presence Of,” and the title song were all new to me. They contain all the elements of a classic Yes sound and seemed to fit the orchestral backing a little better than the older material.

They reach way back into their past for several songs. “I’ve Seen All The Good People” from 1971’s The Yes Album finds their harmonies in good shape. “Starship Trooper” from the same album receives a nice workout. “Long Distance Runaround” from Fragile is an excellent reminder of the guitar virtuosity of Steve Howe.

The album concludes with two of their best-known songs. “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” and “Roundabout” both benefit from reduced orchestration as they present the basic group at its best.

Symphonic Live brings Yes into the 21st century and it updates their classic material in a unique way. It proves that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

About David Bowling

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