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Image Entertainment presents
Yes: Keys To Ascension (1996)

"In and around the lake/Mountains come out of the sky and they stand there/One mile over we'll be there and we'll see you/Ten true summers we'll be there and laughing too/Twenty four before my love you'll see I'll be there with you."
- Jon Anderson (Roundabout)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: February 26, 2001

Stars: Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Rick Wakeman, Alan White
Director: Steve Mitchell

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: G
Run Time: 02h:26m:46s
Release Date: January 02, 2001
UPC: 014381972825
Genre: rock


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B A+A-A D

DVD Review

As a longtime fan of one of the landmark groups in the history of progressive rock, any new releases by the band Yes are welcomed on DVD, especially when they highlight material from their classic 1970s albums. A key feature of these recordings were long, epic showpieces, and here on Keys To Ascension, many of those vintage masterpieces are revisited live, performed by (in my opinion) the quintessential Yes lineup: Jon Anderson (vocals, harp), Steve Howe (guitars, guitars, mandolin, slide and more guitars, vocals), Chris Squire (bass guitar, vocals), Alan White (drums) and keyboard legend Rick Wakeman, with his wall of instruments. Unlike many other Yes DVD releases whose runtime doesn't allow for many of their 15-minute-plus works, this disc runs nearly two-and-a-half hours, and was culled from a series of dates at the Freemont Theatre in San Luis Obispo, California in March 1996. Each song is separated into its own video segment, so this is not comparable to a live Yes show for continuity, but I'll detail that further on.

The disc opens with two songs from their 1972 Close To The Edge album: Siberian Khatru, highlighted by Steve Howe's guitar work, followed by the 18-minute title track in which Rick Wakeman takes his turn in the spotlight. Next we get fan favorite I've Seen All Good People (incorrectly titled on the DVD) with a (finally) complete rendition of Time And A Word. And You And I featuring Howe's 12-string and mandoguitar work follows, and from 1974's Tales From Topographic Oceans comes the complete The Revealing Science Of God. Moving on to the title track of their 1977 effort, Going For The One, Steve Howe mans his Fender console steel, and switches to acoustic six-string for that same album's Turn Of The Century. Returning to the very distant past, the group pulls out America, and even visit the often overlooked Tormato album for Onward. Wakeman again takes center stage for Awaken, which also sees Chris Squire playing his triple-necked bass and Steve Howe on pedal steel. From the 1972 Fragile album comes the radio hit, Roundabout with the grande finale coming in the form of Starship Trooper, which finally makes its way onto a live video performance after being suspiciously absent on many previous discs.

The only thing that bothers me about this release is the constant barrage of video overlays of everything from natural elements like water, clouds and forests, to cars, aerial acrobats and skiers, which really detract from any intimate live feel the disc could have. And I'm sure I will be able to accurately render architectural drawings of the ceiling of the venue from the numerous times it was superimposed on the performance video. While very arty and all, it would have suited me better to get more angles of the stage action, and less video effects and slow motion. Part of the beauty of watching a band like Yes perform is enjoying all the instruments played, and witnessing how they mesh together. The video often does not match what is being played, perhaps because it was from another evening's performance, or was slightly out of sync, which, as a musician, I find extremely frustrating.

Despite the stylistic video presentation (that I could have done without), this disc is a showcase of the awesome talent that is Yes, and gathers together some outstanding performances of their amazingly complex, yet incredibly musical work. Each member is showcased well, and although this band has some 30 years of history, they still have fun performing and it shows. Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Rick Wakeman demonstrate why they have won numerous awards for their techniques over the years, while Jon Anderson's unmistakable voice threads the songs together, with Alan White's tight rhythmic force forming the backbone of the performance. All in all, a great anthology of some of this band's finest work, performed live as only Yes can.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Presented at 1.33:1, Keys To Ascension is comparable to most good live performance videos in appearance. Colors are sold and vibrant, but aliasing is evident throughout, and the main cameras tend to give a rather soft appearance, which has been digitally sharpened. The overabundant insert video often appears grainy. Considering the caliber of the music, the video is minorly disappointing, especially some of the camera angles on Rick Wakeman which seem to suffer the worst from stair stepping.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Surround. The 5.1 track is vastly superior in both level and soundstage width, though the surround channels are ambient only. Frequency range is well represented and the audio is extremely clear and detailed, without any harshness that often frequents live recordings. The 2.0 track leaves a lot to be desired, being much more center focused, and not as defined.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Music/Song Access with 14 cues and remote access
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Aside from the motion menus which feature Roger Dean's cover artwork with Steve Howe, Jon Anderson and Alan White's faces in floating bubbles (where, pray tell, are Wakeman - who is also missing from the foldover group collage - and Chris Squire?), there are no extras to speak of.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

Despite my difference of opinion with the producers as to how these performances should have been presented, Keys To Ascension is a must own for any self respecting Yes fan. Nearly two-and-a-half hours, including a performance of the entire Close To The Edge album, plus many of their long overlooked compositions make this a real bargain. For the uninitiated, it showcases what this band was made of before their resurgence in popularity under the helm of Trevor Rabin and the 90125 album. Here are the goods—progressive rock music at its finest, performed by a collection of the finest the world has to offer. Is this a recommendation? The only answer is YES.

 


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