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The Ladder Revisited – 290

The Ladder
The Ladder

Produced by Preston Frazier, Bill Govier, Wayne Hall and Michel Arsenault.

This week I couldn’t find a time to record with Mark but we still managed to take another, separate look at The Ladder after many mentions of it recently. Mark also reviews Yesterdays.

  • What to leave out?
  • What to put on?
  • Live or studio tracks?

Listen to the episode then let us know what you think!

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from the following two creative commons sources: thanvannispen and

18 replies on “The Ladder Revisited – 290”

Truly an underrated Yes album. This was Yes returning to form. When it came out, it promised so much for the future of the band. Then stuff happened.

Greetings Jamie,
Yeah I had high hopes of Yes continuing down this refueled path. Unfortunately I think that possibility died with Bruce Fairburn.

If you want to leave a track off, Kevin, surely “Can I?” would be the one (although I accept it leads nicely into the following track)
I agree with Marks comments about this having much more bite and energy than the “Keys” tracks which seem strong in composition and technique but perhaps a bit lacking in energy and emotion. One can only wonder what might have been achieved if Bruce Fairbain had been brought in earlier and produced the “Keys” tracks.

Greetings Tim,
Some interesting points. I think Bruce Fairburn was their new Eddie Offord. If he had entered the picture earlier I can only imagine what great stuff could have been done with Keys….then a Bruce produced Open Your Eyes. .Ladder…etc…It could have been a second classic run. But that’s my opinion.

I had to give this another listen too. I must say it is a very good album indeed. Chris really had done some nice work on this as well as the rest of the band. Its a shame that they got screwed on the release of this classic Yes album indeed very under rated this is an album every Yes fan should own and treasurer

Greetings Paul,
Good to hear from you.
It’s very cool that you gave the Ladder another chance and I’m glad that you have found it rewarding. It is definitely Chris Squire at his later years best!
And it is a shame that their own record label saw little in their future…if it had been treated as a release with real worth…it would have been received different I think.

A great album supported by a great tour. But I’ve never forgotten what one guy said rather loudly as we were leaving the venue (Sunrise Musical Theater, October 21st, 1999) – “you’ll never hear any of those songs live again!”. And with the exception of “Nine Voices” he was right.

I remember being very surprised, happy and satisfied when I first heard “The Ladder ,” although I don’t remember if I picked it up right when it was released or just stumbled onto it later. The two “Keys” albums were a nice surprise, but I really wasn’t paying all that much attention to Yes at the time. The first thing that always comes to mind about this album is the spectacular production quality-everything is clear and distinct and perfectly blended at the same time. Alan’s drums are so bright and clean it almost feels like he’s hitting you with his sticks. It’s a bit like The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” – the band decided “hey, let’s record a real album with a real producer.” Too bad Bruce Fairburn is gone, I think he and Yes could have done a lot more together. As far as the songs go, there’s not much really wrong here-I wouldn’t lose any of them; the writing and arrangement is solid throughout and each piece has a distinct tune and melody, unlike a lot of Jon’s attention deficit ramblings – one wonders how often the producer overruled him in the process. Even “Can I” is fine-a nice throwback to prehistory… and it doesn’t last all that long. The only song I really ever skip over is (BRACE YOURSELF, MARK!) “Homeworld.” It begins the album promisingly enough but quickly becomes somewhat pedestrian; it feels like they’re maybe trying a bit too hard to sound like Yes. And, of course, once again, my favorite track on this album is “Finally” – it’s a good, solid, no-frills rocker; short, sweet and to the point. I rank it right up there with “Roundabout” and “Tempus Fugit.” One odd point-the cover art: not one of Roger Dean’s best works; it doesn’t seem to have much relation to the music, just a random painting slapped on to another Yes album. But, all in all, “The Ladder” is a late breaking high point in their career; the last really good, really Yes-sounding one.

Hey Joseph,

Very pleased to read that you think highly of The Ladder….I did find it shocking that Homeworld is the song you skip. But I respect your decision. And “Finally” being your favorite is also surprising. But that’s what makes Yes fans awesome…we are all different…yet the same.

I agree with Mark’s (and others) take that this is the last really good Yes album.

For me it’s about a certain energy that I suspect was often driven by Jon. ABWH had it (even though all the “electronica” from Bill and Rick was disappointing) and so did Big Generator. Talk did not have it IMO.

There’s something that happens to the band when that energy is present – they’re more engaged, they sound like they’re having fun, and perhaps most importantly it gets Alan out of his default (and somnambulant) 4/4 time. On that last point, my expectations were lowered considerably after first listening to Homeworld because Alan was in “default” mode, which is why I agree with Joseph’s assessment. Thankfully the album really picks up as it goes along. The last two songs are incredible.

I enjoyed Keys and Magnification but not from this (energy) standpoint. And by now, at their ages, I’ve had to let go of that desire and just accept the beautiful but more subdued music they’re capable of producing. For example I think Invention of Knowledge is delightful but I don’t listen to it while operating heavy machinery.

There is just so bloody much going on, constantly and continuously, in “Invention of Knowledge” that it seems to just turn off my “Give A Damn” circuit and eventually I realize that I’m not listening any more…

Right? Lol!

It’s an album that sort of defies description though I enjoy it a lot. But I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for Jon and think he’s one of music’s rare poetic geniuses (at least on the “good side of the Force”).

Like most inspired geniuses though his really focused and groundbreaking stuff came early in his career. Since then it’s been mostly variations on themes and the playful musings of his “mystical” mind. But man, has he been something unique and wonderful in modern music – a point I was reminded of in spades after listening to Heaven and Earth (no offense to Jon Davidson, who seems like a sweet guy).

Greetings Greg,

I think you hit the nail on the head concerning the “certain energy”. I kind of look at it as inspiration. ..they were properly inspired to make a great album…I also found it fascinating that you also didn’t think much of Homeworld. Maybe it’s just me who loves it so much.

But I’m with Joseph as far as Invention of Knowledge is concerned. .good effort…but not that great an album….way too much vocals on it.

Hey Mark, after repeated listens Homeworld has grown on me. There’s a lot there I like. Just wish it wasn’t in that slow tempo Alan plays in way too often.

You’re spot on about IoK… Jon hardly takes a breath.

..and, but, also: “Yesterdays” is one I had before I ever dredged up the courage to buy the first two albums, so my impression of them is somewhat colored by the “best of” aspect, although I was later rewarded with their covers of “Every Little Thing” and “No Opportunity etc…” And of course we get the final “official” version of “America” – some of the earlier versions got a bit improvisationally extravagant – I think the one on “The Word Is Live” runs about 900 minutes or so… and it DOES sound a bit muddy here – the Rhino Deluxe Edition is much better-even Stephen Wilson somehow managed to remove the low end in his remaster. Yesterdays is a good look at their early stuff, though, before they really became the Prog band we know now.

I think The Ladder has some of the best songwriting and some of Jon best singing since GTFO. I am glad they didn’t try to write an long form epic–for that “there is no try, only do.” While the production is splendid, I don’t hear it as some kind of return to a more classic Yes sound. It was the then and there Yes of 1999 with a good producer. I hear Magnification as more of classic Yes sound. If only Bruce Fairburn had produced that!

And don’t worry Mark, I think Homeworld is brilliant (as Kevin would say). I even have the game!

I believe it was during a Jon Anderson interview in 1975 where he said that the band felt that their first two albums were being overlooked and YESTERDAYS was meant to promote YES and TIME AND A WORD. In a way you could look at the albumless “Dear Father” as a ‘bonus track’. “America”, in a sense, was a lost song at the time. It was not on a Yes album and “The New Age of Atlantic” was an obscure album. However the single version could still be found in Yesslots at music stores. Many people, including myself, never heard the long version of “America” until YESTERDAYS was released. Of course the front cover album artwork is Roger Dean’s interpretation of the original TIME AND A WORD cover. The back cover, in my opinion, is Roger Dean’s interpretation of the youth and innocence of the band in its earliest years. I was about 15 when the album came out and I never understood why some people seemed disturbed about the back cover. It never phased me and I find it to be in good taste and not offensive. Although YESTERDAYS was a compilation album they did have a chance to play some of these songs during the Solo Albums tour. Overall after they dropped the solo songs there was not much new material in their setlist. Another Yes missed opportunity as they could have added songs like “America” and “Astral Traveller” to their setlist to replace the solo songs and give a large chunk of the fans relatively fresh material!!

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