With their 23rd studio album, Mirror To The Sky, Yes has done something rather astounding.
They’ve made a progressive rock album.
I know that’s sure to be considered a strange statement; after all, Yes is arguably thee defining progressive rock band, thanks to enduring classic albums like Fragile, Close To The Edge, and Tales From Topographic Oceans, to name just a few. But while the band has continued to demonstrate their prog rock chops in a live setting for years, Mirror To The Sky is their first album since 2010’s Fly From Here that it feels to these ears like the band went into the studio determined to remind listeners what made them prog in the first place.
The album’s first taste, “Cut From The Stars,” immediately felt like something inspired from the Going For The One-era of the band, with its prominent Billy Sherwood bassline, space-inspired Jon Davison lyrics, and a great back and forth between guitarist and album producer Steve Howe and keyboardist Geoff Downes in its final moments. Unlike “The Ice Bridge,” the upbeat first single from the band’s more mid-tempo 2021 album, The Quest, “Cut From The Stars” points the way for Mirror To The Sky, an album that is propulsive and rocks harder than the last few Yes releases.
“All Connected,” the second single and song on the album, recalled Big Generator-era Yes on my first listen, with its dual Davison/Sherwood vocals and gorgeous harmonies. The song clocks in at over 9 minutes, as does the following track, “Luminosity,” so for those fans craving those longer Yes pieces, Mirror To The Sky delivers. “”Living Out Their Dream” follows, a Howe/Downes rocker that feels like Yes doing Asia, with Jon Davison singing in a lower register than he has on any previous song he’s been a part of (and it works); the tune is a fun, momentary respite before the title track arrives.
At 14 minutes, “Mirror To The Sky” is the longest Yes song since the title track to 2010’s Fly From Here, and it delivers everything one would want from epic-length Yes. The opening Steve Howe guitar notes are dark, and set the tone. The FAMES Orchestra that was also heard throughout The Quest makes its presence felt at the tail end of this track, and it works perfectly. “Mirror To The Sky” is one of those rare lengthy songs that I wished went even longer; it doesn’t wear out its welcome, as it flows through different time signatures and movements. I’d love to hear this one live; I believe it could take on a life of its own.
The album proper concludes with a lovely Jon Davison track, “Circles of Time,” but it’s not over there. Like The Quest before it, Mirror To The Sky has three “bonus” songs, though for these ears they’re all stronger pieces that the ones from The Quest. One in particular, “Unknown Place,” could easily have been placed as part of Mirror To The Sky’s flow, as it’s as strong as anything the band has done. The Going For The One influence/inspiration is quite clear on this one when Geoff Downes’ church organ pipes through mid-way during the song.
Mirror To The Sky is the first Yes studio album since 1974’s Tales From Topographic Oceans to not feature drummer Alan White, who sadly passed away in 2022. His longtime friend and understudy Jay Schellen has permanently taken his seat behind the kit here, and does an admirable job in what’s probably a hard place to be in. This version of Yes, including Schellen (who’s been on the road with the band since 2016) has essentially been together consistently longer than any other, and you can feel it in this record. The songs and the musicianship; I truly believe a band can’t have this sort of interaction and sympathetic playing without time spent together and an appreciation of what everyone brings to the table.
For all the fans out there who take issue with the band based on who isn’t in the lineup; well, I doubt Mirror To The Sky is going to change your mind, because I’d suggest you’re not listening to it with open ears. As a fan of Yes for 30+ years, I’ve always thought the band is the sum of its parts rather than any particular individual, and Mirror To The Sky is a testament to that for me. As producer, Steve Howe knows how Yes should sound; he should, since he’s been a key architect for so many of the band’s enduring moments. He’s not the only one, though. All of the musicians here had worked with the late, beloved Chris Squire as well, who, until his passing in 2015, had been the only member of the band involved in its every iteration. I feel like Chris’ spirit is felt throughout Mirror To The Sky, and that often comes from Billy Sherwood’s bass playing and vocals; more so than on The Quest, it sounds as though Billy’s found the sweet spot between being his own player while also recalling in his work some definite Squireisms.
Ultimately, Mirror To The Sky is a great progressive rock album. It’s also a great Yes album, an inspired piece of music that hit me immediately and one that I feel once again makes a case for this lineup’s continued existence and creativity. With talk that they’re already working on yet another new album, it’s safe to say that Yes remains strong in the 2020s. I can’t wait to hear what they do next.
You can order Mirror To The Sky in one of its various permutations here.
3 Replies to “Review: With “Mirror To The Sky” Yes Once Again Deliver Great Prog Rock”
In my opinion the las studio album of YES was MAGNIFICATION, when they left out the band JON ANDERSON, YES became a tribute band of YES itself, even worst when CHRIS SQUIRE passed away.
Obviously I respectfully disagree with that sentiment.
I’ve been driving around with this album on repeat for 2 days. Each time it gets better and better. Some of these songs will be in my Yes favorites playlist. Luminosity is blowing me away today.