YES – Mirror To The Sky (Album Review)

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Wonders never cease. Left for dead as a recording entity after the abysmal “Heaven & Earth” in 2014, progressive rock patriarchs Yes returned in 2021 with the surprisingly listenable album “The Quest”. Pleasant, unchallenging but competent, it was more than some expected but less than many hoped for (see our extensive review here). Just a year and a half later, Yes is back with “Mirror To The Sky” and it’s yet another step up from the nadir of 2014. Although they’ve lost the legendary Chris Squire and Alan White during that time, they’ve managed to coalesce effectively despite generational gaps in their lineup. Now comprising of two “veterans” of the band and three long-serving “youngsters”, the current version may be referred as “Yes-lite” by some but happily there’s still plenty of creativity kicking as they forge a new Yes sound. There’s no question that this is a different Yes than the one that left us after “Magnification” – and the subsequent one-off “Fly From Here” – so if the listener can’t get over the fact that Anderson and Wakeman are not in the band, there is little point in reading further. Still, there are several whiffs of Yes DNA present throughout the new album and more than a few rewarding songwriting turns, so for those willing to allow the past to be passed, let’s reflect on this mirror to the sky. 

The new album is much more ambitious than “The Quest”, an essential ingredient in justifying its relevancy in the first place. While it doesn’t dazzle on first listen, like most rewarding albums it grows over time, revealing many layers of tasty playing thanks to Steve Howe’s skillfully uncluttered production. Once we make peace with the reality of the current incarnation of the band, and their unique spin on the Yes sound is embraced, the fruits of their labors start to become apparent. 

“Cut From the Stars” is a fine lead-off single, perhaps even better than “The Ice Bridge” was in conveying a renewed sense of energy and focus. Complete with Steve Howe/Geoff Downes interplaying runs overtop of Billy Sherwood’s Squire-infused bass-lines and eco-conscious lyrics from Jon Davison, this certainly sounds like modern Yes. But whereas “The Ice Bridge” turned out to be one of the best songs on “The Quest”, there are pleasures much greater to be found on “Mirror To The Sky”

“All Connected” is perhaps the most consistently successful song on the album, a nine-minute mini epic which features Howe’s heavenly steel playing throughout, along with a host of other classic Howe guitar moments. The opening wordless vocal section is prime modern Yes terrain which could have been milked a bit further but instead the band chooses to go right into a fairly generic opening verse. Still, the extensive vocal harmonies are layered with astounding skill, making for thrilling listening on headphones. Heck, any Yes song that includes a lyric like “Karmachromatic” has to be on the right track. Authored by Davison/Sherwood/Howe, this is the best songwriting combo the current band has to offer and fortunately they followup with writing the impressive “Luminosity”. After an emotionally engaging instrumental intro and a lovely vocal intro (again, wordless!), Davison’s opening Celtic verse tastefully nods to something Anderson himself might have written (e.g. “Boundaries”). Sherwood’s fretless bass playing and vocal counterpoint is a delight while Howe’s dobro and Downes’ vibes offer plenty of extra color. Howe’s closing section on steel, supported by cascading strings, is some of the best we can hope for in latter-day Yes

The centerpiece of the album is unquestionably the 14-minute title track, an impressive mix of evocative lyrical melodies, sweeping symphonic orchestration and diverse musical terrain. Strangely, the piece starts off with a clunkier performance than one would expect: Howe’s opening theme seems a bit uneven though the idea is good, Davison’s acoustic strumming is dry and uninviting in the mix and Downes’ piano is unable to salvage the clash of the the 6-strings. Had all guitars on the album been left to Howe, the outcome would likely have been greatly improved, as he invariably finds unusual voicings with which to elevate the material in a way that Davison’s straight-forward strums cannot. After the piece gets going things quickly improve, Howe finally coming to the fore with a bit of fire as Sherwood’s steady bass propels the rhythm section forward. The melodic choruses are particularly strong, a quality that often is lacking in modern Yes music and is crucial to the epic’s success. The grandeur of the orchestration lifts the piece as a whole, though Howe’s soloing over the middle section would have benefited from a more energized attack. Still, his shining moment comes toward the latter half where an extended slow-build offers a transcendent expanse quite unlike any Yes moment in recent memory, as Paul Joyce’s sensitive orchestration beautifully compliments Howe’s playing. Exquisite. A few motifs also call to mind moments from Yes’ past: if the hammer-on theme at 1:24 sounds familiar, cast your ears back to ABWH’s “Themes” at 3:43 for a similar approach. Likewise, the 5-note acoustic run at 2:49 brings to mind “The Ancient” at 12:28, almost making us expect Davison to launch into, “So the flowering creativity of life wove its web face to face with the shallow.” 

Closing the album-proper is the Davison ballad “Circles of Time”. Like his “Future Memories” on the previous album, it’s a beautiful addition to this collection of songs, in tune with the spirit of Yes albums while contributing Davison’s own unique stamp on the band’s legacy. Much less successful is the middle-of-the-road rocker “Living Out Their Dream”. Wielding an unexpected lyrical subject that’s as off-base as Anderson’s “crack time” moment in “That, That Is”, coupled with a weak cowbell-driven tempo, there’s very little to redeem this poor choice other than some decent Howe soloing towards the end. Yes has not always been immune to questionable tastes in their attempts at accessible hit rockers (e.g. “Don’t Go”, “Almost Like Love”, much from “Open Your Eyes”, etc…) but it’s sad that this song is the only Downes co-write on the album. It seems more and more that he is saving his best material for DBA or other projects. 

“Mirror To The Sky” Album Artwork

As was the case with its predecessor, “Mirror To The Sky” offers a second disc of 3 songs in addition to the main disc which represents the proper album. Overall this is a good move, as the first disc carries a decent cohesiveness (aside from “Living Out Their Dream”) and these additional songs – whether deemed “bonus tracks” or not – offer a bit of interest but don’t feel essential. There’s a lot going on in the eight-minute “Unknown Place”, which offers unusual but effective vocal approaches and brings Downes more out in the mix. There’s even some church organ playing here but maddeningly it lacks a satisfying sense of fluidity that the Wakeman family would have been able to deliver in their sleep. Still, it’s worthy of investigation, as is the breezy “Magic Potion” which even successfully rocks a bit. 

Throughout the album the personnel are working well together as a whole and ably demonstrating their compatibility. This incarnation of the band is indeed progressing – they’re not quite daring yet but they are experimenting and getting more adventurous which is most welcome. Davison feels like he’s coming into his own and Sherwood has already long been there, brilliantly living up to Squire’s legacy with his impeccable approach to bass and backing vocals. Drummer Jay Schellen doesn’t stand out but offers solid support as he pays homage to Alan White’s style. Most vitally, Howe’s overarching impact continues to deliver a performance which can genuinely carry on the band’s legitimacy and appeal. Surprisingly, the main disappointment here is Geoff Downes, not so much in what he plays but in what he doesn’t play. Repeated listenings show that Downes is very active in the background, complimenting all that the rest of the band performs. But when it’s all said and done there’s hardly any quotable moments that one can remember from him, other than some lackluster church organ on the second disc. While he’s clearly a competent keyboardist, Downes’ approach hardly lives up to the legacy of pioneering players who made their flamboyant mark on Yes music – notably including Downes himself on “Drama” (not to mention numerous Asia albums and other projects). One can only imagine where this album – or the two that proceeded it – might have gone had the band been able to boast a keyboardist with the same fire that Howe and Sherwood display. Where have you gone, Geoff Downes?

Happily, as was done on “The Quest”, Steve Howe’s well-balanced mix is back and the album succeeds in no small part to the fact that it simply sounds fantastic. Howe-ever, as with “The Quest”, the only downside to having a Yes member also being the producer is that there is no one to push the band further than their own initiative will take them. While “Mirror To The Sky” is a strong album, it could have jumped to the next level even more with additional prodding from a judicious producer, particularly in the keyboard department. Still, Howe’s spacious, pristine production is a blessing and cannot be overstated. The band seem to be floating on a high right now and are likely recording their next followup even as you read these words. Rather than silently slinking away into the 21st century, it appears that Yes are determined to squeeze out as much remaining inspiration as they can, at least while Howe is in the game. 

Released By: Inside Out Music
Release Date: April 7th, 2023
Genre:  Progressive Rock


  • Steve Howe / Guitars, vocals
  • Geoff Downes / Keyboards, vocals
  • Billy Sherwood / Bass guitar, vocals
  • Jon Davison / Lead vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion, keyboards
  • Jay Schellen / Drums, percussion

“Mirror To The Sky” track listing:


 1. Cut From The Stars 05:27
 2. All Connected 09:02
 3. Luminosity 09:04
 4. Living Out Their Dream 04:45
 5. Mirror To The Sky 13:53
 6. Circles Of Time 04:59


 1. Unknown Place 08:15
 2. One Second Is Enough 04:04
 3. Magic Potion 04:08

Pre-order “Mirror To The Sky” HERE.

8.8 Excellent

Over the past decade Steve Howe has been reticent about Yes recording a new album. Seems he wasn’t really sure if the band had anything left to say. Many fans probably concurred. So it comes as no small surprise that not only does “Mirror To The Sky” come out just 18 months after their last album, but it easily surpasses “The Quest” and even hints at future momentum. Filled with impressive performances, revealing production and some fine songwriting - including many lengthier tracks - “Mirror To The Sky” makes the best case yet that Yes can continue to be relevant and, dare we even say, progressive. 

  • Songwriting 8
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8
  • Production 10


  1. Jeff Sundin on

    I LOVE That they are creating new material AND that they do it with the recent lineup!
    The 1991 documentary Shock To The System recounts the Yes Union Tour that combined the lineups of the two most popular versions of YES.
    It was a fabulous concert and I always hoped that tradition would carry on.
    Toward the end of the documentary, Rick Wakeman said something profound. I’m paraphrasing Wakeman’s comments, but you can listen for yourself by viewing the video.
    Wakeman said, “I have a strange suspicion that there might be a version of YES carrying on even after I’m dead and buried. Much in the same way the New York Philharmonic Orchestra carries on. At some point, we’ll all just be a part of the history of the band.”
    I applaud YES in every lineup, every version, every track. This new album is just be one more small step toward seeing Wakeman’s vision come true. I hope my great grandchildren and theirs too, will always know and love this music.

    • Joel Barrios on

      Finally someone makes a positive and educated comment on this review. So much hate and negativity, and the old, and frankly stupid argument about “not having original members”

  2. Heaven and Earth was brilliant. Can I trust this review? Who cares, I’ll decide for myself.

    • Joel Barrios on

      If you think “Heaven and Earth”was brilliant, this one will sound like a masterpiece to your ears

  3. The best thing the band could do is stop smoking pot. Davison in particular hits all the notes but puts zero power or passion behind them; the result is that he sounds like he sang the whole album lying down. It spills into the other members’ performances as well, though you can’t be sure in the case of Downes because, face it, he’s always been this bland.

  4. Not a bad album.
    Magic Potion sounds an awful lot like Squeeze’s Farfisa Beat.

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