Yes - Mirror to the Sky

"Mirror to the Sky" marks a new era for legendary progressive rock band Yes, making a triumphant return with their twenty-third studio album. Released on InsideOut Music and Sony Music, this album signifies a significant milestone for the band as it marks their first studio release since the passing of longtime drummer Alan White in 2022. Dedicated to White's memory, the album introduces American drummer Jay Schellen as a full-time member of Yes.

The groundwork for the album was laid shortly before the release of their previous record, "The Quest." Continuing their collaboration, guitarist Steve Howe took on the role of producer once again, ensuring a seamless transition between the two albums. "Mirror to the Sky" also features orchestral arrangements by Paul K. Joyce, provided by the FAMES Orchestra in North Macedonia, adding a majestic touch to select tracks.

Audiophile enthusiasts can enjoy "Mirror to the Sky" in various formats, including Digital Download, CD, Vinyl LP, and of greatest interest to high resolution collectors is the Blu-ray featuring for the first time a Dolby Atmos mix, plus DTS-HD Master Audio 48kHz / 24-bit 5.1 surround sound mix, and Hi-Res 96kHz / 24-bit stereo mixes, along with 96kHz / 24-bit stereo instrumental mixes of all album tracks. Plus, when picking up the 2 CD / 1 Blu-ray deluxe artbook editions fans will find additional artwork by the renowned Yes cover artist, Roger Dean lining the 36-page 12-inch hard book.

Following the release of "The Quest," featuring guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White, keyboardist Geoff Downes, lead vocalist Jon Davison, and bassist Billy Sherwood, with Jay Schellen as a guest percussionist, the band wasted no time in discussing ideas for their next album. Confirming these discussions, Billy Sherwood revealed in May 2022 that the band had begun working on new material. Unfortunately, due to illness, Alan White was unable to participate in the upcoming 2022 world tour commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of their iconic 1972 album, "Close to the Edge." Tragically, White passed away three days later. Jay Schellen, who had been collaborating with Yes since 2016, stepped up to the challenge and took over the drumming duties. In February 2023, it was officially announced that Schellen had become a full-time member of the band.

The recording process for "Mirror to the Sky" began with the band exploring numerous musical ideas. Having had a significant break from recording due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Yes felt a surge of creativity and entered what they described as a strong "creative zone." While maintaining the spirit of their previous album, "The Quest," the band aimed to deliver a fresh and unique experience with "Mirror to the Sky." Two initial song ideas evolved into sprawling compositions: the 13-minute epic title track, and the 9-minute masterpiece, "Luminosity." Yes meticulously crafted the album throughout 2022, with Billy Sherwood and Jay Schellen recording their parts in California. As with "The Quest," Steve Howe took on the role of producer, and the album features orchestral arrangements by Paul K. Joyce, beautifully performed by the FAMES Orchestra in North Macedonia. Curtis Schwartz, the band's trusted engineer and mixer, worked closely with them at his studio in Ardingly, West Sussex.

Not only are the mixes wonderfully immersive, the sound quality is also vivid and clear. The sub-woofer fires lightly, and the bass is filled out across the main channels. Guitars glisten and keyboards shimmer with distinct vocals emanating out from the center channel. Musically, I am with other critics in praising "Mirror to the Sky" for its high-quality compositions, and of even greater significance to me as a longtime fan, is their return to the sound of Yes's golden era. While I like The Quest, this album is by far even better, with a more aggressive and muscular sound, although some may be disappointed with Geoff Downes' reduced presence. Still, their renewed energy gives me hope for a prolific new chapter in the band’s ongoing career. There is a vibrant freshness to their sound and writing, and the meticulous arrangements stand out, particularly the epic lyrics in the title track and "Luminosity."

The Atmos mix extends on the surround version, with guitar intros and solos soaring to the front and rear heights. Percussive elements head up top and strings sooth listeners from the heavens. It is all done with exceptional taste and creative use of the all-encompassing spatial nature of Atmos. While there is some light touches of ambience above, delays and reverb stay close to the ground, which is extremely evident on the title track. Speaking of which, I literally sense that Mirror to the Sky was practically written for Dolby Atmos and 5.1 Surround Sound. There are plenty of layers that are spread nicely across the soundscape, providing aural excitement for the ears.

Stereophiles will find an extremely well-balanced mix that adds some bottom and blends the snare nicely with guitars and keyboards spreading widely across the stereoscape. This mix offers fantastic dynamics, transparency, and excellent imaging. There are moments when parts feel like they are jumping out of the speakers into the room and other elements fall spaciously behind the speakers. Listeners will surely want to check out the three bonus tracks that are available in Atmos, Surround, and Stereo, plus chill to the instrumental stereo mix too.

Over the years the band has gone through significant changes in membership, with some lasting years, and others only involved for a short period. The current lineup of Yes for this album consists of: Jon Davison on Lead Vocals; Steve Howe playing Guitars, Autoharp, and adding Backing Vocals; Geoff Downes on Keyboards; Billy Sherwood holding down the bottom on Bass Guitar and singing Backing Vocals; and the newest member Jay Schellen striking the Drums and Percussion.

"Mirror to the Sky" is a must have for fans and collectors of Yes, progressive rock enthusiasts will find them paying homage to their legacy, but also represents an exciting new chapter for the band. With their exceptional musicianship and unwavering dedication, the band has now also given immersion listeners an excellent release to include in their collection, full of spatial aural ecstasy. Simply put, this is a must have all around.

Released May 19, 2023.

 Format Info

2 CD + 1 Bluray Artbook Edition featuring Dolby Atmos, 48kHz / 24-bit 5.1 Surround Sound, and 96kHz / 24-bit stereo mixes, plus bonus material.  Also available on colored and black vinyl, via digital download, on CD, and through major streaming platforms.

 

 

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 About the Author

Wesley Derbyshire Profile Image

Wesley is a lifelong music enthusiast. He started his career in the recording industry in New York City as an audio engineer, producer, and studio manager. Subsequently he toured across America as a guitarist with the short-lived band Land's Crossing. After many years in the technology sector and amassing a substantial vinyl and CD collection, he delved into immersive audio and created Hi-Res Edition to share with other listeners about the sound quality and discrete mixes available on many formats. He recently upgraded his system to 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos and continues to seek out and share about the best sounding releases.

 

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