Yes, “Sign Language” from ‘Keys to Ascension 2’ (1997): YESterdays
Of course, the world’s greatest progressive rock band never stays is one place for long, and this album marked the last gathering of the classic line up. For whatever reason, the critical success of Keys 2 did not translate into commercial gold.
After that, producer Billy Sherwood upgraded the classic Yes sound, moving it forward on their next project. Meanwhile, “Sign Language” – one of the few instrumental songs in the Yes canon – is hardly a throw away.
Written by Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe, it is a perfect end to Keys to Ascension 2. Wakeman’s piano combined with restrained string synthesizers, melding with Howe’s classically influences electric guitar work. Howe employs his acoustic guitar in the intro and his volume pedal toward the end of the song. Touches of mandolin float above the melody. “Sign Language” is appropriately restrained.
This marked the end of Rick Wakeman’s tenure with Yes, after contributing to an equal number of studio albums as predecessor Tony Kaye and cementing his status as a prog god. As for Yes, it’s onward to my second favorite Yes album, 1997’s Open Your Eyes.