Yes, “Lightning Strikes” from ‘The Ladder’ (1999): YESterdays

“Lightning Strikes” definitely has a different feel than the prior two songs on Yes’ The Ladder, but that is in no way a slight. 

Released to radio as the follow-up to “Homeworld (The Ladder),” “Lightning Strikes” marks the return of horns to a Yes song. The band is not known for its subtle use of brass and reeds, but the Marguerita Horns are well integrated into the song’s arrangement. It’s easy to see why Yes issued this as a single. 

Opening with a sampled mellotron flute sound from “Phenomenal Cat” by the Kinks, “Lightning Strikes” incorporates contemporary production and with a traditional Yes feel. It’s upbeat yet does not pander for radio play. Part of the feel comes from the arranging acumen of former keyboardist Igor Khoroshev. By then a full member of the band, Khoroshev adds modern techniques with Rick Wakeman-like finesse.

Clearly, Yes was energized by writing, arranging and playing in the same room. Jon Anderson’s lyrics are direct, as is his strong vocal. Chris Squire and Alan White combine to add a direct and multilayered back beat, which includes percussion samples and synth-drum accents. 

The mid-song breakdown provides a bit of a musical left turn, yet Billy Sherwood’s subtle electric rhythm-guitar textures are not lost in the mix. The bass break, which precedes a recapitulation of the main theme, is the cherry on the top. That, and a few select Steve Howe acoustic and electric-guitar fills, bring “Lightning Strikes” to a satisfying end.