Yes – Fly From Here

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I’m not a big Yes fan.  Though quite a big fan of progressive rock, Jon Anderson’s vocals have often been off-putting, at least when I was younger and digging deep into everything that was music.  Likewise, while I enjoy temp changes and bridges between differing sections making up longer songs, Yes was often just too intricate or too grandstanding.  With bands around like Genesis and Renaissance, I didn’t need Yes in my rotation.

It’s never bothered me that Yes has had a revolving door of musicians; I believe  only Steve Howe (guitar) and Chris Squire (bass) are stalwarts.  Those are two good ones to have.  Bring back one of many drummers (Alan White), a one shot keyboardist (Geoff Downes), and a new vocalist… well. Hmm.  More on that in a bit.

So here, in 2011, is a new Yes album.  Spotify did me the favor of allowing me to listen to it in its entirety, and I subsequently bought the CD, because I’m old fashioned and don’t want to just have music available from “out there somewhere.”  I want the physical product.

Fly From Here is not a great album, but it is a great surprise.  Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn (writer, producer) return to the band after a brief stint 30 years ago, with a song in tow from that era that was never quite finished.  That being the title track, they’ve expanded it into a five part suite… because that’s what some prog rock bands do.  There’s a lot to like within this set, and particularly a Roger Waters Division Bell-era styled slide guitar in “Part II.” 

In fact, both stalwarts stand out.  Howe has amazingly tasteful solos and fills, and Squire, for those who listen closely, plays just what is needed.  Howe’s wizardry shines on “Solitaire,” a solo acoustic piece, and on the closer, “Into the Storm,” which is probably the most complete “prog rock” song on the CD. 

That said, all-but-a-fixture Jon Anderson was apparently not invited back for vocals this time around, which to some means that this release should be trashed as it is not truly a Yes product.   I don’t have that hang up.  But they know their fans, and they recruited the lead singer of a Yes-tribute band (Close to the Edge), Benoit David, who handles the job admirably.  It took all of two listens for me to stop comparing him to Anderson and begin appreciating what he offers.  He can sound similar to Anderson, but can sing in a lower key that works as well.  On the uneven “Man You Always Wanted Me to Be,” he even sounds like Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree).  And, with Chris Squire handling backing vocals, the sound is close enough to vintage Yes while refreshingly different. 

Musically, the sound is closer to the best aspirations of early 1980’s Yes members – Yes’ 90125, Asia, GTR… but delivers closer to the goal of a more accessible (and profitable) prog rock.   Whether that is a desirable goal will likely shape the listener’s opinion of this CD.  The keys to this sound are the uncomplicated (and often regrettably uninspired given the opportunities) keyboards from Downes and a general restraint amongst all not to overwhelm the music with virtuosity. 

Also, the lyrics don’t embrace the bane of the genre, the fantasy/epic/thematic inspired nonsense that renders so many works meaningless. In fact, only rarely do they stray into lyrics that make one scratch his head (“riding the tiger?”).  I don’t know that this translates to it being better, but it fits David’s phrasing and creates a generally uplifting mood throughout the CD.

It’s an enjoyable listen, and that’s enough.

Recommended Songs: “Fly From Here Parts 1 and 2” and “Into the Storm”

3 of 5 STARS



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1 comment :

  1. I'm a huge fan of Yes. I love their music, sometimes a little too mcuh! Their lyrics linger in my heart and in my head. I hope to make music as well as they do.

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