Review Summary: Yes in 2011: going back to the early 80's.
With Fly From Here
, Yes have created not only their first album in ten years, but also their first since Drama
that doesn’t feature the characteristic voice of Jon Anderson. Canadian singer Benoît David, formerly of tribute band Close to the Edge, stepped in for an ill Anderson and eventually became Yes’ proper lead singer. It is barely the only connection to the 1980 record, as the entire specific line-up is involved in the group’s eighteenth release: Geoff Downes returned on keyboards following Oliver Wakeman’s departure during the initial stages of recording, while Trevor Horn produces.
This does make the sound of the Yes from 30 years ago come through on Fly From Here
, cheesy keyboards and all. Yet Drama
was heavy, still their heaviest now. Fly From Here
seems almost like a direct counterpoint, sharing a lot of common ground musically, but being far lighter and more upbeat. In 1980, Drama
was the sound of a fresh start. Unfortunately, Yes has gone through too many low points since 1983, passed far too many years, to consider any new album now a real fresh start. It would be foolish to expect true excellence here. Still, there certainly is some kind of freshness to it.
As the new vocalist, David obviously has a significant role in this. He can hit the challenging high notes of Yes’ classics, as proven live since he has been with the band, but his natural voice is slightly lower, which, blasphemous as some hardcore fans may find it same as with Drama
, is a relief to listen to after enduring Anderson for many consecutive albums. No discredit to the man’s vocal talents or his crucial role in shaping Yes’ sound, but there are few he doesn’t grow to annoy at one point or another. David brings a welcoming calm with him, and it certainly aids Fly From Here
It’s all there for a return-to-form, even the old-school epic. The 23-minute title track, divided into six sections that form the first half of the album, relives the greats as Close to the Edge
and Gates of Delirium
. The sections are more distinct than on past epics, which may make them easier to listen to individually, but at the same time makes Fly From Here
less coherent and ultimately weaker as a whole. The upbeat We Can Fly
moves into Sad Night at the Airfield
without warning, which has the complete opposite mood, and also the sudden burst of Bumpy Ride
comes too unexpectedly. Squire and Howe should know better, as the differing sections of former epics, especially Close to the Edge
, flowed seamlessly. Nevertheless, it’s all great musically, reminiscent of old-school Yes without sounding forced, with a renewed emphasis on keyboards that fans will appreciate since these originally played a major part in the band’s sound.
Slight criticism aside, Fly From Here
’s first half is a highlight and actually one of the best things Yes have done on their more recent work. The second is a little less consistent, but in no way an afterthought. Squire takes a surprising lead vocal on The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be
, a 90125
-influenced pop song that may be dated, but comes out strongly, as the bassist’s voice lends itself quite effectively to it, harmonising with David during the chorus. Hour of Need
falls into the same category, but is far less convincing. Life on a Film Set
has some great melodies going, but does not fail to confuse with its lyrics, especially the oft-repeated ‘riding a tiger’ chorus. Solitaire
is another Howe acoustic piece, a tradition that began with Clap
on The Yes Album
, while the more rocking Into the Storm
serves as a very adequate closer.
What you’ll think of Fly From Here
very much depends on what you thought of Drama
. Although their classic sound is picked up again with the epic title track, Yes’ newest release revives much of their early 80’s-vibe, which is not a period in the band’s history everyone is known to appreciate. Fact still is the band has aged a lot, and their songwriting doesn’t have all the power it used to. This album is meant only for long-time fans, but at what it tries to do, it is fairly consistent and successful. Yes have had a long run, and they’re still getting something decent out of it in 2011.
Fly From Here’s Yes is:
- Benoît David ~ Lead Vocals
- Stephen James Howe ~ Lead Guitars, Backing Vocals
- Christopher Russell Squire ~ Bass Guitar, Lead and Backing Vocals
- Alan White ~ Drums
- Geoffrey Downes ~ Keyboards