Fly From Here (2011)


  
1. Fly From Here: Overture 2. Fly From Here, Part 1:We Can Fly 3. Fly From Here, Part 2:Sad Night at the Airfield 4. Fly From Here, Part 3:Madman at the Screens 5. Fly From Here, Part 4:Bumpy Ride 6. Fly From Here, Part 5:We Can Fly Reprise 7. The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be 8. Life on a Film Set 9. Hour of Need 10.Solitaire 11.Into the Storm

 

It was probably surprising to many to see that Yes released another studio album so late in their career. After all, it had been ten years since 2001’s Magnification. What probably shouldn’t be surprising to anyone is that this one occurred after, yet another, lineup shuffle.

This shuffle mirrored the one (in many ways) of 1980’s Drama. First, both a keyboardist and singer were replaced. Second, Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn are now back in the picture. The former as a member, the latter, the record’s producer. Instead of Horn singing, the band recruit a front man of a Yes cover band discovered on (where else?) YouTube named Benoit David. David actually sounds a lot more like Jon Anderson making him a better choice than Trevor Horn. Of course Jon Anderson wasn’t happy, and felt he was being kicked out of the band. But let’s not go there.

In many ways, this album is quite a refreshing change. The album still retains elements of classic Yes, but when 40% of the band is “new”, you’re going to see some marked differences. While definitely still in prog-rock mold, this record seems to breathe a bit easier. The band doesn’t seem quite as intent on cramming too many elements into the songs. This time around, there are fewer time signature changes and heavy instrumentation. Instead, the band seems to focus more on melody and accessibility. Then there’s also the fact (and I’m betting it’s because there’s no Jon Anderson), the subject matter is much more palatable. There are no songs about Eastern Religions nor worshiping suns. That’s not to say that such subjects should be automatically frowned upon, but such topics where thin after many years of listening to this band.

The highlight of this record is a 24-minute epic of a suite of songs with the same name as the album. Like other things Yes related, 24 minute songs can wear out their welcome as well, but such is not the case here. The songs are laid out much more carefully and almost even have an aura of pop sensibility. I would even argue that there’s definitely a hint of Asia influence (the group, not the continent) prevalent within much of this material. It should also be pointed out that this piece was actually written and demoed around the time of 1980’s Drama. I’m glad they waited. Nothing against Trevor Horn, but I’ve always believed when a well-established band is forced to replace their singer, they should try to find a replacement that mirrors the old guy to some degree.

Once we’re through with this latter-day masterpiece, the rest of the record is slightly average. They almost sound a bit too contemporary, and are trying too hard to be radio friendly. Other than Steve Howe’s exquisite guitar playing throughout (and he does get a guitar solo, the beautiful Solitaire), there’s not much else on this album that screams “Yes”. Chris Squire’s signature bass sound has been toned downed somewhat, and even his one song that he sings, The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be doesn’t quite have the charm as it should. It should be pointed out that it took me a few listens to be convinced that it was, in fact, Chris Squire singing the song. For better or worse, producer Trevor Horn has quite the heavy hand in the production department.

So give them credit for the excellent six-song piece Fly From Here and give them credit for (again) expanding their horizons on the rest of the album. It was mostly a good experiment. It’s definitely not a return to form. For that, go to 1999’s The Ladder which, as good as that record was, didn’t sell that astronomically being so close to the 21st century.

Most of the fans were happy as well.

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