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Yes - Fly From Here CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.41 | 1057 ratings

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3 stars Well, here we go. A new Yes album, always a big event in the world of prog. Except, of course, this one is of more interest than most, because it contains no Anderson or Wakeman, the former being by far the biggest talking point, given that Wakeman has left the band with more regularity than a serial adulterer.

It is no secret to those reading this that know me well that I adore Anderson's work, and, indeed, he and the band were my introduction to progressive rock music. I did not, and still do not, like Drama, the album they made with The Buggles after Anderson & Wakeman left in a hissy fit in 1980.

So scepticism abounded in Lazland at the thought of this release. I was always going to buy it, simply because I have every studio work they have released, and a fair proportion of their live works as well. But; is it any good? Am I able to put aside my natural hostility to a work without my hero and behave like a professional with dispassionate interest, as a Reviewer on this site should?

Well, I am glad to report that the answer to both of those questions is a resounding yes. This album is not a classic release, by any stretch of the imagination, but what it is is a very good piece of work.

The main focus is, of course, the Fly From Here suite, which takes up what would have been a complete side on the old vinyl. Split into five segments which flow into each other naturally, this is a marvellous piece of music, and a hugely enjoyable musical journey. I have summarised my thoughts on the band members below, but the one thing that absolutely screams at you with this suite is the mature and quite exceptional vocal performance of Benoit David, the bloke Squire picked up from a Yes Tribute band. He excels, and he excels, by the way, because he does not on this work try to be something he is not, namely Jon Anderson. There is only one genius by that name, and he is utterly unique. David on this suite manages that quite difficult trick of making a Yes epic come off without at any stage becoming a mere clone. Good on him!

The story of the suite is well told, and, the slightly annoying in places Bumpy Ride aside, this is undoubtedly a YES track, and a damn good one at that. At times, in fact, much to my surprise, it actually soars and takes your breath away, with the hairs on the back of your neck standing up. Parts of We Can Fly (an excellent single in its own right), Sad Night At The Airfield come to mind, but especially the We Can Fly Reprise, which is quite wondrous when it shouts out from the speakers.

This being 2011, and not 1970-odd, the hope that this high standard might be continued into side two is not, I am afraid, realised. It's not awful, far from it, but neither does it come anywhere near to the brilliance of side one.

The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be is, in totality, a Squire creation, including the rather paunchy great one doing the vocals. Actually, I've always liked Squire's voice, and he harmonises with David to good effect on this commercial, but enjoyable, track. It's very upbeat, thanks, I think, to the fact he recently became a father again at an age when most people are moving to their new retirement home.

Life On A Film Set is a very enjoyable track, which builds up very nicely from a deceptively quiet acoustic introduction. Once again, David shines on this, singing wholly within his range, and Downes contributes keyboards that remind one more of Asia than Yes, but no bad thing if, like me, you like Asia.

Hour Of Need is the shortest standalone track, and, for a moment you actually think that you are listening to I've Seen All Good People, transported back 40 years with Howe's unique work. When the main piece segues in, you come back to earth and listen to what is a pleasant, but utterly non essential, ballad featuring more distinctively pleasant vocals and harmonies. This track is probably the closest the album comes in feel to Talk, which, again, is no bad thing.

Solitaire is, I think, the Steve Howe "I Insist upon This Being On In The Contract" bit. It is, of course, very well played. It's Howe, after all, and, you never know, you might get to hear it instead of the interminable Clap at the live shows, but, really, what is the point? It is completely out of place with all else on the LP, and should, instead, have been kept back for his next solo album.

The album closes with Into The Storm. Elsewhere, it has been raved about, but I don't really get it. Perhaps because it reminds me of much which was on Drama, I don't know, but I feel that this is a very weak track, repetitive, and like a McDonald's - thrown away in the bin and forgotten about after finished. I do like the Fly From Here bit at the end, though.

So, how do the chaps acquit themselves?

I've already raved about David. He is the unexpected star of this album, and it is wonderful what a good studio and producer can do with a voice if the terrible live videos on YouTube are to be judged against.

Squire, as ever, plays a mean and thundering bass, and his vocal harmonies, and lead on one track, are as good as they ever were.

Howe is, well, Howe, He plays superbly without ever really breaking into a sweat. I actually think he could have contributed a lot more to this if he had felt minded, but as it is, you feel he is doing it by the numbers. Being Howe, this is still superb musicianship, but I think he could have done far more.

Downes struggles to be heard at times, but when he is, he is what he has always been - a very good keyboard player who, regrettably, comes nowhere near the virtuosity of Wakeman or Moraz. I like Downes in Asia; I just don't think he is a good Yes keyboardist, and Igor was a far better one when Rick was off sulking.

As for White, if it wasn't for the fact that he is mentioned on the credits, I wouldn't have thought he even appeared on this album. Quite how such a credible and important drummer could be so silenced in the mix is quite beyond me. Was it him or the production? Well, given that Trevor Horn has done his customary bang-up job in the studio with this album, I can only imagine it is the former. Very strange, and a great shame, because the rhythm section of the band has always been one of its absolute strengths.

So, how to rate it? Well, the suite is excellent, and worthy of four stars in itself. Whilst the rest isn't quite so bad as to warrant a poor rating, neither does it come anywhere near the main course.

So, three stars for this. A good album which I would happily recommend.

There: I've done a "good" Yes review without Anderson. Time for a long lie down, methinks!

lazland | 3/5 |


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