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Yes - Fly From Here CD (album) cover

FLY FROM HERE

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.45 | 719 ratings

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baz91
Prog Reviewer
1 stars 'Plummet From Here' more like

Yes's latest studio release is quickly becoming their most overrated album to date. Yes have now achieved the admirable goal of releasing albums in six consecutive decades, a feat which is certainly not accomplished by many. However, the album in question is nothing to shout about.

In my mind - and I'm sure in the minds of many other prog fans - the name Yes has always been synonymous with cutting-edge prog rock. They were a band who released a string of the most high quality albums a fan could ask for in the early 70s. Almost inevitably, that unique talent seemed to fade over time, until we began to hear albums like 'Union' and 'Open Your Eyes' in the 90s. Unfortunately, 'Fly From Here' continues the trend of disappointment.

You see, since the 'Keys To Ascension' albums of the mid 90s, Yes have been practising a musical genre of what I like to think of as 'prog lite', i.e. music that is generally poppy and 'easy' in sound, but includes the bare minimum of prog hooks and odd time signatures to be considered progressive. Such music is generally unsatisfying, and there is usually at most one song on the record that could be considered good. Albums like 1999's 'The Ladder' made me believe that Jon Anderson was responsible for this kind of music, having mellowed in his old age.

Before joining Yes on vocals after Anderson's bout of respiratory failure, Benoît David was the lead singer of the Yes tribute group, 'Close to the Edge'. As much as I lamented the loss of Anderson, I couldn't help but be intrigued to see if this new shot of 'youth' (he is 45 after all) would make the rest of the group realise that their 'prog lite' output of the last decade was not the Yes that people wanted to hear. For this reason, I eagerly anticipated this release, to see if David would give Yes some balls again. This couldn't have been further from the truth.

You see, this is prog lite with a passion to sound bland and uninspiring. The Yes logo over the beautiful Roger Dean cover is all an elaborate mask to hide the mediocrity that awaits the unsuspecting listener. What's more, this new line-up have the cheek to entice us with the prospect of a 20+ minute track in the hope that it may be the real prog we've been yearning for all these years.

On the album cover, the two black cats can only mean one thing: the return of Buggles Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes to the fold. If anything, this gives us even more false hope as we mainly remember 'Drama' as the triumph that succeeded 'Tormato'. There is certainly no Machine Messiah on this disc though. Horn and Downes are responsible for most of the writing on this album, making the authenticity of this disc questionable as a Yes album. It is sufficient to say that Horn and Downes leave a distinctly Buggles-esque impression on the album, which in turn removes the Yes sound from it.

The album opens with the 24-minute suite that is Fly From Here. Those hoping for a new Close to the Edge or Gates of Delirium will be bitterly disappointed. This new form of Yes fall into the predictable trap of sticking wholly different songs together to make one suite, forming a truly incohesive track. Those wishing to point out that tracks like Supper's Ready, A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers and Nine Feet Underground were formed in a similar way, should be informed that whilst those tracks had interesting and complex parts, Fly From Here is a dull affair made up from bland pop songs. The lyrics of the different parts do appear to be linked to each other, but one misses the good old Jon days when lyrics were meaningless and pure sound was paramount.

Maybe the saddest thing about this suite is that the first part - We Can Fly - is actually a good track. It's uplifting and melodic and really quite good as a stand alone track. In fact this was an out-take from a Buggles album circa 1981, which was shelved until it's use for this release. However, the second and third parts of the suite are lengthy pop songs with limited appeal. If you're going to write a suite of music with different tracks in this way, you should make sure they don't sound like stand-alone songs and more like integral parts of the suite. This suite could be compared to Dream Theater's Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence which, although boasting an impressive 42 minutes in length, has parts that play out like stand-alone songs, yet again yielding an unsatisfying listen. Another example would be Rush's The Fountain of Lamneth. Really the artist should realise that a suite is meant to be much more than a bunch of songs stuck together.

With Parts 2 and 3 out the way, the suite takes an odd turn at Part 4, Bumpy Ride. Right off the bat, you know something is up when a supposedly 'prog' track is called something like 'Bumpy Ride', and in this case you would be right to do so. Bumpy Ride is essentially a shameful last-ditch effort to sound progressive after realising that in the first 20 minutes, there's hardly any prog to be seen. The music sounds like it has been lifted from a cartoon, and the suite loses whatever sincerity it had had at that point. Needless to say, this instrumental sounds silly and forced, and utterly tawdry when compared to their majestic instrumentals of the past. It is pitiful to hear Yes desperately trying to sound progressive when they were once the masters of the genre. On a side note, it is interesting to wonder how a Yes cover of Mohombi's Bumpy Ride would sound: 'I wanna boom bang bang with your body yo', lengthy instrumental in 11/8, 'We're gonna rough it up before we take it slow' etc.

The suite ends with a reprise of the We Can Fly section which would have sounded great only if the rest of the suite had. It simply does not follow on neatly or effectively from Bumpy Ride. It's painful to see Yes clearly failing at the suite format, but it provides a good example to future generations of proggers about what's good and what's bad. To pour salt into the wound, Fly From Here is now Yes's longest track, beating The Gates of Delirium by nearly two minutes. Of course, this 'record' is a hollow one, as Fly From Here should be seen as a few pop tracks stitched together, instead of a fully blown prog suite like Gates.

Do you remember when Yes wrote and released tracks like Heart of the Sunrise and Close to the Edge? Back then, Yes had balls. Unfortunately, the selection of shorter tracks on this album go to show that this is absolutely not true any more. For example, The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be is as bland and uninteresting as it's name suggests. Hour of Need is also quite underwhelming in nature. Howe's solo piece Solitaire is pleasant to listen to but completely forgettable.

Life On A Film Set is a bizarre composition. There is a progressive element to this song, as the sound of the song changes halfway through, but the entire thing is brought down by the repeated lyric 'Riding a tiger'. What does it mean?! It sounds like some awful metaphor, and the constant repetition makes the song feel asinine. On top of this, the musical themes in the second half are overused and grating.

This leaves Into The Storm, another more progressive affair. Strangely enough, this track is as close as the album gets to sounding like the true Yes, but this is certainly not a song to shout about. To me, this song doesn't feel fully realised, as there are parts where the band could have sounded amazing, but instead choose to sound average. Essentially, though there are no particular flaws to this track, there is nothing about it that makes me want to hear it again.

I cannot finish this review without commenting on the newcomer, Benoît David. As a singer, he holds up pretty well on this album. Here's a man who has made a profession out of singing Yes songs, so it's only natural that he should sing them well here. However, besides his voice, I don't really feel his presence within the band in the way that you can feel Jon and his crazy mysticism. Despite being a credited as a full-time member, he merely acts as a session musician here. He doesn't seem to have had much impact on the band himself, despite taking away what Jon had there. In all honesty, I feel sorry for the guy, because it must be a dream come true for him to be the lead singer for Yes, but on the other hand he's made a lot of hardcore fans angry and, with this album, has nothing to show for it. Still, he is not the cause of the low quality of this album as most fans would have expected, and for that he should be grateful.

If this were any other band, I would consider this a 2 star release, as it is still listenable. However, 'Fly From Here' loses the extra point because of the fact that it is a Yes album. Fans of Yes aren't buying this because they think it's going to be a load of second-rate pop songs. People are still hoping for the Yes's return to form: their second coming if you will. After a gap of 10 years, you would really hope that Yes could do better than this. Throughout the album, it feels like the band haven't really put in the effort. This album is so awful, that 'Tormato' seems great in comparison, because at least you could hear Yes putting in the effort to please the listeners, even though it was misguided. I personally have egg on my face for believing that Yes could sound great again, and it is going to take a strict diet of the band's classic albums to wash out the taste of this travesty. 'Fly From Here' is a disappointment, and I recommend that you don't waste your money on it.

baz91 | 1/5 |

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