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Yes - Fly From Here CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.41 | 922 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Yes: Fly From Here [2011]

Rating: 6/10

A new Yes album is a big deal - not only for the progressive-rock community, but for me personally. Yes is my favorite band; I grew up with Yes music, and it has resonated with me for years. It's the cornerstone of my musical personality. Needless to say, a new release from the band (and the first in ten years) was something that I was incredibly anxious to hear. "Anxious" is the right word - I was incredibly excited to hear something new from some of my all-time favorite musicians, but I was also skeptical. The main reason for this skepticism is obvious: the absence of Jon Anderson. It's nearly indisputable that Jon is (not was) the heart and soul of Yes. This role applies to him not only because of his voice, but because of his overall persona and atmosphere. In more ways than one, Jon takes much of the credit for making "Yes" more than just a band name. Since the debacle that occurred with him and the rest of the band a few years ago, I've felt that Yes has only partially existed.

Enough about Jon, though. He's not here, and neither I nor any other Yes fan can do anything about it. So, how does Benoit's performance stack up? There's no doubt that he has chops as a vocalist (although some painful videos taken from the band's current tour have revealed him not to be a perfect one), and his voice is certainly well-formed. Does he fill Jon's shoes? No, because they cannot be filled. He was labeled as an "Anderson impersonator" by many who had seen his performances with Yes prior to the release of this album, and for the most part I agreed. I was thus surprised by his performance on this album, because he sounds almost nothing like Jon here. His delivery is substantially lower, and this is not a bad thing. If there's going to be another vocalist besides Jon, he should sound like himself rather than a half-baked impersonator of somebody else; also, Benoit sounds much more comfortable with the range he has found for himself here. The result is a solid vocal performance with a few fantastic moments. There are many dull moments as well, but I'm still impressed with most of his work on Fly From Here.

Geoff Downes appears on keys for the first time in thirty years. His performance is unremarkable in every way. He plays his parts, many of which are well composed, but he does so as if the band dragged him out of bed in the morning and he was still a bit groggy-eyed. It sounds like he doesn't want his playing to be heard. Putting this all aside, the fraction of the classic lineup that remains intact (Howe, Squire, and White) sounds fantastic. This almost doesn't even need to be said. Squire chugs away with all the energy and finesse that one comes to expect from his playing, and White is as solid as ever. The real star of the show here, however, is Howe. The vast majority of excellent moments here consist of his signature guitar work. Unlike Downes, it's obvious that he's deeply invested in the material.

The first 10-15 minutes of this album are probably the best. "Fly From Here - Overture" begins with an excellent piano riff, and it builds in intensity with Howe's guitar and Squire's bass. "Fly From Here Pt. I - We Can Fly" begins with soft synths and vocals. Benoit's ethereal and chilling singing in this section is by far the highlight of his vocal performance. The chorus is solid, and Howe continues to shine, particularly during the song's conclusion. This whole track is overwhelmingly Drama-esque. Howe is the star yet again on "Fly From Here Pt. II - Sad Night at the Airfield", showcasing some absolutely gorgeous classical guitar. As strong as it is, however, I feel like this track could have been much more powerful if Downes had put more feeling into his synths. "Fly From Here Pt. III - Madman at the Screens" is another track featuring the Drama sound. The main riff is catchy during the verses, but the chorus isn't quite up to par. "Fly From Here Pt. IV - Bumpy Ride" is an unremarkable instrumental. It feels like filler that was only put here in order to make the "Fly From Here" suite sound more like an "epic." The suite ends well with "Fly From Here Pt. V - We Can Fly (Reprise)", with more great guitar work and a reprisal of the excellent main theme. "The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be" is a throwaway track. It's nothing other than a bland pop-rock song. I'm mystified as to why they included this on the album. "Life on a Film Set" is another highlight for Benoit. Howe's acoustic guitar and Squire's bass add to the vocals and make this track a winner. "Hour of Need" is a fairly corny acoustic rock song with weak lyrics. Tracks like this make me miss Jon tremendously, even though Howe's guitar is excellent as always. "Solitaire" is a superb solo acoustic piece from Howe. This is perhaps the best track on the album; it's on par with classics such as "The Clap", "Mood For a Day", and "Masquerade." "Into the Storm" has a catchy main hook, and the conclusion is magnificent. As with many other moments on the album, Howe propels this track into excellence.

Despite my skepticism, I have to admit that Fly From Here is a good album. However, it certainly is not a great one. It's mostly what I expected: good music, but not fully Yes music. This is still Yes - Howe and Squire manage to remind everyone of that - but not fully so. Even the strongest moments on this album lack the heart that I come to expect from a Yes record, and the weak moments are just that: weak. Although this is not the album I wanted after ten years, I can't deny the quality present in much of this material. "Solitaire", "We Can Fly", and "Into the Storm" manage to make Fly From Here an album that leaves me somewhat satisfied. At the same time, however, I dearly miss the classic lineup. I simply can't help but lament that fact that they're not all making music together anymore. Regardless, taking the music at face value reveals a competent release from some of the greatest musicians/composers of all time.

Anthony H. | 3/5 |


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