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Yes - Fly From Here CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.41 | 1025 ratings

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3 stars Yes' 20th studio album (counting Keys to Ascension I and II as two separate releases) bears a lot of striking similarity to their 10th studio album, Drama. It is one of only two yes albums that does not feature Jon Anderson (the other being Drama). It features the Buggles. Its release has been pretty controversial because of the vocalist, and the reception has been mixed. The band seems to be aware of these similarities, because the two black cats from the Drama album are featured on the cover here as well. It's a nice throwback (and this is probably the best Yes cover art since their classic Fragile to Relayer covers).

For me, the album doesn't really do one thing or another - certainly, nothing in it is so bad as to make me cringe and wish I hadn't heard it. This is not Open Your Eyes again, this is an album that is genuinely enjoyable. But neither is it an album that moves me to great heights or spellbinds me with it's musical majesty, the way the best Yes music from the past has.

It can be very easy to be disappointed by such results, especially considering this album was ten years coming (the last album the band released being 2001's Magnification). But truthfully I don't know what fans were expecting - Yes has not been the Yes they were in the '70s since, well, the '70s. What a Yes release is or means no longer has a simple set of parameters like Rickenbacker bass or Steve Howe solo track. Yes is a band that, for better or worse, has greatly diversified, in many directions that are not quite that similar to their '70s output. So to come into this album with the expectations of...anything, really, just demonstrates that you have pretty much missed every Yes release after Tormato.

One thing about this album that will receive a fair amount of flack is that it is both named after and based around a track that Yes played in their '80s tour, Fly From Here. It was a track that Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes (aka, The Buggles) brought with them when they came into the band back then (unlike most of Dramas tracks, which were pretty fleshed out before The Buggles entered the band). In fact, it was originally meant to be on the album, but due to time constraints (since they already had to scrap the material from when Jon and Rick were in the band), they weren't able to record it before the album was due. Well, they performed it live, it was relatively well received (certainly no classic, but fun and pleasant nonetheless), and then The Buggles left Yes and they never got to record it in the studio. The '80s version could be heard in the The Word Is Live boxset.

Does this story sound at all familiar - a band creating a studio release out of a track they performed live but never got to put to tape properly before? It should, because Magma's E-Re, which came out two years ago, did just that and was rather well received.

Fly From Here was a bit less fleshed out when it came to the table, though. Unlike E-Re, Yes has not really performed anything from the Drama era since - well - The Drama Era. Jon Anderson refused to perform it live. But three years ago, when Jon could not tour and the band welcomed Benoit David to fill his shoes, they took the opportunity to play some of the material that had been, to date, ignored. The fans loved it.

Let's face it, Yes are not getting any younger. They had the chance to record this track, and they went for it while they could - they expanded it, and honestly, they didn't do a bad job. It's certainly not an epic in the sense of Gates of Delirium, Awaken, or Close to the Edge. It's a suite of related songs, and I think even the band is aware of this (it's the only 20 minute piece they've released so far split into separate tracks on the CD).

The odd thing to me is that the songwriting credits for Fly From Here are mostly attributed to Downes and Horn . It was their track to begin with - so this makes sense - but it does kind of challenge fans to accept this as a legit Yes piece. Squire does have credits in parts 1 and 5, and part 4 (Bumpy Flight) was written by Steve Howe.

Anyways, in terms of how well they pulled it off, it's good. It's got catchy moments, some good atmosphere in part 2, and they even wrap it up nicely with the reprise at the end. It's melodic and sounds a bit more like Buggles-Yes than Drama. Again, this can probably be attributed to the fact that a lot of this track was written by The Buggles, as opposed to The Buggles being added to pre-written songs.

"Side 2" of the album (aka, the non-epic tracks) range in quality. Life on a Film Set is written by the Buggles, and while it clearly demonstrates that while what they write may not be as complex as what Yes fans are used to, they are better song writers than Squire and the two non-Yes members who helped him write The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be (the worst track on the album, in my opinion).

The Howe-penned tracks (Hour of Need, Solitaire) are the more chilled out on the album. Hour of Need is probably the second worst after The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be, but it's short. Solitaire is the obligatory Steve Howe solo and it's alright. It's not his best but it has that classic Steve guitar sound, and Steve is one of my favorite parts of Yes so I never complain about the classic Steve guitar sound.

The band did all collaborate together for the last track, and it is a pretty strong one, and even wraps up the album nicely by reprising the Fly From Here theme in the last minute.

One question a lot of fans have come into this asking is, how will Benoit do? The good news is, unlike Horn, he did not try to sing like Jon Anderson. I mean, there's no denying that on Drama, Horn did a great job filling Andersons shoes (as good as you could expect anyone to, anyways), but he failed to really create his own identity in the band. (And attempting to sing like Anderson on tour was more than he could handle). Benoit is singing in his normal singing voice, and it makes it very clear here that Yes are not trying to be what they were before - they are integrating Benoit.

Unfortunately, this is not a case of Yes up until the late 80s, where each new member brought something new to the table and changed the bands sound. Benoit is here singing - doing an alright job at it but really not impressing in any way - but, it doesn't sound like he is pushing the band in any new direction or influencing the writing in any significant way. He's just there - filling in the spots where the words go.

Overall - well, this sounds to me more like a band tying up loose ends than a band on the verge of another creative breakthrough. They wanted to give Benoit legitimacy as a band member by putting him on an album, they wanted to take advantage of recording an album without Jon to finally use that Fly From Here thing they started 30 years ago, and then they tossed on some more songs so it wouldn't just be an EP. An EP with just the Fly From here suite and Into The Storm may have worked better, and given the band more time to build up strong writing chemistry, but that's just my opinion.

This may be the last Yes album, and while it's not quite the send-off Abbey Road was, at least they didn't end it on something along the lines of Open Your Eyes.

TheGazzardian | 3/5 |


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