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Yes - Fly From Here CD (album) cover

FLY FROM HERE

Yes

 

Symphonic Prog

3.45 | 753 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
4 stars More Drama 10 years later for Yes.

The long awaited Yes album after a hiatus of ten years absence from the studio is one of the talking point of the prog community. I think some may have expected another classic along the lines of 'Close to the Edge' or 'Fragile' but of course that would not happen as Yes have moved onto a new decade of music and now Anderson is once again absent. One of the burning questions is how would newcomer Benoit David stand the test of filling those immense shoes. As soon as I heard his voice I was pleasantly surprised because although he does not have the enigmatic dynamic power of Anderson, Benoit has a strong high falsetto voice that sounds decidedly Yes. Anderson's voice has dissipated over the years most noticeably in the live performance, so it was inevitable he would be moved on. It would have been nice to have Wakeman back on this return but alas it is not to be. Instead it is a return for Geoff Downes and vocalist Trevor Horn joins, and therefore comparisons to "Drama" are inevitable. The lyrics are not as stark as the early Yes catalogue, no mentions of Siberian Khatru's here, instead some provocative uplifting vocals are offered; "Along the edge of this airfield. Altometers reading zero. Nights are cold on this airfield I sit alone and watch the radar, caught in the beam falling slowly into the screen." The epic 20 minute opus title track in sections is a return to form for Yes, not as bombastic as the pieces on 'Topographic Oceans' but more accessible. 'Sad Night at the Airfield' is a masterpiece track, beautiful melodies and very ambient atmospherics.

"The quality of being airborne is a motif throughout 'Fly From Here'" boasts the band's official website. The music indeed seems to be airborne, taking off higher, always uplifting and vibrant. The themes of being borne into flight are reflective of the band becoming born again in this resurgence. Steve Howe excels on lead guitar on each track and the pulsating bassline of Squire can never be under estimated.

It took me a while to get used to the vocals but the harmonies and complex structures are transfixing. I don't think it can be compared to other Yes albums easily as this is a new incarnation of the immortal group. This is a new chapter for Yes and hopefully a take off point for bluer skies. 'Madman at the Screens' is a potent reminder that in order for us to remain grounded we must hold onto what matters, love and emotional stability. The Hammond sounds, strong guitar riffs and layered bright vocals are all positive augmentations. Downes is a great keyboardist and he excels on this track in particular. The epic title track is held together with segments of tension and release, impactful passages of incredible musicianship.

'Bumpy Ride' has a jaunty instrumental section with pulsating motifs and Howe's legendary guitar sound that is unmistakeable. Squire's bass and Alan White's percussion builds to a crescendo, then harmonies drift in, and it segues perfectly into the reprise of We Can Fly, bookending the piece masterfully.

The rest of the album is a series of bright poppy tracks that are no less the Yes style we have heard on their last few albums. Radio friendly with some prog moments. The band have been going some 43 years now so it is understandable that they have progressed from pure prog to a more commercial sound. 'Life on a Film Set', one of the highlights, is a quiet drifting song that builds, Benoit's vocals are nice but not as passionate as Anderson's were. He certainly sings the high parts effortlessly, and the best parts are where he is joined by Downes or is multitracked vocally to enhance the thin vocals. Howe's acoustics are well executed on this track and I particularly like the heavy retro feel and time sig of the middle section, as good as the old years of Yes. 'Hour of Need' is acoustically driven, with soft balladic harmonies, and a solid keyboard motif. 'Solitaire' is reminiscent of Howe sitting in front of an audience kanoodling on medieval style acoustic waiting for the band to come back on. It's been done before on other albums, though he is always well accomplished of course with nice harmonic ring outs and flamenco finger playing.

'Into the Storm' finishes the album in style with a rocking sound, tons of lead guitar licks and strong basic percussion. The harmonies are excellent, high parts are noteable, and it perhaps sounds more like "Drama" than other tracks. It is a fun song, and I guess the band are not into the dark reflective concepts of past years. They are into an upbeat hopeful thematic content that may be mistaken for kitsch commercialism. There are still wonderful prog moments spread throughout, and Benoit is not too bad at all in the scheme of things. It is a better album that perhaps the last 5 albums, but if you listen to 'Tales of Topographic Oceans' immediately after, you may be amazed at how masterful that album is in comparison to this latest release. The complexity, inspired originality and downright bombastic approach has been replaced over the years for this pop prog; really these two Yes lineups are completely different beasts. Those who come to this album may be disappointed if they expect it to be in the vein of the prog giants of yesteryear. I actually had no problems with the vibrant sound as at least there was an effort in producing one sprawling 20 minute epic, if nothing else. Although Downes plays again with Steve Howe thankfully the sound is not like Asia, the members still generate that Yes sound that has made them legends of prog. Anyway, they are back and hopefully this album will lead newcomers to their past masterpieces, namely their albums 'The Yes Album' up to 'Relayer', where they really transformed the face of prog rock. The lyrics of 'The Man you always wanted me to be' perhaps sums up the state of the band these days; "What have we become, what are we running away from, we need to see life in a very different way, learning what to do after all that we've been through, no longer lost we have found ourselves anew".

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |

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