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Old 03-04-2012, 08:34 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Yes: Fly From Here- 2011

Yes Fly From Here- 2011
RMR Album Rating- 5

In 2000, when Yes was embarking on their Masterworks tour, I read a post on an online forum that said that Yes could live on and continue making music for decades to come. The poster obviously knew that members of the current line-up would have to call it quits at certain points, but his point was that as long as the band had the right players and the right spirit, then Yes would be able to continue to crank out high-quality progressive rock for years to come…

Well, if we assume that this poster was correct (which I personally don’t think he was), then the version of Yes on Fly From Here either has the wrong players, the wrong spirit, or both, because it is certainly not high quality progressive rock.

First, let’s cover some background on Yes, and this current incarnation of the band. The album is produced by Trevor Horn, and the line up includes Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White, Geoff Downes, and Benoit David. For any Yes fan, two things should stand out. First, This album is missing Jon Anderson, the band’s vocalist and primary songwriter. Jon Anderson has played on every Yes album with the exception of Drama, which was released in 1981, and now Fly From Here. Secondly, the names Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn should stand out. Trevor Horn was brought on for the Drama album as a substitute for Jon Anderson on vocals, as was Geoff Downes to substitute for Rick Wakeman. So, the line-up on Fly from Here is kind of a reunion of the Drama album line-up with the addition of Benoit David on vocals, and he has a story of his own. Before joining Yes, David was fronting a Canadian Yes cover band called Close to the Edge. Since Downes and Horn already had experience in Yes, David might seem like the odd man out, but in actuality, his vocals, energy, and spirit (not to mention his youth) save this album from being a complete disaster. Many critics have made the comment that he sounds enough like Jon Anderson to fill in, which he does, but personally, I think his voice goes well beyond just an imitation of Jon Anderson. It is fantastic, and it completely stands on its own. His voice sounds like a combination of Jon Anderson and Geddy Lee, and this makes sense, in that he was in a Yes cover band, and he is from Canada. So with the Drama album line-up back in place (plus Benoit David), the big question is… how does the album sound?

Well, before I answer that, there are some additional facts that need to be covered. The title track, which clocks in at almost 25-minutes is actually not a new song. It is a left over track from the 1981 Drama album referenced above, but it was never finished, and it was not included on the album. I actually think its inclusion here was a good decision for a number of reasons. First, you have the Drama line-up. Second, Yes fans having been begging for another long-format epic song, and third, it was written 30-years ago when Yes was much more creative and spirited, so why not pull it out of the closet and finish it, which they did— and it turned out pretty good for the most part.

“Fly From Here” (the song) accounts for half of the album, and it absolutely succeeds as a rock epic. Notice that I refer to it as a “rock” epic, and not a “progressive” rock epic. Many fans and critics see a 25-minute song, and they immediately think of it as progressive rock, but just because it’s a long multi-part song doesn’t make it progressive rock. “Fly From Here” is basically a great mid-tempo pop-rock song, that contains 6 sub-sections and just happens to run for almost 25-minutes. For the most part, it’s beautifully performed, and its run time flies by and doesn’t drag at all, but don’t expect the complexity of “Close to the Edge,” or “Relayer” on this one. However, you can expect soaring vocals from David Benoit through all the sections, and Howe’s intricate guitar work is amazing as always. Geoff Downes even has some interesting key fills, but they are very low in the mix. The middle three sections of “We Can Fly>Sad Night At the Airfield>Mad Man at the Screens” make up the bulk of the song, and they all flow seamlessly together. Then you have “Bumpy Ride,” the penultimate section of the suite, which is really the only weak section of the song. It is basically a keyboard solo by Downes, and simply put; it is just embarrassing. It sounds like the background music to the “Super Mario Brothers” video game. Luckily, this section doesn’t kill the song because it’s relatively short, but it’s really disappointing because it transitions into the “We Can Fly (Reprise),” section of the song, which would have made for a great climax to the track. But, all in all, I really do like the track, and it definitely makes the album worth hearing.

In addition to the title track, the only other interesting track is the album closer, “Into The Storm,” but the band sounds completely uninspired on it, so it fails to reach its potential. However, it’s not a bad way to close the album, and Benoit David actually reprises the main vocal section from the title track at the end of the song, which I like. It would have been really cool if they ditched “Bumpy Ride” from the title track and included a slightly re-worked version of “Into the Storm” instead (its lyrics even fit the context of the title track). Then you would have a really exciting 30+ minute epic pop-rock song. If they had done that and released “Fly From Here” as an EP without the other tracks, it would have made for a really stellar 9-star release in by book, but they didn’t, and the other songs completely drag the rest of the album down.

Of the other tracks, they are all banal AOR songs that are destined to be background music in a grocery store or dentist office waiting room. Squire’s “The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be” is the worst of the lot, and it is so sappy that it is tough for me to listen to. Lastly, I’ll mention Howe’s solo piece “Solitaire,” which isn’t bad, but it is nowhere near the level of “Clap,” “Mood for a Day,” or “Masquerade” (some of Howe’s other solo pieces).

Here’s my take on the album as a whole. I actually don’t miss Jon Anderson at all like I thought I would, and I was completely blown away by Benoit David’s voice. As for the songs, “Fly From Here” (the song) is excellent, and it is definitely worth hearing; however, the other songs are completely forgettable. All in all, I just don’t think there’s enough gas left in Yes’ tank to produce the kind of music that their fans expect to hear, and I hate to say this, but they are tarnishing their history with each new release they put out. Their last great masterwork was “Going For the One,” and that was released in 1977. So, going back to my opening thoughts and in response to that forum poster that stated that Yes could live on with the right players and the right spirit… that idea is just incorrect. In order for Yes to create the kind of progressive spirited music that the fans want, they would need a completely new line-up, and that wouldn’t be Yes— it would be a different band altogether.

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Old 03-04-2012, 12:19 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Great Review. I haven't heard this album. But will get my hands on it
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Old 03-05-2012, 02:37 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I listened to it towards the end of 2011. I enjoy the overture, but as a whole, the album falls flat. I'd agree with your 5/10 RMR. Not awful, but nothing at all to write home about.

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Old 03-06-2012, 02:04 AM   #4 (permalink)
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i think the enjoyment of this album mainly depends on how much you like Drama - cos the mood and feel is similar

i find Benoit's vocals to be a pretty good mix of Jon's and Trevor Horn's vocal inflections

i would rate it about 7/10 cos it's the best thing they've done in the past 20 years (?) and even all the band members said it was the one they're most satisfied with

but Benoit is gone now, so how?

they should just fold, instead of continuing with that other guy (also a former frontman of a Yes tribute band)

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Old 03-10-2012, 10:14 AM   #5 (permalink)
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The title track is excellent. Benoit David does an admirable job with all things considered. Not a big fan of The Buggles boys (Geoff Downes & Trevor Horn). Alan White was stuffed into the recording room closet were he was restricted both technically and on a sound level though he shows what he can do on the s/t album from Levin Torn White. The Yes saga continues...
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