(10 July 2011) Although Yes celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2008, the classic progressive rock band's first studio album since Magnification (2001) was released this month. Yes enthusiasts were however blessed with numerous live albums and compilations during the gap. And some will say that the album most relevant to their newest release Fly From Here (Frontiers Records (Italy), 2011) is the Union Live album released earlier this year. Yes has faced numerous lineup changes, and Fly From Here introduces yet another change in the band's personnel. Lyrics perfectly support the extensive title track.
Fly From Here is comprised of six named tracks primarily a result of the six-part 20+ minute title track and suite "Fly From Here." The remaining tracks stand individually and span the Yes repertoire, even including a vast acoustic guitar laden penultimate track. The personnel in the new album's lineup are: Benoît David (lead vocals, sung in Jon Anderson's style); Chris Squire (bass guitar, backing vocals; lead vocals on "The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be"); Steve Howe (guitars, backing vocals); Alan White (drums); and Geoff Downes (keyboards). The singer does a great job creating the Yes sound with his vocal work. Asia's Geoff Downes creates a different than Rick Wakeman and his various replacements. The sound on the album works well and will appeal to Drama and Union era fans as well as those that prefer the classic lineup.
The opening suite is immediately appealing with both accessibility and progressive rock dynamics. Although long, the tempo and style changes provide the necessary variety as not to run on or bore progressive rock listeners. Equally there are segments that will likely find radio play during the rollout of the album across the planet. We thought the reprise did an especially good job to wrap up the suite.
Squire sings the lead vocal track on "The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be" however the harmonies and the rhythmic instrumentation contribute more to the success of the track. Enthusiasts are likely to find the contrasts between the ballad style that opens "Life On A Film Set" with the more upbeat and rousing sections of the song espeically enjoying. Listen for the harmonies that accompany tempo and style changes within this relatively short track to appreciate the classic sound of Yes. The sound effects that underscore the title are outstanding. Steve Howe's guitar work is featured in "Solitaire."
Guest artists have contributed to Fly From Here as well. They include: Oliver Wakeman (additional keyboards on "We Can Fly", "We Can Fly (reprise)" and "Hour of Need); Trevor Horn (backing vocals, additional keyboards); Luís Jardim (percussion); and Gerard Johnson (piano on "The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be"). "Hour Of Need" is a classic Yes harmony with a lighter but full sounding arrangement.
The standout track "Into The Storm" concludes the album running just short of the seven-minute mark. The masterpiece is perfectly constructed, performed and produced. Listen for the classic Yes combination of sung and instrumental parts and lush harmonies. Howe's electric guitar solo in the last interlude is incredible. Also listen for Squire's classic (same as Jon Camp-style) bass part backing the solo. Contrasts between the verses, instrumentals and the choruses are extreme. Yes could have most likely done a better job with a stronger ending to the song.
Thankfully Yes have continued to evolve as a studio act and this album is just another exit off the roundabout. A band whose lineup changes create drama and intrigue leave further opportunities union on the horizon. Fragile yes fans won't get a long distance runaround with the new album nor will they feel close to the edge. Fly From Here is
a tremendous studio outing by a classic rock band that have proven they still have a lot of music to deliver their audience.