It’s true, I’m a prog rock fan. I love the sound of a mellotron in the morning and love to hear talk of synthesizer filters and 12 string guitars. I’m bound to listen to anything combining the words rock, jazz, fusion, symphonic, epic, concept or progressive in any combination or order. That being said I know that I’m an odd fan of the genre. Most followers can’t get enough of Yes and Rush. They form the base of everything progressive
in their eyes and if you don’t follow them, can’t quote from memory every track from every album then you aren’t a true fan of the genre. I however have never been a big fan of either band. Oh sure, I respect them. I’ve seen Yes two or three times in concert, mainly because I feel like I should like them more than any overwhelming urge to go to one of their concerts. So maybe I’m not the first person you’d think of to review a new Yes CD. I’d argue this makes me the perfect candidate since I’m a huge fan of the genre (Mars Volta, King Crimson, Genesis, Queensryche, Dream Theater, Tangerine Dream and others have always been more my cup of tea) and by not falling into the “Yes can do no wrong camp” I can objectively critique what I’m listening to and give my honest opinion. With that preamble, let’s get into the meat of it shall we?
Fly From Here is the 20th album from the band and their first in a decade. Original singer Jon Anderson has been replaced on vocals by Benoit David who has been touring with the band. This isn’t the first time Yes has recorded an album without Anderson, in fact, they truly are a band with interchangeable parts who have had key members come and go over the years. Outside of David though the rest of the band is a return to what is considered by many to be one of the classic Yes line ups. Trevor Horn, who worked with the band on 90125 and even filled in for Anderson on the band’s album Drama has produced and co-written the album with the band. Even the artwork is a return to form with Roger Dean creating the artwork. In classic Yes form the album clocks in at around 48 minutes and the first 6 tracks of the 11 track CD are part of the Fly From Here Suite and clock in at just under half the length of the CD. In fairness though, this is a Yes CD and you knew what you were getting when you sought it out. What about the music you ask? Glad you asked, let’s get to that.
On first listen this is classic Yes. It’s got everything that one expects from the band, tempo and time changes, classicalism mixed with jazz interludes, acoustic guitars that sound like they were written in the California desert or in some classical guitarists den…Classic Yes. It’s so good in fact that it’s made me rethink whether I really do like the band or not. Funny thing though, as I looked around the web to get a feel for what other people were saying about the disc I noticed something interesting. People like me, the casual Yes fan, magazine reviewers, etc seem to like the disc and feel that it’s a good recording by a band far past the date when they should be writing such compelling music. I found reviews and blogs saying things like ”overrated” and ”continuing decline” from hardcore fans. The general feeling is it’s too poppy, not complicated enough and lacking the prog traits it should. I don’t think any album the band would have recorded would have made these people happy. Let’s face it the youngest person in the band is 45. At this point the band has nothing to prove and should only be bothered writing and recording music they
enjoy. I think they’ve done just that.
The disc starts strong. The first track begins with piano and some string/atmospheric synths before the guitars strike. It’s an overture and it does a great job of setting the mood. Track two is the weakest of the CD for me with some lyrics about flying or being involved with the mechanics of flight or something like that anyway. The lyrics definitely made me long for the days of Jon Anderson’s lyrics about nothing. Track three though rights the boat in my mind. It’s where the first real synth lines can be heard and it goes a long way towards creating the feel of listening to a 70’s era prog band. Track five has some great instrumental sections where the band pulls off some their classic jazz influenced riffs.
So I guess my reaction as someone who isn’t necessarily a Yes fan but is definitely a prog rock fan is that this is a good album. OK, maybe it’s not necessary in the Yes canon, maybe it doesn’t push the envelope like some of the CD’s the band created in the 70’s but what band that’s been around for 5 decades does? I listened to this album from start to finish several times now and in this day and age that’s saying a
lot. In fact, it’s done something I never thought could happen, it’s caused me to go back and pull some of the classic Yes CD’s in my collection to reconsider, maybe I am a Yes fan after all.
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