Friday, 3 June 2011

Riding a Tiger – A Review of Fly from Here

I have been fortunate to hear a friend’s review copy of Yes’s new album, Fly from Here. Do you want the short version of this review? Purr purr purr.

Armies of angels are starting to fall”

What to expect? It’s been ten years since the last studio album from Yes, Magnification. Ten years before that was Union, ten years before Union was Drama, ten years before Drama was Time and a Word. If Yes changed so much over those previous intervals, what can we expect now with Fly from Here?

Fly from Here is also only the second time that Yes has released an album without Jon Anderson, arguably the central songwriter in the band’s history as well as a most distinctive vocalist. The decision to continue without Anderson in 2008 was hugely controversial and online spaces still rage with the debate.

On tour with Asia in May, Steve Howe and Geoff Downes said Fly from Here was like a cross between Close to the Edge and 90125. Close to the Edge, perhaps Yes’s greatest album, possibly even the greatest progressive rock album of all. 90125, the band’s most commercially successful release and a whole new sound. A cross between them? Talk about shooting high. Well, I don’t think Fly from Here is remotely like a cross between Close to the Edge and 90125.

I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this. In an interview in the first quarter of this year, Howe said, “I don’t think [the album]’s very predictable. I think people are going to go, “Ouch! Ooh!,” in surprise.” Steve Howe is right.

Ooh!

In a good way.

As stupid now as were at first”

It will sound like Drama, that’s what a lot of people have said, and the band encouraged those comparisons. It doesn’t, mostly. There are points of comparison. “Into the Storm” has something of the same quality. Parts of the title track too. But I think Fly from Here is closer to the album the band would have made after Drama had they stayed together. We’ve got “We Can Fly from Here”, which we know was intended for that project. We’ve got a second Buggles demo: “Life on a Film Set” is “Riding a Tide”, a c. 1981 demo, one of the bonus tracks on the 2010 re-release of The Buggles' Adventures in Modern Recording. But “Fly from Here” and “Life on a Film Set” don’t sound like Drama; they sound like a development from Drama.

With Jon Anderson gone and Trevor Horn brought in, some critics have prejudicially disparaged Fly from Here as a Trevor Horn album with Yes as a backing band. There are moments that perhaps point in that direction. A Horn/Downes vision of Yes predominates on a song like “Life on a Film Set”. This works fine for me. When Adventures in Modern Recording was re-released and everybody focused on the two-part demo of “We Can Fly from Here”, I remember raving about “Riding a Tide” and saying it sounded very Yessy, so it’s no surprise I like it here too.

“Fly from Here” has become a 23-minute epic, but the way it’s constructed isn’t like “Gates of Delirium” or “The Revealing Science of God”. There’s an explicit “Overture”, not something Yes has done before. It reminds me, to make an odd comparison, of the Trevor Horn-produced album Tenement Symphony by Marc Almond. To go through the epic in detail, after the overture is “Part I We Can Fly”: this is pretty much the song as we know it. “Part II Sad Night at the Airfield” is based on the demo “Part 2” on Adventures in Modern Recording, although it has been developed and extended. “Part III Madman at the Screens” is a variation on the secondary theme introduced in the latter half of “Part II”. “Part IV Bumpy Ride” introduces a new theme, but also re-visits an additional theme introduced latterly in “Part III”. Then “Part V We Can Fly Reprise” is, as the title says, a reprise of the “We Can Fly” main theme as the big finale. The Overture and Parts I and II could stand as separate pieces: indeed, they could have been on the album separated by other tracks, as Horn did with the two parts of the “We Can Fly from Here” demo on Adventures in Modern Recording. Parts III, IV and V then run together more and are less free-standing.

From some other part of me”

But there’s another side to this album (terminology that seems appropriate for the first Yes album to be released on LP in some while). This is not the third Buggles album. On songs like “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be”, “Hour of Need” and “Into the Storm”, and even within the title epic (e.g., “Part IV Bumpy Ride”), there’s a sound, a quality, that is all about Chris Squire, Steve Howe and, indeed, Benoît David.

But not always quite how you expect.

By the way, to respond to some online speculation based on the song titles. No, “Hour of Need” has nothing to do with the piece of the same name on Steve Howe's Spectrum, as far as I can tell. But, yes, “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be” is something of a ballad.

Somewhere a fire is breaking out”

Chris Hosford, a.k.a. Frumious B, a well-known online fan, suggested Fly from Here would be all instrumental fireworks, like on Drama, but without the core songwriting ability Anderson brought. It’s not. It’s almost the opposite of that. There are some great songs here, and the band have often held back on the fireworks.

Given Howe has complained about how his guitar parts were withheld or removed from albums like Magnification, Union and ABWH, I too thought Fly from Here would be like Drama or The Yes Album, drenched in Howe’s guitar playing. But it’s not. He’s there, he’s distinctive, he has solos, but the music is left alone when needed, by all the instrumentalists. There’s space and sparseness when needed. Howe uses a lot of acoustic and steel guitar; he almost does bluegrass on “Hour of Need”. There’s less cheesegrater.

Remember what has been achieved”

The Yes cheesegrater is an analogy the band invented. Consider Drama as an example: it’s the idea of how these basic songs from The Buggles and Squire went through the cheesegrater and became Yessified. A process that’s also happened to many Jon Anderson songs on other albums. But Fly from Here does something more subtle. “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be”, “Life on a Film Set” and “Hour of Need” haven’t been through a grater. They represent a multiplicity of different visions for Yes, yet with a continuity of sound as well. This continuity isn't as crude as a cheesegrater. They have been infused in a water bath like a Heston Blumenthal pudding. They, I suggest, represent where Chris Squire and Steve Howe are as composers today and where the whole band are as performers.

While one song has been turned into an epic, you’ve then got “Hour of Need” that, contrary to its name, is the shortest piece on the album at 3:07 (although a longer version is included as a bonus track on the Japanese release). “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be” and “Life on a Film Set” are 5 minutes apiece. “Hour of Need” feels like a much longer piece: it’s got the ingredients, I've not heard the extended version, but it’s easy to imagine earlier incarnations of Yes stretching “Hour of Need” and these other songs to 7, 8, 12-minute pieces with filigrees and reprises, but on Fly from Here, they are compact jewels. Although I’d be happy for them to have gone on longer myself!

I’m guessing “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be” is going to be similar to Squackett. The song dates back to 2006/7 and writing sessions for a Chris Squire solo album. The album as such has been abandoned, with much of the material migrating to the Squackett project. That explains the contribution of Gerard Johnson, who was involved with these sessions, having previously been in The Syn with Squire, and before that a collaborator of Peter Banks'. Simon Sessler contributed to the lyrics.

That’s when I start to be the man you’ve always seen in me”

There are more familiar Yesisms here too. There’s a jaunty angularity in “Into the Storm” and “Bumpy Ride” that remind me of Tormato. The use of contrasting vocal sections, again notable on “Into the Storm”, is very Yes, as Squire takes a prominent second vocalist role.

There are also comparisons possible with Asia with similarities to some of Howe’s compositions for the band like “Wish I’d Known All Along” or “Through My Veins”, although Howe opts for more Yessy lyrics on “Hour of Need” compared to the relationship angst of his Asia songs. Howe and Downes’ instrumental interplay here reminds me of recent Asia (e.g. “Wish I’d Known All Along” again). Downes came in last to this project, replacing Oliver Wakeman half way through the album sessions, but his stamp is on this album and there are so many places were you can’t imagine Oliver Wakeman’s style working. Albeit largely through recycled Buggles material, Downes is more prominent in the writing credits than Yes's keyboardists usually are. And this is some of Downes’ best work. So often just what the music needs, not more or less. Occasionally, there's a bit of a 1970s style, a bit Jeff Wayne or ELO, that style of keyboard playing.

Bits of Wakeman's work have been used in the final mix, but what is unclear. There's a short keyboard solo on “Hour of Need” which might be him. In fact, “Hour of Need” is probably the piece where it's easiest to imagine a Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman version.

There’s no-one sleeping, no-one awake”

I’ve not discussed the lyrics yet. Some feared the band would try to ape Anderson’s lyrical style. They haven’t. The lyrics and indeed vocal melodies are very different to what Anderson would do. They are, in some ways, quite un-Yes-like, more so than even Drama’s, yet they still encapsulate some familiar themes of positivity and striving for betterment, pleas for a better world through personal action. I think Howe's lyrical influence one can hear in songs like “Birthright”, “Spirit of Survival” or chunks of Tales from Topographic Oceans comes through on “Hour of Need”. There’s a romantic and humanist element from Squire on “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be”. That humanist strand to Yes’s lyrics, which Stuart Chambers discussed at some length in his book “Yes: An Endless Dream”, comes through in “Into the Storm” as well. There’s also a narrative style that I presume comes from Horn in “Fly from Here”. There’s another influence though, references to angels and heaven, not in a religious way, but a mythopoeic one. And there’s some clever wordplay, some arresting lines, although there are also points where the lyrics are weaker, like the rhyming in “Hour of Need”.

In the dark / While the obvious isn't clear”

A special note about “Life on a Film Set”, as I’ve used its line “Riding a tiger” to title this review. If Panthers are fans of Drama, I say we continue the big cat metaphor and fans of Fly from Here have to be tigers. But I’m also wondering about the abortive Greg Lake/Geoff Downes collaboration in 1988 called Ride the Tiger: did Downes name it after this song?

Something not so superficial / Like something I can really do without”

Some also feared that David’s vocals would ape Anderson’s. David’s role in Yes before now has been to fill Anderson’s shoes and how he sings Anderson’s Yes songs is not how he sings in Mystery. Again, fear not. David is not imitating Anderson here at all. In places, he’s singing parts Horn first did and that influence comes through with the staccato fashion Horn sometimes has (see “Life on a Film Set”), but David sings these parts better than Horn. Mostly this is David singing as himself, as he does in Mystery. In fact, better than he does in Mystery, this is great work from David.

There’s also lots of harmony, and a fair amount of lead, vocals from Squire. This is used in contrasting sections effectively on pieces like “Into the Storm”. There was uncertainty about whether Horn might have any vocal role: he doesn’t take any leads, but I think I can hear him in the backing vocals, at least on “Fly from Here”.

There’s lots I haven’t mentioned. What about Alan White? This is not an album full of in-your-face drumming. There isn’t anything like the intro to “Changes”. But there’s plenty of nice drumming throughout and rhythmic ideas. “Solitaire”, Howe’s acoustic solo. It’s a nice acoustic solo, what you’d expect from Howe, fits on the album. The production... The production is, of course, impeccable. Everything is clear, multiple layers of music. What one would expect from Horn. I could say more about “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be”, how it’s almost almost Fleetwood Mac-ish.

I want to be the one who’s always there beside you / But we both must face the dawn / Alone”

In detail, it’s not what I expected, it’s not hugely like this or that prior Yes album. Broadly, it’s uplifting, it’s positive, it’s memorable, it’s what Yes music should be. It’s got those dramatic, instrumental moments: “Fly from Here Part V: We Can Fly Reprise” and a moment in “Part III Madman at the Screens” kill me. And the same for some vocal sections, like the “Armies of angels...” section in “Into the Storm”.

It’s an album worth immersing oneself in. Much of it on first and second listen was odd, confusing and even off-putting. It took me a few listens, but all the pieces grab me now. I’ve been going around humming them. I love it.

Lonely eyes watch as the moon shines down”

There is no Jon Anderson on this album. Even Drama has echoes from Anderson’s influence. There is nothing here that has anything to do with him. OK, there’s a vocal line in “Hour of Need” which maybe is a bit Anderson-ish, but that’s it. Yes music has been made of so many components and obviously nearly all Yes fans are going to be fans of what Jon brought to the table, so some are, I’m sure, going to find out how much they miss him with Fly from Here. But this is a new Yes. This is, despite the use of two 30-year old songs, an album about Yes in 2011. I don’t think you can love this album without accepting that.

To finish, let’s put this is some context. In my opinion, and I’m sure you’re all going to have your own opinions soon enough, but for me... OK, it’s not as good as the average Yes album in the 1971-1981 period, but then little is. But this is better than the average Yes album in the 1991-2001 period. (Of course, that’s a period with a couple of albums that really drag the average down!) I think it’s a better album than Anderson/Wakeman’s The Living Tree, Jon Anderson’s Survival and Other Stories, Asia’s Omega, CIRCA: 2007, Mystery’s One Among the Living, The Syn’s Big Sky, White’s White and John Wetton’s Raised in Captivity, and most of those are good albums. If this was a brand new band, with no history, I’d be looking forward to their next album.

So, now they’ve got back into the album habit, let’s hope their next album is soon and not another 10 year wait!

Full release details, album credits and links to samples are on the news page, as you’d expect.

50 comments:

  1. Excellent review, Henry. I really cannot wait until my copy of FFH arrives - more so that I have prescribed myself as much abstinence from any previews (as you can see, not always successfully) and online samples of the music. Quite a task, actually, in this online world, and with the almost universally positive reactions of the first lucky listeners. I guess you just made the waiting even harder for me now!

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  2. Thank you Henry.
    Another yesfan from Spain!

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  3. Well I guess only time will tell if I give this a thumbs up or down. In some ways your review is a mix blessing. You seem to like it after a few listens which is good. I seriously doubt that it is bad album. I assume Yes are going into new territory without the Anderson influence. Sort of like Drama did back in 1980. Which was a springboard for 90125 and Asia. I am glad that David doesn't try to sound like Anderson but some of the bits I have heard he does sound like Horn unless it is Horn. Hard to tell at this point. One thing is for certain that after TEN YEARS we finally got a new Yes album.

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  4. Great review Henry - can't wait to hear the album :O)

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  5. Great review! Thanks!

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  6. Great review Henry, I appreciate your thoroughness and objectivity.

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. In all fairness to Frum, I think you're representing his opinion prior to the return of the Buggles which he saw as a good thing and would make up the lack in core song writing area.

    Thanks for the review, have just pre-ordered my copy

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  9. I have been reminded that several other recent Yes albums have also come out on vinyl. However, I believe Fly from Here is the first for some while to be released on vinyl at the beginning.

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  10. Thanks for the review Henry. After so many bad Yes albums released in the last 20 years, I honestly have low expectations, I guess that what you are trying to communicate in your review is that the album is not excellent, but it isn't crappy either: an average album with sublime moments as some other Yes albums. Something tells inside me that there will be memorable pieces of music in this album, and others are disposable material.
    I expect to hear real YES music in the record,and hope not to only listen to the ego trip of a group of talented musicians as it has happend with some of the latest releases. Bottom line, to have a new YES album in the shelf, is an excellent reason to celebrate!

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  11. from Argentina, thank you Henry for your commentary. fabian

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  12. YES without Anderson is just a cover band

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  13. THANKS HENRY, great review.
    Definitely I will love this album also if it won't be as the past masterpieces. The good thing is that we have new music of YES. This is the good news. The rest is not important.
    Maurizio

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  14. As a die hard Yes fan, with at least one ear to the wall behind the scenes, it is very sad that Jon was not part of this. I'm thinking of this as a Chris Squire/Steve Howe/Alan White album. Even without Jon, this album is essential. I need it just to see where Chris, Steve & Alan are at. I hope the album will be respectful to Yes.

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  15. Henry

    Nice review.

    I am also extremely fortunate to have listened to the album 4 times now and I actually think you've underplayed how good it is!

    It has two vital qualities that , in my opinion, have been sadly lacking for many years. Firstly, I can hear every instrument (!) and, secondly, it gets better with every listen. This 'endless discovery' is why I have always loved Yes & I'm so pleased it's back.

    'Turn your life around' everyone - this is wonderful.

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  16. Since you've sampled the album, can you tell us if there are any surprises with the cover art?

    Is the presentation just the Dean art in a jewel box, or does it break any new ground? The past few releases haven't impressed me in the area of graphic design (ahem, OYE), and I was always hoping that a new Yes album of merit might break some rules, or take some cool liberties (bands like Tool have released some incredible cd packages..)..

    I like the new cover, but hope it wraps around and there is more than meets the eye...

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  17. Interesting and informative review

    Not as good on average as YES from 71-81 but better on average than 91-01 may say it all !

    Perhaps it what you don't say or would rather not...

    As always time will tell but good on HSW for getting this to the table

    xlink_nz

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  18. I have a question for you Henry. Does the title track "Fly from Here" lyrically as a whole piece have a story (if any) behind it? Great review by the way.

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  19. "Not as good on average as YES from 71-81 but better on average than 91-01 may say it all!"

    Although, to be fair, in terms of where we're setting the bar, that's not really saying very much, as all the Yes albums after Drama pretty much sucked - the Rabin-era 'YesWest' plumbed new depths in mullet-n-jeans AOR mediocrity, and 'Open Your Eyes' is just dire (indeed, it made the Rabin-era stuff sound passable, which is some achievement).

    Truth be told, Yes - in whatever incarnation since 'Drama' - and certainly since 'Magnification' - have been simply bone-idle when it comes to getting their collective act together and agreeing to studio time, together, sitting down and writing new music, together, and instead used every excuse in the book not to - whilst finding all the time in the world to do a myriad failed and lacklustre "side projects" (Circa:, 'Squackett', The Living Tree etc.)

    I'm only surprised that this new album isn't titled "No More Excuses", as that's what the fanbase has suspected for a long time now.

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  20. Part One

    By way of illustration of my point above, as to how poorly 'the band' actually bothered to prepare any new material for this album, here's the track list, with writing credits in parentheses:

    Side A:

    1. "Fly From Here - Overture" [Horn/Downes] (1:54)
    2. "Fly From Here Pt I - We Can Fly" [Horn/Downes/Squire] (6:01)
    3. "Fly From Here Pt II - Sad Night at the Airfield" [Horn/Downes] (6:42)
    4. "Fly From Here Pt III - Madman at the Screens" [Horn/Downes] (5:17)
    5. "Fly From Here Pt IV - Bumpy Ride" [Howe] (2:15)
    6. "Fly From Here Pt V - We Can Fly Reprise" [Horn/Downes/Squire] (1:49)

    Side B:

    7. "The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be" [Squire/Johnson/Sessler] (5:18)
    8. "Life on a Film Set" [Horn/Downes] (5:12)
    9. "Hour of Need" [Howe] (3:08)
    10. "Solitaire" [Howe] (3:30)
    11. "Into the Storm" [Squire/Wakeman/Howe/Horn/David/White] (6:54)

    Even after a cursory glance at the above, other than the glaring indication that only one track has any attempt by the band at writing a song together, it's interesting to see Wakeman [presumably Oliver] got a credit on 'Into The Storm' - although whether it's actually him playing on the album and not just a Downes' over-dub/re-do is currently anyone's guess. If proof were needed that Ollie was [as far as Yes is concerned] nothing more than a paid journeyman hired-hand for touring (although his surname can't have hurt him), and never a full member of the band, you have it here. No doubt the fanboys will come with umpteen excuses as to why that’s not the case, but hey, they’re allowed their delusion.

    One cannot help but feel that the sole catalyst for Yes actually bringing out any new material was a chance meeting with Trevor Horn, and not the natural, organic process of a band still having/wanting something to say.

    But on the evidence of the above writing credits, as far as having fresh material written and ready for the new album, it rather looks like they, as a band, had nothing in the can without the Buggles tunes, and a couple of hastily-written Howe pieces - and that's a telling indictment after ten years and a sum of zero since the last Yes album.

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  21. Part Two

    Outside of any dyed-in-the-wool fanboy yearnings, and beyond any 30-year-plus 're-imagining' of unused Drama material, there remains a solid doubt as to whether we'll see another album from this Yes line-up - or, indeed, any new 'band' material outside of that produced by Messrs Downes/Horn/Johnson & Sessler.

    What, today, passes for Yes have now been touring the same tired end-of-pier, 'greatest hits' set list for nigh-on three years: which begs the question, how much of the new album will see the light of day on their 2011 tour? A tour already compromised by having to drag the anchor of touring with another bunch of former-glories merchants, Styx (and who the hell are 'Toy'?)

    Joint-rotating headline billing already means that Yes will play a set of perhaps an hour and thirty minutes; if they're lucky; assuming 'Toy' don't eat into that further still - and bearing in mind that Howe and Downes will be coming to the Yes tour straight off the back of a tour with their other mortgage-paying day-job, Asia, we have to ask ourselves just how much time Yes, as a band, will have had to rehearse any material from the new album in order that it’s in a fit state to reproduced onstage?

    You may be able to tell that I'm a little sceptical as to what passes for Yes nowadays [and certainly, as far as any new material is concerned, their decade-long cynical treatment of their fanbase] - but there is one upside to this latest offering: Benoît David has, finally, been given material to sing which is in his own register, and not that of Jon Anderson, with which, as countless YouTube clips prove, he struggles (sometimes painfully so).

    On that basis alone, this album should be approached with an earnest willing to give the guy [if not the band] a chance - and [other than the 'Yes-can-do-no-wrong fanboys' treatment of it] to see whether the album merits its place in the Yes canon, over and above those albums which merely carried the Yes leitmotif of a Roger Dean cover.

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  22. To answer some comments above...

    I've not seen the final packaging, so I'm afraid I don't know on that one.

    "Fly from Here": yes, the lyrics do sort of have an overall story, although it's not super clear.

    Cosmic Navel Lint: You're jumping to a whole load of assumptions. According to the liner notes, it's Downes playing on "Into the Storm", although O. Wakeman's parts have been kept in a few places elsewhere on the album.

    While (I presume) Howe has insisted on specific composing credits, rather than the cop-out of attributing everything to Yes as on Magnification, The Ladder and Open Your Eyes, when you hear this album, I hope you can tell that it is clearly a group *arranged* album. And, indeed, there are two group-written pieces on the album, not one: "Into the Storm" and "Fly from Here".

    You dismiss "a couple of hastily-written Howe pieces", but that appears to be entirely your prejudice. We have no information whatsoever that they were "hastily-written".

    You also dismiss Downes' writing contributions as not being "'band' material", but Downes is now back as part of the band. He might have been last to arrive at the party, but he's a fully signed up band member now.

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  23. Henry-
    thanks for the review. hope I am not double posting, as the previous attempt vanished.

    Do any of the tracks appear to be especially good candidates for a live treatment? In the past Yes has 'forced' new music into the tour, sometimes to initial headwinds, but afterwards sounds and feels great.
    With limited time and Owner, Roundabout, AGP etc taking their time, I'd really be interested in the new material live, if I can attend a show.

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  24. They've suggested they will play "Fly from Here" live. "Into the Storm" already has a live feel and I think would go down well. I'd like to see them do "Hour of Need" as well.

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  25. Nice review! The excerpts on Youtube sound great to me. This is a sure bet to be alot better than Magnification, which for me was their all-time worst album (Dreamtime, Soft As A Dove.. ugh). But I love the Rabin album, Talk was fantastic. The song samples sound very fresh and current while Magnification didn't. I'll buy it first day out, just like with Talk!

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  26. Thanks for the review.
    On june, 13th, Amazon will be dispatching the new single.

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  27. I had the opportunity to listen to this record whilst it it was being recorded. As such, for anyone who cares to know what this recording achieves, let me say that the words uninspired and rubbish come to mind.

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  28. 1) The tribute band guy, he can't sing Yes... terrible!
    2) If this group of now dusty old money grubbers had just called their new band something else (as Rick Wakeman suggested in his Innerviews interview), then i would at least have some respect for them. Now, no no respect at all.
    3) I do like Drama a lot, but that was a fluke... No Jon, No Yes.
    4) Believe me when i tell you that i am a big time fan of The Yes Album Through GFtO... big time... its almost like a religion (along with a few other makers of cosmicy music, Hillage/Gong for example)... but i just have to say, off topic or not (though mentioned well above my post); if you don't like/love 90125 AND Big Generator.... you are either an old (old by 1983/4) or you just have no earthly clue about anything.
    5) In any case, S Howe's guitar playing, once one of the greatest EVER, has been sounding more and more over the last x years like silken tofu... like glassy threads... like a very cool and lame breeze.... so clean, so blah... so over it.

    Keep this new album for yourselves, I'll be looking for Zamran on the horizon...

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  29. 'Anonymous' wtote:

    "I had the opportunity to listen to this record whilst it it was being recorded. As such, for anyone who cares to know what this recording achieves, let me say that the words uninspired and rubbish come to mind."

    Any anonymous fool can make such claims - have some balls and allow us to know who you are we make even take you seriously. Other than that, you're just another troll.

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  30. Donovan Mayne-Nicholls13 June 2011 13:12

    I've become incredibly disillusioned of Anderson's pretentions of being the real bearer of the Yes flame. He quit in '88 supposedly to return to the roots of the band but ended up producing two solo albums disguised as ABWH where even the solos were played by impersonators. A lot of fans fell for it since it had the "members"' names in the cover and art by Roger Dean. Yes has always been and will always be Squire's band. His playing is permeated even into other members' compositions and I resent the anonymous idiot who says it's just a cover band. ABWH was and it was its fault that Yes left Atlantic to bounce from one obscure label to another who can't give the band the prominence they deserve.

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  31. The Order of the Panther finally vindicated. Loving the extracts on SoundCloud - David's vocals sound eerie and cool (that's probably because English isn't his first language, but then I suspect Jon Anderson's first language is Martian anyway).

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  32. Having let 'We Can Fly' sink in over the past few days, I had a listen to Open Your Eyes as a starting point of perspective. Not having listened to OYE for about 2 years, maybe more, I was really enjoying the first 30 minutes on the basis of "this is a Squire solo album with some pretty mighty guests but sadly they have used more logic than feeling to make this album so Chris is sounding a bit confused'.... type of way. In other words, if this was a Squire solo album, it scores a fair bit below Fish Out Of Water.

    Then I listened to Tormato, and then I kinda got this feeling that, take away Circus of Heaven and Onward, that Tormato sounds like Drama Part 1. Because Howe, Squire, Wakeman and White are pretty on fire playing wise, and we know from past accounts, Anderson is doing his clever thing of getting everyone to focus on melody and rhythm. This then means for me that Drama is Drama part 2. Howe, Squire and White's playing is naturally following on from Tormato (clearly that material is still very fresh in their minds having played it a fair bit on tour shortly before starting the writing that produced Drama).

    So IS(?) Fly From Here the album Drama part 3? Based on the single I've heard, I don't think so. I think the focus has gone right back to Squire, irrespective of who has the writing credits, and Squire seems to have been allow to play with all the tools and sounds he developed in that recent Classic Yes touring period. I have a feeling we have another Squire solo album with a guest appearance from half of Asia, produced by Trevor Horn, but this time probably on par with Fish Out Of Water, but in a very different style.

    But I could be wrong..... because I've only heard one track lol.

    But, the energy from the single makes me now feel that the tour could be rather fun if they just focus on this new album, Drama and Tormato. I can definitely heard Release, Release, Silent Wings of Freedom and Arriving UFO fitting in nicely with this and the Drama material.

    And on the single, I LOVE David's singing..... he's a great singer and has got a great voice.

    Steve

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  33. OK, finally got a complete listen to the whole album, Fly From Here. I give it a thumbs up overall. If you like Drama and in some ways Asia's Phoenix album you'll like this. Some progressiveness but more retro-progressive in a lot ways. Nothing here that is cutting edge other than production side of things. No Sound Chasers, South Sides, or Starship Troopers just Drama revisited for the 21st century. Good melodies in all of the songs.

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  34. Now that they've released the entire album to listen to on YouTube (all eleven tracks), you can now listen to the album in its entirety prior to purchasing it.

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  35. The entire album is currently on YouTube, but it has been illegitimately uploaded (and will probably thus be taken down soon). There are extensive legitimate samples on SoundCloud however: http://soundcloud.com/yestheband

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  36. What a loss that Oliver Wakeman was moved out for Downes. When this effort was announced, the comment was made by the band that both David and Wakeman would breath new life into Yes' music. So much for that. There are a few quiet arpeggios early in the radio edit (We Can Fly) that are clearly Oliver's work. And the solo on Hour of Need must be him. I haven't heard Downes put that kind of fingering into his music. From the samples I've heard, this album would have benefited from more of Oliver's flare. What a missed opportunity to have a talent like that push this effort to greater heights.

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  37. Man In A White Car27 June 2011 18:37

    Nice review! I have the album and have listened to it several times (which I couldn't do with Open Your Eyes). It's definitely a winner. A grown up mature progression from Drama. My immediate impressions were that it reminded me most of Drama and Tormato. And it's probably better than The Ladder and I did like that one. The playing was tastefully brilliant without sounding like a bunch of egos. And Benoit David isn't trying to replace Jon Anderson, he's just trying to be Benoit David on this new material, like Trevor Horn was able to be himself on their new material in '80.

    Just a couple of responses to some of the thoughts above. For the Trevor Rabin period, Rabin had more influence on the direction and sound/melodies of the band than Anderson ever did! Rabin was very much a co-lead singer in YES and Squire was a very prominent secondary singer. So if that lineup is considered YES and this one is not, just remember that Anderson did not have very much to do with the shape of YES/CINEMA! It was very much a Rabin/Squire/White project.

    Anderson gave up his position as co-commander with Squire when he quit in '79.

    Tormato, Drama, 90125. Three successive albums by three very different groups. Perpetual Change is the story of YES.

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  38. Donovan Mayne-Nicholls30 June 2011 07:41

    Some responses to previous posts. I saw them live last year and while I was impressed with Benoit, both his singing and his energy onstage, I found Oliver to be an incredible disappointment. No real voice as a keyboard player and no chemistry with the rest of the band (Brislin was aeons better, do I hear anybody lamenting his absence? Of course not, his surname is not Wakeman!). I've always felt a shame that Downes was in Yes for so short a time and this is a great opportunity for Yes fans.
    As a lyricist, Anderson got credited for both his songs (eg Runaround) and the others' (Roundabout is a Howe song with Anderson's lyrics) so to the casual fan it'd appear he wrote most of the songs. Troll fans tend to have the view that "the singer is the band". I remember the first time I heard ABWH. I thought, "hey, no one's playing here, this is a solo album with a few guest stars". Yet, "fans" continue to champion that rubbish as true Yes and put the blame on people like Elias for the piece of manure ABWH 2 was. Has anybody heard the unedited tracks from the promo? They're even worse! Just pointless vocals and bland backing tracks without a single melody (I would have waited forever must be the worst opening track on an album, period). Anderson's "artistic integrity" is a sham. Say what you want about 90125 and BG but there's a REAL band playing there. No nameless session musicians and programming. The only good thing about Union were the Rabin tracks (again played by the real band).
    Yes has always been Squire's band. Listen to his solo stuff and Anderson's. Anderson's albums sound like anything except Yes. I've always been suspicious of non instrumentalists who get credited alone for songs (Roger Waters). It's very easy for Mr wakeman to speak of a Yes without founding members as he wasn't one.

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  39. I really like this album. This coming from a guy who hasn't liked a Yes album since Drama. The stuff with Rabin is mostly garbage. That guy is a wanker. He can play but he has no taste whatsoever. For the Union tour, Howe did a great solo (I believe it was Yours is No Disgrace). Rabin was tapping, screeching and making me sick. The guy had no class. No wonder Howe refused to play his crap for so long. Jon Anderson has lost his ability to write melodies. He has been inflecting the same way for years and years. It is painful and boring to listen to.

    I love that Horn and Downes are back in the fold. It is true that this CD is no CTTE or Relayer, but at least it is interesting.

    I have listened to this CD over and over and over. The more I do, the more I like it.
    Benoit David does a great job singing. It will be interesting to see if he can write some lyrics.

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  40. Really like Benoit's voice, but really wish Jon was singing Hour of Need. But, either way, really nice, Steve!

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  41. I am liking the album a lot. But it has had an effect of making me think a bit more about what is a Yes album. Here's what I am thinking..... Close To The Edge is a Yes album, Tales from Topographic Oceans is an Howe and Anderson Album, Relayer is a Howe and White, with Moraz Album, Going For The One is a Yes album, Tormato is a Yes Album, Fragile..... not sure but quite a lot of it belongs to Bruford.

    So to this album......, well, I think a lot of it belongs to Horn, and I think this is a good thing. And the reason is Fly From Here's lyrics, assuming they are Horn's, are very poignant and if Chris, Steve and Alan gave their friend Trevor their album to allow him to express himself, then that is good all round.

    I like the album a lot, but it isn't, in my view, a Yes album. And to be honest, I don't think we will see another Yes album...., by which I mean another CTTE or GFTO.

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  42. Responding to some remarks above;

    I never saw the band with Brislin, so I have no perspective on the contrast with Oliver Wakeman. I'll trust your judgement there. My view on Wakeman is from seeing Yes this past March, where their performance was excellent. Considering Wakeman already knew at that point he was out of the band, I give him high marks for giving the audience a first-rate performance at the best of his ability. I saw him joking at one point with Alan White, so it appears he was at ease with himself. And keep in mind that "stoic" is a word that would readily describe father Rick's performance demeanor, so it may be a bit unfair to expect something different from his first-born son.

    Also, having heard Oliver Wakeman's work with his own band (e.g., "Mother's Ruin", viewable on YouTube), as well as the collaborative effort with Steve Howe (3 Ages of Magick), I have the sense he would have put more intricate and, forgive me, more Yes-like instrumentals into this effort. On "Fly from Here", Downes sounds like Downes, and we have plenty of that already with his extensive Asia catalogue. This could've been something different, but instead it seems they settled for just something "new".

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  43. I have listened to the album a couple of times now and first reaction is singing is pretty good, the 6 part fly from here is average and the instrumentation for a yes album is pretty sparse.

    The production quality is first rate and the second half of the disc does sound more like mid career yes. Overall i give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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  44. Hi Henry! Thank you for the excellent review!

    I had the opportunity of listening to "Fly From Here" as well...and I am not as happy as many bloggers seems to be.

    In my humble opinion, it sounds like a good album from a progressive rock band in the 70s... I mean, it would be a good album AT THAT TIME...The sound, the arrangements are a little bit out of date now, with some music ideas that seems to be borrowed from ELP or Crosby, Still, Nash and Young...
    In fact, only on few occasion I had the feeling that the band playing was YES: in some nice Howe moments, or few voices arrangements.

    I have to admit I am a little disappointed. Perhaps I had too high expectations?
    May be. I recognize the band is excellent. There are all experienced and talented musician. I agree with you, Henry: David Benoit sings pretty well (I haven´t heard his work with Mystery) and he is not pretending to be Jon. So, I am cool with the band. But, as I said, something is missing...

    I am not going to bring the issue about how Jon´s involvements is good or bad, or if YES is a Squire´ or Anderson´s baby...

    I just want to enjoy listening some positive and energetic music...I am almost 35 years older than I heard Close to the Edge for the first time...so, perhaps I need more energetic music now :)

    I heard Jon´s recent CD ...It is not a YES album either, but there is there something fresh and uplifting that I couldn´t find in FLY FROM HERE...As a veteran Yes fan, I would really enjoy that...May be next time?

    Cheers!!

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  45. Henry,

    I was put off initially by the negative comments on AMY, and truthfully, haven't seen the new lineup live. But I absolutely love the new album.

    So many of the reviews I read seem to be clouded by the reviewer's personal opinion of the "Jon situation." Those in the Jon camp seem predisposed to reject the album outright, using vague comments to explain their dismissal of the music. My opinion is that there are a variety of business and interpersonal reasons why Anderson is gone. And trying to extract the truth from the public comments from Yes members is an exercise in futility. When in the last 10 years has ANY member of Yes been 100% truthful about what has gone on with the band? Seriously.

    Musically, I believe that Anderson has been both the best, and the worst thing to happen to Yes in terms of musical development. Certainly he deserves most, if not all the credit for the heyday of the band back in the 70's. Without his vision, it's unlikely we would ever have gotten some of the greatest prog albums of all time. And his admitted lack of formal musical training forced the others to kick it up a notch and add shape and substance to the pieces.

    But since the reunion of KTA, too much of what little original music Yes did was dominated by Anderson's increasingly weak lyrics, and a tendency to dominate the musical arrangements. Whether because of laziness on the part of Squire, White, and Howe, or intransigence by Anderson, I've found that The Ladder, Magnification, and KTA just don't hold up to repeated listens. And it mostly has to do with the trite lyrics, and Anderson's inability to write many decent melodies.

    Once you put aside the politics, you are left with the music on FFH, and in my opinion, it's the most consistently satisfying album they have done since GFTO. Even better than Drama, and less pop than 90125.

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  46. A very nice review for what I myself agree is an excellent album. I don't enjoy trying to put it on a scale against other albums, (although I do think it has more to do with channeling some of where the band was at circa 1980 than anything else before or since), I really think FFH stands as both an excellent album and a true return to form as a proper Yes album. YMMV.

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  47. It's just great music, be thankful its still being offered to us.

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  48. Anthony Hewetson29 July 2011 09:00

    I like the review ... and would like to add my two bits.

    I was hoping that, like Drama, Fly from Here, would be another romp for Chris Squire. I think he had more fun, as a bass player, on Drama than on any other Yes album. Unfortunately, Fly from Here is not that romp.

    I was very glad to hear Mr. David not sounding that much like Jon Anderson. He is quite capable of mimicking Jon but it is much better to hear him singing in his own, quite pleasant fashion.

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  49. simon thetford17 October 2011 09:02

    Heard the new album and sorry if this offends anyone but it is pretty poor, where's the fire, the drama, it all sounds very tame. Benoit is a decent singer but the songs are poor, a distinct lack of decent material. For me even Union is better than this, the mighty have fallen a very long way. ** out of 5 and that is generous, I love Yes but this is very disappointing.

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  50. The album is great! Probably the best thing they wrote after the Trevor Rabin years...finally life in YES! Just heard them in Stockholm and musically, they could just be the bets musicians in the world right now. Geoff Downes is a reborn YES man bringing so much life, pose, elegance and his own keys here whereas one really gets tired of Wakeman's Archaic playing...Steve Howe is simply magnificent as are the Squire and White...But Benoit is a decent singer and he does a great job on the new stuff while it is close to disaster on JA's song...is it just tech problems, hitting the right noise, loosing his voice, stage fright or not being JA on vocals or all of the above...in any case they need to do something ASAP or this EU leg of the tour won't end up nicely...in any case thank God for this new stuff and Trevor Horn/Geoff Downes coming on bard and relieving us of almost 2 decades of generic YES album misery...

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