Thursday 9 March 2023

Cut from the Stars - a first listen

Yes introduce their new album, Mirror to the Sky, with “Cut from the Stars”, a paean to the night sky and how it can ground us. The song is released 10 March 2023, but as it's already 10 March somewhere in the world...

After orchestral strings start us off (shades of the intro to “Rhythm of Love” on Big Generator), we go into a driving bass line that I feel Chris Squire would approve of, and then into an energetic chorus. “International dark star” – is that a reference to the International Space Station? [Edit: I misheard Davison's vocals. The lyrics have this as "International dark sky park". A dark sky park is an area with reduced light pollution to facilitate views of the night sky.]

Most of the instruments drop out and the tempo slows so that the vocals can take centre stage for the first verse. “When I’m in need of some perspective / I find my place in the jewelled collective / Daylight glare blinding me / Only after dark may I clearly see”, which I think is some of Davison’s best work. Notice the subtle arrangements going on with the backing vocals. The vocal section continues, with the anthemic line “We have transmission after dark” standing out.

Then around 2:50, Howe comes in with a solo for contrast, Sherwood’s bass burbling along underneath. The middle 8 has some more nice Davison/Sherwood vocal interplay. The song builds towards a vocal climax, and we could just finish around 4:30, but there’s an instrumental coda akin to the “Interaction” section of “The Ice Bridge” with trading solos from Howe and Downes.

The lyrics match the album cover, and possible lyrical themes may return in “Luminosity” and “Mirror to the Sky”. Yes’s lyrics when Jon Anderson was in the band often focused on the Sun. Here, we switch to the stars (although of course the stars are just distant suns). Yes have referenced stars before, notably in the cover of Tales from Topographic Oceans, and Anderson references the Pleiades constellation in his recent work.

“Cut from the Stars” is a song led by Sherwood’s bass and Davison’s vocals. (Dare I say, this is what Arc of Life should be sounding like, but doesn’t?) It’s a somewhat more modern sounding song than The Quest’s opener and one not blighted by the mix up over who wrote it!

In all, a rousing and focused introduction to the new Yes album. One can hear why it was chosen as an album opener and single. Of course, everyone is wondering what comes next, particular with the longer songs, up to nearly 14 minutes for the title track.

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