'Fly From Here' is Yes's first new album for ten years and marks a return to form, albeit via a reach back in time, as the central 'Fly From Here' suite comes from a 1980 Buggles demo. Three decades later Yes have welcomed back Geoff Downes on keyboards and brought his musical partner Trevor Horn back on production duties.
The final piece in the jigsaw is the new French Canadian vocalist Benoit David, who previously sang with a Yes tribute band and who does a sterling job of balancing several familiar Jon Anderson moments with his own take on the newer material. Indeed he even contributes a co-write on the impressive final track 'Into the Storm', suggesting he's grown into the part.
So far so good. And aside from returning to the tried and tested format of a Yes suite, and a Steve Howe acoustic instrumental, 'Fly From Here' embraces enough uplifting moments, strong choruses, several dynamic breaks and staccato chords with a characteristic meeting of sweeping melodies and mystical lyrics to scratch the very best Yes template.
'We Can Fly' (Part one) sets the standard with its strong keyboard input and uplifting vocal by Benoit that might owe a lot to Jon Anderson's vocal style but is something all of his own making.
I guess the big question is all about the balance between the past and future, that is the re-living some of the best moments of the past while offering something new and innovative for the future. In that respect the band just about pull it off.
Geoff Downes's keyboards lead the way on much of the material and songs such as 'Madman at the Screens' echo the jagged, fractured melody of Gentle Giant while the jumpy keyboard, slashed guitar lines and contrasting calm of the vocals of 'Bumpy Ride' is pure Tull, both probably reflecting the time of their writing.
'Saturday Night at the Airfield' (part two) features some of the best instrumental work, building from a lovely Spanish guitar over a bed of synths and a pristine delicate vocal, a dramatic quiet to loud dichotomy, via some muscular bass notes and a delicious Steve Howe slide figure reminiscent of Gilmour in particular and Floyd in general.. But the real success here is the way the band fight to make the thing stick together coherently.
For while there's not the natural undulating flow of older Yes records, the 'Fly From Here' overture and 'We Can Fly' reprise sit perfectly in between songs of real substance. Best of all is 'The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be' on which Chris Squire steps up for an impressively warm lead vocal as well as harmonizing with Benoit, on a melodically strong outing with a great hook. 'Life on A Film Set' steals the Buggles song 'Riding A Tiger' and impresses with its strong vocal, climactic arrangement and memorable line.
The band stretch their polished approach to almost jamming out on the big production finale 'Into the Storm'. It's got a lovely melodic sweep, a dazzling guitar break, intricate percussion and is perhaps the closest Yes get to a new musical horizon.
'Fly From Here' doesn't quite have the ground breaking quality of say 'Close To The Edge', and it lacks that little bit of whimsy that Anderson used to bring to the vocals, but as a re-statement of Yes's musical values and high standing in the Prog world, it's just the ticket.
More surprisingly perhaps is that fact that as a result of this album the more broad minded rock fans might have to re evaluate the music of Buggles. Electro Pop and Prog never seemed closer stable mates.
Review by Pete Feenstra
by Pete Feenstra, 26.10.11
Camera: Eric Harvey
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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty
damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly
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