Release Date: Jul 12, 2011
Record label: Frontiers Records
What's the world coming to when Jon Anderson can get sampled on last year's Kanye West album – but he's not on the new Yes album? Ah, well – as he used to sing, "Silly human race." After giving Anderson the long-distance runaround, the prog vets have a new frontman: Benoit David, recruited from the Yes tribute band Close to the Edge. Their first album in 10 years aims high with a 24-minute, six-part title suite. Unfortunately, the band gets drowned out by weak vocals and synth goop – Steve Howe takes only a few disappointingly brief guitar solos, beyond his acoustic "Solitaire." And when the new guy starts singing, tempus can't fugit fast enough.
The long version: longtime Yes vocalist/songwriter/figurehead Jon Anderson falls ill with respiratory issues, is unable to participate in a 2008 tour, is replaced by Canadian Benoît David, former vocalist for a Yes tribute band named Close to the Edge. Legendary producer Trevor Horn (formerly of The Buggles and Yes’ 1980 album, Drama) is recruited for a new Yes project: Fly From Here, set to revive the epic title track which was written (but never recorded) in the days of Drama. Anderson, who was kept blind from the personnel changes, gets wind, gets pissed, writes a disappointed letter on his website, moves on with his life.
Some of what's here will invite comparisons with their early years: the first six tracks are a six-part suite ("Fly from Here"), but it's not essential to hear them linked. Astonishingly for a 2011 release, the group sounds as though they're a bunch of kids again, inventing progressive rock for the first time, or perhaps perfecting it, complete with romantic ballads and folk-like pieces that stand in sharp contrast to the grander productions on which the album rests. Though nothing is overlong or complex, the songs are all presented with a depth and lushness that makes one think, at first, of a soundtrack to a movie, and then of the movie itself, as though Horn, Downes, and Squire (who, with Howe, dominate the composers' credits) had a long-form, multi-media piece in mind rather than just an album.
Yes was my first rock concert. It was in the summer of 1991. If you had told me then that Yes would last for at least another 20 years, I wouldn’t have known what to say. The prog rock collective was considered a dinosaur act even then, but this was before my 13-year-old brain could completely comprehend the strange revolving door that was the band’s personnel.
Progressive rock's original big beasts release their first album in a decade while the movement makes an unlikely revival among bands as diverse as Mostly Autumn and Everything Everything. Alas, Yes are no longer the conquering overlords whose long songs and twiddly time signatures sired Tales from Topographic Oceans and gave punk a nemesis. Cape-wearing keyboard maestro Rick Wakeman has gone with signature vocalist Jon Anderson, who is replaced by – of all things – a singer from a Yes tribute band.
Review Summary: the Yes reboot makes the head spin.The story of Fly From Here certainly earns its prog-rock brownie points. It is, after all, a piece of ancient Yes history, no matter how insignificant: Downes and Howe put the “Fly From Here” epic to the band thirty-one years ago now, prior to Downes joining the band for Drama, their last record as heroes of their genre. Lifting the track from the archives so late in the band’s existence seems like obvious prog-rock gratification, much in the same way no one really wants to see Genesis play Twickenham unless Peter Gabriel is present to bat Phil Collins' pop-rock to the side.