Wednesday, July 27, 2011

CD Review - Yes - Fly From Here

I've been listening to Yes’ new album Fly From Here on Spotify (so I didn’t have to buy it – ha ha) and it has grown on me after a few listens.

The key to me really embracing this album was to not worry about what version of Yes this was, should it be called Yes, etc. Once I got over that and really started listening, I started enjoying it.

Aside from its prog-rock excesses, Yes’ hole card has always been its vocals.

The Drama album showed that Squire has a huge part in Yes’ vocal sound, as do one-off tracks like Does It Happen from Magnification and stuff like Leave It from 90125.

Fly From Here also puts a spotlight on the vocals, and whatever you think about Benoit David as a Jon Anderson replacement, his voice sounds really good on this record, especially when paired with Squire.

The band is still clearly thinking that vinyl is still around, because the first ‘side’ is a 20-minute, six-song piece called Fly From Here. The Fly From Here chorus, which appears off and on in the six song suite, is very catchy with lush vocals and a gorgeous vocal arrangement. The music is very good as well, with some nice slide work from Howe, and killer classic ascending Squire bass riffs.

Geoff Downes brings a tasty, textured flavor back to the band, and it’s honestly nice to not have a ‘shredder’ on the keyboards, crapping all over the songs (sorry Wakeman/Moraz fans). Only part four of Fly From Here, the “Bumpy Ride” song, is cringe-worthy. Think Teakbois but not as irritating.

‘Side two’ is made up of five stand-alone songs, the first sung by Squire, called The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be. Very nice, catchy tune – the outro has a great groove and some cool repeating vocal calls. “Life On A Film Set” borrows its verse vocal melody from America’s “Tin Man,” which is a bad idea but the song gets interesting when it goes to 5/4 time in the second half. There is an obligatory Steve Howe acoustic piece that as usual is really good.

My favorite song on this album may be the very pretty acoustic song Hour of Need – the one song I could actually hear Jon Anderson signing. It sounds like part two of Nine Voices from The Ladder but it’s really nice. Great chord changes, again solid harmonies and Downes shows he can still do some quick keyboard runs when he wants to. The album closes with Into The Storm, a good song that would probably smoke live – soaring vocals on this one. A lot of this CD would be really good live, now that I think about it.

Let’s be clear – there is nothing edgy about this album. It’s very ‘easy listening’ but enjoyable. Sadly the drums are practically non-existent. I love Alan White but he’s slowing down on his chops for sure. Or – shock – actually playing for the song. But he has always been able to add a cool twist to a straight song, all the way back to Lennon’s Instant Karma, and there’s none of that here. Anyone looking for Gates of Delirium or hell even Changes will be disappointed. The drums even seem kind of buried and the overall mix is ‘light.’ Not sure whose fault that is because certainly producer Trevor Horn is well-qualified.

Fly From Here will be seen as an interesting footnote in the band’s career, and fans of the band’s oddball tangents like Talk, The Ladder and Magnification will probably enjoy this one as well. Just open your mind a bit and give it a chance, and put down the baggage first.

Here is a so-so promo video for the album. Interviews are not great and the song they chose to back most of it is that annoying one I don't like, but it's worth a watch:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Neil Peart Jams With Stewart Copeland, Les Claypool, Danny Carey

What does a drum God like Neil Peart do when he's off the road? Well, he goes to Stewart Copeland's crib, meets up with fellow drum God Danny Carey (Tool) and Les Claypool and lays down some of the weirdest non-Rush music possible.

Brace yourself, the below video is not going to blow you away. It's more like Mother from Synchronicity than Cygnus X-1, but it's wild to see Neil and Stewart together, knowing how much The Police influenced Rush in the 80s. I guess it makes sense but I don't think I have ever seen those two in the same room, much less in a free-form jam situation.

Would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall but this video edit is close. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yes Release First Video in More Than A Decade

Yes has released its first Jon-Anderson-less album since 1980's Drama, called Fly From Here. The Drama connection doesn't end there. Fly From Here was a song written by the 1980 Drama-era lineup of Trevor Horn (vocals instead of Anderson), Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Alan White and keyboardist Geoff Downes. The band decided to dust it off some 30 years later and make it the centerpiece of this new release.

This 2011 Fly From Here lineup has that very same personnel list as 1980's Drama, but with vocalist Benoit David instead of Horn - but get this - Horn produced the album. So I was not shocked to check out this first single, which is a short version of the almost 20 minute, six part version of Fly From Here on the new album, and conclude that it sounds a hell of a lot like the Drama lineup.

Benoit David sounds much more like Trevor Horn than he does Jon Anderson. Now personally, I love Drama - it is one of my favorite Yes albums. So it is cool to hear this 2011 Yes sounding a lot like the 1980 Drama Yes, mostly because of Downes' keyboard sounds and the vocals. Checking out the iTunes samples, it is nowhere near as heavy as Drama, but you can tell it's the same band.

The video is OK. You don't see any band members but you do see Trevor Horn on the airplane (white haired gentleman with sunglasses and hat) and at first glance I thought the flight attendant in blue was Chris Squire in drag. Agh!

Also, I can't help but wonder if the whole video is a metaphor for the band's career? Anyway, check it out and see what you think. I may just get this CD and review it here. Never thought I'd do that - pretty much done with Yes for a while now - but I like what I am hearing.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Jimmy Page Launches Website

It's hard to fathom that it is 2011 and Jimmy Page has never had an official website until now. But Page said as reported in a Classic Rock post, “I’ve had the domain name for a number of years. I’ve just been sitting on it and a number of people had made approaches about setting something up and it got to a point that it felt it was the right time to put the website together.”

In addition to the usual photos, discography, tour dates and news that you'd find on a musician's website, Page is tapping his extensive archive to run a daily feature called On This Day that shows what he was doing on such and such a day in 1978 (worshiping the devil, for example), offer a rare audio or video clip etc.

The article says, "This is a daily diary of events spanning his entire career. It will include footage, audio clips, unseen photos, plus previously unreleased tracks, demos and home recordings. There will also be personal anecdotes. But be warned: each entry will be up for just 24 hours and then will permanently removed. There’s to be no archiving."

Page also launched a Twitter alias at @jimmypagecom but I can only imagine he has an admin running it.

In other Page news, he joined the Black Crowes last week in the UK for a rousing encore of Shake Your Money Maker. Dig that here:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Concert Review - Rush - Portland Oregon - Time Machine Tour

I was not going to review this Rush show since it was the exact same setlist as the show I reviewed last August. As you can see, I took loads of photos and video that time but this time decided to not even bring in the camera, so I could just enjoy the gig without worrying about capturing it. I knew it would be the same show but I wanted to catch it anyway because this tour has been so great.

The August show was the 15th on the tour, and this was the third to last, so I was interested in seeing how things might have developed over the last year on the road. I did the same thing with The Police reunion, catching the second or third show on that tour and one near the very end. In that case the band was very, very rough at that first gig and was obviously still working out arrangements and even the keys of the songs. At the second, they were super tight.

Well, in Rush’s case they were tight both shows. I am not sure which one was better to be honest. They were visually stoked to play The Camera Eye on the front end of the tour and I think Alex Lifeson’s solo was better at that first gig. But I have to say, Geddy was on fire in Portland, jumping around and hitting every note – and I mean EVERY note. How he keeps his voice in shape on a long tour like this is beyond me.

While Neil Peart looked tired, he played great and my friend Dave who has seen Rush a million times thought the center section of Freewill might have been the best he’d ever seen.

So yes, same setlist, same awesome band. For me the highlights were Marathon, Subdivisions, all of Moving Pictures, which was still AWESOME to see live all the way through, and the new stuff – Caravan and BU2B. They were really fired up to play these new songs.

I still think the setlist was weird. Time Stand Still and Presto were not great choices for second and third place but whatever. Overall this tour was a real treat and I am looking forward to the DVD that will likely come from the Cleveland appearance.

In the meantime, here is video I shot at the show last August: