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:


Anonymous said...

Hey, I liked your take on Fly From Here. I love anything Alan plays -- and don't place any expectations on it... since he's given me tons of inspiration over many years. Also, I think the drums were looked at as a piece of a sonic toolkit by Trevor Horn, rather than "let's make Alan White sound as great as he is" --
leading to overcompression, undermixing of the drums. But overall I really like that this is easy to listen to, and that it doesn't cater to prog-heads just because they are a vocal fan subset. And believe me I love Tales and Gates and everything the band did in its heyday.

hurdygurdyguy said...

I posted a comment at another blog that reviewed the new cd (I forget which blog)saying after one listen I wasn't very hopeful about it's longevity (disappointed, actually). However, after giving it 3+ listens my opinion has greatly improved to the point I'm listening to it more and enjoying what I'm hearing (what helped was finding a fan-made remix of the Fly From Here suite)!! I've enjoyed every version of Yes from the beginning (with the exception of the Khoroshev interlude) and this new album adds another welcome layer to the complexity that is Yes!