My son had a couple of tag lines all ready for this one based on the terrible Asia recording “Omega” from last year:
– Just Say No to Yes
– Fly From This Record
The bad news is he didn’t get to use them. The GOOD news is that means this is actually a good album! Let’s take a look at the first new Yes release in a decade!
Summary: While reading the Bill Bruford autobiography early this year I ended up reloading music from Bruford, King Crimson and Yes on my iPod and going on listening kick of all things Bruford-related for a while. And though I have scaled back, I still have loads of Bruford – and more Yes on my iPod at one time than ever before. I have always appreciated the musicianship of Bruford, Wakeman, Howe and Squire … but now we have a somewhat different line-up, with Bruford replaced with Alan White ages ago, Wakeman also long gone, and Jon Anderson left more recently due to health issues.
So the line-up for Fly From Here is Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Geoff Downes, Alan White and new vocalist Benoit Davit. The last name sent me to the internet, as there is a smooth jazz pianist named David Benoit … but Benoit David was actually the front-man for a highly regarded Canadian Yes tribute band.
The story of the recording grows from Chris Squire (the sole member for the entire run of Yes and owner of the band’s name) and Geoff Downes discussing a piece they had in progress for 1980’s (mediocre at best) Drama that was never recorded. That Yes formation split up and half the band went on to form Asia and the rest reformed into the 80’s pop sounding group that made ‘Owner of a Lonely Heart’ from the 90125 album … which I found somewhat lackluster but in hindsight was clearly their best recording since Bruford departed after Close to the Edge.
The song was ‘We Can Fly From Here’, and Squire, Downes and producer Trevor Horn reworked and rewrote the song into a 20 minute suite. The suite avoids being overly dramatic or falling into typical prog-rock cliches … but is clearly part of the genre. Yes fans will immediately feel at home, and new listeners will not feel like they have missed out on anything. It is accessible, yet classic. And my favorite part is that Steve Howe and Chris Squire don’t hold back from displaying why they are considered some of the best rock musicians on their instruments!
Back to my younger son – he and I listened the other night as we were driving to and from his piano lesson. He is very much into electronica such as Deadmau5 right now, and appreciates the musicianship – and isn’t all that concerned about the lyrics.
He made a few observations: first off he noted that it sounded like something from the 80’s. Fair enough, and it makes sense given the core elements of the suite were written as part of a 1980 album. He also noted a modern feel, particularly with ‘Into The Storm’. Since that was a new song, and contributed by Oliver Wakemen, the 29 year old son of former member Rick Wakeman it also makes sense. He called it an obvious pop song – but not in a bad way.
He also observed a different feel from most modern recordings – even the pop-centric ‘Into the Storm’. The difference was that it actually sounded like a band playing together. It is an interesting observation that didn’t strike me as a jazz fan, but upon further listening is absolutely correct! You can hear the genuine sound of the musicians playing – there are leads and lags in timing, and obvious interplay.
The most obvious question is: is it as good as The Yes Album or Fragile or Close to the Edge or even YesSongs? No.
BUT … after listening to this I put 90125 back on my iPod to compare – and I like Fly From Here better. Owner of a Lonely Heart is obviously the best track on that album, and it has aged worse than many other songs from ‘Top Rock Songs of the 80’s’ collections you might hear. This recording has a contemporary feel yet maintains the classic roots. And having Howe and Squire and White playing together gives it a depth that the entirety of 90125 is missing.
‘Fly From Here’ is not ‘Album of the Year’ material … but nor is it the disaster of Asia’s Omega. It is a solid and fun recording that celebrates the history of the group, while showing that a group of musicians in their 60s can still rock out pretty well.
Choice Track (and why): ‘Fly From Here Part III – Madman At The Screens’ – this song has it all, from syncopated beats to strong bass and guitar interplay. When the song starts Benoit David sings with a staccato style that feels uncomfortable … until the songs kicks into gear. There is loads of energy and the vocal works perfectly.
You Might Love This If: If you are a Yes fan, this is an easy recommendation. For all others … that is why you get 90 second previews on iTunes!
Where to Buy: iTunes Music Store – $9.99
Here is a video of the experience of Yes creating this recording: