Fly From Here


Frontiers Records, 2011

REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso


In the early 2000’s, Yes seemed to be in healthy shape. All the members generally considered to be part of the band’s “classic” lineup were touring together and making great music. It looked as if the band with one of the most convoluted histories in rock would spend the twilight years of its career in quiet dignity, putting out solid albums and touring on the strength of its many past successes. Fast forward a decade and oh, how things have changed! Geoff Downes, formerly of The Buggles and Asia, has returned to assume the keyboard position he left behind in 1981, and longtime vocalist Jon Anderson has been given the boot and replaced by one Benoit David, formerly of...wait for it...Yes tribute bands. So to summarize: after the relative normalcy the band experienced in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Yes is back in crazy-land.

Thankfully, David does a fine job singing, sounding somewhat like Horn but with an overall lower tone. He’s not a particularly charismatic singer but then, neither was Anderson. His voice fits into the mix just fine and it’s hard for me to imagine anybody, aside from hardcore Anderson purists, getting very upset with his work here. Especially with Yes’s trademark vocal harmonies all over the place sounding as good as they ever have. Chris Squire in particular is in great vocal form, coming through loud and clear on his parts, and his bass sound remains as distinctive as it’s always been. Steve Howe’s guitar playing is very restrained throughout focusing on solid leads and acoustic chording, eschewing wild solos and technically challenging displays.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

For the production of their first album in ten years Yes turned to their one-time frontman, three-time producer and – in Downes’ case – fellow ex-Buggle Trevor Horn. His production here is squeaky clean but not quite as glossy as many of Yes’s ‘80s and ‘90s albums, so it makes for a good fit. However, Horn’s presence on this record is that of far more than just that of producer; he has contributed both vocally and instrumentally, and (along with Downes) is responsible for the bulk of the album’s songwriting. Due to their haphazard recent history, the band was largely at a loss for new material so they went back and grabbed a few old songs that Yes and The Buggles had worked on but never completed to their satisfaction. The song that has now become the title track of this album has been expanded and reworked so much that at nearly 24 minutes, it’s become the longest song Yes has ever done!

Unlike Yes’s past epics, which tended to take their time and develop gradually throughout, “Fly From Here” is very sectional. Each part could be taken more or less on its own without really losing much outside of its context. Catchy choruses abound and they never stay on one idea longer than necessary. I’d venture to say that in spite of its length, “Fly From Here” might just be Yes’s most accessible epic. The downside of this approach is that the piece as a whole largely loses cohesiveness, which was a big part of what made Yes’s extended compositions so strong and unique in the past. Anybody can medley a bunch of different songs together and call it an epic. Nevertheless, these songs are pretty good, so I’ll gladly accept it for what it is.

Most of the album’s weaker moments can be found in the second half. Squire’s main contribution and vocal showcase “The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be” is decent, albeit a little cheesy, Howe’s solo guitar excursion “Solitaire” recalls “Mood For A Day” in places, but on the whole is rather boring, and “Hour Of Need” seems nice but feels a little underdeveloped. None of these tracks are bad, just unremarkable. Thankfully, side two has two major highlights: the former Buggles demo “Life On A Film Set,” and the only completely new group composition, “Into The Storm.” The former builds from a pensive intro to a thrilling acoustic guitar driven middle into a rousing finale, and the latter is a great ensemble number featuring a nice riff and memorable group harmonies in the verses.

For the umpteenth time, Yes has persevered through radical changes and kept on going. Fly From Here isn’t a return to their ‘70s heyday, but it is nevertheless an excellent addition to their later catalog. Fans of Trevor Horn’s production and songwriting or Yes’s other recent albums such as The Ladder or Magnification should find much to like here as well.

Rating: B

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© 2011 Ken DiTomaso and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Frontiers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.