Man its hard to write this post without noting everytime I type Y E S I’m going to chuckle.
So in case you haven’t heard or you are not a prog-rock afficenado, Yes has released a new album almost 11 years later from their last endeavor Magnification. Due to supposed health reasons Jon Anderson left the group in 2006 and was replaced by Yes Tribute Band front-man Benoît David. (Although I find it funny Anderson is still touring by himselfl, so who knows the real reason for this.) Fly From Here is based on a song originally written in the Drama 1980’s era of Yes. By happenstance Chris Squire and Geoff Downes got together and decided since they never made an official ‘studio’ recording of the song, they should include this in the next album. The song previously featured on live tour bootlegs has now been recorded, and greatly expanded upon.
Sadly the originally meaning of the song which I would imagine is related to the ‘cold war’ politics at the time may have gotten lost in the process. Never the less this album is pretty damn enjoyable. Granted, you are not going to get any crazy fast shredding, power packed drumming, or anything the likes of what Dream Theater can do today, because let’s face it the Yes guys are OOLLLDDDD! But bringing Trevor Horn back to help produce the album was an excellent idea and produced a thoroughly enjoyable album from front to back.
The Fly From Here Suite is an 20 minute epic which of course starts with a overture to highlight the upcoming music and concludes with a reprise at the end. While not up to the caliber of Yes’s Close to the Edge, it still fun to sing along too.
Benoît David does well on the album, although he is no Jon Anderson. He’s a cross between Trevor Horn and Anderson in fact. Slightly higher than Horn, but lower than Anderson. On the album he sounds clear, distinct and great. The songs themselves are all really well done, catchy to grab on to, and have just enough flash to make them progressive in style.
The album itself is a nice work of Art; both in the Roger Dean cover and the music itself. But sadly that’s where my criticism of Yes starts to fall apart in the fact that they are currently touring with Styx and performing badly.
It’s inevitable that all rock stars are going to age, but you hope that they stop their career before they look like they’re going to drop dead on stage. Otherwise you get the circumstances that lead to Frank Sinatra calling for a chair before fainting. Phil and Genesis are wise enough to realize its time to close the book, it appears that Yes does not.
Recent reports and numerous YouTube videos show the guys performance is shaky if not awful at times. Alan White appears to be either playing so slow that he can’t keep up with himself or just unable to keep a beat anymore. Benoît David does well on lower pitch songs but strains to hit the higher notes Anderson did with ease. Granted Anderson sounds a big haggard these days as well but Benoit is much much younger. Chris Squire looks tired, old, slow and Steve Howe looking more and more like the Crypt-Keeper from Tales from the Crypt is the only one who can play consistently anymore (although a big slower as well.) Geoff Downes who replaced Oliver Wakeman (yes Rick Wakeman’s son) also seems to be having problems hitting the right piano keys at the right time. Sadly what this looks like from the distance is a bunch of Grandpa’s playing along with their nephew in a junk band. The guys look unrehearsed and unfit to be on stage. It’s just sad.
Yes music was a major life changer for me. It helped me survive the turbulent Bush era and taught me to be optimistic in the face of the worst oppression. Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White and company can still produce amazing music, but they need to consider retiring from touring. Playing Progressive Rock songs half their speed and off key diminishes the great abilities they had in the past. I can even deal with a new singer here and there, but trying to push yourself physically after 60 is going to make you drop dead on stage.
Beyond that, Fly From Here is a keeper.