Yes – Fly From Here (2011)

Posted: July 2, 2011 in Music

It has been ten long years since we last heard from the legendary progressive-rock band Yes. 2001’s release Magnification barely made any noise here in the States, and I was one of many writers who thought the band had quietly drifted off into the sunset.

But such is not the case. In fact, the last few years have been more busy and turbulent for these icons as ever. The workload has come in the form of constant touring during this time, and the turmoil has stirred itself into a frenzy by the band parting ways with long-time vocalist Jon Anderson. To say “parting ways” might be a bit mild, as it seems that founding member Chris Squire had simply decided to not invite Anderson back into the mix for the recording of the band’s twenty-second album, Fly From Here.

Replacing Anderson is Benoit David, who has been an active member of Yes through their recent touring schedule, so the transition has been pretty smooth within the band. But what about the fans? For many, a Yes album without Anderson isn’t a Yes album – and the release is sure to find its detractors due to his lack of participation.

That said, I’ve listened to this album – and, at least to me, it sounds like a Yes album through and through. For me, Yes has always been about the overall sound and writing. They’ve seen their share of musicians come and go over their 40+ year career, but the sound has never wavered. All the elements are here that made the band the pioneers of progressive rock: the technical guitars, the airy vocals, the eclectic keyboards, the constant shifts of styles and genres. Every Yes album has been an amusement park ride of turns and surprises – and Fly From Here is no different.

The first half of the album is – in typical Yes fashion – a six-chapter, 20 minute masterpiece titled after the album. Within the epic work, fans are treated to a complex arrangement that hops between genres in triumphant fashion. It displays so much precision, one would almost think that this track has been toyed and tinkered with for as long as Yes has been a band. Well, not quite, but close.

You see, when Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn joined the band for the recording of Drama in 1980, they brought this track (or at least a primitive form of it) with them. It has existed in various forms, studio demo, live recording, and a two-part version for The Buggles (which was a Downes-Horn creation.) Thirty years later, Downes is back with the band, and the track finally gets the full in-studio treatment with all the glory the band could put into it. Be sure to take note of the far-too-short fifth chapter, Bumpy Ride, which is a poppy, rock-fusion gem.

After catching our breath from the first track, the album smoothes out considerably with “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be.” The track wasn’t horribly complex, and had a nice soft-rock feeling to it – almost to the point of easy-listening – but we ARE talking about Yes here. There was still great structure, and David’s voice fit the cookie-cut vocal harmonics wonderfully.

“Life On A Film Set” (also borrowed from a Buggles tune “Riding a Tide”) floats perfectly in tune with strong bass licks, gentle keys, and soothing guitars, until – about halfway through – the tempo is lifted by popping keyboards, stronger vocals, and an obvious shift to heavier things to come. Outside of the title track, this song showcases the power and potential of Yes 2011, and considering all members are approaching 70 years of age, it was pretty damn impressive.

“Hour of Need” slows things back down again, and the track features more of an AOR sound than anything progressive, but it fits nicely into the experience with a positive vibe and hand-clapping atmosphere. Steve Howe shows off a bit with his intricate finger picking – but it wasn’t overworked and counterbalanced well with Squire’s quiet bassline.

I was a little caught of guard with the next track “Solitaire”. As a guitar-and bass-only instrumental, it felt like something that would be better served up on a live performance. I’m not sure why this made it to the disc, though. It’s not a set-up for the next track, nor is there anything overly amazing about it. It’s a nice piece, and all – I just wish we could have gotten a full-on song from the entire band in its place.

The albums closer, “Into the Storm” is the heaviest piece on the album, and has the listener recalling the better parts of Fragile and Topograhic Ocean. David’s vocals shine here, and are as strong as Anderson’s ever were. Accompanying the vocals are the perfect amounts of every instrument, building layer after layer of prog rock euphoria. If there is going to be a single from this album, it will be this track, as it sounds like classic Yes, yet drips with a newness that just might sneak up on modern rock radio.

To wrap it up, Fly From Here might disappoint a few of the older fans due to the “missing pieces”, but those with an open mind and a love for progressive rock should embrace this as one of the band’s finer pieces in their storied legacy – because that’s exactly what it is.


01. Fly From Here – Overture (1:54)
02. Fly From Here – Pt. I – We Can Fly (6:01)
03. Fly From Here – Pt. II – Sad Night at the Airfield (6:41)
04. Fly From Here – Pt. III – Madman at the Screens (5:16)
05. Fly From Here – Pt. IV – Bumpy Ride (2:15)
06. Fly From Here – Pt. V – We Can Fly Reprise (1:45)
07. The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be (5:08)
08. Life on a Film Set (5:01)
09. Hour of Need (3:07)
10. Solitaire (3:30)
11. Into The Storm (6:54)

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