Fly From Here (Frontiers Records FR CDVD 520, 2011)
There was a lot of expectation about the new Yes album, Fly From Here, the first recording by the progressive rock legends in nearly a decade. Yes had several choices, either go the progressive rock route cherished by many of its fans or go pop. They chose a middle ground. In a surprising time warp, the musicians running Yes now went back to the Yes of the Drama era. Indeed, Yes brought back producer Trevor Horn and keyboardist Geoff Downes, who basically have taken over the Yes sound. Most of the pieces are by Horn, Downes and bassist Chris Squire.
Most of the material on Fly From Here has a pop quality. Although the album is structured as a suite, don’t expect a progressive rock gem like Close to the Edge, Tales From Topographic Oceans or Relayer. Instead, the pop songs are joined by superb, although brief, instrumental passages. It’s like a little taste of the best Yes can offer, but leaves you wanting more.
The current line-up of Yes doesn’t include one of its essential members, Jon Anderson. He is not only the vocalist that gave Yes its distinct sound, Anderson is also a highly creative composer that has provided excellent material. The new vocalist, Benoit David, does an excellent job and I have no problems with him. However, he has been given lackluster songs to work with. There is an overall absence of the magic that made Yes such a legend.
As the title of the review says, Steve Howe saves the show. His guitar work throughout the album is truly outstanding. He adds his signature intricate guitar melodies and arrangements throughout the album. If you ignore the pop structure of the songs and simplistic drums, the guitar work is progressive rock at its best.