Monday, July 18, 2011

On my turntable: Yes - Fly From Here

When I first learned that the new Yes album, Fly From Here (2011) did not include singer Jon Anderson I rolled my eyes.  The idea of a new Yes record without Anderson, I thought, was an incredibly bad career choice.  Once I saw that the album was coming out on vinyl I decided to have an open mind and at least give it a proper listen.

Fly From Here reunites the Yes lineup featured on Drama (1980) plus new lead singer Benoît David. Drama was the first Yes album in my collection.  I remember buying the record at the Target in Fridley and quickly riding my bike home with the LP tucked under one arm. What made Drama so exciting for me at the time was the new addition of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, aka The Buggles, who had very recently released their debut album, The Age Of Plastic (1980).  The combination of prog-rock Yes and new-wave Buggles (prog-wave?) worked very well, and Yes suddenly sounded like a fresh young band ready for the new decade.

Sadly the Drama configuration of Yes only lasted for one tour, after which a new Yes lineup evolved (under the working name of Cinema), eventually including Jon Anderson again on vocals and Trevor Horn producing.  It was this Yes configuration (Anderson, Squire, White, Kaye & Rabin) that released the highly successful 90125 LP (1983), including the #1 single, "Owner of a Lonely Heart".

Fast-forward to 2008. Yes was touring with members Anderson, Howe, Squire, White, and Oliver Wakeman (son of Rick Wakeman, best known for his work with Yes in the 1970s).  When the tour was interrupted by Anderson's unexpected hospitalization (for respiratory problems), Yes hit the road without him, hiring young Canadian singer Benoît David to fill Jon's shoes.  In 2010 Yes began working with Trevor Horn on the new album, and soon it was announced that Geoff Downes was back in the band, thus bringing together the Yes that created Drama thirty years ago.

Fly From Here is written mostly by Horn & Downes, but the musicianship is unmistakably Yes. The album is highly engaging and fresh.  By the third spin I had grown accustomed to Benoît David's presence on the Yes landscape. While it's still too early to say (I've only had the LP for three days), Fly From Here may just end up being my 2nd or 3rd favorite Yes album, next to Drama.

Fly From Here Track listing w/songwriting credits:
Side one:
Fly From Here - Overture (Horn, Downes)
Fly From Here Pt I - We Can Fly (Horn, Downes)
Fly From Here Pt II - Sad Night At The Airfield (Horn, Downes)
Fly From Here Pt III - Madman At The Screens (Horn, Downes)
Fly From Here Pt IV - Bumpy Road (Howe)
Fly From Here Pt V - We Can Fly reprise (Horn, Downes, Squire)
Side two:
The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be (Squire, Johnson, Sessler)
Life On A Film Set (Horn, Downes)
Hour of Need (Howe)
Solitaire (Howe)
Into the Storm (Squire, Wakeman, Howe, Horn, David, White)

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