Issue 2011-033: Yes - Fly From Here - Round Table Review
Round Table Review
Yes – Fly From Here
CD: Fly From Here – Overture (1:53), Fly From Here Pt.1 – We Can Fly (6:00), Fly From Here Pt.2 – Sad Night At The Airfield (6:41), Fly From Here Pt.3 – Madman At The Screens (5:16), Fly From Here Pt.4 – Bumpy Ride (2:15), Fly From Here Pt.5 – We Can Fly Reprise (1:44), The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be (5:07), Life On A Film Set (5:01), Hour Of Need (3:07), Solitaire (3:30), Into The Storm (6:54)
Bonus DVD: The Making Of Fly From Here Documentary
Geoff Feakes' Review
On the run up to the release of Fly From Here, for Yes fans there were perhaps two burning questions:
- Is it worth the 10 year wait?
- How does it compare with previous Yes albums?
I’ll give my own response to both questions during the course of this review but first I’ll pose another question, what constitutes a Yes album? That’s a hard one to answer given the changes the band has undergone over the past 43 years. There’s the so called 70’s ‘classic Yes’, the 80’s ‘Yes West’, ABWH, ‘Symphonic Yes’ and so on. And lets not forget the early Peter Banks era Yes (for which I have a particular soft spot) which doesn’t even appear on many Yes fans radar. In short, there is no such thing as a typical Yes album.
Following the release of the last studio album Magnification in 2001, Rick Wakeman joined Yes (for the fifth time) and together with Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe and Alan White made regular live appearances during the ensuing decade resulting in several DVD’s. Ill health and concerns over gruelling tour schedules however prompted both Wakeman and Anderson to hang up their Yes shoes in 2008 (the band’s 40th anniversary). Unperturbed the three remaining members invited Oliver Wakeman (on the recommendation of his father) and Anderson sound alike Canadian Benoit David onboard to fill the sizeable void and ensure business continued as usual.
It was this line-up that entered the studios in 2010 to begin work on a new album which ironically had been Wakeman senior’s desire in 2008. With one time Yes member (and producer of the hugely successful 90125) Trevor Horn at the helm it was decided to invite Howe’s Asia colleague Geoff Downes along to rekindle the spark of the 1980 Drama album. With two keyboardists being one too many Wakeman was suddenly (and some say unfairly) out of the frame even though he had contributed to the initial recordings. To maintain the Drama link the centrepiece for the new album would be a 31 year old Horn/Downes song We Can Fly From Here which didn’t make it onto Drama but was performed on the subsequent tour. Also incorporated (with new lyrics) is the second part of the same song which surfaced on the 2010 reissue of The Buggles’ 1981 album Adventures In Modern Recording.
Around these themes they’ve constructed a 25 minute suite Fly From Here which has been trumpeted (especially by the band themselves) as Yes’ first epic length piece since 1996’s Mind Drive and their longest to date. Critics have been quick to overplay the fact that the band has based a sizable chunk of the album on a 30 plus year old Buggles tune. If however the success of the album is to be measured on this piece alone then in my humble opinion (and with minor reservations) they’ve measured up to the task and not been found wanting.
Reflecting its high ambitions, Fly From Here begins naturally with an Overture although in reality this is the opening two minutes of part 3 (Madman At The Screens) minus the vocals. It’s a cracking opening however with some extremely sharp instrumental interplay that put me firmly in mind of Transatlantic. It also has that indelible Trevor Horn production stamp and listening to it I can easily imagine Horn labouring over the mixing desk long after the Yes men have retired for the night.
Forget its vintage, the central song We Can Fly is a real gem and had it been released as a single in some former age it may well have stood some chance at chart success. As it stands it’s one of the catchiest tunes ever recorded by the band and very much in the Asia mould. It rocks along at a sparkling rate with David, Squire and Horn sharing vocal duties supported by fine instrumental work from all concerned (including Wakeman).
The ballad like Sad Night At The Airfield is a perfect companion to the main song with David’s sensitive vocal standing out as does Howe’s tasteful classical guitar playing. His soaring slide guitar in the latter half reminded me of Magenta’s Chris Fry although as far as influences go it probably should be the other way round.
Madman At The Screens brings a welcome sense of drama into the proceedings with the staccato verses augmented by bursts of edgy guitar and keyboards. There is also some very fine and muscular Hammond contributions from Downes.
Howe’s mostly instrumental Bumpy Ride is a rather quirky and almost frantic offering although it fits rather neatly into Horn and Downes’ song framework and leads splendidly into a triumphant return to the main song We Can Fly Reprise.
Squire’s key contribution The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be opens the second part of the album where the songs are more balanced in terms of compositional credits. It features fine lead vocals from the man himself and it’s another tuneful a memorable affair reflecting the buoyant and optimistic tone of the album as a whole. Co-writer Gerard Johnson provides the piano and it’s an example of how songs have been begged and borrowed from other sources to make up this album.
The lively Life On A Film Set is another reworked song from The Buggles repertoire. After a hesitant start where Howe’s acoustic picking sounds remarkably similar to Greg Lake it moves into more strident realms where the chant like vocal lines could have been lifted from Does It Really Happen on the Drama album.
After We Can Fly, Howe’s lyrical Hour Of Need is possibly my favourite song on the album. At a little over 3 minutes it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome and it’s also the closes the album comes to a Jon Anderson style song with shades of And You And I and Your Move. The superb harmonised vocals are probably Yes’ best since the Talk album supported by Howe’s beloved Portuguese acoustic guitar and a neat little synth break courtesy of Wakeman.
The inevitable Howe acoustic solo follows in the shape of the aptly titled Solitaire which for me conjured up images of sitting outside a Greek taverna sipping a cold beer. It also evokes the guitar rag style much loved by Howe and I’m sure it will fit snugly between Mood For A Day and Clap on the up and coming tour.
Following a snappy keyboard intro, Into The Storm appropriately closes the album on a bright and breezy high with some excellent soloing from Howe against Squire’s lolloping bass pattern. Perhaps as album closers go it could have been grandeur but it does at least exude an exuberant and celebratory tone.
Fans will find the Japanese version of Fly From Here worth seeking out for the bonus extended version of Hour Of Need complete with a rousing instrumental intro and a lengthy solo from Howe to play out. Horn’s decision to jettison these sections may have been prompted by the fact that Howe borrows the main theme from Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto De Aranjuez. It certainly gives a whole different slant to the song and White’s drumming is just phenomenal.
As a Yes fan for over 40 years I’ve certainly had my share of disappointments particularly in more recent times. Yes of course remained for the most part at the cutting edge for around the first 20 years of their existence but when the 90’s came around that they began to sound like a parody of themselves. With my expectations running pretty low I was pleasantly surprised by Fly From Here. It’s certainly a well rounded album with the song writing, performances and production all of a high standard making a harmonious and beautify balanced whole. In terms of top honours I would single both Howe and David out for their superb contributions and Horn’s production as you would expect is flawless.
Roger Dean’s artwork is perhaps not up there with his best, I prefer his more expansive, wide open landscapes. Here everything including the rocks has a greenish hue giving a dense and claustrophobic feel. Even the bird in the foreground lacks Dean’s normal graceful touch, looking more like a turkey buzzard struggling to get airborne which is slightly at odds with the album title. Overall however the glossy digipack is excellent with Dean’s variation of the famous Yes logo on each disc resembling a coiled snake.
So going back to my earlier questions, Fly From Here was definitely worth the 10 year wait and it compares very favourably with previous Yes releases, certainly their best in my opinion since the much underrated Talk from 1994. There is of course a further question I could have posed – is Fly From Here a prog album in the true sense? But I shan’t go there because regardless of what ever else it might be, for better or worse this is Yes 2011.
Alison Henderson's Review
Following Jez’s compelling review of this album, I wanted to put forward an alternative opinion. Since first hearing Fragile 40 years ago in 1971 and having my life changed at the tender age of 13 as a result, Yes have always been MY band, the one in whom I have invested the most time, money, passion and love.
Their biggest virtue musically has always been to package and present a unique sound, fusing dynamics and melody with equally original lyrics, creating soundscapes which were all individual journeys in themselves and to this day, have never been surpassed.
So this is why I find Fly From Here such a huge disappointment. For me, it never ever takes off or spreads its wings the way previous albums have done so across the many ages of Yes. I have played it over and over again and still there is a huge disconnect.
Perhaps it is because this album feels retro and refried. Rather than looking forward, it has taken a mighty step back some 30 years through the recycling of Fly From Here to form the greater part of the album. In itself, it is a very pleasant and uplifting composition which builds well and includes some stunning harmonies especially in the “sailor beware” sequence. But it lacks that WOW factor, the touch of magic which many of their previous long compositions possess.
And on the whole issue of whether Benoit David is capable of filling the vocal slot: indeed, he is a fine singer as his body of work with Mystery testifies. In the Yes context, he fits perfectly vocally halfway between Jon Anderson and Trevor Horn, so really, is ideal to be cast in the role of reviving this particular piece.
But what kills it for me, as Jez touched upon in his review, is the hideous Bumpy Ride sequence. Not only does this piece of nonsense throw the whole balance of the piece out of kilter, it sounds like a Keystone Kops’ pastiche of some of the amazing musical motifs for which they are so renowned. For that reason, I really did not know whether to laugh or cry the first time I heard it. What makes it even worse is that it comes slap bang in the middle of one of the most haunting passages within Fly From Here.
And so to Side 2 with Chris Squire’s contribution, the acoustically-led The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be, which I have to say sounds like a filler track from one of his solo albums. It does not do much apart from lilt along and quite honestly, is eminently forgettable.
Again, we are back to the Buggles’ back catalogue with Life On A Film Set which promises much more than it delivers. Again, I agree with Jez about the repetitive “riding a tiger” which could have been so much more dramatic given the imagery of the words. And the mid-section where Benoit is on song with a delightful melody hook is the first real echo of what makes Yes so ultra-special in the prog firmament.
Hour Of Need is a good tune but it demonstrates the overriding issue I have with the whole of the album in that everything within it sounds so compressed and hermetically sealed. There is none of the customary dynamics or fireworks: Trevor Horn’s production is flat-packed and because of this, those potential great swathes of instrumental texture are reduced to one level.
And so to Steve Howe’s solo Solitaire and again, it is the production which really lets it down as the usually deliciously resonant guitar runs for which the maestro is so admired sound tinny and trite.
So, the best is saved until last and I cannot help but think that Into The Storm would have made a perfect opening track rather than being bolted on the end. The album may have worked better if it had but of course, it would have made it difficult to divide up the vinyl version into two comparable sides. It is packed with originality and flair but again, no-one gets the chance to really open up and cut loose: and that is the element throughout which is so sorely missing.
It really grieves me to have to write a review so critical of this, my favourite band but having played it over and over again I still cannot embrace it fully as a credible body of Yesmusic.
We were told this album would take the band in another future direction and indeed it has, yet in some ways, by adorning it with a gorgeous Roger Dean cover, they have indicated they still have a firm foothold in the past.
Even with the personnel changes, I just feel this album could have been so much better both in content and style.
Brendan Bowen's Review
Yes has been a perennial favourite of mine – even through the Trevor Rabin pop phase. My allowance for the Trevor Rabin phase is likely due to a heavy bias developed by years of astonishment and wonder at each Yes album. This tends to cultivate an extremely high anticipation for every album of new material.
My anticipation for Fly From Here was no exception and my first listen ended up as a mixed bag. Knowing that many great albums are first received with some ambivalence I held my breath and did it again… and again… and again. Certainly some apprehension from the change in lead vocals was due, but I have few reservations for the virtual sound-alike in Benoit David. He is technically superb and pleasing to the ear but as a contrast to Jon, Benoit’s approach to singing is much like a technician playing an instrument – accurate but not dynamic. The aura Jon Anderson brings is irreplaceable. Jon owns the stage and the music; Benoit still has a lot to learn as a “lead vocalist”.
The disc begins with great fanfare and the progression of the six-part Fly From Here epic develops into a genuinely entertaining and diverse set. However, in contrast to previous Yes epics, the sound is very inorganic and lacks the traditional signature bizarreness and adventurous note selection. Steve Howe has a history of using peculiar atonal riffs without regard to chord structure and this time he has been tamed into allowing the production to deliver the texture. The sound has actually become a bit too cohesive as if every note was fully planned and meant to be executed in a studio. This is probably what we should expect from a more mature Yes.
Oddly, listening to this album as background music sounds like an amateurish sophomore release with retro styling (unflattering retro) and when I put on the earphones and give it my full attention the music carries me away just as I would expect with the best of their releases. The song writing of Yes has traditionally been about creating a vast soundscape that is bigger than the virtuosity of the individual instruments. This time they embraced the technical side of prog and chose not to get carried away in jam sessions.
The music was written back in the Drama era but never pursued. We Can Fly From Here appears on the Yes The Word Is Live album and when I listened to that again it sounds remarkably unchanged. Highlights for me are the back-to-back Sad Night At The Airfield and Madman At The Screens both written by Trevor Horn (not in the line-up) and Geoff Downes (keyboards) who happen to be the returners from 1980.
Roger Dean’s artwork is top notch once again and quite fitting to the content. Recognizable anywhere, the imagery over the years is still a thing of beauty and grace.
The production quality is excellent. It deliver’s Chris Squire’s overdriven pic played Rickenbacker bass and the old Tremolo quite nicely. The recording is tailored to cover the delicacy contained within this seemingly simple framework.
The short length of the first real album in a decade was disappointing and the “epic” wasn’t nearly as comparable in its intensity as the likes of Close To The Edge but good nonetheless. While I miss the extended jams I appreciate any new material from Yes and this stuff is good Yes music through and through. I suspect this particular assemblage of musicians can continue to produce and take it up a notch as they continue to work together. If this album doesn’t get any traction with you, try again; it is a gem when you get up close and pay attention.
Basil Francis' Review
'Plummet From Here' more like...
Yes' latest studio release is quickly becoming their most overrated album to date. Yes have now achieved the admirable goal of releasing albums in six consecutive decades, a feat which is certainly not accomplished by many. However, the album in question is nothing to shout about.
In my mind - and I'm sure in the minds of many other prog fans - the name Yes has always been synonymous with cutting-edge prog rock. They were a band who released a string of the most high quality albums a fan could ask for in the early 70s. Almost inevitably, that unique talent seemed to fade over time, until we began to hear albums like Union and Open Your Eyes in the 90s. Unfortunately, Fly From Here continues the trend of disappointment.
You see, since the Keys To Ascension albums of the mid 90s, Yes have been practising a musical genre of what I like to think of as 'prog lite', i.e., music that is generally poppy and 'easy' in sound, but includes the bare minimum of prog hooks and odd time signatures to be considered progressive. Such music is generally unsatisfying, and there is usually at most one song on the record that could be considered good. Albums like 1999's The Ladder made me believe that Jon Anderson was responsible for this kind of music, having mellowed in his old age.
Before joining Yes on vocals after Anderson's bout of respiratory failure, Benoît David was the lead singer of the Yes tribute group, Close To The Edge. As much as I lamented the loss of Anderson, I couldn't help but be intrigued to see if this new shot of 'youth' (he is 45 after all) would make the rest of the group realise that their 'prog lite' output of the last decade was not the Yes that people wanted to hear. For this reason, I eagerly anticipated this release, to see if David would give Yes some balls again. This couldn't have been further from the truth.
You see, this is prog lite with a passion to sound bland and uninspiring. The Yes logo over the beautiful Roger Dean cover is all an elaborate mask to hide the mediocrity that awaits the unsuspecting listener. What's more, this new line-up have the cheek to entice us with the prospect of a 20+ minute track in the hope that it may be the real prog we've been yearning for all these years.
On the album cover, the two black cats can only mean one thing: the return of Buggles' Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes to the fold. If anything, this gives us even more false hope as we mainly remember Drama as the triumph that succeeded Tormato. There is certainly no Machine Messiah on this disc though. Horn and Downes are responsible for most of the writing on this album, making the authenticity of this disc questionable as a Yes album. It is sufficient to say that Horn and Downes leave a distinctly Buggles-esque impression on the album, which in turn removes the Yes sound from it.
The album opens with the 24-minute suite that is Fly From Here. Those hoping for a new Close To The Edge or Gates Of Delirium will be bitterly disappointed. This new form of Yes fall into the predictable trap of sticking wholly different songs together to make one suite, forming a truly incohesive track. Those wishing to point out that tracks like Supper's Ready, A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers and Nine Feet Underground were created in a similar way should be informed that whilst those tracks had interesting and complex parts, Fly From Here is a dull affair made up from bland pop songs. The lyrics of the different parts do appear to be linked to each other, but one misses the good old Jon days when lyrics were meaningless and pure sound was paramount.
Maybe the saddest thing about this suite is that the first part - We Can Fly - is actually a good track. It's uplifting and melodic and really quite good as a stand alone track. In fact this was an out-take from a Buggles album circa 1981, which was shelved until it's use for this release. However, the second and third parts of the suite are lengthy pop songs with limited appeal. If you're going to write a suite of music with different tracks in this way, you should make sure they don't sound like stand-alone songs and more like integral parts of the suite. This suite could be compared to Dream Theater's Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence which, although boasting an impressive 42 minutes in length, has parts that play out like stand-alone songs, yet again yielding an unsatisfying listen. Another example would be Rush's The Fountain Of Lamneth. Really the artist should realise that a suite is meant to be much more than a bunch of songs stuck together.
With Parts 2 and 3 out the way, the suite takes an odd turn at Part 4, Bumpy Ride. Right off the bat, you know something is up when a supposedly 'prog' track is called something like Bumpy Ride, and in this case you would be right to do so. Bumpy Ride is essentially a shameful last-ditch effort to sound progressive after realising that in the first 20 minutes, there's hardly any prog to be seen. The music sounds like it has been lifted from a cartoon, and the suite loses whatever sincerity it had had at that point. Needless to say, this instrumental sounds silly and forced, and utterly tawdry when compared to their majestic instrumentals of the past. It is pitiful to hear Yes desperately trying to sound progressive when they were once the masters of the genre. On a side note, it is interesting to wonder how a Yes cover of Mohombi's Bumpy Ride would sound: 'I wanna boom bang bang with your body yo', lengthy instrumental in 11/8, 'We're gonna rough it up before we take it slow' etc.
The suite ends with a reprise of the We Can Fly section which would have sounded great only if the rest of the suite had. It simply does not follow on neatly or effectively from Bumpy Ride. It's painful to see Yes clearly failing at the suite format, but it provides a good example to future generations of proggers about what's good and what's bad. To pour salt into the wound, Fly From Here is now Yes's longest track, beating The Gates Of Delirium by nearly two minutes. Of course, this 'record' is a hollow one, as Fly From Here should be seen as a few pop tracks stitched together, instead of a fully blown prog suite like Gates.
Do you remember when Yes wrote and released tracks like Heart Of The Sunrise and Close To The Edge? Back then, Yes had balls. Unfortunately, the selection of shorter tracks on this album go to show that this is absolutely not true any more. For example, The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be is as bland and uninteresting as it's name suggests. Hour Of Need is also quite underwhelming in nature. Howe's solo piece Solitaire is pleasant to listen to but completely forgettable.
Life On A Film Set is a bizarre composition. There is a progressive element to this song, as the sound of the song changes halfway through, but the entire thing is brought down by the repeated lyric 'Riding a tiger'. What does it mean?! It sounds like some awful metaphor, and the constant repetition makes the song feel asinine. On top of this, the musical themes in the second half are overused and grating.
This leaves Into The Storm, another more progressive affair. Strangely enough, this track is as close as the album gets to sounding like the true Yes, but this is certainly not a song to shout about. To me, this song doesn't feel fully realised, as there are parts where the band could have sounded amazing, but instead choose to sound average. Essentially, though there are no particular flaws to this track, there is nothing about it that makes me want to hear it again.
I cannot finish this review without commenting on the newcomer, Benoît David. As a singer, he holds up pretty well on this album. Here's a man who has made a profession out of singing Yes songs, so it's only natural that he should sing them well here. However, besides his voice, I don't really feel his presence within the band in the way that you can feel Jon and his crazy mysticism. Despite being a credited as a full-time member, he merely acts as a session musician here. He doesn't seem to have had much impact on the band himself, despite taking away what Jon had there. In all honesty, I feel sorry for the guy, because it must be a dream come true for him to be the lead singer for Yes, but on the other hand he's made a lot of hardcore fans angry and, with this album, has nothing to show for it. Still, he is not the cause of the low quality of this album as most fans would have expected, and for that he should be grateful.
If this were any other band, I would consider this a 2 star release, as it is still listenable. However, Fly From Here loses the extra point because of the fact that it is a Yes album. Fans of Yes aren't buying this because they think it's going to be a load of second-rate pop songs. People are still hoping for the Yes' return to form: their second coming if you will. After a gap of 10 years, you would really hope that Yes could do better than this. Throughout the album, it feels like the band haven't really put in the effort. This album is so awful, that Tormato seems great in comparison, because at least you could hear Yes putting in the effort to please the listeners, even though it was misguided. I personally have egg on my face for believing that Yes could sound great again, and it is going to take a strict diet of the band's classic albums to wash out the taste of this travesty. Fly From Here is a disappointment, and I recommend that you don't waste your money on it.
Jez Rowden's Review
After a long layoff from the studio and some variable material over the last 20 years or more, the ancient prog warhorse returns with a new line-up and a great deal of anticipation about the results of their first recorded fruits. Many fans are sceptical of this actually being Yes at all with the omission of legendary front man Jon Anderson but having bedded in new singer Benoit David over the last couple of years the time was right to record and the results are very pleasing.
Yes were one of the first bands I got into when I started exploring “non-standard” music and I have followed them through all of the trials and tribulations of the intervening years; the highs and lows, squabbles and brilliance, the lengthy periods of inactivity and blinding live shows and always hoped that they could recapture some of their earlier majesty on record. On stage they occasionally wobble but generally have not lost the ability to thrill but even the best albums of recent decades have been flawed. It is now 10 years since Magnification, the last studio album to wear the Yes badge, an enjoyable experiment in replacing keys with an orchestra. Prior to that The Ladder was lauded as a return to form but failed to quite deliver its promise and the other late ‘90s albums, the studio portions of the Keys To Ascension sets (the second part reviewed here) and the extremely poor Open Your Eyes did not do much to point a way towards recapturing either the glories of Yes’ first decade or the mainstream acceptance of their second so Fly From Here needed to be good.
In 1980 the Drama period heralded a sea change for the band and their fans with Anderson’s first departure together with one of Rick Wakeman’s many exits. The results have stood the test of time and Drama has grown in statue as some of the band’s other work has diminished. The 2009 tour saw the reappearance of material from that period to the delight of most fans, taking the opportunity to play the songs live with Benoit a good move. With the decision made to base the new album around a Buggles track gifted to Yes and played live in 1980 but never recorded by the band, Trevor Horn was drafted in to collaborate and ended up producing the whole thing. The obvious next step was to replace the incumbent keyboardist, Rick’s son Oliver Wakeman, with Geoff Downes of Asia and Horn’s old Buggles partner. This may have been a bit underhand and naughty with regards to Oliver but makes the whole enterprise much more valid. The last time Anderson left it was a shot in the arm for the band and I get the same feeling this time. Jon Anderson was responsible for pushing the band towards its best work but also added much of the sugary nonsense that has bogged down their later efforts. Love the guy but it is nice to hear the album without him, however sacrilegious that sounds.
So the album is here at last housed in the requisite Roger Dean sleeve (which is very nice except for the bizarre turkey-like beast on the front) that uses some of the Drama imagery to convey the link. It would be wrong to think of this as “Drama 2” but the lineage is clear. Benoit David at times sounds like Horn, at others like Anderson but throughout retains his own personality and to his real credit rises above the tribute band tag that he has been landed with since joining and puts in a fine performance. He proves himself to be a real asset to the group, also delivering his first co-writing credit on Into The Storm. The blending of David’s voice with Squire’s always impeccable backing vocals proves that another key Yes facet is intact and still here to enjoy. Horn’s production is exemplary and the instrumental work of Steve Howe and Chris Squire in particular makes this a Yes album in the truest sense.
If this were the Olden Days “Side 1” would feature the extended, multi-part title track which is the best elongated work that the band has produced in a VERY long time. More a suite of songs with themes running throughout it is a worthy treatment of a neglected song. No matter that the piece in question is 30 years old, the result is a joy. All of the separate parts are Horn/Downes compositions with additional input from Squire on We Can Fly and Howe’s Bumpy Ride. It ranges from the punchy and up-tempo Overture which introduces some of the themes to come, through the expansive We Can Fly itself which is a track well worth re-discovering and given the full Yes stamp here, particularly towards the end with Howe all over it in trademark style. Downes isn’t as ornate or fancy as either Wakeman but is a classy presence. That said some of Wakeman’s parts are retained on We Can Fly and its reprise. The melancholy Sad Night At The Airfield opens acoustically, David singing with emotion, before bursting into epic chorus’ with some classic Howe slide and solo Squire bass, this track features some great moments. The energetic Madman At The Screens sees David channelling Horn’s vocals with plenty of classic Yes instrumentation and choral vocals. Bumpy Ride feels out of place but is harmless, brief and an entertaining diversion into Loony Tunes craziness before bursting into the reprise of the main theme to nicely tie things up. All in all this is a great piece of work packed with melody and inventiveness. It never goes too far outside the box but is a real pleasure to absorb. Yes are never going to make Close To The Edge again but I’m more than happy that they’ve taken another look at the Drama era.
“Side 2” comprises the remaining 5 tracks. It is always a pleasure to hear Chris Squire take a lead vocal as on The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be and though the song is quite low-key the treatment gives it a lift with an unusual rhythmic structure and echoes of Yes past here and there. Life On A Film Set is another Buggles out-take and is none the worse for that despite the irritating “riding a tiger” lyrical repetition. Some vibrant acoustic from Howe and keys from Downes lift the track again and the mid-section is quite a tour de force with distinct hints of ‘70s Yes. Hour Of Need is mellow and very melodic, a beautiful little number benefitting from the retention of some of Oliver Wakeman’s input which is fitting given his untimely exit. An extended version of this track is available on the Japanese edition. Howe gets his solo acoustic spot with Solitaire which features a number of different sections and feels which I look forward to hearing live on the autumn tour. A very funky Into The Storm closes things on a high, Howe again on fire. The energy in the vocal delivery is palpable and Benoit shows why he deserves his place. Alan White deserves a quick mention as on the last tour he appeared to be labouring but here his performance is good, particularly on Into The Storm. He is never flashy and does his job with the minimum of fuss so it is easy to overlook him but he is an important part of the Yes’ sound, allowing the soloists the space to play to their strengths. Hopefully he can up his game and regain his live prowess despite disappointing early reports from the current US tour.
Despite the fact that Fly From Here is only 48 minutes long it benefits for it as there are no padding issues such as those suffered on The Ladder. It may not be groundbreaking but Fly From Here has made this long time fan smile, probably with a partial sense of relief that despite the continuing soap opera and revolving door membership policy they can still deliver. I suspect that most of the credit should go to Trevor Horn who is probably the only man who can keep this dysfunctional family on the straight and narrow and luckily he’s always had an ear for a good tune. There may be a sense of looking backwards more than forwards but this is no pastiche and at this stage of their career there’s no point complaining. The playing is exemplary and thanks to Horn, Yes may never have sounded so good. Fortunately the music isn’t a letdown.