Yes – Fly From Here

2011 has met a string of new albums from the classic bands of progressive rock. Be it the latest Van Der Graaf Generator LP or the recent King Crimson ProjeKct (sic), the first half of the year has brought a nice blast from the past, from artists who laid down the foundation for what we now know as prog. Arguably the most eagerly anticipated of these comeback albums though has been the latest album by prog giants Yes; a band that dominated the scene in the early to mid ’70s with a string of classic masterpieces. Although no one was quite optimistic enough to expect another ‘Close To The Edge’ or ‘Fragile’ to be sure, there was wonder as to how ‘Fly From Here’ would turn out. I had my doubts surrounding the record, but at the same time, I could not help but be a little excited that one of my favourite bands of all time were dishing out a new record. As it turns out, I find myself both impressed and disappointed with the record simultaneously. Although this is certainly a Yes record we are talking about here, it has nowhere near the sort of staying power that the band’s earlier albums had. This of course, was entirely expected.

Hearing the single and title track got me excited about the album, regardless of the fact that it was paired with a rather laughable music video. From that track, it was clear that the band was aiming for a classic prog sound, but fueled with very catchy melodies. A big point of apprehension that I first had when ‘Fly From Here’ was announced was that the original band vocalist Jon Anderson was not part of the project, and that Yes was instead fronted by a Benoit David. Listening to the single rested my doubts however; although David could not completely fill the shoes of Jon Anderson, he could wear them, at the very least. He has a very similar voice to Anderson’s, and although there is not the same depth to the tone of his voice, his higher register performance keeps the band sounding like Yes, although it is clear that he is trying a little too hard to sound like the band’s original vocalist. David’s performance will likely keep Yes fans chattering for a while after listening to it, and granted that he is not as incredible as Jon Anderson, but I’ve been impressed in spite of it.

As for the songwriting here, I am a little less impressed. Yes has structured ‘Fly From Here’ to a fairly familiar prog formula. The first side is devoted to an ‘epic’ suite, whereas the second half is left to more conventional songs. Of course, alot of the album’s success rests on the quality of the epic, and the result is somewhat mixed. The first three tracks on ‘Fly From Here’ are absolutely fantastic. The single ‘Fly From Here’ is incredibly melodic and truly sounds like Yes music. ‘Sad Night At The Airfield’ keeps up with catchy melodies, but there is a less accessible structure to it that takes the band into a more melancholic territory, and possibly even more beautiful. ‘Madman At The Screens’ doesn’t have quite as powerful a melodic grasp, but it gets some more typically progressive grooves going on that remind me of the band’s classic work.

After that, the album starts taking a steep decline. ‘Bumpy Ride’ is obviously meant to be a little instrumental climax to the epic, but it works out to be rather irritating, using a quirky riff that doesn’t go anywhere before the single’s chorus is reprised and the epic finishes off. ‘Fly From Here’ has some great songs that take part of its suite, but that’s still all they feel like; songs. There is obviously an effort taken to have them flow together, but it really does not work, especially towards the end, where it feels like ‘Bumpy Ride’ was thrown in there just to break up the poppier aspects of the music. With that one exception though, the music on the ‘Fly From Here’ suite is fantastic. It really impresses me that the band can still be making music that sounds fresh, when they have been around for decades, and while Yes is not doing anything new with their sound here, ‘Fly From Here’ does not disappoint for the first half.

The second half of the record is a lot less impressive, and despite an excellent first half, Yes really shows that their golden days are over with the second side of ‘Fly From Here’. These songs are not irritating or cringe-worthy by any standard of mine (the album’s low point has come and gone with ‘Bumpy Ride’) but I must say that the songs do not sink in, as much good pop should. The instrumentation is somewhat bland, although it is pleasant enough, and the vocal melodies have a few catchy hooks to them, but nothing quite powerful enough to get me humming along to it. Moreover, there is not the same emotional quality that the second and third tracks had to them here. ‘Solitaire’ shows Steve Howe trying to keep his string of classically influenced acoustic compositions going, but it is fairly mundane. Sadly, it feels as if Trevor Horn (the producer) has really taken control of Yes, and while this works well for when the music is at its most catchy, the same passion I first heard from Steve Howe and Chris Squire on ‘Fragile’ or ‘The Yes Album’ is not here in near as much of a quantity as I would have hoped.

It is a shame that ‘Fly From Here’ is a fairly inconsistent album, because from the handful of tracks here that stand out, they really impress me and pass me as being excellent. ‘Fly From Here’ is a good album though, and while a little mundane and tame in sections, there is now another chapter in the saga of Yes that fans can dig into. With the absence of Jon Anderson and the creative control of the original members though, one can argue as to whether this is truly an album from the band that once dominated the prog rock sound.


1. Fly From Here – Overture (1:53)
2. Fly From Here – Pt I – We Can Fly (6:00)
3. Fly From Here – Pt II – Sad Night At The Airfield (6:41)
4. Fly From Here – Pt III – Madman At The Screens (5:16)
5. Fly From Here – Pt IV – Bumpy Ride (2:15)
6. Fly From Here – Pt V – We Can Fly (reprise) (1:44)
7. The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be (5:07)
8. Life On A Film Set (5:01)
9. Hour Of Need (3:07)
10. Solitaire (3:30)
11. Into The Storm (6:54)

Japan-only bonus track:
12. Hour Of Need (6:45)


* Chris Squire / bass guitar, vocals
* Steve Howe / guitars, vocals
* Alan White / drums
* Geoff Downes / keyboards
* Benoit David / lead vocals
* Trevor Horn / vocals


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