Yes - Fly From Here
After a decade without any new material, one of the longest-active bands in rock has come together with a new vocalist for Fly From Here. Benoit David, a member of a Yes tribute band, takes the reigns from original vocalist Jon Anderson, who had to retire his microphone due to health issues. While my experience with Yes has been extremely touch-and-go over the years, they've done enough in the past (the FAR past, mind you) to warrant my interest in their more recent work. Fly From Here is an admirable album, with an extended suite (once their bread and butter) to open the proceedings and a mostly average combination of tracks to round it out.
The title track is a 5-piece suite clocking in at over 22 minutes. The initial difficulties I have with Fly From Here stemmed from the dated production of longtime collaborator Trevor Horn. If this were the 1980's, the sound quality would be considered par for the course. Only now the flat, overpolished sound lessens rather than strengthens the music. Benoit David is a dead ringer for Anderson, and his filling of those rather notable shoes tends to be the album's most persistent highlight. The entire opening suite is rather bland and unbecoming of such a highly talented group of musicians, never really peaking despite numerous attempts at a crescendo. "The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be" benefits both from the lack of expetation of being apart of a drawn out musical idea and for Chris Squire's delicate lead vocals and quality bass lines. He has always been, in my estimation, the driving force (along with Steve Howe) of the band, probably the biggest contributer to the creative flow of the music itself. "Life On A Film Set' harkens back a bit to their early days, but the pompous, overblown conclusion effectively kills the nostalgia. "Hour of Need" is probably the most well-written and enjoyable track on the entire album, and "Solitaire" is a beautiful if slightly pretentious look into the qualities Steve Howe brings to his guitar playing. "Into The Storm" is a far more apt choice for a single than the 2nd part of the suite, "We Can Fly" which was unexplicably chosen over this superior and much more catchy track.
There's enough to Fly From Here to consider it a success, but it's easy to see how far removed Yes are from a time when their creative processes could earn them much more respect. They've basically been rehashing either their extensive progressive tilts from the 70's our their pop-centric, "Owner of a Lonely Heart"-era numbers for the better part of 20 years now, attempting to rediscover the sparks that once had them a considerable amount of popularity and respect. While I think the latter is still deserved, I don't believe they'll ever earn much more in the way of fame beyond their long-standing fans. And that's good enough for anyone, I think. Fly From Here is strictly fan service that may or may not appeal to anyone else.
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