Fly From Here
Yes have a new album out for the first time in ten true summers. I spent the afternoon listening to it because it arrived from Amazon today and I have to report it’s quite a number. Old habits die hard. Still, this may be the first time I’m blogging about a new Yes album.
What’s Good About It
As usual with all Yes album, it’s not short of good playing good arrangements and good production. The over all sound is more organic and natural compared with some of their more modernistic recordings. Gone are the angular reverbs and compressors, with dynamically enhanced imaging. The mix on the album sounds more in line with ‘The Ladder’ and the 1970s recordings in the sense that the effects take a back seat to the playing.
The same sounds are back, only, brought up to our digital context. The bass still dominates the bottom end, the guitars sound like Steve Howe’s tones, the keyboards fill out the mix until they step forward for a lead, and the vocals are dense and lush.
What’s Bad About It
I love Yes, but I have to be honest. The guys are getting old so the playing is lacking in attack and bite. It’s prog rock but these guys sound pretty mellow. They were sounding pretty mellow on ‘Magnification’, but I put that down to playing with an orchestra. On this album, you feel the guys are that much older – wiser, yes – but generally less energetic.
It’s a minor quibble, because the album offers plenty of pulse-quickening moments, but when compared to what this bunch did on ‘Drama’, you feel the distance of time.
What’s interesting About It
As usual they’ve had a lineup change and for the second time they’re going without Jon Anderson. Jon Anderson’s not been well recently – not surprising for a man of his age – and so Yes have been touring with a stand-in Benoit David, who they have now made a permanent member. He sounds more like Trevor Horn than Jon Anderson in the lower register, and when he goes high, he sounds like David Surkamp from Pavlov’s Dog.
Sonically, he’s an interesting addition, and what he provides is a Yes that harks back to ‘Drama’. ‘Drama’ of course was the other album without Jon Anderson, and probably not coincidentally, the Keyboard chair is filled with Geoff Downes from that album, while the producing chores went to Trevor Horn.
The overall sound of the album is surprisingly un-Horn-like. There are no angular stabs or disorienting sonic effects. There are moments that do hark back to the austere majesty of ‘Drama’ but this album is more lush. I’m surprised at the restraint by Trevor Horn but that too suggests he too has grown old. It’s a little sad. The pic inside of the band is fearless and also a tad depressing.
Still, I love the playing. The playing is the thing – as always – on a Yes album, and there’s plenty to take in. Chris Squire and Alan White are still rock solid. One of the best rhythm sections in rock lives on. Steve Howe is still the amazing Steve Howe of old, in good many sections. Geoff Downes is a fine keyboard player and Benoit David adds something different to Jon Anderson. So far, I like it more than ‘Magnification’. It may even be as good as ‘The Ladder’. I actually hope these guys have a couple more albums in them, but I might be being greedy there.
The Roger Dean artwork makes a welcome return. It’s always nice to have a new addition to the growing narrative of what happened to the planet from Fragile. These days the landscape seems more green and inviting while the Yes logo itself has taken on snake scales like the scales on the serpent in ‘Relayer’. the growing conceptual continuity of Roger Dean’s images linked with Yes music is always fascinating. I wish I could get this album as a gate-fold LP. Alas, there hasn’t been one of those since ‘Yesshows’.