Like many bands born out of the Baby Boomer generation, or those coming of age in the 60s and 70s, it is difficult to keep the same energy that proved inspirational in the band’s foundational period. And Yes is no exception. Founded in 1968, Yes has had tumultuous lineup changes throughout its history, yet still has emerged as one of the longest lasting and most successful progressive rock bands to come out of the 70s.
A little background on the recent changes in the chemistry of the band: in 2008 Jon Anderson, Yes’ vocalist/songwriter, could not participate in the band’s tour so Yes replaced Anderson with Benoit David, lead singer of Yes tribute band, Close to the Edge. Yes’ newest vocalist stays on for a new album, without Anderson’s knowledge. The current lineup features David, bassist Chris Squire, guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White and keyboardist Geoff Downes. So, as per usual in the world of music fandom, there was some speculation among longtime fans if this upcoming album is going to be halfway decent following the drama within the band.
But, perhaps surprisingly, Yes’ twenty-first studio album, Fly From Here, is an impressive release, which actually began in the 80s. The title track, “Fly From Here,” was originally written by Trevor Horn (former singer of the Buggles) and Geoff Downes (keyboard) and was recorded as a studio demo and occasionally performed on tour. Horn and Downes recorded demos of the song in various incarnations, eventually evolving into its current state. “Fly From Here” is the band’s 11th epic piece, broken into six parts and totaling nearly 25 minutes.
Fly From Here stays true to the band’s original sound that has attracted listeners for the past forty years. The mix of epic and mystical themes, swirling melodies and roots that spring from classical and folk music more so than traditional rock allowed Yes to carve out a unique niche in the music world.
“Part II (Sad Night at the Airfield)” opens with light, simple Spanish guitar, adds David’s vocals (which are incredibly true to Anderson’s original voice) and then layers in the standard Yes synthy, spacy keyboard and sprawling guitar. “Part II” develops into an echoing ballad of sorts, with David singing, “turn yourself around / you’re your life around / turn your world around / turn this ship around / so turn the wheel around.”
“Part IV (Bumpy Ride)” begins with a funky videogame-like intro, then slows down with David’s spooky vocals and hushed drum beat, but then frenetically erupts into the earlier Mario Kart theme. It segues into the crushing “Part V (We Can Fly Reprise),” the perfect bookend to the epic suite.
“Into The Storm,” the closing track, most similarly echoes early Yes, such as “Yours Is No Disgrace” from The Yes Album. While it still maintains the synth-heavy keyboards and intricate guitar work, “Into The Storm” is more accessible and rock-influenced than the rest of the album.
The deep textures of the bass and the keyboard layered with searing psychedelic guitar allow for Fly From Here to fit seamlessly into the band’s discography. Throughout all of the personnel changes that band has endured since its inception in the late 60s, the sound Yes developed still is evident in its most recent work. While there is nothing entirely new or transcendent about the album, it is still an impressive and successful effort for such a prolific and lasting band.
Written by Grace Beehler