We can fly from here… back in the old days, we’d fly via starship like starship troopers… but we’re a lot older now, so rather than starships it’s old propeller-shaft airliners…
So opens the vibe of the new album by Yes, Fly From Here, their first in 10 years. They were already long in the tooth on their last couple of studio discs, the awesome The Ladder and Magnification, and time certainly hasn’t stopped marching on.
But make no mistake, the oldsters can still play.
While “Fly From Here,” the opening 25-minute suite, is based on a piece of music they were working on more than 30 years ago, it’s fitting that the former Yes imagery of the Starship Trooper is replaced here by old, broken-down propeller aircraft, a picture of age, decay and obsolescence, as if the Yes men were embracing their advancing age, unafraid of the march of time because, hey, that’s how it works. Time and age happens to all of us. Every day we discover things we can’t do as well as we used to. The pretty girls don’t smile at us as much as they did. Summer fades, winter comes on.
But these old, obsolete aircraft can still fly, given a little care and maybe a few replacement parts here and there.
One replacement part is new vocalist Benoit David, sitting in for the departed Jon Anderson, dropped (perhaps unceremoniously) from the group in 2008 after health problems. And to David’s credit, he doesn’t try to mimic Anderson, even though as the frontman of a Yes tribute band he’s made a career out of sounding like Anderson. But David brings his own style to the equation, and actually evokes a lot more of Trevor Horn’s brief stint as Yes singer on 1980’s Drama.
And that’s probably not an accident, since Trevor Horn is producing here as he did on 90125 and Big Generator. Geoff Downes takes over on keyboards just as he did on Drama. So the evocation is complete.
And Chris Squire blatantly ripping off a bass riff played by Horn on Drama’s “Run Through The Light” brought a big smile to my face.
I can’t quite say this disc is better than 1999’s The Ladder, but this is a fine album, four stars out of five, and it’s a worthy addition to the Yes catalogue, certainly better than the studio stuff on Keys To Ascension, and much better than the unfortunate Open Your Eyes, which is a Yes disc better left forgotten.
And it stands up pretty damn well with Yes’ classic past, and that in itself is a great accomplishment.
Yes, Jon is missed, but Benoit David more than holds his own and adds just a bit of welcome freshness. The music is new and isn’t just an imitation of anything that came in the past. And – as I’ve noticed – bits and pieces are actually sticking in my head after the disc is done spinning.
There’s talk that if the album succeeds they’ll dish out another one. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another 10 years.