Disclaimer: I’ve been a serious Yes fan since about 1976. The release of Relayer was a big part of my musical discovery, and I sit facing a lithograph of Roger Dean’s cover in my home office. They are, without a doubt, my favorite and most-listened to band over the forty years I’ve been listening to music. With that, I really wanted to completely love the new Yes release, Fly From Here, the first studio release in ten years.
I like it, which is the equivalent of “I like you as a friend” in music romance. It has some good moments, and deserves a few more rotations on the iPod. My major complaint is that it feels assembled – some keyboards, some guitar licks, some layered vocals – and not so much experienced as older Yes albums. On the other hand, it’s so much better than the last two things that passed for studio albums (Open Your Eyes and Magnification) that it’s comfortable. And there’s the trouble: I didn’t want comfortable. I wanted the jarring, what’s-that-sound effect of hearing “Sound Chaser” for the first time (having to look up “fruition” in the paper dictionary), the delight I get out of listening to Steve Howe’s guitar solos in various versions of “Yours Is No Disgrace” and even the contrasts of “Tales” (listen to “The Ancient” starting around 12:20 in for some of the best Howe guitar work in the context of Yes songwriting. Ever.) Those aural reactions don’t happen at first listen. The best comparison, on many levels, is to Drama – including Geoff Downes on keys and the production hand of Trevor Horn. I absolutely hated it when it was first released, and now I am privileged to have heard “Machine Messiah” and “Tempus Fugit” live.
For now, I’ll take assembled, and remember that “change we must.”