Review of Yes, FLY FROM HERE: RETURN TRIP (Pledgemusic, 2018). Tracks: Fly From Here, Parts 0-V; The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be; Life on a Film Set; Hour of Need; Solitaire; Don’t Take No For an Answer; and Into the Storm.
Standout tracks: Madman at the Screen; Into the Storm.
Sailor, sailor beware. There are storm clouds. You must take care.
When I first saw the notice that Yes would be re-releasing its 2011 album, FLY FROM HERE, with a remaster and remix by Trevor Horn and with all main vocals provided by the very same Trevor Horn, I was surprised and a bit skeptical. Fake news? Well, there seems to be a lot of that going around these days in the western world.
And, it turned out. . . it was real news. After I realized this thing was real, I immediately jumped onto Pledgemusic and, well, pledged.
I’ve never hidden my love of Yes’s 1980 prog new-wave masterpiece, DRAMA. Kevin McCormick (also a fine citizen of progarchy) and I used to talk late into the night about the virtues of DRAMA back in our college days. How many hours were devoted to DRAMA? I have no idea, but they were considerable and meaningful.
The only persons who could rival Horn as master of the rare and very temporally specific prog new-wave movement of 1980-1982 would probably be Rupert Hine or Terry Brown.
But, it’s not just prog new wave.
Horn makes everything just a bit more magical. Think Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Seal, Art of Noise, or even his cinematic work with Hans Zimmer. The guy is an out-and out-audiophilic genius.
After receiving a review copy of FLY FROM HERE-RETURN TRIP, I’ve done very little but listen to the album–over and over again–as I grade midterms and papers. Believe me, it’s far better for the students that I grade listening to Yes. Imagine what I’m like when I grade listening to Pink Floyd. Anyway, I’ve listened to the new Yes album at least six or seven times over the past two days.
I can’t quite express what this new version of the album means to me, but it means a great deal. When the album first came out in 2011, I was disappointed. It seemed tinny and a bit rinky-dink. DRAMA had so much heft and gravitas to it that I thought a followup–even several decades later–had to have as much heft. Given what Big Big Train, Glass Hammer, and The Tangent were producing in the first years of this past decade, FLY FROM HERE seemed unimpressive. I know that our very own beloved Alison almost broke with Yes over the album. Though I’m not quite the Yeshead that she is, I understand her frustrations.
FLY FROM HERE-RETURN TRIP feels like an altogether different album from that original, seven years ago. This feel fresh, and it has certainly wrapped itself around my soul.
Side one–the “Fly From Here” side–just seems right. I can hear elements of DRAMA, but, more importantly, I can hear the art that still resides in every member of Yes as of this decade. Howe, Downes, White, and Squire were in top form in 2011, but the album–at least with Benoit’s voice (nothing against Benoit!)–seemed flat.
Horn’s new vocals make all the difference. They make this truly a Yes album, a work of art in its best and highest sense.
C.S. Lewis once argued the real friendship is the least jealous of loves. Person A can bring something out in Person B that Person C cannot. But, Person C can bring out things from Person A that Person B cannot. After hearing Horn’s vocals, I believe what Lewis said about friendship allies to Yes as a group. This new version is really spectacular and really coherent and cohesive.
The best track of side one is Fly From Here: Part III: Madman at the Screen. Horn’s vocals are everything one would expect from Horn–the oddly precise and percussive high tones of the Buggles–perfectly presented in prog glory.
By. The. Waterside.
Horn’s vocals on this track mix so perfectly with every instrument and member of Yes. Yes, right her and right now. This is truly perfected Yes.
I don’t want to suggest the album is perfect, but it’s certainly moved in that direction. The copy I have has a very distorted track 5–Howe’s bizarre “bumpy ride.” I can’t judge it completely because this version is so choppy, but I suspect that this track will always be cold and alien to me. I understand that Howe is trying to give us a flight gone wrong, with turbulence, and bugs bombarding the plane, but it still seems too forced, especially with how organic the newly redone overture and parts I-IV are.
Track 7, “The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be,” still feels a bit too AORish for my tastes, but it’s certainly not a bad song.
“Life on a Film Set,” Track 8, works wonderfully, though. “All the poems of my neighbors. . .” A timeless song loaded with meaning and purpose.
Though most reviewers will understandably be most interested in the “Fly From Here” side of the album, the ninth song, “Hour of Need,” is one of the best Yes has ever written, and almost completely redone for this FLY FROM HERE-RETURN TRIP. Think “Changes” from 90125–a song wrapped in a song. This version is infinitely better than the original which really lacked originality. No longer.
“Solitaire,” track 10, is a nice Howe song. Nothing grand, but nice.
The added track, “Don’t Take No For An Answer,” does little for me, but mostly because I don’t really like the vocal work. I’m not sure who is singing on this one. It’s not a terrible track, and it has a good 90125 feel to it. I’ll need to give this one more time before judging it at any great length.
The final track, “Into the Storm,” ends the album on a peppy and high note. It has a bit of a BIG GENERATOR feel, but far more restrained and tasteful. Indeed, if I had to compare it to one previous Yes track, I would compare it to “The Silent Wings of Freedom” in its expression and grace. The Yes vocal harmonies really shine on this track, as do the interplay of Howe’s guitar(s) and Squire’s bass. The title as well as the lyrics allow this concluding track to end the album faithfully and true to its theme of flight and adventure. Dare, I write, not just an adventure, but a DRAMA. This is actually one of the best tracks of the album, and one of the best Yes tracks of all time.
And, if you’re counting–that makes two stunning Yes tracks on this album: “Fly From Here Part III: Madman at the Screen” and “Into the Storm.”
Armies of angels are starting to fall
Bathed in the light of the break of the dawn.
Armies of angels are leading me on
Take me away from the heart of the storm.
And, when Howe and Squire play their hearts out for the last two minutes of the track with Horn quietly singing “And we can fly from here. . . ” well, my soul soars.
For what it’s worth, I’ve not been this excited about Yes since I first heard the stunning segue on tracks 1 and 2 of MAGNIFICATION, a decade and a half ago.
FLY FROM HERE-RETURN TRIP is not just a good Yes album, it’s a great album and an excellent addition to the prog world of 2018.
Yes, mythic and Yes-ish enough for me. No doubt.
Once again, Trevor Horn brings excellence and class to our little corner of the rock world. Amen, Mr. Horn. Amen.
9 thoughts on “Trevor Horn’s Glorious Re-Emergence in Yes: FLY FROM HERE: RETURN TRIP”
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Interesting reviewed it certainly pique my interest. Hour Of Need is for me the most defined Yes song in that album for me. I think it was because of Oliver Wakeman’s solo being so reminiscent of his dad’s style. I would figure they really changed the song this time around. I love Drama but I cannot say that I am a fan of the Buggles. Far from it, but I do recognize Horn’s abilities as a producer. I like the original Fly From Here. It’s not Yes strongest work but it is nice and subtle. Much better than its predecessor.
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Nice shot YES !!
And also nice to mention Rupert Hine who a really great producer (Howard Jones, The Fixx, Kevin Ayers) but also a musician – his work, for example with Robert Palmer (the wonderful “Say You Will” on Pride)
Saw Yes in Antwerpen (Belgium) two days ago, it was nice but no songs of periode after drama, a little bit disapointing.
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I’m jealous you just saw them. I assume Horn wasn’t playing with them? Regardless, great.
And, yes, I think Hine is a great, generally forgotten musician and producer. His stuff with the Fixx is still outstanding.
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Well I have to admit I have seen Yes do some strange things in my lifetime, and I thought that when they originally brought in a Jon Anderson sound-a-like and became a tribute band of themselves they had lost the plot.
Mind you loosing the plot was something this band certainly did over the decades with its many line-up changes and change of musical styles, and for me personally back in the early 70’s Yes were without a doubt my all time favourite band in that decade.
Personally I do not think this band ever made a solid album after Relayer in 1974. That for me was the last of the bands solid albums as far as I am concerned. The break the band had to do their individual solo albums had an effect on them and they never returned and captured them golden years from 1971 – 1974.
Even Going For The One was more of a commercial approach, though it did contain one track I would call Yes Music. That was its lengthy track “Awakening”.
The only decent thing on Tormato was “The Silent Wings Of Freedom”. Then we have Drama with the Buggles. To be honest I would say that album contains 2 decent tracks and 1 not so bad effort. The best of them is by far “Machine Messiah”. In some respects this track is a bit like the band returning to The Yes Album from 1971.
“Into The Lens” is another really great track and the other one that was a good effort I felt was “Tempus Fugit”. Apart from those, the other tracks are indeed The Buggles and not Yes :))))))))
After Drama I found their pop albums like 90125 and Big Generator were a zillion miles away from what I call Yes Music. They soon gathered dust like Tormato I am afraid. They had some reasonable attempts with albums like The Ladder and Magnification to try an captivate the magic they had in the early 70’s but never really quite got it.
Not even Benoit’s vocals on Fly From Here could recapture the magic I am afraid, and god knows whatever possessed them to bring in a sound-a-like.
Though even more bizarre is the fact that they have now remade the album with Horn on vocals and god knows what on earth Benoit will be thinking about. It’s a bit like saying he was never good enough in the first place for Christ sake.
The whole idea sounds as ludicrous as Andy Latimer of Camel being ill for a decade only to return to good health and remake their 1975 classic album The Snow Goose. FFS what on earth was he thinking I would like to know. In all honestly I just do not get it at all.
For example here is myself waiting for a new Camel album with new material and we get this thing. Did he think that Peter Barden’s never did a good enough job on the album in the first place or something. The poor guy must be turning in his grave and Latimer completely wasted his time because the newer version is a million miles off the original.
I honestly think a lot of these great artists must be going senile in their old age :)))))).
I have not hear nothing from this Return Trip to the album so to speak. So I cannot cast any judgement on it. Though I doubt I will buy it. The last decent albums I brought of Yes was the Definitive Blu Ray Editions of The Yes Album. Fragile. Close To The Edge. Tales From The Topographic Oceans and Relayer. That is my Yes world and always will be.
Great review by the way Brad and I do like to speak about music myself as you know :)))))).
By the way is Pledge Music the only place they are selling this album. Because I cannot find it anywhere else to even listen to a sample of the tracks.
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Lee, I’m so glad we’ve connected. Your thoughts and writings are outstanding. Just outstanding. As to blu ray–always! Whenever blu-ray is available, I order it. My only complaint is that the blu-ray packaging is usually terrible. Even CD booklets are better than blu-ray booklets.
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Well if your referring to the normal Blu Ray cases that most Blu Rays come in Brad. The Yes Definitive Blu Ray Editions actually came in a CD Digipak with the normal booklet you get with a CD.
I find this packaging more attractive and better than the normal Blu Ray plastic cases. As a matter of fact I was so pleased that the Ayreon Blu Ray came in the same sort of size of those conventional Blu Ray plastic cases come in that I am not so fond of myself. But this one was made of cardboard like a Digipak only bigger. It also contains a very nice booklet, and even as its own pocket to store it in.
The only problem I did have with the packaging those Yes Definitive Blu Ray Editions came in. Is that the Digipaks where quite thin, and they would not close properly. Mind you I dare say that will sort itself out given the time being stored in my shelving system where I keep them being stacked close to one another.
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Thanks for prompting me to give this a listen. Much improved except Don’t Take No for an Answer which is really a bad vocal and the song ruins the flow of Side 2. Great to hear Squire’s bass and vocals mixed so clearly.
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Frank, agreed. The vocals on that song are pretty bad.
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