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Yes

Fly from Here: Return Trip

Review by Gary Hill

This is an unusual release. In 2011 Yes released the album Fly From Here. It was recorded by the line-up of Benoit David, Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White. That was more or less a reunion of the same group that recorded Drama in 1980, but with a different singer. In fact, the origins of the album side title suite dated back to those times, having been written when that lineup was around. I liked the original album when it first came out, but as is the case with a lot of Yes albums, it really grew on me over the years. In fact, it is easily in my top ten Yes albums of all time now. In some ways this release is the same album, but in some ways it isn't.

In 2018 they released this disc. It features much of that same album. Instead of Benoit David, though, Trevor Horn recorded the lead vocals (completing the Drama line-up). They didn't stop there, though. There are some changes to some of the songs and some of the mixes feel different. There is even a brand new song added to the lineup. I haven't yet decided which version of the album I like better. In some ways I consider them the same disc. I guess it's like having an alternate version of an album you love. Two is better than one. For the track reviews here, I've included what I said about each song on the first review and then augmented that with things specific to this edition.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
Fly from Here: Overture
Here's what I said about this song on the original version of this album. " This instrumental is dramatic and keyboard dominated. It has a lot of Drama era Yes, and by extension Buggles, built into it. It really feels like it would have fit on Drama quite nicely."  That seems to apply to this version just as well. This does feel perhaps a bit more direct, but overall it's not a departure from the version on the other disc.
Fly from Here, Pt. I: We Can Fly
When I reviewed the other version of this, I said this " Dramatic piano leads of here and David’s vocals feel very much like Trevor Horn’s performance on Drama. That means this piece stays in line with that album. It becomes more of a group performance and is quite powerful. It definitely has a lot of Buggles in it, mostly in terms of the vocals, but we also get some cool bursts of guitar from Howe and some other more purely Yes-ish elements. The chorus is accessible and contagious and Squire’s bass-lines also call to mind his work on Drama and Tormato. There’s a cool instrumental break later that’s more in keeping with recent Yes. Some of the guitar dominated movements of this are trademark Yes. This really represents, in many ways, a solid marriage of recent Yes sounds with that Drama era element." Again, I think this one plays it pretty close to that rendition. Obviously we have the real Trevor Horn on lead vocals here. Without comparing the two versions directly, I think that maybe Chris Squires vocals are a little more prominent on this one. There is a cool keyboard section added to the end of this that feels Buggles like. That part isn't present on the first version of this album.
Fly from Here, Pt. II: Sad Night at the Airfield
Looking to my previous review of this song, here's what I said about it, "Acoustic guitar opens this and the vocals come in with that instrument as the central backing. The cut gets more layers of sound on the chorus. In many ways, this feels more like a cross between Buggles and Pink Floyd than it does anything really Yes-like. Still, it’s quite a strong piece of music and there are some decidedly Yes-oriented bits on show at times." As much as I loved David's vocals on this, I think Trevor Horn's really work better here. The arrangement feels like builds in a bit more measured way than it did on that first rendition, and that's an asset. More layers of vocals seem present here, and Howe's acoustic guitar seems a bit more prominent. As much as I have grown to love the version on the other album, I think I prefer this one. The arrangement definitely feels different on the later sections of the sound. I think it has a bit more magic and charm built into it via those differences.
Fly from Here, Pt. III: Madman at the Screens
In some ways this version of the song feels a bit more driving and edgy. Here's what I said first time around: "Buggles are seriously on order here. There are some moments that are more purely Yes-like, but overall this is really like Yes does the Buggles. That said, it’s quite strong."
Fly from Here, Pt. IV: Bumpy Ride
"Quirky and bouncy, this is a bit odd, but one of the most decidedly Yes-like bits here. In some ways it reminds me of a cross between “Five Percent For Nothing” and Tormato. At least that applies to the extended, nearly minute and a half introduction and the recurrence after the short vocal bit. While that vocal section has more Buggles-like sounds, the outro is incredibly trademark Yes." That's what I said of the original recording of this. It applies pretty well to this one, too.
Fly from Here, Pt. V: We Can Fly Reprise
Here's what I said about the version of this on the other album, "As one might guess, this includes a reprise of the accessible chorus from earlier. It’s very much in keeping with a Drama era Yes sound. The instrumental section really feels like it could have been included on that album. It serves as a nice conclusion to the album."
The Man You Always Wanted Me to Be
I don't hear much change on this version of this song, other than the backing vocals, which makes perfect sense. Here's what I said about the other rendition, and it applies well here. "Musically, this song works reasonably well, and feels more or less like Yes. The vocal presence here, really doesn’t seem very much like Yes, though. Part of that is due to the fact that Chris Squire takes the lead vocal role. While his voice is a prominent part of the Yes sound, he doesn't always handled the leads. The more rocking segment of the song is another part that feels a bit like a cross between Buggles and Pink Floyd. This is not bad, but pales in comparison to the strength of the opening suite. Of course, it’s tough for a reasonably short song to compete with an epic."
Life on a Film Set
Here is what I said of the original version of this tune: "I really like this acoustically driven song a lot. Again, it’s a different sound for Yes. In a lot of ways it makes me think of the mellow section of King Crimson’s “In The Court of the Crimson King.” The faster paced jam later is more like a traditional Yes sound. It rocks out pretty well later, too. The ending section is among the most traditional Yes sounding music on show here. It’s a shame it doesn’t last a little longer because it’s one of my favorite parts of the album." That's is all pretty true of this version, which isn't a bit change.
Hour of Need
I originally said this about this song on the other version of the album. "The bass line to this brings in some classic Yes sounds, but overall this is kind of a pop rock oriented mellower number. In some ways comparisons to Tormato could be appropriate, but this just seems sort of average in a lot of ways." This introduction has some really trademark Steve Howe guitar work on this album.  The vocal arrangement sounds more developed this time around, too. All around, I'd consider this version superior. There is a cool instrumental section at the end that gets into full prog zones, too. That's a great addition to the piece. At times I'm reminded of Anderson, Bruford Wakeman and Howe as this works into some soaring explorations. It's extensive and takes this track from being around three-minutes long and turns into a powerhouse magnum opus that is close to seven-minutes.
Solitaire
"Here we get a Steve Howe acoustic guitar solo. It’s tasty and proves that he’s still the maestro, but one has to wonder if maybe a full band treatment might have been better here since this is a Yes album. Don’t get me wrong, I like this a lot, but Fly From Here is a Yes album, not a Steve Howe album. Sure, Howe solo pieces have appeared on other Yes albums, but I’ve always (except for Fragile where each member of the band had his solo piece) wondered why a band cut wasn’t included instead." That's what I said about this first time around. It's the same song, so that review applies here.
Don't Take No for an Answer
Now, here we get a song that's not on the original album at all. This one features lead vocals by Steve Howe. Howe is without question one of my favorite guitarists, but sometimes his lead vocals can leave something to be desired. He really rises to the occasion on this one. The song is perhaps more of an AOR prog tune. I love the bass work on it, at times, though. The song does feel like a Yes song, and works well. It's a fine addition to the album. The more rocking jam later has a real modern (21st Century) Yes groove to it, but is very much trademark Yes. Howe really delivers some smoking hot guitar soloing later in the tune, too.
Into the Storm
Here's what I said first time around. "In a lot of ways this song is the most like traditional Yes. It feels a lot like “Does It Really Happen?” or “Tempus Fugit” from Drama, but with some added helpings of Buggles from the keyboards and David’s vocals. There is some killer guitar work from Howe and other than the epic suite, this is the strongest piece of the set. I really do like this one a lot and it’s a great way to end the set in style. Tormato is also a valid reference point." Obviously we substitute Horn's vocals for David's here. They add in some "And we can fly from here" vocals at the end of this to tie it back into the opening suite in nice fashion. The closing section feels like an addition, and a good one at that.
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