WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

A big "yes" to Yes' 21st studio album: "Fly From Here"

When I wasn't listening to the radio on my recent road trip, I was listening to Yes' first studio album since "Magnification". (I actually picked up the CD at a Borders store in Tallahassee three weeks ago, just before the announcement of Borders' demise.)

Although I've been a great fan of Yes over the years and decades (probably my favorite band of all time!), I wasn't sure what to expect. Yes without Jon Anderson?

Could Quebec vocalist Benoit David possibly fill that huge role? Could the "new" Yes deliver some moments of musical ecstasy?

An emphatic "yes".

Benoit David is a splendid replacement to Jon Anderson. That doesn't necessarily mean David sounds quite the same as Anderson, whose voice will always have that complex ethereal quality.

But while David apparently can hit some lower notes, he can also belt out those high notes too, effortlessly soaring into the upper register. Yet David doesn't try to mimic Anderson.

I think David fills the role much more comfortably than say, James 'JY' Young or Tommy Shaw have filled Dennis DeYoung's lead vocalist role for Styx, especially noticeable in a song like "Lady".

To my ears, "Fly From Here" represents Yes' best effort in two or three decades.

The L.P. derives its name from the central track, "Fly From Here", a 25-minute masterpiece divided into six parts. Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn - then of the Buggles - expanded on a demo they recorded before joining Yes on 1980. When Yes briefly disbanded a year later, they recorded a second demo.

The vocal harmonies leap out like a laser; Steve Howe's guitar work is spectacular; and Geoff Downes has a splendid time on the keyboards.

Yes, I can understand why Jon Anderson - absent Yes since 2008 because of health issues (asthma, acute respiratory failure) and kept out of the loop about the personnel changes - wrote a letter dissing the new Yes, saying "Fly From Here" was "a bit dated".

He may be correct, but that won't keep me from enjoying "Fly From Here".

And, of course, the album art is gorgeous; it would be even more so on a big vinyl cover. Roger Dean designed the cover. He actually reportedly started the painting in 1970, but never completed it. He finally got around to finishing it.

This album reminds us - through all its numerous personnel shifts and changes - Yes has remained a band dedicated to the music. Egos haven't gotten in the way

I was talking about this with Al Mascitti the other day.

A sidenote story: When Al was still at The NEWS-JOURNAL, he was reviewing a concert (not Yes) at the Spectrum. Al's wife Valerie was hanging out in the press booth. As Al recalls, Valerie (not into progressive rock at all!) got into conversation with a man later described as a "polite, mild-mannered, polite British guy" with longish hair. She figured out that he had to be connected with some rock band, but never pressed the issue. Only later did Al and Valerie figure out that she had just had a nice conversation with Jon Anderson!

Unless I'm forgetting something, you've never read about Yes members arrested or caught in some tabloid scandal, or engaging in some flamboyant behavior. Just some internal struggles, as one might expect with a band that has now given us more than four decades of extraordinary music.

Posted at 7:56am on August 4, 2011 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Fri, Aug 5, 2011 1:32pm
And, of course, the album art is gorgeous; it would be even more so on a big vinyl cover.

Album art - the unheralded major casualty of the CD/mp3 technology advances. The larger LP format surely did lend itself to some spectacular visual art renditions.

I recall the Yes breakthrough album very well. We had stereo wars at my house, and it was pretty clear who had won the latest engagement by what the turntable was playing - either Led Zeppelin, Yes, or the like (brother);
or Gloria Gaynor, Earth Wind and Fire, Ramsey Lewis, etc. (me).

Allan Loudell
Fri, Aug 5, 2011 3:34pm
But surely you'll concede the musical distance between Led Zeppelin and Yes, pennsy?

Even if both are progressive rock, Yes was and is much more melodic, much more ethereal, almost classical, compared to Led Zeppelin.

My musical tastes are sufficiently catholic that I spanned the spectrum from progressive rock, to R & B, to rock / jazz, to pop, to bubblegum, to global music.

So I could admit to enjoying ABBA and the Carpenters (I still think the late Karen Carpenter had the best voice of ANY female vocalist) even if I spent most of my time listening to Yes, The Who, Styx, the Ides of March, Rare Earth, the Doors, Renaissance, Steeleye Span, Jefferson Airplane / Jefferson Starship, Traffic, Black Sabbath, Three Dog Night, Badfinger, Van Morrison, the Guess Who, Santana, REO Speedwagon, Headeast, The Ship, Starcastle, Paul Simon, It's a Beautiful Day, Jigsaw, Triumverat, Todd Rundgren / Utopia, Marshall Tucker Band, Supertramp, Procol Harum, King Crimson, the Moody Blues, Orleans, Split Enz, Heart, Asia, Thin Lizzy, Quarterflash, the Babys, the Cranberries, Belly, etc.

R & B / soul acts such as Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, the Moments, the Four Tops, the Fifth Dimension, etc.

Jazz / rock fusion acts such as Chase and Weather Report.

Female vocalists ranging from Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell, Dusty Springfield, Rita Coolidge, Chi Coltrane, Megan McDonough, and Roberta Flack in the 1970's to Tori Amos, Alison Moyet (Yaz), Alanis Morissette, Pat Benatar, Joan Osborne, Amanda Marshall, Meredith Brooks, in the 1990's, 2000's.

And many more...

Allan Loudell

Fri, Aug 5, 2011 4:49pm
But surely you'll concede the musical distance between Led Zeppelin and Yes, pennsy?

Oh yeah, it's just that at the time...roughly 30 years ago... they all just sounded like Whiteboy Music to my funk and disco-fied ear. ☺ ☺ ☺

It's true that good music is worthy and has its own integrity regardless of genre. Over time I opened up to different artists, some of my rock faves are early Springsteen, Tom Petty, especially his duets with Stevie Nicks... as for female vocalists, just last week I was listening to Linda Ronstadt, blown away by the magic and power of her voice.

And to take a trip in the wayback machine, let's not forget the vocal stylings of the great Judy Garland, the one and only Ella, and Concetta Maria Franconero (Connie Francis) for the straight up enjoyment and appreciation of some otherworldly majestic pipes. Connie sang in different languages, delivering the lyrics without any trace of English accent. I don't know if you're familiar with Nana Mouskouri, she also is a multilingual songstress, hailing from Greece. She does a French version of "All Through The Night" - Cyndi Lauper's hit - that could bring tears to your eyes. It's one of the few English authored songs that translate better into a foreign tongue. (David Bowie's "Heroes" is probably the best example - in German it sounds better to my ear than the original English. Love it.)

Didn't recognize some of the names in your female vocalist list, I'll have to give them a listen. I'll try to fit them in as I explore newer territory: American country and western. Not the pop pastiche version that has emerged lately but the greats and those that follow in the tradition of Johnny Cash, Waylon, Patsy et al.

"in and around the lake, mountains come out of the sky, and they stand there..."

see, I haven't forgotten my brother's attempt at early music education...!

Mon, Aug 29, 2011 3:15pm
Yes - Fragile Pictures, Images and Photosyes album cover

Allan Loudell
Mon, Aug 29, 2011 6:44pm

One of my favorite Yes covers. And yes, I still have the vinyl album.

I've probably purchased that album at least three or four times: Originally for me; another time, for a pen pal in southern Africa; on cassette; then, on C.D.


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