It’s a glorious Monday, my dears! No, I mean it, we spent the weekend with good friends, had delicious food and lots of yummy wine. In short, we’re talking about my favorite kind of relaxation. I feel energized and happy. All is right in the universe. Not even Monday, with its return of responsibilities and routine, can dampen the glow. Besides, we’re here to talk about music, yes?
Great segue! (I just found out how to spell this word. I thought it would be segway, but it turns out that’s something you ride, not a connection from one thought to another.)
Where was I?
Right, great segue from, music, yes? To, Yes! That’s because the music that we’re going to discuss is from the classic rock band Yes. I wanted to take a look at their song, Fly From Here, Part I- We Can Fly. It is lovely. The album, Fly From Here, came out last summer and I first heard it when I was at a Yes concert. The band had performed their expected greatest hits parade and was trying to sneak some new material into the mix.
Sidebar here, please, it has always been interesting to me that so many rock fans are resistant to new music. These fans simply want to hear the old favorites at each show, like a rock and roll version of Groundhog Day, reliving the same concert from days gone by again and again. Personally, I like and admire established bands that are still writing and making fresh music. These bands are more creative and vital. So, kudos to Yes for continuing to make new music. (I should correct myself and say new-ish music, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)
Anyway, I enjoyed the new album’s music so much I downloaded it on the spot. Gorgeous, glorious stuff.
Let me share the official video for you here:
The video version is shorter than the album rendition of We Can Fly. The band does not appear in the video. However, some of you music junkies may spot a bespectacled Trevor Horn playing a movie mogul.
This is an interesting album in a couple of different ways. First, it marks only the second time in the band’s very long history, a history which includes many different line-ups, when Yes has made an album that does not feature Jon Anderson on lead vocals. There have been times when band members have shared vocal duties, most notably Trevor Rabin, however, not since 1980’s Drama have they made a whole album where Anderson was not at the vocal helm. On this latest project one will find bassist Chris Squire, the only member to appear on every record. (I’m not sure if you can even call it Yes without Squire.) Steve Howe is on guitar, Alan White returns on drums and Geoff Downes plays keyboards. Jon Anderson’s distinctive vocal style is adroitly recreated by Canadian Benoit David. The album is produced by Trevor Horn. Having Downes and Horn in the mix is an interesting twist. Some of you music buffs out there may remember them as the ‘80’s musical group, The Buggles, who were made famous by their hit Video Killed The Radio Star (yep, the first video MTV ever played). Horn was also the lead vocalist for Yes on the aforementioned Drama album while Downes was the keyboardist. Incidentally, Trevor Horn has played producer on several other Yes albums so his history with the band has been a long and varied one.
This record has a second cache, to me at least, because it highlights something I previously failed to notice. I don’t think I’m a very big Yes fan. Now that’s odd as I own several of their albums and have seen them in concert more than ten times (my friend Jim and I are even pictured in one of their concert DVD’s dancing and singing along to Seen All Good People). By the way, Jim is just going to kill me if he reads this. The reason I have come to the conclusion that perhaps I’m not as big a Yes fan as I thought lies in my favorite albums. These are, in no particular order, Fly From Here, 90125, Talk and Drama. As pointed out, two of these don’t even feature Jon Anderson on vocals, and let’s face it, those signature vocals are pretty integral to the sound of this classic group. 90125 and Talk both feature a great deal of Trevor Rabin’s writing and singing, as does Big Generator, another album I own and enjoy.
Not only am I not the Yes fan I thought I was, I’ve made another discovery. Yes cheats. No, I mean it, they cheat, well, just a little. Let me explain. Drama relies heavily on Buggles material largely written by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes. Then, as Steve Howe once put it, they added “all the Yes fiddle-faddles” to it and called it Drama. Next on 1983’s 90125 a young guitarist from South Africa named Trevor Rabin was working on his first solo album. He had most of the material written when he showed it to his friend and mentor, Chris Squire. This friend heard Rabin’s material and decided it would make a great album for a new group. To make a long story short, eventually Jon Anderson heard the tracks and was so impressed that instead of this being Rabin’s solo project or a new group (they were going to be called Cinema), Yes reformed. Once again, the band tweaked things and viola! 90125 was recorded and brought Yes back to worldwide prominence.
Now, imagine my surprise when I discovered that one of my new favorite songs, We Can Fly is, in fact, a Buggles song? Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn had written it for the second Buggles album and then offered it to Yes for the Drama album. It was then tweaked (I’m sensing a pattern here) and used thirty-one years later as the song I’m sharing with you today. Can anyone say, “Wow?”
Mind you, if you ever have the opportunity to see Yes live, take it. I can’t urge this strongly enough. No matter which incarnation of the band you experience, that concert will be defined by its outstanding musicianship and the gorgeous sounds your ears will be treated to over the next couple of hours. I often point to Rush as virtuosos on their respective instruments, while Rush themselves have pointed to Yes, and with good reason. What Yes can do is amazing.
In closing, please allow this pseudo-Yes fan to recommend this outstanding pseudo-new song for your listening pleasure. Hey, if all the performers involved are good with a little cheating, who am I not to enjoy it?
“Every day that you waste
Is one more that you’ve lost
On display in lights
A final point of no return”
– lyrics from We Can Fly by Yes