I've had a big of an influx of new CDs lately so am going to do a few catch up reviews.
Yes - Fly From Here.
The first new Yes studio album since Magnification which was fully 10 years ago when that was released only the second Yes album to not feature Jon Anderson on lead vocals the first being Drama back in 1980 - which is now fully 31 years ago!
So what is the story then... Yes was restored to the "classic" line up of Jon Anderson vocals, Steve Howe guitar, Chris Squire bass, Rick Wakeman keyboards, Alan White drums back in 2002 when the embarked on a lengthy 35th anniversary tour - there is a good DVD available of a show from San Fransisco for anyone interested in that. The group then took a break when they decided to get back together Jon Anderson was unable to commit due to some health issues with his throat. Rick Wakeman was not prepared for big long tours and didn't want to have anything to do with it with out Jon Anderson... so he left to be replaced by his son Oliver whilst Yes recruited Benoit David to replace Anderson. Benoit having been spotted in a Yes tribute band on Youtube. So back on the road playing the old stuff to the faithful.
Quick rewind... after the album Tormato in 78 Jon and Rick both left then saying that the band had lost direction and wasn't operating as a unit. Then Yes recruited to many peoples surprise The Buggles, Geoff Downs and Trevor Horn to replace them and produced the Drama album. To be honest I always thought that a much maligned album, it had some real highlights, I also saw them at Hammersmith on that tour and it wasn't the shambles I saw reported in some reviews. Poor Trevor Horn took the main beating but he isn't Jon Anderson and was never trying to be - but a passionate Yes fan he has always been. Aftert the Drama tour they disbanded and Geoff and Steve went on to form Asia whose first album is still a fav of mine. Chris and Alan teamed up with Trevor Rabin and started a band called Cinema but when Chris played Jon their demos Jon loved and joined with old keyboard man Tony Kaye and the 90125 album propelled Yes back into the limelight with the radio friendly single Owner of a Lonely Heart... who produced that album... Trevor Horn.
Why all the history... it is in some ways relevant!!!
So put Fly From Here into the old CD player and... instant Yes, the interplay of Steve Howe with Chris Squires clangy bass is undeniably Yes from the get go. Always surprises me that Steve Howe had two very distinct signature sounds one in Yes one in Asia a very very talented man. Then to the vocals - hello that is different yet reminiscent of something. We move on in the tracks... by now I'm scanning the lyrics and sleeve notes etc.
So the line up for this album is Howe, Squire, White (of course) with David on vocals but the Wakeman family name has departed (except for Oliver having provided some additional keyboards on a smattering of tracks) to be replaced with Geoff Downs fresh from last years reunion of the original Asia line up with Howe.
Again it is tugging at me... then the penny drops. This sounds more like Drama than other Yes albums. Hang on who wrote some of this stuff... a name appears Horn who produced it... Horn. Even the picture of the crusties (excluding the out of place youthful David!) has in the middle a grey haired Trevor Horn.
The main "track" is Fly From Here - it was written by Horn and Downs in the Drama sessions but never made the cut for the album but was in the subsequent tour - if that line up had done a follow up album it'd been on it. Well in essence that is what you have here - the 30 years later follow up to Drama just with David doing a Horn impersonation not an Anderson one. The way the lyrics/vocal lines scan are very reminiscent of the Drama material. There are some additional tracks on including a nice solo acoustic signature piece by Mr Howe again.
If you like Yes and thought the Drama album was good/ok then this is a great followup. If you were in the Buggles haters stay away. Is it Yes... without a doubt the sound is Yes but with a different take - a bit like having a coffee with a shot of some flavour added to it... the same but with a different aftertaste. If you like other prog like early Genesis etc. at least give it a listen - I still feel that bands like this knock the socks of much of the rest of stuff about despite their aging looks...
I like it quiet a lot but as I say I wasn't disappointed with the Drama album - Tempus Fugit is a great song. Geoff Downs is a really good keyboard player as his work in Asia subsequently showed.
I got the version with the DVD which then goes into some depth explaining the decision largely between Chris Squire and Trevor Horn to dig out Fly From Here and give it a real big prog polish up.
Journey - Eclipse
So from one band that replaced their singer with one from a tribute band... to another! Wasn't this trend started by Judas Priest some years back if I remember rightly.
I bought this as it was the only thing I could afford in Harrods the other week! Well not totally true I'd heard the lead track City of Hope on Planet Rock a few times and one other track and was impressed enough to think - once I see it going well under a tenner I'll get it. And I'm glad I did.
This is a very very good if very very classic Journey album. Honestly you almost listen to the first few tracks and wonder what old albums they were on - a bit Journey derivative then? Possibly but then if you have a signature sound why not use it. City of Hope is an excellent starter - the drum sound is for me well worthy of mention - top notch driving beat. Edge of the Moment, Tantra and Resonate also stand out.
Arnel Pineda sounds so like Steve Perry at times it is scary! Really it is! Funny the one difference in these two album reviews that stands out is that Beniot David is not trying to be Jon Anderson at all on the Yes album - as I say he sounds more like Trevor Horn but here Arnel really is Steve Perry reincarnate. What the hell does that mater with an album as good as this - I do feel a bit of sadness for Steve Augeri who was ousted to make way but then he return to Tall Stories with my friend on drums and made a bloody good 20 years later followup album Skyscraper... that is worth checking out too.
Neal Schon gets some stick around the internet etc. as a bit of a megalomaniac etc. but his playing on this album is a complete a - z lesson in stadium rock. He doesn't put a finger wrong and has great tone throughout - he is using PRS single cuts and Blackstar 100W amps I believe mostly at the moment... trust me on the evidence of this I'm inclined to mortgage my kids to get the same set up!