A teacher once said to me that the music you listen to when you are eighteen stays with you for life. For me, Yes were the band who brought together two things I enjoyed: rock and classical symphonies. Yes are the grandfathers of symphomic progressive rock music and they have just released their first album in ten years.
For this album Chris Squire (bass), Steve Howe (guitar), Alan White (drums) turned for help to their former collaborators Trevor Horn, the esteemed producer, and Geoff Downes (keys), who together formed the Buggles. Remember Video Killed the Radio Star? Horn and Downes had previously made the album Drama with Yes before moving on the other things. The singer is Benoit David whose high pitched tenor resembles that of Jon Anderson, the long standing leader of the band. He has been singing on tour with the band for a good while, having been the singer in a Canadian Yes tribute band.
This new album is seriously good! Trsut me! At around 48 minutes it clocks in fairly short and I did wonder whether in ten years they could have had more material in the bag, but that said, if this album had been released in the seventies it would have been considered a masterpiece of prog. Horn and Downes bring a pop sensibility to the band, so the album is littered with catchy tunes and hooks, but they have protected the symphonic prog credentials of the band by a reworking of an old Buggles tune We Can Fly From Here into a progressive suite, complete with overture, four "movements" and a reprise. As a suite it holds together less well than a prog "epic" like Close to the Edge, but the overture and reprise provide some needed structure. This song opens the album and after a few listens sticks stubbornly in the brain! Highlights are David's vocals and Steve Howe's guitar licks.
Track 7, The man You Always Wanted Me to Be, is penned by Chris squire who also sings. It's a pleasant, very singable pop song with one or two rhythmic twists. Track 8, Life on a Film Set, is pure Horn and Downes with catchy phrases, interesting meters and a touch of heaviness, somethign therwise fairly absent on the album.
Track 9, Hour of Need, is a beautiful Steve Howe song with that very fresh, clean, innocent sound that marked the band out in their earliest albums. Beautiful guitar playing here, along with a memorable melody and pleasing harmony vocals. When the boys sing together you hardly notice the absence of Jon Anderson.
Track 10, Solitaire, is a solo acoustic guitar piece, expertly played in the classical style and which reminds us of Howe's playing on the classic Mood for a Day. Good tunes again.
The closing track, Into The Storm, sees the whole band together again for the most rocking track, notable for some interesting time changes, wah wah bass from Chris Squire and, again, some great hooks.
So, I have to say that Yes, now largely into their sixties, have produced the goods and I am struggling to get the tunes out of my head. So, in the unlikely event that you used to like prog, or even more unlikely, that you still do, try this album!