YES
Fly From Here
(Frontiers)

 

Leading off with a driving overture—interweaving several album themes—Fly From Here, the first YES album in ten years, is at once a rebirth and a point of departure for the ever popular prog-rock super group. There was doubt, trepidation and even loathing following the then near death experiences of YES co-founder Jon Anderson—who despite having returned as a solo recording artist in 2010 had to leave YES in late 2008 for the second time in 30 years. In Jon’s place in the 2011 YES is singer Benoit David (of the Canadian group Mystery) who—appearing on a YES studio album for the first time as the group’s lead singer—turns in quite a remarkable performance in his own right on lead vocals. In spite of the fact that a little over two and a half years ago, when everyone was still in shock, in 2011 the YES triumvirate of Steve Howe, Alan White and Chris Squire reappears in stellar form, driving onwards, with one eye in the rear view mirror, perhaps as if they’re looking back and seeing the shadow of Jon Anderson looking on. Also in play are the Buggles singer-songwriter and Fly From Here producer Trevor Horn and his comrade, keyboardist Geoff Downes. Also in the group Asia, Downes fills in the missing links following what could be the final departures of Rick Wakeman, and his son Oliver Wakeman, although Oliver actually appears here on additional keyboards on “Fly From Here pt. 1 & 5” and “Hour Of Need.” Also on the CD is Luís Jardim on percussion. Although not part of the touring YES lineup, Fly From Here producer Trevor Horn appears on additional backing vocals & keyboards. That Buggles meets YES sound that still reverberates throughout early '80s YES albums like Drama and 90125 gets a second wind on Fly From Here. Recorded in London and L.A., the album Fly From Here kicks off with the five part “Fly From Here” suite, composed by Horn, Downes and Squire before returning to a more user friendly classic YES sound with further key song writing contributions from Squire, in fine form here on “The Man You Always Wanted Me To Be”, a track co-written with ex-Syn keyboardist Gerard Johnson and someone with the last name Sessler. Proving his perpetual ability to musically multitask, Steve Howe also turns in an insightful folk-rock winner with “Hour Of Need”—a Dylan / Harrison inspired neo folk-prog track that finds Steve sharing lead vocals with Benoit David. A couple of Howe instrumentals kick things into overdrive while the CD closes out with a brilliant, and certain to be future YES classic, the very Squire-esque sounding “Into The Storm”—with that track’s song writing credits spread evenly among the 2011 YES association of Squire, Wakeman, Howe, Horn, David & White. www.yesworld.com / www.frontiers.it / www.AlanWhite.net


mwe3.com presents an interview with
ALAN WHITE

The following interview with Alan White took place on June 8, 2011


mwe3: Hey Alan, long time no speak!

ALAN WHITE: Hey, how are you doing Robert?

mwe3: I’m hanging in... It’s a hundred degrees in New York City today...

AW: I saw that on TV this morning. It’s certainly not a hundred degrees here in Seattle that’s for sure. (laughter) It’s actually not too bad today. It’s going to be about sixty.

mwe3: I wanted to compliment you on the new YES album. It’s a real masterpiece.

AW: Good...you’ve heard it. Fantastic. We had a lot of fun making that. It was a lot of hard work but I think we achieved the right thing at the end through the help of Trevor Horn.

mwe3: Last time I spoke to you was at the YES show on Long Island on November 22nd, 2008. Seems like the whole world has changed...

AW: (laughter) Well, I think it has to some degree but y’know, we still keep on doing what we’re doing.

mwe3: I think the people in the various YES camps are going to be pleasantly surprised with Fly From Here because after Jon Anderson left there was a lot of disenchantment. How did you guys cope with that fragmenting?

AW: Yeah, you’re bound to get that to a degree and obviously you have to deal with it but like I said, we all just keep pushing on. We couldn’t sit around waiting forever. And Jon...he had a bad spell. He wasn’t feeling well for quite a while and then he wanted to do a kind of solo career kind of thing by himself, doing one man shows and stuff like that. We couldn’t sit around forever, so we started looking at each other, Steve, Chris and myself and went, ‘where do we go from here then?’ (laughter) And we were in that position before when we met The Buggles and we got the album Drama out of it.

mwe3: Do you consider Fly From Here to be like a real YES album? Was it a challenge to kind of rebuild the band with Benoit as the front person or did you kind of craft the music around him?

AW: We kind of crafted the music together with Trevor Horn and Benoit...he became the singer in the band and he got into performing what he does. He sings just fine. He got into it and kind of helped everything along and just performed as what was needed. We just knew we’d come up with some kind of thing because Benoit sounds kind of like Jon so we have the YES sound there. Y’know every YES album sounds completely different in a lot of ways. (laughter) So, this is yet another album I think, it’s just another thing, but it still sounds like YES in the current era of what’s going on.

mwe3: Yeah, it’s real current sounding. Well Trevor Horn, in my estimation, what ever he touches, kind of like turns to gold sound wise. The title track “Fly From Here” is almost like a suite, like what you guys used to do on full sided albums.

AW: Yeah, well, it’s kind of turned out like that but our idea was to do that in the first place. We actually recorded all the pieces of music separately but then it all became one kind of suite, as Steve said. I just had a question in the last interview I did. ‘I haven’t heard the album’, he said ‘is it more poppy or is it kind of like...’ And I could only answer him by saying, ‘it’s kind of a bit of both really.’ Because we’ve got the longer track and then some shorter songs. It’s just YES music. Sometimes you really can’t explain it. It’s just the current, 2011 version of it.

mwe3: I can’t believe it’s been ten years since Magnification. It seems almost like a hundred years y’know?

AW: Yeah I know. (laughter) It seems like that for me too. Seems like a long time ago but we’ve been touring and doing things all the time in between. It’s just one of those things moving forward.

mwe3: I’m one of these people who followed YES pretty religiously since I first saw them play in 1971...

AW: So, it's kind of like our concert. We get people who’ve kind of grown with the band. Not only a live kind of thing but they’ve been listening to what we’ve been doing next. But also we get their kids coming now. (laughter) And in some cases we get like three generations! (laughter) You know what I mean? So, it’s pretty crazy now.

mwe3: People ask what kind of music does YES make now. I look back at albums like Open Your Eyes and The Ladder and the stuff you did with Chris on the first Conspiracy album. The Fly From Here album kind of fits into that Open Your Eyes pop meets prog kind of sound.

AW: Those kind of things. Yeah, you’re right. Open Your Eyes and The Ladder period were a little bit like that. Both sides of that.

mwe3: About five years ago, when things started to change, you and Chris were with The Syn. That was a kind of interesting period...

AW: That was an interesting project. Chris called me and said, ‘look, we need a drummer, what are you doing?’ I said, ‘well, I’ll come and help you out for a while.’ That’s basically... Then that went from there. But I remember we played some club in New York...

mwe3: Yeah, you played Joe’s Pub. I unfortunately missed that show.

AW: Yeah, that’s right yeah. It was a funny show. (laughter) A tiny, tiny stage. It’s just about Chris and myself on it. Everything else was like stuffed on there.

mwe3: That Syndestructible album came right in the middle of the decade and it made a huge impression on YES fans, like me at least, who were looking for something new and different. Why do you think the Chris era Syn ended so badly?

AW: Well, the thing actually... it was the singer actually, who was guy that actually formed that band with Chris years and years ago. He was a little bit of a dodgy guy basically (laughter). But he called a million times trying to get us to do it.

mwe3: Steve Nardelli turned out to be kind of bitter about things...

AW: I know, yeah...but I don’t understand that because it was just some crazy pipe dream I think of his and then he sold it to Chris and then things developed from there kind of thing. (Steve Nardelli's reply from July 2011: "Alan's memory is the only thing that's dodgy, he didn't play on Syndestructible, Jeremy Stacey did; and I never asked him once to join us, he asked Squire to get him the gig.)

mwe3: Well anyway, I see you and Chris kind of rebounded with Fly From Here. I know people are still kind of skeptical. It’s been almost like a civil war in Yes land these days.

AW: (laughter) Yeah, do you like this song? And do you like that one? And all that kind of stuff. The impression I get from the business people and from interviews I’ve been doing, is that everybody pretty much likes this album a lot.

mwe3: Also going back to the SYN era, Gerard Johnson, the genius keyboardist, also contributes some co-writing on the Fly From Here album.

AW: Yeah well he wrote that song with Chris. Or he had input to that song, let’s put it that way.

mwe3: So do you still speak to Jon Anderson at all these days?

AW: I still speak to Jon but I haven’t spoken to Jon for quite a while. He’s been traveling and I’ve been just so busy traveling. I haven’t spoken to Jon for quite a few months but I do still call him and stuff like that. We send e-mails very occasionally. He’s done things with Rick on and off for quite a while now.

mwe3: Do you have any comments on the cover art of the Fly From Here album?

AW: Oh, I like it a lot! Roger came to the studio in London and showed us all what kind of stuff he’d been working on and we all pretty much liked it and made a couple of amendments. I particularly like the logo, made out of the snake there.

mwe3: Looks like there’s a little bit of blood coming out of there. It could be the struggle to get to this point.

AW: (laughter) Well there was a lot of hard work that went into it, that’s for sure.

mwe3: And the two birds on the cover. One kind of looks like a turkey but on closer inspection it could be an eagle.

AW: (laughter) Yeah, somebody else said that. (laughter) It’s interesting.

mwe3: And also there’s a black cat lurking in the foreground of the cover art, which is even a little scarier y’know?

AW: Yeah, well the reference to that, the black cat and the snake...is a reference to another couple of albums. The snake kind of relates to Relayer a little bit and the black cat relates to Drama a little bit. So there’s some of that, kind of in there. You’ve got to read into it a little bit.

mwe3: Speaking of incredible legacies, I can’t believe it’s been 40 years now since you recorded “Imagine” with John Lennon. It seems like that song not only turned out to be his most famous song but probably the most famous song recorded by any of The Beatles y’know?

AW: Yeah well, it’s kind of like that. It was kind of the song of the millennium. It’s one of those songs that you know was going to get played way into a hundred years I would think, y’know? It’s just like one of those classical pieces, because the lyrics say so much and it’s very current with what’s going on today as well. So it relates all of the time.

mwe3: It’s fascinating to see the young kids today hearing that song for the first time. It’s such an overwhelming song. Back when it came out, you almost didn’t want to hear it because it was so sensitive for that period. But now it seems like it’s really taken on a life of its own. He’s still got to be the most missed person on the planet.

AW: Oh yeah, absolutely.

mwe3: I keep in touch with another alumni from the Imagine album sessions...my other musical mentor after John was Mike Pinder from the Moody Blues. He played on Imagine. Do you know Mike?

AW: Yeah, I’ve met him quite a few times. Actually, the Moody Blues just played Seattle last week I think...

mwe3: Yeah, well Mike hasn’t made a record with them for thirty years now. He’s just made two albums with his sons, The Pinder Brothers. It’s also coming up on the fortieth anniversary, next year, that you joined YES.

AW: Oh, tell me... (laughter)

mwe3: As much as I love Bill Bruford, man you were...Topographic Oceans is still in my opinion, the greatest YES album, the crowning glory of 20th century music.

AW: Yeah well it was a very deep kind of, whole thing the band was going in to. A lot of rehearsals and a lot of construction of music to get it all into one direction.

mwe3: I had an airmail subscription to Melody Maker back then and I remember when Bill turned in his sticks so to speak. Was it really true that Chris threatened to throw you out of the window if you didn’t join the band?

AW: (laughter) Yeah, him and Jon. And it was at Eddy Offord’s apartment. It was on the third floor. So I kind of said, ‘Okay, well I’ll give you guys three months and you give me three months and see if we like our music, our style.’ And I’m still here, nearly forty years later.

mwe3: One more thing about John Lennon. Do you think if you didn’t join YES...that you would have...I’m almost sure you would have stayed with John...

AW: Long story. He moved to New York at that time. But I remember in the two week period when YES asked me to join, I got asked to join Jethro Tull and the band America at the same time. (laughter) I think I made the right choice.

mwe3: I think so too. So where are you going to fly from here on this.

AW: We’ll be flying to New York City for one of the first shows I think we’re doing. We’re working around there for quite a while so it won’t be that long really. I like playing Jones Beach as well. It’s a great gig. A lot of fun.

mwe3: Are you going to be playing some of the new Fly From Here songs I hope?

AW: Yeah, we’re going to do some of it but we’ll have to see how much we work everything in to...’cause we don’t have a long set to do. If we were doing a really long set, I’m sure we’d do more, but we’ll be doing some of it.

mwe3: That last song on Fly From Here, “Into The Storm” is such a masterpiece. That’s the only track that every member of the current YES is credited to.

AW: Well, it was more of a collaboration of everything. Chris came up with the lyric and I came up with the drum pattern and I wrote the odd time section in there with Oliver...and those kind of things. There’s a kind of combination of people on that one. Otherwise, it was a more of an individual thing all the way through the album.

mwe3: Also “Hour Of Need”... Steve Howe wrote that song huh?

AW: That’s right.

mwe3: Is that Chris singing with him?

AW: Oh, that’s Benoit. Steve and Benoit. Benoit’s singing on top of him. They’re singing note for note. That might make his voice have a different sound.

mwe3: Well if you speak to Chris send him my best...

AW: I’ll be speaking to Chris in the morning. I have to get up at six o’clock to do an hour and a half of interviews. Tomorrow morning. And it’s interviews with both of us. (laughter) For VH-1.

mwe3: Well you gotta tell the young kids about YES history. There’s a lot of history there.

AW: I know that, yeah.

mwe3: Do you think there’s going to be another record with this band, or a live thing?

AW: I’m not sure. Interestingly enough, somebody asked me that last night. Let’s get this one rolling first... (laughter)


Thanks to Alan White @ www.AlanWhite.net and www.yesworld.com
All the above photographs are YES captured live at Jones Beach on 7/11/11
All photos copyright 2011©Richard Cervone
For more information please contact Richard Cervone @ richardcervone@comcast.net







 

 
   
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