A new album from Yes? After 10 years, this highly unlikely event has actually happened.
Famous for changing the line-up every other album, this release is no exception: Touring keyboardist Oliver Wakeman is out of the picture, replaced by... Geoff Downes? My goodness:
Cover art by Roger Dean? Check.
Extended compositions? Check.
Produced by Trevor Horn? Check.
Same line-up as the outstanding, excellent one-off 80's album DRAMA ? Check.
The problem here is that this sets up inevitable disappointment. There's just no way the album can live up to that standard.
And, indeed, it does not. This album displays a band that is creatively stretched, even with uber-producer Trevor Horn at the controls. 2/5 of the album is recycled Buggles material, and most of the rest of the album sounds like left-overs and filler.
Musically, these guys can still play. Even in their 60's, Steve Howe (guitar), Chris Squire (bass) and Alan White (drums) are a powerhouse, and the execution and production of the music is flawless. But creatively, I'm not hearing the spark.
Even in the case of the stand-out track, the 20+ minute "We can Fly", the actual musical arrangement decisions are, in my opinion, wrong. This is not an extended composition, with development and recapitulation, but three songs stuck together with some instrumental filler, and a lot of repetition. Even the climactic reprise at the end of the track is so much less than it should have been. This could have been solved by taking the vocal harmonic development from the end of the first song, and moving it to the end of the suite. That would have cut down on the lyrical repetition in the first section, and given the final reprise the kick it needs.
This is not the 80's; and frankly, the band is not on top of their game. But why should they be? 30 years on, this is not the album it could have been. And yet, it is so much more than we could have dared to expect. Fans should (and will) rejoice in the first new Yes music in 10 years.
But clearly, the album title is a mistake. This should have been called "Pigs Can Fly".