For a band who many consider to have not released an outstanding album for several decades, there’s still a sense of anticipation when Yes makes a release. In the run-up, there’s been a number of band members related releases that always seems to get the aficionados searching for possible musical clues to a new Yes album. Steve Howe has had a couple of intriguing releases of late, Downes-Braide Association produced an interesting and enjoyable CD, and there was even a collaboration of various members in Arc Of Life. So, there was much anticipation.
Realistically, this release was never going to be Close To The Edge 2, Relayer Revisited, nor Son Of Tales. It shouldn’t be. The world has revolved myriad times since those original releases and culture is not the same now. Society has changed too. The band is made up of different personalities, populated by musicians with different approaches. The band members are themselves much more mature, and like most of us probably mellowing with age. So, where does this leave us with the new album?
Actually, not badly placed at all. The music itself actually sounds like a Yes imprint, being both colourful and eclectic. There are plenty of tempo changes and lovely tonal approaches. This album actually sounds like Yes rather than a collection of Yes members who are making an album together. There is a big difference between the two. The moment Steve’s guitar kicks in then the album has Yes printed all over it. The album is more cohesive than most of the band’s later albums and has the feel of being more imaginatively thought out. It has much welcome substance.
The open track is a multi-part piece called The Ice Bridge. Just for an instant it sounds very like a Keith Emerson-styled fanfare before the band kicks in and we have something more typically Yes. It was written by Jon Davison and Geoff Downes, and is a beautifully arranged song with some excellent orchestrations. There is some excellent guitar from Steve and it features some choice vocal harmonisations. It is a song about the dangers of climate change.
There are many such highlights throughout the album. All the players put in very good performances and their interplay is attractive. Steve’s guitar is a frequent high spot with some excellent tones and lithe playing. Jon Davison seems more at ease on this album too than he did on the last two studio albums. He has the kind of voice that is always going to garner comparisons to Jon Anderson, and it true that at times on this release that comparison is spot on. The vocals on Minus The Man are very Andersonian. That is not to say they are not well done or copyist. It is the manner of the man’s voice. But his voice does feel more at home here, and he is especially impressive on A Living Island. Geoff Downes also seems a little more at ease on this album too. He is a brilliant rhythm player with the band but has on other of the band’s releases sounded like he was trying to contain himself. Here there are more solos and flourishes, particularly on The Western Edge. The drumming by Alan White and percussion from Jay Schellen is cultured while Billy Sherwood’s bass guitar contribution is artful and elegant. Combined, the band has produced a classy album.
The album has been produced by Steve Howe and it has the vibe of a refined classic Yes album. This is actually the band’s first with the InsideOut Records label that many prog fans will be familiar with. “Much of the music was written in late 2019 with the rest in 2020. We commissioned several orchestrations to augment and enhance the overall sound of these fresh new recordings, hoping that our emphasis on melody, coupled with some expansive instrumental solo breaks, keeps up the momentum for our listeners,” explains Steve.
By necessity, The Quest was recorded on both sides of the Atlantic. Some sessions took place in the UK with Steve Howe, Geoff Downes & Jon Davison, while Alan White and Billy Sherwood managed to get together in the studio in the US. “Billy Sherwood and myself did all the rhythm sections, bass and drum, in America,” says Alan White, “down in Los Angeles at Uncle Studios, where he works a lot. It helps when you’ve got a good place to work,” Alan laughs, “and Billy’s really good on the recording desk, so we got things down relatively quickly. I spent quite a while studying the music before I went down to LA so I was prepared.” There is a rather appositely delicate looking cover from long time band friend and artist Roger Dean.
There are one or two other points though. The tracks are a little similar sounding in places and even on the better tracks, such as The Ice Bridge, the band seems to get into a grove and it becomes somewhat unfocussed. But on the whole, there is enough diversity to get around this. Lyrically, some of the songs also hark back to what many consider to be the band’s halcyon days of the 1970s. That usually gets them as much abuse as praise it is true, but Future Memories and Minus The Man, amongst others, have that aura about them (As an aside – I once had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Howe. He had a good chuckle at one point, recalling an article he had recently read that was berating Jon Anderson for the lyrics of a song that were actually penned by Steve himself). The only track that doesn’t quite come off well is the paean to The Beatles entitled Mystery Tour. The second CD of the release actually consists of just three tracks. You presume they are considered not to be part of the main album (which would be the first disc) because there is certainly enough space to have easily made this a single disc release.
The Quest is, then, a very strong album from Yes. It is a modern prog album but has enough about it to have something that will appeal to the band’s older classic fans. It is very melodic, highly arranged and exquisitely played by the band as a whole. Often, albums sound better when all the members are in the same studio at the same time, sparking off each other. This album sounds like it was created in that way rather than in studios thousands of miles apart. The music is well written, featuring finely polished production and it is well-refined. It is a big step on from the band’s more recent releases, and it sounds like the band is very settled with itself. Time will tell, with repeated listenings, whether this album has more to reveal of itself. But it is certainly a very pleasurable listen.
01. The Ice Bridge 7.01
02. Dare To Know 6.00
03. Minus The Man 5.35
04. Leave Well Alone 8.06
05. The Western Edge 4.26
06. Future Memories 5.08
07. Music To My Ears 4.41
08. A Living Island 6.52
01. Sister Sleeping Soul 4.51
02. Mystery Tour 3.33
03. Damaged World 5.20
Jon Davison – vocals
Steve Howe – guitars, producer
Geoff Downes – keyboards, Hammond
Billy Sherwood – bass
Alan White – drums
Jay Schellen – additional percussion
Release date: 1st October 2021
Label: InsideOut Music
Limited Edition Deluxe 2LP & 2CD plus Blu-ray Box-set
Limited Edition 2CD & Blu-ray Artbook
Gatefold 2LP & 2CD plus LP and booklet
You can watch the video for The Ice Bridge here: https://www.youtube.com
You can watch the sideo for Dare To Know here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhzKdB6ftsc