This release came right out of the blue with little fanfare and little advance press release. There was no huge media PR campaign, it seemed to emerge from the mists of time in a somewhat unusual and interesting way.
Few can fail to have been, at least, amused by the recent roller coaster that the band Yes have been on since their last studio album, 2014’s Heaven and Earth, and the re-imagined Fly From Here: Return Trip that was issued a few years ago. Indeed, if there was a soap opera about Prog Rock then the antics of Yes would be in the running to star in it, if not write the music, sing the theme song, etc., as Little Britain would say.
So, this is somewhat different in that it is just an EP of four tracks that were recorded by Yes whilst Chris Squire was still alive, with Benoît David still singing and Oliver Wakeman filling the keyboard role. Bundled with it is a new version of the Live From Lyon set (without the DVD but including a Japan-only bonus track that was left off the European version). This review will not detail the live album in any manner, save to say that it is a fine album in itself, with a good track listing and fine performances.
The EP is a completely different animal though and it is a very welcome addition to the music that Yes created. It’s a pleasing package to acquire, representing, as it does, a fine band before things somehow went wrong for them, through a mixture of reasons and scenarios.
The EP running time is some 25-minutes of prime Yes music, all of which proves that this particular line-up had great, but sadly, unrealised potential. This release not only rectifies that view substantially, but proves that this particular incarnation had much merit and were of significance and value.
The full story behind this release can be found in the most excellent booklet, written by Oliver Wakeman with honesty and dignity. You can sense how sad he was that his time in Yes was shortened and also of his sadness when Chris Squire passed away. Even so, he has worked diligently to make this music available as a testament to his years in Yes and his contribution to their history.
Let’s examine the music in a little more detail.
The four songs are To the Moment, Words on a Page, From the Turn of a Card and The Gift of Love, ranging from a brief three and a half minutes to an epic of nearly ten minutes and with two medium length tracks. These songs were produced by Oliver Wakeman with input from the rest of the group and recorded in Phoenix, Arizona and Beverley Hills, California, with additional work done at Oliver’s home studio in Virginia Water in the U.K.
The opening To the Moment is classic Yes with an upfront bass line and a nifty guitar part from Steve Howe. Benoît David’s voice is very Jon Anderson-like and it all sounds as you would hope it should. There is also much going on musically with a great synth hook that repeats as the song progresses and a strong chorus of “At the moment of awakening” – standing tall and proud. Oliver’s keyboard break intertwines with Howe’s guitar to elevate the song upwards, synths spiralling and burbling like a brook. This is a very positive song with optimistic lyrics, the fabulous synth run-out is really very memorable and Oliver’s playing throughout the whole EP is very strong and familiar, but still somehow fresh.
Second song Words on a Page opens with gentle piano and acoustic guitar before Benoît’s emotional voice is introduced, beautifully clear and succinct. I think it is fair to say that his voice on this EP is simply exceptional (which makes the loss of his voice a real tragedy). Here his voice really captivates and breathes life into these performances, this song also including a spectacular slide guitar passage from Steve Howe that concludes the song in suitably epic fashion.
From the Turn of a Card is a newly recorded version of a song that Oliver reworked with just piano and vocals for a different project with Benoît David. A moving, simply elegant piece, short but very sweet, not sickly, just fine.
The last song, The Gift of Love is the epic of this set, opening with an expressive synth line before drums and bass parts come into play. This track has a really moody presence, an almost triumphal synth melody line, very stately, plus a great vocal from Benoît and superb guitar fills from Steve. The backing vocals from Chris and Steve add to the magic that is unfolding here, “The gift of love” line is sung in tandem with harmonies and fills before piano lines are added, taking the song forward. When the refrain of To the Moment is reintroduced it brings the whole circle to a close, followed by a longer instrumental break featuring firstly piano, then the synth melody line from the opening part of the track, then some subtle guitar from Steve, then the To the Moment section is repeated once again.
This song has all the elements that make Yes music so special; inspired performances and music that has real depth and meaning to it – music that needs time to grow and breathe in your heart and mind. This song has all that and more and is a real gem, a song that I am very glad has found its way back from a dusty shelf for appraisal and approval by the legion of Yes fans who have been eagerly awaiting some new music from this mighty group.
OK, it may be ten years old, but it’s still wonderful music by any standards and that deserves much appreciation. Huge kudos to Oliver Wakeman for bringing these overlooked performances back to the wider public. Can I also add that Roger Dean’s artwork is stunning and is of a vintage standard highly recognisable to Yes fans.
Simply outstanding, well worth getting. It really is that good and a fitting summary of an interesting period in the history of Yes. This is a well put together set that is really enhanced by the work of Oliver Wakeman, the rest of Yes and of course the input of Roger Dean.
01. To The Moment (6:09)
02. Words On A Page (6:18)
03. From The Turn Of A Card (3:24)
04. The Gift Of Love (9:52)
Total Time – 25:53
Benoît David – Vocals
Chris Squire – Bass Guitar, Vocals
Steve Howe – Guitars, Vocals
Alan White – Drums & Percussion
Oliver Wakeman – Keyboards
Record Label: Yes 97 LLC
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 25th October 2019