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The Quest by Yes – Album Review

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published October 16th 2021
A new album from prog-rock stalwarts Yes
Yes have become the Ship of Theseus of the music world. They have not stopped making music for five decades, and the albums are all recognisably by Yes, and yet not a single original member is currently in the band. So when a new Yes album comes out, people tend to approach it with caution. And 2014's Heaven And Earth certainly warranted that caution.

But it's seven years later, and yes are back, with guitarist Steve Howe at the production desk, and what we have been given is:
The Quest by Yes (2021)
yes, quest, album, CD

To say this is an improvement is an understatement.

As a quick aside, sorry this is two weeks late, but money has been tight. Still, it is brand new and is well worth your time.)

So, this is Yes, and they have embraced their prog-rock glory whole-heartedly. And after also getting the latest Coldplay album, which I found unfortunately dull outside of maybe 3 tracks (so I won't be reviewing it), it is so good to hear this music done well.

It is spread over 2 CDs for… reasons. No, seriously, the second CD has only three tracks on it, running less than 15 minutes. Anyway, that's by the by, because the music is beautiful. This is the sort of music I am currently finding myself writing to more and more as I work on my fiction, and this album has already been added to the (lengthy) playlist.

Yes, I really liked this one.

So, I mentioned the band members. Currently, Yes are made up of:
Jon Davison: vocals
Steve Howe: guitars
Geoff Downes: keyboards
Billy Sherwood: bass guitar
Alan White: drums
Jay Schellen: percussion
Truth be told, they do a good job here.

So, let's look at The Quest!

CD 1

'The Ice Bridge (Eyes East/Race Against Time/Interaction)' A 7 minute long prog-rock workout punctuated by some brilliant guitar playing. This lets you know exactly what you're getting. This is one of the best Yes tracks I have heard in many a year. The 7 minutes flies by. Such a good opener.

'Dare To Know' The strings on this track are beautiful and neo-classical in scope, slowing things down but giving it a sense of grandeur. This song soars and it just feels so good. It took me a couple of listens before I could actually do anything while it played – it is mesmerising.

'Minus The Man' This one is a little fiddly in the music and there are some passages that don't quite hit, but then you get Steve Howe's guitar playing and all is forgiven. So crisp and clean and flowing in and out of the track. The guitar work makes this song.

'Leave Well Alone (Across The Border/Not For Nothing/Wheels)' Back to the prog-rock sound again, with another three-part suite, eight minutes long this time. When it starts there is a hint of 'Stonehenge' by Spinal Tap (!), but that doesn't last long as they hit the ground and go through the three sections like a well-oiled machine. If anything, it was a little mechanical.

'The Western Edge' A dual vocal attack and back to the soaring guitars with some really good drumming as well, then the synth break-down in the middle, this track is another good one here.

'Future Memories' This is a slower song, with some very nice acoustic touches. It is a good change of pace and well-placed on the album. Davison's voice here really is at the forefront of the track and he certainly has the vocal chops. Really nice song.

'Music To My Ears' A nice mid-tempo track with some more wonderful guitar playing and some really strong singing, and the whole band playing very tightly together. This is a pleasant track, and certainly worth a listen.

'A Living Island (Brave The Storm/Wake Up/We Will Remember)' This is the only song that actually deals with the COVID situation that was/is so prevalent as the album was written. But the message does not beat you over the head, and the 7 minute run time flies by with some great musicianship. This is a very strong track to finish CD 1 on.

CD 2

'Sister Sleeping Soul' A decent song with some nice instrumentation and good vocal lines, but it really is just there. There's some good mandolin-like playing though it but it does not stand out above the pack. It's not bad, it's just there.

'Mystery Tour' This is a song that is a tribute to The Beatles with lots of song title drops and some great vocal harmonies. Lyrically, this is quite clever, and the song brings a smile to my face, even now, after all the listens. I really like this one.

'Damaged World' The keyboards are more at the front here, with a twin vocal attack and the rest of the band playing their part as well. A fun little song to close out the set.

You may notice I haven't said much about the lyrics throughout these tracks. They supposedly tell a story of a man's destiny, but it is not a concept album. The lyrics are all complex and sometimes even obscure. But then you get a song ,like 'Future Memories' which is straight forward on the surface, but has layers of meaning. Yes were always a band whose music was at the forefront – from the beginning, they were a band of musicians with a singer whose octaves-spanning range was incredible, and the lyrics back then were almost just a chance for Jon Anderson to show off. But here they actually have something to say. While I didn't quite get everything that was being put forward, the words were a marked improvement on any Yes album for a very long time, and Jon Davison handled them well.

So, as you can tell, I consider the new Yes album to be worth it. But, be warned, if you are not into the prog-rock scene or into the music where musicianship is dominant, this is not for you. No synthesised drums, no electronic voice distortions, no computers doing 80% of the work, this is all real instruments played with mastery. So, maybe many younger listeners will not get it, but for people of my generation (and older, even a little younger) – this is a really good album.

Yes, I recommend Yes.


I'm sure Bryan Danielson is just excited at this new album coming out…

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