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Thread: First thoughts on The Quest

  1. #1

    First thoughts on The Quest

    InsideOut kindly sent me a copy of the new Yes album, The Quest. I presume, reader, you've heard "The Ice Bridge" and, to let you know where I am coming from, I enjoy it. I don't want to give away spoilers to the rest of the album. It's an album where it's nice to go in cold. Tracks like "Dare to Know" and "Leave Well Alone" have twists and turns that are worth hearing without knowing where they are going, while "Mystery Tour" is worth encountering fresh for the lyrics. But should curiosity overcome you...

    This is proper headphones in a darkened room music; it's not going down the gym music. The first half is strong. Tracks 1-5 make for a good Yes album that can stand up to comparison with other Yes releases of the last 30 years. I'm sure opinions will be divided, because they always are, but these are interesting compositions, full of 'Yessy' arrangements, including lovely use of orchestra. The core of the album for me are the two big Howe compositions, "Dare to Know" and "Leave Well Alone", that combine dynamic arrangements, harmony vocals and esoteric lyrics in an effective way. At 6-8 minutes, they are not long by Yes standards, but they still take you on a journey. They feel like only Yes could have recorded them. The decision to add orchestra has paid off, adding an extra dimension.

    Interleaved with those two are the Sherwood/Davison co-writes. Sherwood's songwriting is familiar from his solo albums and many other projects, and we've been introduced to the pair's writing in Arc of Life. "Minus the Man" and "The Western Edge" are recognisably from the same pen, yet benefit from Howe's production and the performance of the whole band and orchestra. I like the chaos of "The Western Edge", but it is the second shortest song on the album and I wished it had space (that's a joke you'll get when you hear the album) to go somewhere more.

    I am guessing the latter half of the album will be more controversial. I enjoy "Future Memories" and "A Living Island", but they show a more romantic and lyrical side to Davison's writing. I loved "It was All We Knew" on Heaven & Earth, but many people said, while they enjoyed the song, it didn't belong on a Yes album. I can see the same complaints may arise here (not that I agree). "A Living Island" is interesting as a disc closer, travelling to unexpected places as it goes on, a bit yacht rock, a bit Queen, with a waving-lighters-in-the-air-at-the-end-of-a-gig vibe.

    The bonus disc is just that. This is b-side material, nice to have as extras. "Damaged World", with a Howe lead vocal, is the strongest. "Mystery Tour", the weakest.

    People felt Heaven & Earth was compartmentalised, Davison working with each other member, but the band not coming together to make an "Into the Storm". With the band divided by a pandemic, there's a worry of the same again. And it does still feel compartmentalised to a degree. This is the Howe song, this is the Sherwood song, this is the Davison song. There isn't a "Homeworld" here. But you do hear a band supporting each other. Sherwood's bass elevates "Leave Well Alone", while Howe's guitar lifts "The Western Edge". Downes and White do a nice intro for "Music to My Ears". "Future Memories" is Davison's but wouldn't be the same without Howe's input.

    Overall, The Quest doesn't sound a lot like any prior Yes album while also being the sort of thing only Yes would do. It's a sincere album: this is who they are. They're not trying to have a hit single, or doing an 18 minute epic because the label wants one. A Yes without Squire or Anderson was always going to be a difficult sell. It won't heal divisions in Yes fandom (nothing could). The single LP version of the album, the first six tracks, might make for a stronger experience. But it is an album I am enjoying, and an album that finds new things to say after a 50+ year career.

    Henry
    Where Are They Now? Yes news: http://www.bondegezou.co.uk/wh_now.htm
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  2. #2
    Member Top Cat's Avatar
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    Thanks for a great and detailed review Henry.
    It's both encouraging and exciting to read a breakdown of the songs.
    Several things you wrote stands out to me, and that is "it's a sincere album" and "they aren't doing a 18min song for the label" and may I add to your comment because the fans expect or want one.
    Regarding the length of some of the longer songs, I think 6 or 7 minutes is quite long enough. If the material is good, that's more than enough time.

    Looking forward to my vinyl copy from Laser CD, and the great Roger Dean cover will sit nicely next to Fly From Here.
    Soundcloud page: Richard Hermans, musical meanderings https://soundcloud.com/precipice Bandcamp: https://richardhermans.bandcamp.comYouTube: https://youtu.be/F34jl6fQVmA

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the review. I did not like Heaven & Earth at all, but have the new one pre-ordered so am encouraged.

  4. #4
    All sounds very interesting. I look forward to hearing it!

  5. #5
    Member Koreabruce's Avatar
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    Intriguing. I'm somewhat more interested now. Thanks, Henry!

  6. #6
    Thanks for sharing. I'm OK with a "headphones in a darkened room" album with some twists and turns.

  7. #7
    Member Digital_Man's Avatar
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    I'll wait until it's officially released.
    When you list all the qualities that you despise and you realize you're describing yourself.

  8. #8
    Highly Evolved Orangutan JKL2000's Avatar
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    Now I have to start checking the Interwebs daily for a leaked copy…
    The sweet smell of Afghanistan rewards a long day’s toil.

  9. #9
    Member Haruspex Carnage's Avatar
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    i thought it was the best since Magnification (found everything since to have only sparingly good moments across the discs)...but not high on my list of priorities to return back to.

  10. #10
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    i didn't care for H&E, i'll remain open on this one. but i doubt i will be getting it.

    i was hoping that Billy Sherwood would have contributed to the writing. but that's not the case.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by BravadoNJ View Post
    i was hoping that Billy Sherwood would have contributed to the writing. but that's not the case.
    As per my comments above and at my news site at http://www.bondegezou.co.uk/wnyesm.htm#nexta , Sherwood co-wrote two songs, "Minus the Man" and "The Western Edge".

    Henry
    Where Are They Now? Yes news: http://www.bondegezou.co.uk/wh_now.htm
    Blogdegezou, the accompanying blog: http://bondegezou.blogspot.com/

  12. #12
    I will buy this album. Heaven and Earth was such a shock, still can't imagine why they released that, and it sounds as if the early view is that The Quest is, at least, a better record than Heaven and Earth. I hope there are one or two strong songs on the new one. I figured the band would lead by releasing a track they thought was very strong, but I've had some time to digest The Ice Bridge and there's not much of a song there, just a couple of riffs. But I will buy The Quest and Hope for the Best!

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by floyd umma gumma View Post
    I figured the band would lead by releasing a track they thought was very strong, but I've had some time to digest The Ice Bridge and there's not much of a song there, just a couple of riffs. But I will buy The Quest and Hope for the Best!
    Hey, don't blame them! That's Monkman's fault
    If you're actually reading this then chances are you already have my last album but if NOT and you're curious:
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  14. #14
    Member Kcrimso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by battema View Post
    Hey, don't blame them! That's Monkman's fault
    Monkman ruined Yes!
    "A waste of talent and electricity." John Peel on ELP

  15. #15
    The best I can say about this is that it exists.

    No matter what anyone says, you are the decider of how you will listen to music.

  16. #16
    Member Top Cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Splicer View Post
    The best I can say about this is that it exists.
    We must have posted at the same time, I tried to delete my post but can't.
    I like what I heard.
    Definitely much better than Heaven&Earth to my ears.
    Soundcloud page: Richard Hermans, musical meanderings https://soundcloud.com/precipice Bandcamp: https://richardhermans.bandcamp.comYouTube: https://youtu.be/F34jl6fQVmA

  17. #17
    I quite liked the first song they released, it had a bit of zip, but the second one is turgid H&E style drivel

  18. #18
    At this point I have to say I officially give up on Yes. That Monkman tune had *something* going for it, marginally more than whatever was on H&E. That synth riff was memorable, and there were a couple iotas more energy there as well. But this one, Dare to Know, descends even deeper into that schmaltziness that was one of the things that marred H&E so badly. I just honestly don't understand what they are thinking or what they are trying to do. This is like bargain bin easy listening stuff dressed up with the vaguest intimations of prog. Goodbye, Yes.

  19. #19
    Member Koreabruce's Avatar
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    Played it a few times. It's... okay. Nicely arranged and performed, with some variety in timbre. That said, it's far too lightweight and non-memorable for my ears. Henry says in the original post that this track and one other are, to him, the centerpieces of The Quest. That is surely telling. It doesn't sound like anything I'd be interested in listening to repeatedly.

  20. #20
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    for me. Nice Starcastle-ish track. Yes, it is a little slight compared to Ice Bridge. But Howe is doing some really nice things here, that are not in any way a cliche for him.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Koreabruce View Post
    Played it a few times. It's... okay. Nicely arranged and performed, with some variety in timbre. That said, it's far too lightweight and non-memorable for my ears. Henry says in the original post that this track and one other are, to him, the centerpieces of The Quest. That is surely telling. It doesn't sound like anything I'd be interested in listening to repeatedly.
    If you don't like "Dare to Know" or "The Ice Bridge", I hazard this is not the album for you. Not that either you or I have to make guesses: it will all be on streaming in a few weeks and you can hear for yourself!

    It is not a hard rocking track. What I like about "DtK" is that it's a contemplative, dreamy track that takes the listener on a journey as it explores its motifs with contrasting instrumentation and some unexpected arrangements.

    Henry
    Where Are They Now? Yes news: http://www.bondegezou.co.uk/wh_now.htm
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  22. #22
    Insect Overlord Progatron's Avatar
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    Henry's review is absolutely glowing compared to what mine would be. In fact, I've passed on officially reviewing this album, having tried to come to grips with it for a couple of weeks now. I won't shit all over it here, maybe my opinion will be the minority. Let's just say I long for the glory days of... oh, I don't know, Open Your Eyes or something.
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  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Progatron View Post
    Henry's review is absolutely glowing compared to what mine would be. In fact, I've passed on officially reviewing this album, having tried to come to grips with it for a couple of weeks now. I won't shit all over it here, maybe my opinion will be the minority. Let's just say I long for the glory days of... oh, I don't know, Open Your Eyes or something.
    I'm sure there will be a range of opinions on the album. More and more people have heard it now: some love it, some very much don't, some like certain songs but not others. However, I would hold firm to the opinion that it is better than Open Your Eyes!

    Henry
    Where Are They Now? Yes news: http://www.bondegezou.co.uk/wh_now.htm
    Blogdegezou, the accompanying blog: http://bondegezou.blogspot.com/

  24. #24
    Member Top Cat's Avatar
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    I did the math and it goes like this..
    Liking The Quest doesn't make it a good album
    Hating The Quest doesn't make it a bad album.

    OMMMMMMMMMMMMM.
    Soundcloud page: Richard Hermans, musical meanderings https://soundcloud.com/precipice Bandcamp: https://richardhermans.bandcamp.comYouTube: https://youtu.be/F34jl6fQVmA

  25. #25
    Parrots ripped my flesh Dave (in MA)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bondegezou View Post
    with a Howe lead vocal, is the strongest
    A phrase never previously uttered, I suspect.

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