When bass player Chris Squire passed away in June, 2015, he asked drummer Alan White and bassist Billy Sherwood to continue the legacy of progressive rock act YES. While I thought that might be the end of the legendary progressive rock act, the band announced their highly anticipated record, “The Quest,” would be out on October 1st, 2021, via InsideOut Music. Most people from my generation (I’m a ’90s kid), know YES from the poppy ’80s hits “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Roundabout.” I, however, discovered the band when I was 8 years old through their record, “The Ladder,” an album that to this date still is my all-time favorite record. Needless to say, YES holds a very special place in my heart, so it was only natural to check out “The Quest.”
Having followed YES for almost my entire existence, I can admit that I was not a huge fan of their 2014 release, “Heaven & Earth.” It’s not that those songs weren’t any good, but it just lacked the magic of the band that I had gotten to known throughout the years, and on top of that, it didn’t help that “Fly From Here” (2011) was an excellent record that flowed beautifully from start to finish. Logically, I was a little bit scared that “The Quest” would be a follow-up to that record.
Admittedly, yes, “The Quest” is a follow-up to “Heaven & Earth,” but in this case, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This essentially sounds like YES, but maybe an updated, more modern version. I think the best illustration of that is the opener, “The Ice Bridge.” Bass player Billy Sherwood does a good job in maintaining his own style and not trying to emulate Chris Squire, giving the tracks new energy. It’s the heaviest track that YES have released since “Heaven & Earth,” with some inspiring keyboard sections by Geoff Downes, and even though the vocals may be a little bit flat here and there, it’s very pleasant to the ear. “Dare To Know,” while a bit slow, does maintain that YES identity we love throughout the whole song. “Minus The Man” is a track written by Sherwood/Davison and thus sounds a little bit different than what we are used to, but perhaps due to the fact that Steve Howe produced this album, there is a certain unity present as well, even in a song like this.
My favorite track, next to the opener, is probably, “Leave Well Alone,” which has some sections in there that make me extremely nostalgic, and the last part is reminiscent of the epic “Starship Trooper.” Jon Davison also breaks free from the stigma he has gotten over the years to be a mere copy of Jon Anderson in a track like this, as he also explores the deeper end of his voice, which sounds completely different. “The Western Edge” is the shortest track on the record, with an interesting combination of time signatures, an overall poppy feel, and ultimately, it has a little bit of an “Open Your Eyes” vibe. “Future Memories” starts with a beautiful acoustic guitar intro accompanied by Jon Davison‘s voice. Acoustic tracks work very well for his voice, as they give it a little bit of a different character and a certain uniqueness. Howe‘s slide guitar gives this track more of character and ultimately, that’s what lifts it up and makes it YES. “Music To My Ears” has some nice moments too, but doesn’t stand out much on this record.
The official record ends with “A Living Island” and interestingly enough, the acoustic guitar intro reminds me of “The Waltz of Flowers” from Tchaikovsky‘s “The Nutcracker,” giving it an interesting touch. This track starts off as a ballad, but then settles into a mid-tempo, where it stays, keeping up its soft character throughout. It has some nice instrumental sections and on top of that, an incredible chorus in the end; this catchiness is ultimately why it lingers on, providing the perfect ending to this record. Then, there is also an official bonus disc to this record – these tracks are standard bonus tracks, great additions to the album, but wouldn’t have fit in the scope of the actual effort. Still, they add a little extra for the fans.
Altogether, I think “The Quest” is a massive step forward from “Heaven & Earth.” While many of the tracks are still more on the mellow side of the band, we got two nice progressive rock tracks in “The Ice Bridge” and “Leave Well Alone,” and many songs that have a certain YES quality to them and are not to be ignored, such as “Dare To Know.” Is this the best YES album? No… there is still something lacking to make this album truly magical, yet I can’t quite put my finger on it. It may have something to do with the fact that most of the tracks are mid-tempo, poppy songs. While diverse in its nature, the album would have benefitted from one or two more vigorous, energetic songs. Yet, it is also not the band’s worse release, as this is altogether an enjoyable listening experience. It maybe doesn’t stand out from the crowd, but it certainly is a great album. As with all YES albums, it does take quite some time to process the tracks and it’s beneficial if you listen to the album as a whole. “The Quest” shows great potential for this lineup, and hopefully, the best is yet to come!
Written by Laureline Tilkin
- The Ice Bridge
- Dare To Know
- Minus The Man
- Leave Well Alone
- The Western Edge
- Future Memories
- Music To My Ears
- A Living Island
Steve Howe – guitars, vocals
Alan White – drums, backing vocals
Geoff Downes – keyboards
Jon Davison – lead vocals, acoustic guitar
Billy Sherwood – bass guitar, vocals