Yes, ‘The Quest': Album Review
Yes have spent the past half-decade looking back. On tour and on record, the prog giants revisited their classic catalog not so much with renewed energy than with a spirited sense of honoring their long history. With more than 50 years and nearly two dozen studio albums to their name (not to mention frequent lineup changes that rival any group's since the '60s), there are plenty of miles to cover.
So it should come come as little surprise that their first album of new material in seven years – and first since the 2015 death of bassist Chris Squire, the only original member to appear on every Yes LP – dips into the nostalgia pool once again. From the Roger Dean cover art to lengthy songs about mystical thoughts and places, The Quest goes through some familiar motions.
There are some familiar names here, too: guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Geoff Downes and drummer Alan White are joined by bassist Billy Sherwood and singer Jon Davison, who took over lead-vocal duties in 2012. And like most Yes albums since the group began splintering after its early-to-mid-'70s peak, The Quest is more in service to the idea of the band than it is to the music that the band makes. In other words, it sounds like a Yes album if you shut your eyes and believe you're listening to a Yes album.
It starts in the right place. Seven-minute opener "The Ice Bridge" recalls classic Yes, right down to the cascading keys and Davison lifting his voice to Jon Anderson-level heights. "Dare to Know" travels a similar route, with some extra tempo shifts and a dramatic instrumental break thrown in. But then The Quest starts to get even more self-serious and metaphysical in its musings ("Minus the Man," "Future Memories"), but without the epic grandeur of a "Close to the Edge" to back it all up.
Still, Yes have often been like that, and this backward-looking album isn't about to deliver any twists at this stage in their career. The solos are accomplished and plentiful, the songs ponderous and longish; the closing "A Living Island" (and especially the three bonus tracks on a separate disc) even manages to contemplate a future for this band, at least until the last couple minutes, under a new name if it wanted. The Quest doesn't rewrite history or even add to it. It's merely following a well-worn path.