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'The Quest' – Yes Music to My Ears

Watching The New Day Come

By Steven ShinderPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 15 min read

A new Yes studio album without Chris Squire was always going to be a hard sell for some people. Squire had been on every Yes studio album prior to this new one, titled The Quest. He appeared on 2014’s Heaven & Earth, which did not get the best reception from fans, to put it simply. When he passed away in on June 27, 2015 due to leukemia, fans were in shock. But the band carried on, with Squire’s longtime friend and collaborator Billy Sherwood fulfilling his wishes of taking up the Yes bassist role. He carried on with his fellow Yes members: vocalist Jon Davison, keyboardist Geoff Downes, guitarist Steve Howe, and drummer Alan White. There was a lot of pressure in terms of touring without Squire, and eventual reports of a potential new studio album surely meant more pressure. There were certainly many challenges for the band over the last several years.

Squire’s death also led to former Yes members Jon Anderson (vocalist), Trevor Rabin (guitarist) and Rick Wakeman (keyboardist) deciding they were not getting any younger and should therefore finally tour together. They initially toured as Anderson Rabin Wakeman, though around the time of Yes’ induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which saw the two factions in the same place, they rebranded themselves as Yes Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman. There was brand confusion as far as some of the venues were concerned. While ARW released a new song titled “Fragile” in 2018, the band eventually ceased all activity, as they were unable to get in a studio together amidst all the touring. Needless to say, Yes fans were still hungry for new Yes music or anything like it.

In the meantime, Yes paid tribute to Squire in their 2015 shows. Further touring ensued, though drummer Alan White, due to back issues, would have to sit out of certain shows before eventually being well enough to perform at least part of the shows. For their 2016 tour documented on the live album Topographic Drama, Sherwood’s longtime collaborator Jay Schellen sat in for White. The original intention was for Howe’s son Dylan to take up the role, but visa problems prevented this from happening right away. He eventually performed as an additional drummer alongside White on the 2017 Yestival tour, up until the last few shows were cancelled due to the passing of Steve’s second son Virgil. In 2018, Schellen resumed the additional drummer role during the Yes50 tour, which saw founding drummer Bill Bruford giving a speech about the band in London before the performances, Trevor Horn singing “We Can Fly From Here” in London and Philadelphia, keyboardist Tony Kaye guesting at concerts in the US, keyboardist Patrick Moraz performing “Soon” in Philadelphia, and even Tom Brislin appearing with all of them at YesFanFest in Philadelphia.

In 2019, Yes were back to just six performers: Davison, Downes, Howe, Schellen, Sherwood, and White. The Royal Affair Tour was a celebration of British music, with the shows including setlists by Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy with Arthur Brown, John Lodge of The Moody Blues, Asia, and Yes. Toward the end of that year, From a Page, a mini-album showcasing material recorded in 2010 before Oliver Wakeman left the band, was released. It impressed fans and held them over for a bit, but there was still a hunger for more new Yes music.

2020 would have seen Yes performing the entire Relayer album live had the pandemic not changed anything. Instead, shows were cancelled, with that tour currently postponed to 2022. But the band members made the most of their situation by working on new music. Schellen, Sherwood, and White worked in Los Angeles while Davison, Downes, and Howe worked in England. Steve Howe produced the new album The Quest, with Curtis Schwartz as the engineer and mixer. At last, they finally got an album completed, and on the label InsideOut Music. So how are the resulting songs?

1. “The Ice Bridge”

The opening track, which is divided into the sections “Eyes East,” “Race Against Time,” and “Interaction,” has an intro is reminiscent of the beginning of “Fanfare for the Common Man” and Emerson, Lake & Powell’s “Touch and Go.” I will not delve too deeply into the controversy surrounding the use of Francis Monkman’s “The Dawn of an Era,” but will say I’m thankful that that got sorted out, as Monkman got a writing credit, listed alongside Davison and Downes.

Jon Davison’s singing comes in strong, presenting the setting of this song. “With fear of extinction, we’re pushed to the edge of the ice” clearly conveys that this is a song about climate change. There is also a fantasy feel through the use of the words, “Snowflower Elder / He has walked forest green / All eyes to the east.” I find it interesting that this track emphasizes the east, while track 5, “The Western Edge,” emphasizes the west. “For we are the lords of the future” further reinforces the fantasy feel.

The guitar and drumming are on point, though the bass could be a bit higher in the mix. More vocal harmonies would have been nice as well. “This is exponential ancient overdrive” somehow feels like a mix between the lyrical styles of Jon Anderson and The Buggles. There is a sound effect prior to “In a race against time” that sounds like ice breaking. The newer stuff that Downes adds sounds reminiscent of Rick Wakeman on keys, though he’s not trying to mimic Wakeman. The song also partially feels somewhat reminiscent of Asia. The orchestra is strong, but not too overpowering. Overall, the song has familiar elements, though it is nice to have on the brain, and makes for a very grand beginning.

2. “Dare To Know”

The second track is a Howe composition. The guitar notes in the intro bring “To Be Over” from Relayer to mind. This is a more mellow track compared to the previous one. The orchestra also has a complementary presence. It sounds very poignant around the 2-minute mark, which makes me think of the eagle in the music video soaring over a breathtaking landscape. “Beauty performs,” indeed.

While the first track mentions the sunrise, this one mentions sunsets. The words “Feeling a sense of urgency / We live with so much uncertainty” might normally be said in an anxiety-inducing context, but it is conveyed in a calm fashion, as the song assures listeners that people can work together and share ideas. The mood of the final 40 seconds, however, feels a bit somber, but not bereft of hope.

3. “Minus The Man”

This one is written by Davison and Sherwood, and begins with more audible bass. The intro actually gives me a vibe similar to that of “The Game” from Heaven & Earth. “Minus the Man” has a very sci-fi-inspired feel in terms of what it is trying to say. I feel that the topic would probably have a feeling of urgency had it been written by Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn. Here, it is conveyed in a more laid back fashion, which seems to be the trend throughout this album. The following pre-chorus keeps on repeating in my head from time to time:

"Is the key to our survival post-human technology

Do we trust full immersion virtual reality

Vinge's 2030

The 6th Paradigm

When circuitry augments the mind

It's a double-edged sword

The Grand Singularity and A.l. autonomy

Building the superman

Building the superman"

And then, of course, we get the chorus to punctuate this train of thought: "Minus the man / Minus the man / At any cost perpetuate the post-human lifespan."

In terms of the technological themes, I am reminded of “Talking with Siri” by Arc of Life, of which Davison, Schellen, and Sherwood are members. It seems that thoughts about technology continue to persist on the brains of these musicians. On “Minus the Man,” the music itself feels triumphant, and I cannot help but tap my foot as it progresses.

4. “Leave Well Alone”

The opening notes of this Howe composition, which consists of the sections “Across the Border,” “Not for Nothing, and “Wheels,” make me think of twinkling stars. And the keyboard sounds remind me of “Bring Me To The Power” from Keys to Ascension 2. On both songs, the keys sound a bit odd, even for Yes. The shift to a quieter tone is a bit unexpected, but I do not mind these twists and turns. The lyrics and the guitar notes feel like they would be sung and played by a medieval minstrel: "Provocation of the mystics, revel in the shelter bare / Taste the virtue of nothingness, feel the motions from elsewhere / Gazing from the highest cliffs, don't venture down to the abyss, the abyss."

This song more than any other on the album makes me think of the album cover art, with its castle and cliffs evoking a medieval setting. The voices sound robotic in the second stanza, which is a bit of a stark contrast. The vocal harmonies throughout the song are very impressive. Later bits speak of sharing stories and ideas, a common theme one may recall from “Dare to Know.” There are also percussion sounds that make me wonder whether they are Schellen’s contributions. I believe I hear a xylophone, but people can correct me if I am wrong.

The last three minutes, titled “Wheels,” are completely instrumental, and sound to me like something that could have been on The Ladder. The drums are really good. In a way, this also feels like a modern “Würm.”

5. “Western Edge”

This is another composition by Davison and Sherwood. “We are one constellation” fills me with a feeling of oneness, a bit like “We Agree” from Magnification. There is an ethereal energy comparable to the atmosphere of Anderson/Stolt album Invention of Knowledge, and that is a high compliment from me.

The lyrics feel very inspired: “The celestial sea, the ocean of humanity / Know that you play a sacred part as deep as your heart can feel / And however far that you may roam you are one step from home.” All of this is a reminder that people are not always alone, and that they can carry the concept of “home” within themselves, no matter where they go. Does “one step from home” refer to online communication? Or for the heart or spiritualism one may carry within? Perhaps there are multiple ways to read into all this.

Billy’s vocals are front and center in the second stanza, and the harmonies are great. This song, more than any of the others, feels partially like material that one may find on a Sherwood solo album, or in material from other bands he’s worked within such as Circa:.

The mood of the song is uplifting, yet down to earth: “Head in the heavens yet with feet firmly on / The ground.” Downes comes in with spacey-sounding keys. Does being along the western edge refer to following the sun over the horizon? I am reminded of Alan White’s quote from the YesYears documentary about how Yes is a band that looks beyond the horizon. The proclamation “Cry out to the sky, the sky am I!” sounds so empowering. Like “Silent Talking” on Union, I am left wishing that this song were longer.

6. “Future Memories”

The guitar in beginning of this Davison composition reminds me of ballads by Asia. The lyrics sound very personal to Davison: “In the mirror of the mind projecting / All I want my life reflecting.” The words “There are shadows at play” refer to the darkness within that tries to push away. This was touched upon in the Heaven & Earth song “To Ascend” (my favorite song on that album). Sherwood sings similarly to Squire, which is very heartwarming to think about. And I am touched by the sentiment “I don’t want to make another memory / Without you.” Some desires never fade, and some dreams become phantoms. There is also a nice use of “from a higher century” as another form of saying “future memories.”

7. “Music To My Ears”

This Howe composition starts off quietly, with nice keys, but then the soundscape is fleshed out. Reaching dreams, as the lyrics suggest, can certainly be music to one’s ears. This song is another mellow one. It actually reminds me of “It Was All We Knew” from Heaven & Earth, which is also the seventh track there. These two are my least favorite tracks of their respective albums, but I think I like this one a little bit more. During the “Restless sleep” section, the guitar takes a turn that I would not normally expect from Howe. Good on him.

8. “A Living Island”

“A Living Island,” written by Davison and Downes, is another song with three sections labeled. First up is “Brave the Storm,” with mentions of geographic locations: the West Atlantic and the Windward Chain. This, along with mentions of a coral island and approaching ships, makes me think of Roger Dean’s cover art for From a Page. Speaking of which, “A Living Island” gives me a feeling akin to the closing track of that mini album, “The Gift of Love.” These are my favorite tracks of their respective releases.

“A Living Island” is another example of a song brimming with sincerity that gives me hope. It’s heartwarming to hear Davison sing “There's no one with whom l'd rather brave the storm than you / You're my heart, you're my home.” Certain musical sounds very much feel like island music. There is also the question, “Is this a paradise or a prison?” Of course, this refers to lockdown. How many of us have experienced the mental turmoil of that?

The “Wake Up” section feels like a spiritual awakening. And again, I am reminded of how “The Gift of Love” called back to the line “From the moment of awakening” from “To the Moment.” Before the lyrics of this section are sung, the music makes me think of people transcending alongside Mother Nature as the world begins to heal. The vocal harmonies are very rich.

The final section, “We Will Remember,” has a theme from “Love Among the Ruins,” the opening track from Downes Braide Association album Halcyon Hymns, released earlier this year. The music sounds very triumphant as Yes pay tribute to “the frontline saviors” and those “with sad spirits / Who mourn dear ones now gone.” This is a song born out of the pandemic, reminding us to honor those using science to help us and remember those whom we have lost during these turbulent times. It is fitting that the band’s name appears in the closing lines:

"Yes, each courageous story will be told

As deeply we hold

Hold them in the highest honor

In our hearts love


9. “Sister Sleeping Soul”

The remaining three tracks are on the second CD, despite the fact the first CD has enough room that they could have occupied. The Davison and Howe composition “Sister Sleeping Soul” starts off with strong guitar notes. I wonder whom this is about, as it feels like another personal one for Davison. Possibly a fallout between two close people? Upon further listens, I start to wonder if it is someone who may have passed away. What is certain is that, during youthful years, there was this feeling of invincibility. Who among us has not felt that early on? There is a keyboard bit that reminds me of “Hour of Need” from Fly from Here. Out of the three bonus tracks, I think this track could have fit pretty well with the “main album” material. Perhaps between “Future Memories” and “Music to My Ears.”

10. “Mystery Tour”

“Mystery Tour,” written by Howe, is quite obviously a Beatles tribute song. Yes fans already know the band covered “Every Little Thing” on their first album and that White performed on John Lennon’s Imagine and George Harrison’s All Things Must Past. “Mystery Tour” feels out of place compared to other songs on The Quest. It is silly, but catchy fun. In fact, it is not as silly as I expected it to be. It does a fine job paying homage to The Beatles sound as it includes names important to the mythology of that band. I do wish that Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe could have been mentioned. But overall, it is a harmless tune that may get stuck in one’s head, and even encourage one to try and learn the lyrics by heart.

11. “Damaged World”

This Howe composition has a somewhat heavy keyboard presence in the beginning, complementing Howe’s guitar notes. Howe’s vocals are prominent, and this is honestly the only song on the album that makes me think of Steve Howe solo albums. I prefer the Howe-sung “Don’t Take No for an Answer” from Fly from Here: Return Trip, but there is still a message to think about.

"Not every story can really be told

So often there's more to unfold

About the times that shadows fall

It's now we heed, we heed the call"

Once again, we are reminded of the act of sharing stories, and that the world needs to be healed. While I disagree with the decision to make this the final track, it gels well with the themes recurring throughout the album. I am split on whether or not it would have fit between certain tracks on the “main album” content. But if it had to remain on this bonus disc with these other two songs, I would have had “Sister Sleeping Soul” and “Damaged World” swapped in the tracking order.


As readers can probably tell, I really enjoyed this album. It may not have as much of that “heaviness” or “hard edge” that people are looking for instrumentally. But at the end of the day, I want Yes music to say something, and to inspire. People talk about how they love the positive messages of Yes music, and The Quest has that in spades. There is plenty of content that makes me feel hopeful. Heaven & Earth had some of that, but The Quest conveys it better overall. The Quest feels like a bridge (Ice bridge?) between Heaven & Earth and From a Page in some ways. And I would consider it almost on par with The Ladder, though that may mean something different depending on the listener. The Quest will not please everyone, but it speaks to me, and I choose to appreciate what it has to offer.

album reviews

About the Creator

Steven Shinder

Author of fantasy horror comedy novel Lemons Loom Like Rain, which is available on Amazon. You can also read excerpts at and check out

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