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Geoff Downes Helps Yes ‘Fly’ High With New Album

Geoff Downes
Frontiers Records

After packing concert halls over the past few years with a successful reunion of the band Asia, founding member Geoff Downes packed up his numerous keyboards to help Yes make their best album in years – despite the absence of original lead vocalist Jon Anderson.

Downes has helped the band through non-Anderson times before, as a member of the 1980 ‘Drama’-era lineup of the group. But while that album represented somewhat of a departure from the familiar sound, their latest, ‘Fly From Here’, captures perfectly that quintessential feeling of Yes.

The lengthy title track was actually written during the ‘Drama’ period, and Downes says that it was that music which kick-started his current return to the group, along with the presence of his former Buggles bandmate Trevor Horn, who produced the sessions.

“I think that was one of the reasons Chris Squire got Trevor involved [with the new album]. He always thought that song maybe should have been included [on ‘Drama’]. So I think when the opportunity to record a new Yes album came up, everybody felt it was a good time to review that song.”

In the ’80s, Downes had one of the most impressive arsenals of toys around, setting a Guinness World Record for having 28 keyboards on stage at one time. As a collector, he got an unexpected challenge when an Asia associate built him a podium to house his keyboards. “It was so big, I thought I better fill it up with some stuff.”

With that keyboard rig filled up, Downes says that an Asia Japanese MTV concert special gave him the opportunity to play at least a few bars on each one during the course of the show – all 28 of them!

Currently, he’s carrying 10 keyboards in his travels with Yes – still an impressive number – and he says that ‘Fly From Here’ is only the beginning of his renewed work with the band.

“I think the ‘Fly From Here’ album is the start of a new chapter. It’s the first album Benoit has been the vocalist on. I feel Yes is still very much an active band, and I think we look forward to doing more stuff in the future.”

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