Morbid curiosity is, really, all that can be felt from realising Yes are still going. Their excellence elsewhere does not shore up whatever happened on Cut from the Stars, but hearing they are still shifting their tones and styles and releasing them is quite the shock. Is this Yes? No. Not particularly. Cut from the Stars does not feel like a Yes album. Agonising and shocking. Jon Davison takes himself a few pitches too high on this space-age prog-rock track. When in doubt, progressive rock will take itself either to Norse mythology as Jethro Tull have, or to the outskirts of space and travel. There is no in between and at least Yes has picked a lane with Cut from the Stars. It is the wrong lane, a disinterested and asinine release.
Symphonic this is not. It appears Yes is infatuated with the stars and life beyond this world. It is a shame this track was not packaged up, masters and all, and launched into the stratosphere. Right toward that burning song, the southern sky that Yes is content on laying unimaginative, high-strung instrumentals over. Flickers of decent bass work come through but are of little effect. Yes? No. Everything that could go right for Cut from the Stars is horribly absent and in its place is the corpse of a prog rock band. Beating the notoriety right out of it, letting the cash flow as it dries into a trickle, what is left of Yes is nothing at all. Steve Howe holds it all together more for his own sake than the rest of his living bandmates who have, noticeably, not returned.
Who would want to return when this is what Yes now do? “So confused and careless / In desperate need of awareness” flows with irony and not the sort that is fun to mock. It just feels a bit sad. A little pathetic at times. Oleg Kondratenko is tasked with producing an orchestral feel but not a second of Cut from the Stars has any sense of depth or instrumentation that stretches beyond Howe laying down palatable licks. Instead, the organs and bass produce a sound that feels like menu music to a forgotten platformer from two decades ago. Davison is not a competent lead vocalist here, his pitch and tone are pushed higher and higher. Not out of necessity, but presumably to see just how high it can actually go. Too high. His vocals sound strained.
But much of the song sounds strained too. Cut from the Stars is certainly a new step for Yes, in the sense that this is not Yes. None of the founding members are there and although Howe was around for The Yes Album, his pursuit of what makes Yes a band is fascinating and ill-advised. Cut from the Stars is not a Yes song. It is the equivalent of asking The Beatles to reform but getting wholly new members aside from the tea lady who would fix the lads some scran at Abbey Road Studios. She would do a super job for Yes though; a masterclass mix from people who were there in the moment but not an instrumental part of proceedings. Continuing the Yes name without the original members is a bold move, but hearing the result, it is also a horrific, poorly planned one.