The Quest is a significant album in Yes' storied career for several reasons, perhaps most notably that it’s the first not to feature bassist and founding member Chris Squire (who tragically passed away at the age of 67 in 2015). In fact, it is the first Yes album to not feature any of the original members from their 1969 self-titled debut.
That is not to say that the entire band is new, as some members have been present for a very long time. Drummer Alan White joined the band in 1972, and keyboardist Geoff Downes has been a member of Yes since 1980. Guitarist Steve Howe joined in 1970, while bassist Billy Sheppard joined as a second guitarist 1999. Finally, vocalist Jon Davison has been performing with the band since 2012.
The Quest has every trademark of classic Yes, yet it does not feel like a step back. It feels like a live recording, despite the fact that the band members were split between California and the U.K. during the recording sessions. These songs will certainly translate well to the live stage.
It wouldn’t be a progressive rock album without an epic multi-part suite, and The Quest features three of these in the opening track, “The Ice Bridge,” as well as “Leave Well Alone” and “A Living Island.” Lyrically, in all three songs, the band observes the current state of the world with an optimistic sense of hope. This has always been the case for Yes, the idea of not turning a blind eye but also not giving up.
The album ends with two very different-sounding songs for the band. “Mystery Tour” is a heartfelt and beautiful tribute to The Beatles. It’s fitting, since the band covered “What You’re Doing” on their 1969 debut album and Alan White was the first drummer for John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band. The final song, “Damaged World,” features Howe sharing vocal duties with Davison. It is an optimistic plea for the world and a wonderful way to end the album.
Though the album is available in a multitude of formats such as compact disc and vinyl, immersive music fans will likely be most interested in the limited edition 2CD/Blu-Ray Artbook. Whereas Steven Wilson handled the 5.1 remixes of Yes’ classic ‘70s output, the band enlisted Curtis Schwartz to create the 5.1 surround mix of The Quest.
On many tracks, the listener is able to clearly pick out Howe’s trademark guitar or an incredible keyboard line from Downes amongst the dense arrangement. Davison’s voice comes across beautifully and the end result is a somewhat different take of the album. For my money, I prefer the warmer tonality and center-of-the-band perspective that the 5.1 mix provides
The Quest is a wonderful return to form for Yes. They’ve successfully utilized new technology and 5.1 surround sound to great effect, while also maintaining all the production elements that makes their sound so recognizable and iconic with. A remarkable achievement from a brilliant band.