'I'm not just this tribute singer': Long-time fan Jon Davison thrilled to put his stamp on Yes

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Jon Davison says he got tremendously positive feedback from Yes fans during a summer tour, with many praising him for echoing the band’s past triumphs even as Davison makes his own distinctive contributions.

Davison, a long-time Yes fan, was best known previous to joining co-founding bassist Chris Squire and Co. as the newly installed frontman of the Chattanooga, Tennessee-based prog rock group Glass Hammer. He’d appeared on a pair of their albums, including If from 2010 and Cor Cordium from 2011, when Yes’ former singer Benoit David fell ill earlier this year. David had taken over for co-founding original lead singer Jon Anderson in 2008.

Davison made a point of saying, even as news broke of his new role within Yes, that he planned to continue as a member of Glass Hammer — and the group, in fact, is preparing a new album for release. Meanwhile, Yes’ tour of the U.S. recently wrapped, with a growing legion of positive notices for Davison.

That started with Squire, who told Something Else! Reviews that the band’s first round of dates with Davison were “fabulous,” and that their new lead singer “owns that role.”

For Davison, speaking to Gene DellaSala of Audioholics, input from the fans is even more important.

“I’m just getting honest feedback at these meet and greets we do after the show where I talk to 40, sometimes 50 individuals and the general consensus is I’m offering all that is necessary for Yes,” Davison says. “I’m living up to how the music should sound. I’m living up to Jon Anderson, but I’m also giving something of myself. There’s a balance between, OK, this guy is obviously doing the parts, he’s hitting the notes, but he’s giving something of himself too. I’m not just this tribute singer.”

Squire also confirmed to us that he intends to take Davison back into the studio for Yes’ next album project — something that will further cement his contributions to the Yes legacy.

“The audience are telling me they’re sensing it, the band is sounding better than they have in years,” Davison told DellaSala. “I’m not putting Benoit down or anything, I think he did an excellent job. But I think I have such a hard connection with the music as a true fan and the other fans are sensing that and sharing with me after the shows that they might feel. Like, ‘I was upset that Jon Anderson wasn’t singing, and I was hesitant to come, but I’m so glad I came. You’re doing it, I have the goose bumps and you’re giving me the Yes experience’ — and that’s great to hear, because I’m doing it for all of us (Yes fans).”

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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Yes. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

YES – FLY FROM HERE (2011): This album is, in many ways, better than it has any right to be. The band even attempts something it hadn’t in decades — a multi-part thematic suite, and to great effect. As always, bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White are compact and versatile, expertly facilitating complicated journeys like “Fly From Here Part III: Madman at the Screens,” which switches back and forth from a crunchy stomp to soaring ambiance. And the new singer acquits himself well.

ONE TRACK MIND: YES CO-FOUNDER CHRIS SQUIRE ON “FLY FROM HERE,” “LIFE WITHIN A DAY,” “TEMPUS FUGIT,” OTHERS: Find out what sparked Yes to return to the long-form compositional style of its glory years on 2011’s Fly From Here, and how a failed early 1980s project with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page ultimately led to the inclusion a Squire-sung track on 2001’s Magnification. Squire also talks about the difficulties of returning to music in concert from the underrated Drama album, and how he came to work with Genesis alum Steve Hackett as part of the newly christened Squackett project.

YES – IN THE PRESENT: LIVE FROM LYON (2011): There was at least one benefit to the departure of Jon Anderson from Yes in 2008: The presence of new lead singer Benoit David immediately opened the door for a rewrite of what had become a very rote setlist. David handles things as well as can be expected on the big Anderson-sung hits here — and that’s really all Chris Squire and Co. were looking for, I suppose. You get a broader sense of what he brings to Yes as it stood then, however, on a churning, metallic fever dream like “Machine Messiah.”

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: YES: We dig back into deep cuts and favorites from Fragile, Relayer, Drama, and 90125 — including “South Side of the Sky,” highlighted by “Chris Squire’s gurgling bassline. Listen closely: Bill Bruford is also mesmerizing behind the drums. It seems simple but it gathers steam as the song wears on, packing in more twists and turns than seems necessary and yet seems perfectly sensible. Rick Wakeman compliments all of this with organ and, in the breakdown, a beautifully elegant piano line. On top of it all, Jon Anderson’s airy vocals narrate a polar expedition gone tragically wrong.”

Something Else!

Something Else!

The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
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