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Anderson Ponty Band - Better Late Than Never CD (album) cover


Anderson Ponty Band


Crossover Prog

3.67 | 57 ratings

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4 stars 'Better Late than Never'! Right! The idea for Yes frontman Jon Anderson to team up with violinist extraordinaire Jean-Luc Ponty is not as farfetched as one may be led to believe as the conditions were nicely tabled already 30 years ago, as Jon searched for new artistic vehicles beyond Yes, such as the Jon & Vangelis project as well as his solo albums and countless cameo appearances. Ponty is rightly idolized for a series of 70-80s albums that are still among the finest jazz-rock albums ever recorded, masterpieces like 'Imaginary Voyage', 'Enigmatic Ocean', 'Cosmic Messenger' and 'Mystical Adventures' that continue to evoke massive fan applause. Though both are serious seniors who probably hooked up in LA as it was home for both artists, their undisputed talent remains vibrant but on hold, so the union finally happened in 2015. The fact that one of Ponty's finest outfits (Jamie Glaser, Rayford Griffin and Baron Browne) are on board, only increased the expectations. With such luminary instrumentalists, one could expect some interesting reworking from both catalogs and they certainly do not disappoint. They have decided rather smartly to add vocals to the Ponty pieces and rework the Yes tracks by giving the violin the main spotlight. A smart and judicious move.

The deliriously catchy 'One in the Rhythm of Hope ' wastes little time to infect the soul as well as the fine-tuned listeners ear , buoyed by a chugging pace with exuberant melodies and a warm Anderson bellow that convinces from the get-go. Ponty delivers a shredding solo on his prized instrument.

The celestial and brief 'A for Aria' has an almost Jon & Vangelis-like lilt with sweeping synths and Jon's beatific plea, allied to Jean-Luc's plaintive twirl adding emotional support, laying the platform for the classic Yes 'hit' that some purists may choose to despise, 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' is still fun, though in all fairness it's a 'pure' pop tune that is hard to rework other than giving the violin room to cajole and seduce. Hey, if you want, you can press skip but what for? Rayford actually does a few slick thuds and JL's solo is superb, erasing some of that commercial sheen that marked the original. Jon is in fine voice as this is no easy song to belt out. 'Listening with Me' is a retooled Ponty tune, with its typical sweeping organ carpeting, over which the violin swerves, soars and dives with impunity. Smooth and slick jazz-rock of the finest pedigree.

'Time and Word' is given a totally Bob Marley make-over, 'spliffing' a reggae shuffle, sunny violin that meows and recognizable lyrics from famous rock songs of the past , a party 'time classic for sure. Guitarist Jamie Glaser spits out a stinging guitar solo from nowhere that really smokes (pardon the pun). The still very tropical 'Infinite Mirage' is a JL Ponty instrumental classic ('Mirage') that has been tailored with a new suit, a vocal presentation that does it justice while seeking out new meandering horizons for the arrangement to develop. Very urban cool and smooth as silk. 'Soul Eternal' continues the bright disposition with its insistent and exuberant violin foray toying with Wally Minko's choppy organ and Jon's easy scat singing, comfortable with the new-age message he provides with such ease and conviction. His lung capacity remains quite unbelievable.

A couple of Yes classics will alter the sonic landscape only so slightly, 'Wondrous Stories' with its beautiful piano introduction is pure magic, the acoustic guitar rippling through with fluid grace and of course Jon telling his wondrous story, violin in tow, jazz scat singing right behind. Simple and beautiful. 'And You & I' is equally reshaped with great facility, elegant piano in lieu of slippery synthesizers, creating a mellow, lounge mood that works just fine.

The Ponty jazz-rock excellence reappears on the thrilling violin-led 'Renaissance of the Sun', a tour de force that has the French-Californian doing some miraculous things to his seductive instrument, piano again in alliance , a retooling of the Aurora album classic 'Renaissance', complete with audience 'oohs and aahs' and smoother than velvet piano work from the stellar Wally Minko. This is the longest and proggiest piece her, clocking in over 6 minutes and creating a mood of mesmerized restraint and moving brilliance that just oozes with class and distinction.

'Roundabout' is classic Yes' most recognizable song and in my opinion, cannot be improved over the original as it had too many detailed moments of genius such as Howe's guitar ripple and Squire's monstrous rumble. In fact, the live version has bassist Baron Browne doing a sensational intro on his 5 string bass guitar that will shock your mind, check it out on youtube, bloody ridiculous and really cooks way more than this subdued studio version. While we are at it, his solo on 'Egocentric Molecules', renamed 'Re-Rembering Molecules' is another live show-stopper.

Two short but sweet ditties finish off this remarkable album, the sleek 'I See You Messenger' and the grandiose finale 'New New World', a positive, up-beat and convincing wink of persuasion. In my opinion, this is a project totally worth pursuing, now that their respective credentials have been established both on record, DVD and live in concert, perhaps these two giant icons can now create some new material that will shine a bright light on the future.

4.5 cat skin affirmatives

tszirmay | 4/5 |


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