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

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

Anderson Ponty Band

 

Crossover Prog

3.66 | 37 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Fans can grumble, but let's face it: being ousted from his own band was one of the best things ever to happen to Jon Anderson. No longer yoked to the burden of his legacy with YES, the singer can now move at a pace and in a direction of his own choosing, maintaining his youthful vigor at age 71 through a healthy program of creative collaboration, in this case with kindred spirit and fellow '70s veteran Jean Luc Ponty.

It's a good match of complimentary talents, balancing Anderson's aerie-faery New Age optimism against Ponty's soaring electric violin. The backing tracks for the duo's first album (and possibly last, given Anderson's many other commitments) were captured live on stage, with post-dubbed studio enhancements adding occasional production overkill, most obviously in the syrupy synth "Intro", an arena-rock echo of the old Yes chestnut "And You And I".

Recording the bulk of the album in concert was an expedient way to jump-start a long-delayed project, and helped preserve the performance synergy often lost in Prog Rock's too carefully assembled multi-track studio sessions. The set-list also saved time by leaning hard on pre-existing Yes and Ponty repertoire, the latter unfamiliar to this lapsed fan and the former re-imagined in radical new arrangements, something Anderson's ex-band should have tried years ago.

Old-school Progheads might wince at hearing a reggae-lite "Time and a Word", but the update refreshes (for better or worse) a song now frayed around the edges after almost half a century. Likewise, a faithful but newly energized "Roundabout" shakes a few cobwebs off an oldie grown stale from over-exposure. And Ponty's graceful bowing vastly improves the '80s pop bombast of "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (which I still can't bring myself acknowledge as a Yessong).

Okay, so maybe Anderson hasn't shrugged the mantle of classic Yes entirely off his shoulders yet. But he's wearing it lightly, and with no obligation. Like them or not, at least he isn't playing the old tunes by rote. The only misfire is an unaccountably clumsy "Wonderous Stories", sung in the fashion of an amateur lounge lizard with two left feet.

The Ponty material, perhaps because it's new to these ears, gives the album its highlights, in particular the irresistibly upbeat groove of "Soul Eternal" and the gorgeous "Renaissance of the Sun". I only wish Anderson's typically fey lyrics, forced onto the music in retrospect, showed more of the arcane, inscrutable poetry of his songwriting from the 1970s.

Don't expect to be challenged by anything here. At best it's an album of comfortable middlebrow Prog, gently-used but still enjoyable. The music may have all the nutritional value (and sweet appeal) of marshmallow fluff, but it's hard not to respond to the uncomplicated joy of such a compatible partnership.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |

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