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Jon Anderson - Olias Of Sunhillow CD (album) cover

OLIAS OF SUNHILLOW

Jon Anderson

 

Prog Related

3.95 | 407 ratings

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Psychedelic Paul
5 stars JON ANDERSON needs no introduction, but the longstanding frontman of YES deserves an introduction anyway, so here goes..... He was born in Accrington, Lancashire in 1944. Anderson was a member of his brother's band, The Warriors, during the mid-1960's and he joined YES bassist Chris Squire's band, Mabel Greer's Toyshop in 1968. They changed the name of the band to YES later that same year. He was the lead vocalist on all but one of the YES albums from the first self-titled album in 1969, through to the "Magnification" album in 2001. The only exception was the 1980 "Drama" album which featured Trevor Horn on vocal duties. Jon Anderson was also the frontman on the "Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe" album, a YES album in all but name. He had a long-lasting musical partnership with Vangelis, recording four sophisticated albums of Electronica together as Jon & Vangelis:- "Short Stories" (1980); "The Friends of Mr Cairo" (1981); "Private Collection" (1983); & "Page of Life" (1991). He joined with fellow YES member Rick Wakeman in 2010 to record "The Living Tree" album. Jon Anderson's most recent collaboration was the "Better Late Than Never" (2015) album with Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings. This album, "Olias of Sunhillow" (1976), is the first of Jon's fifteen solo albums, with his latest album "1000 Hands: Chapter One", released as recently as 2019. His second album "Song of Seven" (1980) is also in the progressive mould, before he branched out into other avenues of music, such as regular Pop/Rock and New Age albums. "Olias of Sunhillow" is a concept album, recorded at a time when the concept album was King in the weird and wonderful world of Progressive Rock. The album tells the story of an alien race looking for a new world to colonise, following the destruction of their home planet in a volcanic catastrophe. Jon Anderson wrote all of the music and lyrics, and played all of the musical instruments featured on the album, so this really IS a solo album, in the true sense of the word. Let's don the flares, Afghan coat and platform shoes now as we travel back in time to those halcyon Prog-Rock days of the mid 1970's.

The album opens in dramatic style with the the sound of rumbling waves in the instrumental "Ocean Song". We then hear the exotic sound of a synth, which somehow conjures up images of the mystical East with its oriental vibe. This acts as a prelude to "Meeting (Garden Of Geda)", a buoyant and uplifting song that sounds like a more melodic and harmonic version of YES. The lyrics tell a story of a spacecraft embarking on a journey to escape a doomed planet:- "There stands Olias to outward to build a ship, Holding within all hope we retain, The frame will be so built to challenge the universe." ..... This is "YES lite" without the constant changes of tempo, sudden key changes and crashing chords that we've become so accustomed to over the years from classic YESSONGS. The "Olias of Sunhillow" album is still very much in Progressive Rock territory, but it's gentle and melodic Prog-Rock with a New Age oriental feel to it. Our journey across the universe continues now with "Dance Of Raynart, a beautiful instrumental number, featuring the gentle sound of a harp combined with mesmerizing keyboards. This leads us into "Olias (To Build the Moonglade), a passionately uplifting song full of optimism, as the alien colonists begin building their spaceship. Onwards now to the mysteriously titled 7-minute-long, three-piece suite,"Qoquaq ?n Transic"/"Naon"/"Transic Tö". It's a gorgeous-sounding oriental instumental, opening to the sound of gently melodic swirling synths. This transposes into "Naon", a bright and breezy happy-clappy New Age chant, before returning to the redolent sound of the oriental synth in "Transic To". Our space colonists now embark on their journey across the universe with "Flight of the Moorglade", to close out Side One. This is an ebullient and uplifting song which is positively aglow with optimistic exuberance. Just take a look at these inspiring lyrics:- "The first to venture, First to gain, Exploring daylight, Clearer than the Talloplanic view." ..... No idea what the "Talloplanic view" is, but it sounds good and the joyfully intoxicating music is guaranteed to put you in jubilant mood and high spirits, without the aid of any alcoholic beverages.

We enter "Solid Space" now with the opening of Side Two. We're in full Symphonic Prog mode here with this rousing and restorative piece of music. It's a surging, tympanic and superlative song, bursting with glorious optimism. Okay, that's enough adjectives for now, so onwards we travel through space to "Moon Ra"/"Chords"/"Song of Search". Yes, it's another three-piece suite (no, not two armchairs & a sofa). "Moon Ra" is another New Age chant. If we weren't travelling through space, then this is the kind of jolly and vibrant song you might hear New Age revellers chanting as they dance around a tree (possibly naked) by the light of a silvery moon. This leads us onto "Chords", which, not surprisingly, is a song full of bright and uplifting, reverberating major chords to elevate the spirits up into the stratosphere and beyond. The three-piece suite concludes with "Song of Search", a hauntingly atmospheric piece of instrumental music to transport you to a higher plane of musical existence. This is soothing and sophisticated melodic prog that reaches the places that other prog-rock albums can only aspire to. We drift gently back to Earth now with the closing song on the album, "To the Runner", a joyous and jubilant hymnal melody. The music is all aglow with some positively inspirational and spiritual vibes. If only they played music in church as good as this, it might be enough to turn an atheist into a religious devotee!

You don't HAVE to be a YES fan to enjoy this album, because "Olias of Sunhillow" is a gently melodic and harmonic departure from the sound of YES, but if you ARE a fan of YES, then the familiar sound of Jon Anderson's voice may be enough to inspire you to go out and buy the album. It's still Progressive Rock, but it's Prog-Rock given a New Age oriental twist, in true Jon Anderson style. If I could choose just one word to describe the beautiful music contained within this marvellous album, it's Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

Psychedelic Paul | 5/5 |

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