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Jon Anderson - Anderson / Wakeman: The Living Tree CD (album) cover


Jon Anderson


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3.42 | 91 ratings

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4 stars Jon Anderson told me that "time and space don't really matter if you're connected on a spiritual level", offering up the creative process for his new album with Rick Wakeman "THE LIVING TREE" as an example. Rick would write and perform a piece of music and then transmit it across the ocean to Jon electronically. While listening to it, Jon would improvise melodies and lyrics, sometimes many times repeatedly over the course of days, until he came across ideas that captured his imagination. At times, Jon even had to analyze the very meaning of his own lyrics, later going on to sculpt, fine-tune and focus them into more meaningfully coherent songs.

As you know, this "stream of consciousness" process of music creation is nothing new to Jon Anderson. On the contrary, it is strikingly similar to how he and Rick worked together to create the gentle, meditative ABWH song "The Meeting". Jon's "you play something on keyboard and I'll just start singing" approach to songwriting traces its roots all the way back to his work with Vangelis in the 1970's. The very fact that he and Rick could so effectively accomplish such a synergistic end result across thousands of miles without as much as the opportunity to improvise together in 'real-time' within a studio, however, does lend credence to his claim of at least a musical connection (if not a spiritual one) between the two Yes alumni.

Perhaps the most significant "new" development in Jon's music is the relative candor with which he now sings and speaks. "As you get older, you get more finite about what you sing. The joy of life. Don't be afraid. Let the children learn to love themselves unconditionally." Admittedly, these topics aren't new at all for Jon. But they shine through with greater clarity than ever before on "THE LIVING TREE".

Jon has often been accused of wearing "rose colored glasses". If that is true, on "The Living Tree", critics must now at least concede that he doesn't shy away from a few thorny topics here and there. "Morning Star" speaks about times of struggle, doubt and spiritual searching. "23/24/11" explores the suffering and pain revolving around war. Rather than dilute the impact of his ever-hopeful world-view, such explicit acknowledgements of pain and struggle serve to make it all the more powerful by demonstrating its compatibility and resilience in the face of stark, palpable realism.

Jon went on to tell me that he believes "we live in an over-energized advertising world" which distracts us from love and from spiritual matters... "and it's totally wrong of course, it's just to sell stuff. Pretty soon, you just have to sing about it!"

Strictly speaking, this is not a progressive rock CD. It is (instead) a gentle, delicate collection of heart-felt and meditative songs. Jon's vocals are not highly processed, produced or auto-tuned in the least. If anything, they are sometimes raw and even a little bit rough around the edges, contributing a very personal, intimate atmosphere to the album. Rough around the edges or not, his unique vocal style remains as instantly recognizable and inimitable as his singular personality is resilient and spiritual.

progpositivity | 4/5 |


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