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Jon Anderson - Toltec  CD (album) cover

TOLTEC

Jon Anderson

 

Prog Related

3.46 | 50 ratings

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lazland
Prog Reviewer
4 stars In advance of the new album coming out very shortly, and having purchased the new Yes album this week, I move to a review of one of my favourite Jon Anderson solo albums, Toltec. Released in 1996, this finds the great man very much in his spiritual zone, meaning, of course, virtually incomprehensible lyrics and reflections on personal and societal spirituality, this time in collaboration with one of his greatest influences, Longwalker, a native American. It also continues a theme of sounds taken from around the world, which was becoming quite strong in his music at the time.

To achieve this musical theme, he recruits a plethora of musicians, none of whom I had, or have since, heard of, with the exception of his daughter, Deborah, who has almost as lovely voice as her father and who has had a modicum of success in her own right.

Following Longwalker's introduction to the story he and Anderson tell, that of Toltec, a group of people who are "creators of the circles of power" & etc., the album proper moves into one of the most lovely creations of his esteemed career, Talk Talk. The vocals are sublime, and the accompanying music can only be described as symphonic world music. Deborah backs him beautifully on these two tracks, the music is simple in its complexity, and Anderson returns to what he is best at; using his voice as a living, breathing, instrument in its own right.

The mid section of the album features an eclectic mix of accordian, Longwalker musings, lovely choral effects sung in native dialects, wonderful saxophone by Paul Haney, led all along by Anderson himself directing the musical symphony.

Many people seem to have compared this to Peter Gabriel's masterpiece, Passion, itself probably the Godfather of all fusion of world and Western based rock. Actually, they are world's apart in terms of composition and texture. Gabriel's album tells a well known story without words, obviously because it was originally designed as a soundtrack to Scorsese's own masterpiece film, The Last Temptation of Christ.

This album is a soundscape of words, teachings, and a musical accompaniment, and it is also distinctly lighter in tone. Do not assume that if you like Passion, you will like this. However, I can say with certainty that if you like Anderson releases such as Olias of Sunhillow and Angels Embrace (passages of this album are very similar in musical texture, particularly Enter Ye The Mystery School), together with the excellent Yes release The Ladder (recorded three years later), then you will certainly enjoy this.

It does sag in parts, particularly on passages such as Leap Into The Inconceivable, where Otmaro Ruiz attempts to be something he is not, namely Rick Wakeman, and Building Bridges, which is too sparse for its own good. They are not bad, as such, just out of place with the rest of what is here. However, this is rather a minor gripe. Listen to the most exquisite vocal harmonies accompanied by harp on Song Of Home, and you instantly forget all of your troubles, and are transported to another place. No bad thing, is it?

This album is not a masterpiece, by any stretch of the imagination. Only those who can bear to hear Longwalker pontificate for over two minutes accompanied by a triangle (I kid you not) could possibly describe it thus. What it is, though, is an exceptionally enjoyable album which deserves to be listened to as a whole work, one in which you lose yourself for the best part of three quarters of an hour, immersed in the wonders of the greatest voice to walk this earth.

Anderson's solo career is a mixed bag. This, however, comes highly recommended. Four stars, an excellent addition to any prog rock collection.

lazland | 4/5 |

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