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

THE LIVING TREE (ANDERSON/WAKEMAN)

Jon Anderson

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thehallway
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The Living Tree is Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman's debut album together, consisting of a simplistic combination of little more than piano and vocals. However, this instrumentation doesn't become in any way tedious over the course of the album; the music is soft, emotional and interesting throughout, standing up on its own two feet without the need for any further musicians. Wakeman adds expressive tone colour with various synths, strings and flute sounds, but the lyrics and chords are the main point of interest.

The calming, light melody of the title track sets the tone for the rest of the album, and it reprises itself mid-way through, which I like. Sometimes splitting up songs can be an exercise in futility, but there is a natural flow to this style of music that would be spoilt by anything + 6 minutes. 'Morning Star' is contrastingly energetic, with almost groovy piano and some nice vocal harmonies from Jon (I think this may be the one song where he plays guitar too). Already the duo prove that they can create varying moods and rhythms despite the lack of a band, and I eagerly await a similar verdict from a certain progressive rock group that is misisng two members... 'Anyway and Always' and 'Forever' are more examples of Jon's amazingly memorable melodies, while the slower 'House of Freedom' is perhaps the best demonstration of Rick's delicate but beautiful playing style that dominates this record (and indeed, a lot of his solo works).

Overall, this package is welcomingly devoid of filler, although a couple of songs' ideas seem to outstay their welcome somewhat. It's also very nicely produced, apart from Jon's vocals on the final track that sound a little weird. And as Wakeman himself said, the nine songs here are very high-quality compositions chosen from a much larger catalogue, and on probably six-seven of them, it really shows. I'm only sad that the pair didn't include some of the rearranged Yes tracks that they showcased on their accompanying tour; a future release of these would be welcome!

The Living Tree is a repeatably listenable album full of warm and charming music. It may not seem so significant at first, but there is a special chemistry between Jon and Rick that transcends many of their respective solo efforts. It lags in places, and of course there's nothing of the epic, progressive sort, but careful crafting and disposal of filler can go a long way.

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Send comments to thehallway (BETA) | Report this review (#307809)
Posted Monday, November 01, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars After I heard that Jon Anderson quit Yes -at least for now- The living tree was a pleasant surprise. It's basically a two men mission, made of songs with acoustic piano, new age keyboard layers and subtle string arrangements. The songs are in the vein of Madrigal (Going for the one), The meeting (ABWH), Time and a word (Keys to ascension version) and Soft as a dove (Magnification), to name a few. So if you like the softer side of Yes, you'll find plenty of things to enjoy in this quiet album. Highlights: Morning star, House of freedom, Living tree part 2, Anyway and Always, Garden. A solid 4 stars.

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Send comments to martinbertone (BETA) | Report this review (#333764)
Posted Thursday, November 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Living Tree is basically Jon Anderson singing gently about things of life and light with Wakeman's soothing piano in the background. There is actually very little guitar and no percussion, so the songs have more of a flowing feel to them. While the album is very peaceful, it is by no means boring or wandering. There is nothing musically challenging or tedious about it, and it makes for a refreshing listen. The lyrics, along with the music, succeed at being calm but always moving forward and not feeling repetitive. Really a phenomenal and down-to earth album. Highly recommended, especially for fans of Jon.

Rating: 7/10

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Send comments to Earendil (BETA) | Report this review (#335201)
Posted Friday, November 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is a new project by the two stalwarts of Yes who are no longer with the band, one by choice due to ill health, the other shrouded in mystery to be honest.

For those who expect re runs of Heart Of The Sunrise and all, then please prepare yourself for a disappointment. This is more akin to the gorgeous track The Meeting from Anderson Bruford Wakeman & Howe's album. Basically, Rick on piano and very light symphonic synths (utilised to great effect on the wonderful House Of Freedom), and Jon singing about the issues he has always sung about.

The best word that can be used to describe this is pleasant, and I mean that as a compliment, not an insult. It is the perfect album when you merely wish to sit down, chill, relax, and let your mind wander around with the sound of two masters without necessarily having to actually doing any thinking or analysis of the music. Ambient, then, to the point of lying horizontal.

There is not one bum track on this. What the pair of them do, they do very well. Neither, however, is there one track which you could single out as being a masterpiece. Even though I regard the new Yes lineup with horror in the absence of Jon especially, there is nothing on this which will have their erstwhile colleagues recoiling in horror at the prospect of matching it with the promised album in 2011.

Such, however, was not its intent. This album, recorded over internet discussions and exchanges between the two, was released to coincide with the second round of excellent acoustic tours recently ended, and, as I say, they do it very well, and, at the end of the day, neither has anything left to prove and they indulge themselves totally to produce a non essential, but extremely pleasant work.

On the basis of my comments, I can only award this three stars, which means it is a good album, but absolutely non essential.

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Send comments to lazland (BETA) | Report this review (#349840)
Posted Saturday, December 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars What an incredible journey Anderson and Wakeman take us on with this latest offering from the Yes legends.

This album is so intimate, personal and beautiful, it is actually deeply moving to hear Anderson and Wakeman together again. The soft vocals of Anderson are balanced with the serene tranquil tones of Wakeman, who is very restrained and subtle focussing on grand piano and sustained strings on keyboard. There are no drums, no bass, it is all keyboards and multilayered vocals. It is quite a melancholy experience listening to the sad tones and reflective nuances throughout. Anderson has been quite unwell so to hear him do what he is best at, after being replaced with inferior Benoit in Yes, is a truly uplifting journey. It takes a while to tune into this isolated stark musicscape that the duo creates, but it is worth the effort. The melodies are infectious and there are proggish moments. The music is an easy listening style, not a hint of rock or abrasiveness in the music. The musicianship is unaffected by bombastic Yes-ness, instead Wakeman compliments the vocals with unabashed class.

Each song is moving in its own way, none stand out in particular though I can mention I am really fond of Morning Star, and Anyway And Always with those haunting lyrics; 'you remember the signs, you are everything, you long to be, you are everything you want to be'. 23/24/11 has a soft beauty with keyboard strings and Anderson mixed to the forefront of the sound. The high falsetto still works as an instrument of power and peace. The lyrics are as enigmatic as ever; 'speak they will shine they will sing in your heart never let it be never let it sing, always the song for you, in the darkness there's always a song for you.' It seems that the dark trials Anderson has recently experienced are being evoked in these intimate tearful pieces. He sings about the sadness of war and its consequences and there is a sincerity that is chillingly true to the spirit.

The absence of extra instruments such as percussion or bass is effective and surprisingly in accordance with the atmosphere of light steady cadence and desolate raw emotions. Forever is a work of grace and beauty, the desperate angst of lost love or the hope of love lasting forever 'show me your moonlight show me your sunlight without them we are nothing, no one can ever love the way that you love'. Garden is even a little like Yes in its flavour, uplifting and brave on every track. It feels like a solo album in the regard that Anderson is pouring out intimate thoughts and Wakeman supporting him in this project adds to the power of the moment; a real blessing that the two could create more music together after such a long hiatus. The music is spacious and flowing, at times a grand piano and Anderson is all we hear.

This album is definitely not going to appeal to all fans of Yes I can understand that, as there is no rock or percussion or masterful union between accomplished musicians, instead we get one great musician, one great singer and we are left to fill in the gaps. The final track does feature a guest in the form of Jeremy Cubert on piano, but this is an exception. The entire album is gentle, reflective, intimate and surprisingly lightweight. Not an essential purchase but, it is Anderson returning to his craft; it is Wakeman pouring his soul into his playing; this collaboration is a sheer delight that has the power to lift the spirit or lull one into a lovely dream.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#383919)
Posted Friday, January 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
progpositivity
PROG REVIEWER
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.

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Send comments to progpositivity (BETA) | Report this review (#394240)
Posted Friday, February 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
2 stars Anyway and always

When neither of them were no longer members of Yes, it was natural for Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman to do something together. It was also not too surprising that they opted for a format that put Anderson's distinctive voice and Wakeman's characteristic playing sharply in focus. The result is a very stripped-down affair that is very nearly completely acoustic, dominated by lead vocals and Classical piano. There are no Moog-synthesiser or electric guitar solos, not even any drums or bass guitar. As such, this is not a (progressive) Rock album. This means that, even though Jon's voice and Rick's playing are both supremely distinctive and instantly recognisable, and that the album features the characteristic Roger Dean art work, The Living Tree cannot be compared to a Yes album (and it can certainly not, like the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album, be counted as a Yes album in everything but name). And, of course, making a Yes(-like) album was clearly not the intention here.

What we have here is a thoroughly pleasant set of undemanding songs driven by grand piano and vocals. While listening to these songs you get the feeling that they came easily to Jon and Rick and that they had a pleasant time recording them. It is an enjoyable listen, but it is not an album that lends itself to many repeated listens. I can recommend this only to serious Yes fans and to devoted followers of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman in particular. The general Prog fan can safely pass by.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#1082875)
Posted Thursday, November 28, 2013 | Review Permalink

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