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Jon Anderson

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2 stars This is a Christmas album. What is interesting is the choice to blend traditional English Carols with original material. The credit to Vangelis in the liner notes reminds us that this is Jon during the 80's, with a lot of "Jon & Vangelis" going on. A lot of the synthesizer on the album is late analog/early digital. Good sounds, especially on the title track. Jon worked a lot in Christian spiritual metaphor in the early eighties, as evidenced by the Song of Seven and Animation albums, and this album could easily be seen as a companion piece to those albums. He lends a characteristic new age twist to the Christmas theme, howeve, evidenced by the three "SPACE" ships on the cover. He is thinking of Cosmic Christ here. The album was dedicated to a nonprofit called "Beyond War," something today's Christians could use some looking into.

Prog Highlights? Remember that we are in the Eighties here, when all of our favorite artists from the past were trying to find a commercially viable niche fro thier vision. "Forest of Fire," with it's world-beat electronic rhythms and chorus choirs sounds triumphant even today, and provides a stunning lead-in to "Ding-Dong Merrily on High," an old English Carol given a frenetic electronic twist. The same technique of original-leads-in-to-carol device occurs again with "Where Were You" leading into "O Holy Night."

I find this album very sincere, if also very much a product of its time. Jon Anderson afficionados would still be better served by this album than by some of his later work. Yes it is not, and I would barely call it prog if it were not for some of the tasty compositional and intrumentation choices, but Jon Anderson has a distinctive voice, and if you forigive him just a little bit, you can think of this album as "Baby Jesus of Sunhillow."

Report this review (#26939)
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
1 stars One of the worst albums I've ever bought. I was wishing the music of this album would be up to the qualities of YES, but that's not what I got. What I got was really bad Christmas music, sung by ANDERSON in a very cheesy manner. This album is totally to be avoided.
Report this review (#26938)
Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, I would gladly give it all 5 stars but I don't, just because it isn't quite what you call Progressive Rock. Otherwise it is a masterpiece to me. As much as I dislike all the hustle about Christmas and Christmas-type music in general, this recording really makes you feel like dancing and singing along. Christmas or not, it's a wonderful piece of music. Just wonder why it's not available on CD in Europe.
Report this review (#26940)
Posted Thursday, July 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is my favorite Christmas album of all time. My tastes are pretty non-traditional. Some of my other favorite Christmas albums are by Mojo Nixon and Chris Stamey.

This is not a Yes Christmas. Anderson is in full celstial-Vangelis-tecno mode. That's what I like about it, Anderson's perfect choirboy voice in precise electronic versions of classic songs. The only track that doesn't really work for me is "O Holy Night." Sandra Crouch's soulful guest vocals just don't fit on this album.

The originals are good, too, though you have to be tolerant of (now retro-) futuristic new age thinking. The contrast between the warm hopeful emotions of the lyrics and the cold precision of the music is, in my opinion, wonderful. In fact, these songs are full of a sense of wonder and awe, just the right mood for contemplating the spirit of the season.

Report this review (#26941)
Posted Sunday, December 12, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Voyage of the Rochdaleite

So, are the three ships some mystical reference to three lengthy footnotes in a topographic poem? Has the musically complex mind of Anderson come up with another new concept which we shall struggle to get inside of to understand the real message?

Well no actually. This is in fact a Christmas album, the three ships reference coming from the song which goes "I saw three ships come sailing in, on Christmas day in the morning". Anderson may perhaps have been inspired by Greg Lake's surprise success in the singles chart with "I believe in father Christmas", or he may just have wanted to lighten up" a bit.

The album, which was released in 1985, is dominated by Anderson's vocals (of course) and the keyboards of Rhet Lawrence. The latter may be slightly surprising, given Anderson's work with Vangelis around that time. Indeed, Vangelis even writes one of the tracks. A number of well known musicians also contribute, including sometime Yes man, Trevor Rabin.

There is a rather strange mixture of traditional Christmas carols, and Anderson composed originals with a festive and/or peace on earth theme. The tracks are mixed together in such a way that one minute you're singing along with a song you have know since childhood, the next you are entirely unfamiliar with the piece.

On "O Holy night" Anderson duets with Sandra Crouch. While their rendition is pleasant, it does not really capture the majestic power of this carol as well as it might. Anderson is undoubtedly a great vocalist, but his voice is not really suited to such a song. The best track on the album is "Where were you", an Anderson composition in the style of "I believe in Father Christmas", with some excellent keyboards giving it a powerful feel. In a rather indulgent moment (on his part), Anderson's daughter "sings" the final track, "Jingle bells".

While there are occasional hints of "Olias of Sunhillow" (honest!), this is as far from a prog album as you'll find on this site. It is however, a pleasant, well presented Christmas album. Season's greetings!

Report this review (#26942)
Posted Friday, December 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is a tough one to rate. Three Ships is the album where Jon finally cuts loose from his prog roots and slips into a wierd mix of techno-electronica and traditional Christmas carols. It's not bad though, unlike the earlier Song of Seven album, thanks in large part to the tasteful keyboards of Rhett Lawrence and Jon's own considerable vocal talents. It is TWEE, though, to an amazing degree, and it introduces the change to Jon's style that will carry through the next album, In the City of Angels. That said, I have to give it 2.5 stars, but it's still better than the average Christmas album.

Save All Your Love: This track bookends the first side of the album, and gives a good idea of where Jon is going on this release. "Spiritual" lyrics, keyboard parts that enhance but don't dominate the song, and a good vocal performance. This is what you can expect for most of the album. (3/5)

Easier Said Than Done: This song is the best of the original material on the album. It's a nice, catchy pop song with an optimistic sound. (4/5)

Three Ships: The traditional Christmas songs on this album are all pretty strong, but the modern techno sound doesn't quite gel with the song on this one. (2.5/5)

Forest of Fire: Just what we need. Another Anderson song combining world music and techno. At least this was back before he was doing this stuff regularly. (1.5/5)

Ding Dong Merrily On High: A good simple rendition of a traditional Christmas song. If only that guy who sings "da da daa" after Jon sings "Ding dong merrily on high" would shut up. (3/5)

Save All Your Love (reprise): See the comments above. (3/5)

Holly and the Ivy: This is the gem of the Christmas Carols. It's simple and true to the original's spirit, with some nice accompaniment. (4/5)

Day of Days: Jon goes calypso, but it's not quite as horrid as that sounds. Not quite. (2.5/5)

2000 Years: A mercifully short and unimaginative song with Jon and a children's choir singing singsong. (1.5/5)

O Holy Night: This is the disappointment of the album. You would expect that a duet with Crouch would be outstanding, but this one is just ok. (2.5/5)

How It Hits You: It's not a bad closer and stays true to the spirit of the album (3/5)

Jingle Bells: A cutesy finish with young Jade singing. Oh well, it's better than Circus of Heaven. (1.5/5)

Report this review (#128005)
Posted Monday, July 9, 2007 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
1 stars "Save All Your Love" starts not too differently from the kind of songs that can be found on the side A of "Private Collection". I remember that I was hoping to hear at least something similar, but in the end it's just a Christmas carols album.

I like Jon's voice. I know we are not too much, so I not only survived to the whole album, but I also copied it on a tape cassette and had a number of listens in my car.

In the end, the only nice thing is Jade's voice singing Jingle Bells.

Effectively it's not only a Christmas album, it's also a Christmas album of the 80s, with the actual electronics and a lot of the bad of that age.

It features not only Trevor Rabin as one could expect in 1985 (the Year of Big Generator if I'm not wrong), but also Elliott Easton from the Cars, a pop band that I honestly like, but there's no way to distinguish him.

At the end, "Save all your love" is the thing closer to an highlight, even if calling it in this way is too generous.

I have enjoyed the album, anyway, as I'm a YES addict, but it's honestly stuff for completionsts. Stick on Olias or jump to something further. Leave this album to us fans.

Report this review (#522129)
Posted Tuesday, September 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars I love this Three Ships album by Jon Anderson. I still remember when it first came out and I saw it at Tower Records and immediately purchased it. Decades later I still listen to it around Christmas time and still enjoy it. Is this Prog? Not at all, and that's why I am only giving it three stars, but for pure enjoyment I would give it four or five stars. It's a lovely Christmas album, and if that's what you want, then you will enjoy it. It does sound very 80s, which doesn't bother me, as it also brings back memories of the time. There are some naysayers for this album, and I suspect it is either because it is not prog, and/or because they don't like the Christmas message. I do like the Christmas message and enjoy it. To each his own.

One thing I have to warn folks about is the new, updated release. It includes a bunch of stuff that was not originally on the album and since I was so used to the original album version, I was thrown off by the additional material. If you like joyous Christmas music, you should like this album (and perhaps you might like the additional material if it suits your fancy).

Report this review (#1616739)
Posted Wednesday, September 28, 2016 | Review Permalink

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