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Jon Anderson

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3 stars "Earth Mother Earth" is a homespun effort: Jon wraps the sound of his home (birds, cats, wife Jane) into his acoustic songs. In some ways this is a return to the musical terrain of "Olias of Sunhillow" -- the mixture of harp, acoustic guitar and vocals create the same sweeping effect -- though this takes a more natural approach where "Olias..." was supernatural. Fans of Jon ANDERSON will probably enjoy this album from the start; detractors will find fuel in the moments when Jon steps back from songwriting (e.g., the three "Harptree" pieces and segues like "Scraggle Cat and Puss Cat Willum"). Despite the light arrangements (bass and an additional guitar are added occasionally for color only), many of the songs are terrific. "Time Has Come", "Concerto Uno", "Concerto Due" and "Whalewatching" are transparent but at their core is the framework of wonder.

As with all of Jon's albums in the '90s, "Earth Mother Earth" is different than anything before or after it. Here, the singer steps back from creating music in a studio, and instead creates a studio for his music using nature. Jane also gets a few cameos, including some spoken poetry as well as lead vocals for the delightful "Heaven Knows (Treehugging)". (I don't think there's anyone in that family who doesn't have a beautiful voice.) "Earth Mother Earth" reminds me that ANDERSON (and, thus, YES) was influenced by the work of SIMON & GARFUNKEL, this time leaning toward the GARFUNKRL side of that team. ANDERSON has had such success exploring outside of his natural element (Deseo, Change We Must) that "Earth Mother Earth" seems like an easy feat. True, it's no surprise that he made an album like this, but it would have been a shame if he didn't.

Report this review (#26958)
Posted Thursday, April 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Jon's tribute to Cat Stevens.

Jon drops the heavy Yes fantasy world to give you a glimpse of his personal life with this album recorded in his home and garden, on his computer, with the help of his wife and cats and birds. An amazingly intimate record, it is all about acoustic instruments, love, nature, bliss, more love, spirituality, and oh Remember how Cat Stevens would make these simple acoustic songs about love and faith with simple melodies and pleasant vocals? This is Jon's version of "Buddha and the Chocolate Box" but without a rock band. And to note the obvious, this is *nothing* like Yes.

Most of the songs are Jon strumming an acoustic and singing nicely with his wife who does pretty well herself. Jane Anderson also handles the duties on the spoken word portions. The booklet features lyrics and artwork by Jon.

This album is an unusual and rare look at the Yes frontman, it's really like kicking back on the porch with him on a nice summer day for an acoustic jam and lemonade. Birds are chirping in the background. You can feel the positive vibes, man.. Nevertheless, I wouldn't recommend this one to anyone but fans of Yes, Jon, Cat Stevens, or similar acoustic music. What you are left with is the certainty that Jon has a very happy personal life in 1997 and you can share in his family bliss if you like. It really is a very special album but it's just one that will have limited appeal to fans of high-minded acoustic music.

One thing to note...this album works because of the sincerity of Jon in the material. Material like this was abundant in the late 60s and early 70s during the hippie scene, but many of those releases were a reaction to what was hip, essentially they were a fashion statement and that renders them dated and weak now. Jon is sincere if nothing else about these starry eyed songs and that makes them authentic and of value to those who long for his message.

Report this review (#124166)
Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars On some Yes tours the individual band members got a solo spot somewhere in the show. This album is like a long Jon Anderson solo spot. And for those of you that know (which is everybody reading this, I suppose), Jon's solo spots on Yes shows consisted basically in Jon singing and playing an acoustic guitar. This album is all about that. There is also some harp and some bird noises and some very sparse percussion, but basically this is just Jon and his acoustic guitar. So don't expect a rock band type album here!

The quality of the music and the recording is quite high and the lyrics are very typically Jon; spirituality, new-age mumbo jumbo, tree hugging! It can be a bit too much for a whole album. However, I enjoy listening to this when in the right mood.

This album is only for fans of Jon Anderson. Yes fans should start with Olias Of Sunhillow, Animation and Toltec.

Report this review (#190217)
Posted Sunday, November 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Earth Mother Earth is one of my favorite albums from Jon, and it shows a very different side of him than some of his other work, like Olias for example. The album is completely stripped down and simple, and one can almost imagine Jon waking up to greet the new day, grabbing some coffee, and sitting down to record a few tracks. The mood is informal and features guests like his wife reading verses to the Earth and singing on a track or two. Other appearances from Scraggle Cat and (presumably) Jon's children laughing create an air of peacefulness.

Noticeably, some tracks like Take a Little Time Out have strong Cat Stevens influences, while others, like the three Harptree songs are slow guitar passages over ambient nature sounds. The track That Crazy Wind is a good example of the lyrical structure on the album- innocent, cheesy, and beautiful. This album is guaranteed to make the most cynical listener smile, even if the Earth-appreciation poetry is off-putting. This is the type of album whose strength isn't in complex composition or developed storyline. It's power comes from the peace it radiates and communicates so successfully.

Rating: 7/10

Report this review (#442897)
Posted Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
3 stars ABWH without BWH

I mean that "Time Has Come" with that 12strings guitar sounds like the acoustic parts of "Brother of Mine" and effectively with Jon's voice and lyrics how could it sound different? By the way, I'm one of the few who loves that album, so I really like this song as well. Few percussion, probably congas, the already mentioned guitar and some bird's cheeps are the support to Jon's voice, even if later there's also a choir of overdubbed Jons.

The birds continue singing on "Harptree". A harp solo is a very unusual thing in this context: even though the author's was probably thinking to write a newage instrumental, it sounds very folk and medieval. It brings the early CLANNAD to my mind.

"Take A Little Time Out" starts folky as well, with harp, acoustic and 12strings guitars, but Jon's vocals and the melody that he sings are between the classic YES and the duo with VANGELIS, thinking to Short Stories in particular. The instruments are strangely tuned and this is the most remarkable thing technically speaking.

I don' t understand what "Scraggle Cat and Puss Cat Willum" means. It's nice, but it's less than one minutes and seems to be a children's rhyme, maybe a trditional, but I'm not sure.

"Concerto Uno" is opened by Jon's acoustic guitar, low volume bass and vocals. This is a complex song that would have been better served by a full symph arrangement. I imagine Wakeman and mainly Howe playing it. With the current unplugged instrumentation it allows you to only guess how good it is, also because Jon's guitar playing is not what we can call "excellent", not totally bad anyway. Probably better than Bob Dylan's.

"Harptree Too" is another harp solo piece with birds and child.I think the title has been mistyped on the album as I suppose that Jon was meaning "Harptree Two". Consider that the Concertos and the Harptrees have all Italian numbers (Uno, Due, etc.. plus Harptree tree that in Italian is "tre").

"Concerto Due" is another song that I would like to hear played by YES beacuse of its musical reachness. A bravo to Jon for the songwriting. Also the arrangement is very well done even sticking with the acoustic instruments that he imposed to himself for this album with the exception of bass and birds. The only negative thing is the "touch" on the bass strings of the acoustic guitar. Not properly a "Segovia", however he sometimes sounds like the early ANTHONY PHILLIPS.

Another short journey the the 16th Century (and its birds) with "Harptree Tree". Very British, too.

"That Crazy Wind" is a typical Jon Anderson's song. We can find songs of this kind on almost all his albums, including some YES and the collaboration with VANGELIS. Luckily there aren't the Salsa percussion and brass which usually make me skip the track on Jon's albums. At the end, even this track is not bad.

50 seconds of a woman speaking then another Mambo comes, with some congas this time. "Heaven Knows" is quite good but I don't like Jane Luttenberger's voice on this song. She sounds too similar to Jon so I don't understand why he has asked somebody else ti sing it.

"Whalewatching" may be inspired to Greenpeace as well as to "Star Trek IV.". A song with an interesting melody and "Whalesh" language...I would have preferred it a bit shorter.

The title track reprises the 12strings of the opener and looks like an attempt to sound radio- friendly, but it could have worked better some years ago.

In general it's a good album and the songwriting. It is probably the best and most complex one in Jon's solo discography.

For Jon's fans it's a four stars. Three for the others

Report this review (#786745)
Posted Thursday, July 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's fair to say that Anderson displays a deep spiritual/esoteric devotion at every opportunity. This album largely follows that line with the emphasis here on Nature and the environment.

Starting off with an engaging, somewhat folkish piece is an instant hit with me - not that I listen to much Folk at all. "Time Has Come" is not typical for Anderson, but executed in a splendid manner and makes me want to hear more of that approach. Simple, yet effective and achieves it's aim of drawing immediate attention.

What follows is a bit of a disappointment after such start. Typical meandering pieces speckled with his usual angelic instrumentation. Musically, it fails to captivate however pleasant it may be in the right mood.

Then suddenly track 11 "Whalewatching" wakes me with a powerful guitar strumming that commands my attention again. Here, he drives his message through with gentle aggression (well, somebody had to come up with such term...). Curiously, the song goes out with a Celtic- like chant that surprisingly blends in well as an outro. (This chant is so haunting that I tend to sing it out loud on my walks at the beach, ready to be surprised by something out of the ordinary. It appears to be an effective call, inviting unseen realms to be present.)

Well, these two track pretty much are of the only interest to me here. If Anderson were to put together an album with similar songs, it would feature amongst my very favorites.

Report this review (#857557)
Posted Monday, November 12, 2012 | Review Permalink

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