Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Anderson Ponty Band - Better Late Than Never CD (album) cover


Anderson Ponty Band

Crossover Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars It's here at last!

Last year, Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty announced that they were finally bringing to fruition an idea they had a few decades ago of joining together on a joint project. One Kickstarter site and some months later, their album is here.

Taken from a live concert, and enhanced with studio magic, the set consists mostly of the duo's well known songs arranged for this group's strengths. The Yes compositions are given a fusion treatment, and arranging Ponty's songs with Anderson's unique vocals and lyrics was done artfully, and elevates the songs.

The album, a live set as I mentioned, starts out very good, and just gets better as they go along (a common occurrence with fusion sets). Hearing what Ponty could do with the Yes material interested me the most. [i]Owner Of A Lonely Heart [/i] is played a bit too similarly to the original, but the violin fills do make the song better. [i]Time And A Word[/i] works as a straight reggae vehicle, but the simplistic form of the genre will most likely relegate this track to the songs I only play at parties.

[i]Wonderous Stories[/i] and a truncated [i]And You And I[/i] benefit greatly from the jazz piano played on each. And [i]Roundabout[/i] played fusion style rocked a little bit less, but at the same tine retained it's power.

I enjoy all of the Ponty compositions, as well, but I have to give extra props to [i]Renaissance Of The Sun[/i] (originally [i]Renaissance[/i] from the great "Aurora" album), one of my favorite of his tracks, with wonderful Anderson vocals.

My only wish now is that the two stay together and come up with new compositions that are unique to this pairing.

Report this review (#1466156)
Posted Saturday, September 19, 2015 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 'Better Late than Never'! Right! The idea for Yes frontman Jon Anderson to team up with violinist extraordinaire Jean-Luc Ponty is not as farfetched as one may be led to believe as the conditions were nicely tabled already 30 years ago, as Jon searched for new artistic vehicles beyond Yes, such as the Jon & Vangelis project as well as his solo albums and countless cameo appearances. Ponty is rightly idolized for a series of 70-80s albums that are still among the finest jazz-rock albums ever recorded, masterpieces like 'Imaginary Voyage', 'Enigmatic Ocean', 'Cosmic Messenger' and 'Mystical Adventures' that continue to evoke massive fan applause. Though both are serious seniors who probably hooked up in LA as it was home for both artists, their undisputed talent remains vibrant but on hold, so the union finally happened in 2015. The fact that one of Ponty's finest outfits (Jamie Glaser, Rayford Griffin and Baron Browne) are on board, only increased the expectations. With such luminary instrumentalists, one could expect some interesting reworking from both catalogs and they certainly do not disappoint. They have decided rather smartly to add vocals to the Ponty pieces and rework the Yes tracks by giving the violin the main spotlight. A smart and judicious move.

The deliriously catchy 'One in the Rhythm of Hope ' wastes little time to infect the soul as well as the fine-tuned listeners ear , buoyed by a chugging pace with exuberant melodies and a warm Anderson bellow that convinces from the get-go. Ponty delivers a shredding solo on his prized instrument.

The celestial and brief 'A for Aria' has an almost Jon & Vangelis-like lilt with sweeping synths and Jon's beatific plea, allied to Jean-Luc's plaintive twirl adding emotional support, laying the platform for the classic Yes 'hit' that some purists may choose to despise, 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' is still fun, though in all fairness it's a 'pure' pop tune that is hard to rework other than giving the violin room to cajole and seduce. Hey, if you want, you can press skip but what for? Rayford actually does a few slick thuds and JL's solo is superb, erasing some of that commercial sheen that marked the original. Jon is in fine voice as this is no easy song to belt out. 'Listening with Me' is a retooled Ponty tune, with its typical sweeping organ carpeting, over which the violin swerves, soars and dives with impunity. Smooth and slick jazz-rock of the finest pedigree.

'Time and Word' is given a totally Bob Marley make-over, 'spliffing' a reggae shuffle, sunny violin that meows and recognizable lyrics from famous rock songs of the past , a party 'time classic for sure. Guitarist Jamie Glaser spits out a stinging guitar solo from nowhere that really smokes (pardon the pun). The still very tropical 'Infinite Mirage' is a JL Ponty instrumental classic ('Mirage') that has been tailored with a new suit, a vocal presentation that does it justice while seeking out new meandering horizons for the arrangement to develop. Very urban cool and smooth as silk. 'Soul Eternal' continues the bright disposition with its insistent and exuberant violin foray toying with Wally Minko's choppy organ and Jon's easy scat singing, comfortable with the new-age message he provides with such ease and conviction. His lung capacity remains quite unbelievable.

A couple of Yes classics will alter the sonic landscape only so slightly, 'Wondrous Stories' with its beautiful piano introduction is pure magic, the acoustic guitar rippling through with fluid grace and of course Jon telling his wondrous story, violin in tow, jazz scat singing right behind. Simple and beautiful. 'And You & I' is equally reshaped with great facility, elegant piano in lieu of slippery synthesizers, creating a mellow, lounge mood that works just fine.

The Ponty jazz-rock excellence reappears on the thrilling violin-led 'Renaissance of the Sun', a tour de force that has the French-Californian doing some miraculous things to his seductive instrument, piano again in alliance , a retooling of the Aurora album classic 'Renaissance', complete with audience 'oohs and aahs' and smoother than velvet piano work from the stellar Wally Minko. This is the longest and proggiest piece her, clocking in over 6 minutes and creating a mood of mesmerized restraint and moving brilliance that just oozes with class and distinction.

'Roundabout' is classic Yes' most recognizable song and in my opinion, cannot be improved over the original as it had too many detailed moments of genius such as Howe's guitar ripple and Squire's monstrous rumble. In fact, the live version has bassist Baron Browne doing a sensational intro on his 5 string bass guitar that will shock your mind, check it out on youtube, bloody ridiculous and really cooks way more than this subdued studio version. While we are at it, his solo on 'Egocentric Molecules', renamed 'Re-Rembering Molecules' is another live show-stopper.

Two short but sweet ditties finish off this remarkable album, the sleek 'I See You Messenger' and the grandiose finale 'New New World', a positive, up-beat and convincing wink of persuasion. In my opinion, this is a project totally worth pursuing, now that their respective credentials have been established both on record, DVD and live in concert, perhaps these two giant icons can now create some new material that will shine a bright light on the future.

4.5 cat skin affirmatives

Report this review (#1534403)
Posted Tuesday, March 1, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars You either like things or you don't. I can appreciate the musicianship on offer throughout this CD, but I never particularly liked either Owner of a Lonely Heart or Roundabout so, before I settle down, I am already preparing to write off 2 tracks of the 14 on offer. And the versions, here, do nothing to change my mind. To this "ditch" list I quickly add Listening With Me, Infinite Mirage, Soul Eternal and Renaissance Of The Sun, none of which are my cup of tea at all. It's music for lounge lizards: I'm just not on this wavelength.

So that leaves us with Intro, A For Aria, ICU, Time And A Word (wonderful interpretation - streets ahead of the rather dull original), Wondrous Stories, And You And I, I See You Messenger and New New World, which, collectively, deliver about half an hour of absolutely terrific and varied music which I can listen to over and over again. The new versions of Wondrous Stories and And You And I, in particular, are quite magnificent, with characteristically delicate vocals from Jon accompanied by hauntingly cascading piano backdrops. Just stunning.

So it's each to his own. I couldn't possibly rate this higher than 3 stars because I am peering into so many black holes, but what's left behind has all the making of a truly dazzling star.

Report this review (#1535133)
Posted Thursday, March 3, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars Fans can grumble, but let's face it: being ousted from his own band was one of the best things ever to happen to Jon Anderson. No longer yoked to the burden of his legacy with YES, the singer can now move at a pace and in a direction of his own choosing, maintaining his youthful vigor at age 71 through a healthy program of creative collaboration, in this case with kindred spirit and fellow '70s veteran Jean Luc Ponty.

It's a good match of complimentary talents, balancing Anderson's aerie-faery New Age optimism against Ponty's soaring electric violin. The backing tracks for the duo's first album (and possibly last, given Anderson's many other commitments) were captured live on stage, with post-dubbed studio enhancements adding occasional production overkill, most obviously in the syrupy synth "Intro", an arena-rock echo of the old Yes chestnut "And You And I".

Recording the bulk of the album in concert was an expedient way to jump-start a long-delayed project, and helped preserve the performance synergy often lost in Prog Rock's too carefully assembled multi-track studio sessions. The set-list also saved time by leaning hard on pre-existing Yes and Ponty repertoire, the latter unfamiliar to this lapsed fan and the former re-imagined in radical new arrangements, something Anderson's ex-band should have tried years ago.

Old-school Progheads might wince at hearing a reggae-lite "Time and a Word", but the update refreshes (for better or worse) a song now frayed around the edges after almost half a century. Likewise, a faithful but newly energized "Roundabout" shakes a few cobwebs off an oldie grown stale from over-exposure. And Ponty's graceful bowing vastly improves the '80s pop bombast of "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (which I still can't bring myself acknowledge as a Yessong).

Okay, so maybe Anderson hasn't shrugged the mantle of classic Yes entirely off his shoulders yet. But he's wearing it lightly, and with no obligation. Like them or not, at least he isn't playing the old tunes by rote. The only misfire is an unaccountably clumsy "Wonderous Stories", sung in the fashion of an amateur lounge lizard with two left feet.

The Ponty material, perhaps because it's new to these ears, gives the album its highlights, in particular the irresistibly upbeat groove of "Soul Eternal" and the gorgeous "Renaissance of the Sun". I only wish Anderson's typically fey lyrics, forced onto the music in retrospect, showed more of the arcane, inscrutable poetry of his songwriting from the 1970s.

Don't expect to be challenged by anything here. At best it's an album of comfortable middlebrow Prog, gently-used but still enjoyable. The music may have all the nutritional value (and sweet appeal) of marshmallow fluff, but it's hard not to respond to the uncomplicated joy of such a compatible partnership.

Report this review (#1595800)
Posted Sunday, August 7, 2016 | Review Permalink

ANDERSON PONTY BAND Better Late Than Never ratings only

chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of ANDERSON PONTY BAND Better Late Than Never

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.