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Anderson / Stolt

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4 stars Jon Anderson of Yes and Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings, making an album together? Why not? I always had the feeling The Flower Kings are heavily influenced by (early) Yes. The two blokes surrounded themselves with guest musicians like Tom Brislin, Daniel Gildenl'w and Nad Sylvan, and (ex) members of The Flower Kings for this album.

Let's come straight to the point. This sounds more like Yes than ever! But without the flashy bits and pieces (more about that later on in this article). I secretly hoped for something completely different, but why should I ever expect that? Silly me! Jon has a good voice on this album in my opinion, I heard from several people that his voice isn't what it used to be, but according to me he does a great job. You can hear that Roine Stolt is influenced a lot by Steve Howe's guitar playing style, but if you're an avid fan of The Flower Kings you probably already heard it on their albums. While most of the songs carry (or dragging, what you prefer) the Yes vibe with music scores of Flower Kings, the track Everybody Heals reminds me largely of early era Flower Kings.

The complete album just 'ripples' along the stream, if you know what I mean. No spectacular turns and twists or surprising elements, while that is something you would assume with Yes. Consider this as a Yes-light. The album is more than one hour long, a bit on the long side for me to keep my full attention. If you're a big fan of Yes and/or The Flower Kings, then this album is a must have for your collection. If you don't like Yes and/or The Flower Kings, then this is something you probably would appreciate as someone plays it during a visit, but not something you would buy yourself. I have to admit that I probably appreciate it more when I give it more spins in the future. This is certainly a 'grower', and presumably not only for me. Before you guys think I'm probably writing this from an 'anti-fan' view' I am actually a fan of Yes and I can really appreciate The Flower Kings! This album gets four out of five stars.

Note: As you may have noticed I only mentioned one track of the complete album. This is clearly an album you should 'experience' in its entirety instead of track for track. The album consists of four long tracks, each divided into several parts.

Report this review (#1576332)
Posted Tuesday, June 7, 2016 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars A combination of Jon Anderson and Roine Stolt. It should not surprise anyone, but still it?´s very nice to them both together at last. Well, it is no secret that Stolt is an avid fan of Anderson. He went as far as dedicate a whole album (The Flower King) to Anderson in 1994, long before they ever met. And anyone who has ever heard a Flower Kings album will know how strongly Yes influenced their music. So I guess that a collaboration was a natural thing to happen. Stolt even asked some of his colleagues from TFK to give a hand (the ever present bassist Jonas Reingold and current drummer Felix Lehrmann, plus his brother and ex TFK Michael Stolt for a couple of tracks). Top swedish players Tom Brislin (Spiraling) and Lalle Larsson (Karmakanic, Agents of Mercy) help along on the keyboards. And Invention of Knowledge is the result.

The music here is inspired and convincing, almost like 70?´s Yes backing a Jon Anderson solo album (instead of Anderson rejoining 70?´s Yes, get the difference?). So don?´t expect long instrumental passages or anything too different, nor explicit displays of virtuosity. Everything here works for the songs. Stolt was always heavily influenced by Steve Howe and it shows, in a good way. In fact, the album sounds very fresh and exciting most of the time, with the excellent backing band providing Anderson with a lush, symphonic and creative tapestry of sounds for his unique voice. The first half of the CD is specially good, while for a time it seemed to me that the second half dragged on a bit, but a few more spins I?´m enjoying it all. This is surely a grower.

At least on studio, Anderson?´s voice is in top form. Stolt takes a back seat here, providing basically multi guitars parts that remind me of (who else?) Howe, but is still very much Stolt himself, a brilliant and creative musician. In fact, keyboards, bass and everything else sounds like a mixture of classic Yes and early Flower Kings. The difference is that instead of Yes copycats, everything here turned out as a truthful, heartfelt homage to their heroes.

As a whole I really loved this album. It?´s high on my top ten list for 2016, without any doubt. It?´s nothing new, really, but it?´s brilliant music anyway. Far and far superior than anything Yes has done for a long, long time. If you?´re a fan of them (and of Anderson in particular) you?´ll be delighted with Invention Of Knowledge. It?´s probably Anderson?´s best solo album to date. And probably the best Yes sounding record ever that was not played by Yes themselves.

Rating: 4.5 stars. Highly recommended!!

Report this review (#1576749)
Posted Wednesday, June 8, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Multiple times when listening to Flower Kings I felt: if only Jon Anderson would sing, he would greatly enhance the quality of the song... Finally my wish came true! Of course, to truly appreciate this piece and understand every bit of it, I had to give it at least 5 listens, which nowadays isn't an easy task considering how many other albums are thrown out at us in such a short time period! But it was worth every bit of it! So many wonderful parts were waiting to be discovered, even took me far enough to shed some tears in the end, which for me is the requirement to be able to give 5 stars to an album. I will leave the analysis of the songs to the professionals, I will just point out a couple of personal opinions: - In Yes songs, after lenghty instrumental parts the outburst of Jon Andersons voice always came as a revelation... maybe in this album it would've also raise the "tension" if there would be more instrumental parts (which were amazing all throughout the album!) - The 2 backing musicians: Daniel Gildenlow & Nad Sylvan could've brought a unique brilliance to the music if they would've been allowed to shine at least for a couple of seconds. - I would listen to a whole album of Roine Stolts amazing soundscape (maybe influenced by Stewe Howe himself?)... I'm hoping my wish would come true in the future. 4.5 stars rounded to 5, with respect to these monuments of Progressive Rock who offered me many pleasant hours spent listening to them!
Report this review (#1582952)
Posted Saturday, June 25, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've been Yes fan since early 90's and listened Yes records through years without losing interest, ever. Ever before "Fly From Here" - album, when Jon Anderson had left Yes. After "Magnification" I still imagined and wished that classic Yes lineup would do one more progressive masterpiece. It did not happen, and now won't happen because Chris Squire died. To me Jon Anderson's vocals are Yes. Yesmusic without Anderson is something else. But, Jon Anderson himself is Yes. I think "Invention of Knowledge" proves it. I did not know Flower Kings or Roine Stolt, so I did not have any expectations to this new project with Anderson. Of course I had gone to Anderson's solo concerts thru years and knew that he still got his unique voice. I respect this album, because in many levels Anderson and Stolt have put so much effort to it, that it's hard to imagine that even old band mates Rabin and Wakeman would manage much better nowadays (hopefully they will..!). This "Invention of Knowledge" is as good as album could have get, considering the fact that Anderson and the rest of the band have been workin at the other sides of the World without even seeing each other. My only complain about " Invention of Knowledge" is that dynamic range could be wider. That is minor complain, because it sounds good, but in some places it could be more "fragile". Anyway, this is album I thought never to be released and defenitely deserves it's five stars.

Report this review (#1584311)
Posted Thursday, June 30, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have played this album over and over and never get tired of it.Any Yes fan would welcome this into there album collection.I rate it just below the best classic albums of the seventies. Whatever ever you think or say Anderson was the inspiration and the the voice behind Yes and this album sees him in fine form.The tracks to me flow and link together as one piece and the music is beautifully crafted around the voice of Jon,which by the way is back to its brilliant best after his illness.The album is uplifting and I suggest would never be confined to a dark cupboard after a couple of plays
Report this review (#1584513)
Posted Saturday, July 2, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars I was overjoyed when this collaboration was announced. I have been a fan of Jon, his voice and his lyrics, for decades now since first listening to YES changed my ears and my mind forever. I have been an avid follower of Roine Stolt and the Flower Kings since their inception in the 90's. I recognized in their work the continuation of a tradition brought to life by YES in the 70's, and sometimes felt like the Flower Kings played YES music better than YES did anymore.

So a partnership like this sounds ideal. Roine could finally have the voice he has been writing for all these years, and Jon could have the musical backing that can equal the richness of his unique voice. I also hoped that these two working together might correct each others excesses of late. Perhaps Roine and his extended family of accomplished prog-rock musicians might put some punch and urgency into Jon's light-pop new age ramblings. And perhaps Jon's hopefulness and life-affirming outlook might drag Roine Stolt back from the brink of dark brooding where he's been writing lately (see Desolation Rose.)

I knew that my hopes were impossibly high for this record, but I am surprised to see that for the most part, these hopes are not dashed. We were told to expect a long-form composition in the tradition of "Tales from Topographic Oceans" and "Olias of Sunhillow," which seemed way too good to be true. It was, but these two have given us a unified hour of music which has coherent musical and lyrical themes.

It is fun hearing some of the familiar compositional elements used by Roine Stolt with Jon Anderson singing over them. The musical style is very much in the tradition of the Flower Kings, perhaps "Adam and Eve" or "Paradox Hotel" era. The pace never gets too fast, and the music never gets very hard-edged, but a variety of textures weaving in and out plus melodic changes keep your interest.

My main complaint is that the phrasing of the vocals and composition of the lyrics somehow make it evident that these two are not in the studio together. It is like Roine Stolt sent Jon completed instrumental tracks, and Jon just improvised vocals over them. This leads to Jon repeating words and phrases just to fill up space, and can be a little distracting at first. I see so much potential in what was coming together musically, and I wish that this album could have been polished by a couple of weeks together in the studio, with Roine Stolt perhaps even guiding and grounding the composition of the vocals a little more.

That being said, this is the best that either of them has sounded in years. I will treasure this album as a meaningful but flawed gem.

Report this review (#1584536)
Posted Saturday, July 2, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars 4.5 stars for now - could grow to 5 after I have a chance to fully assimilate this.

This album is beautifully packaged and presented. Joy and love of life really come through in this release. The production is layered so Jon's voice comes to the fore. Drums will sound flat on most audio systems - if you have high wattage, a killer subwoofer, and a beryllium tweeter, you're in for a treat. Jon's voice soars over Roine's guitar, and the bass guitar and keyboard work is very nice. Jon's voice sounds really good, especially considering that he is 71 years old and has recovered from respiratory failure. If you consider this as an Anderson solo album, I think the quality lies somewhere between Olias and Toltec, which are my two favorites. Roine's guitar has the classic Flower King bite (his custom Parker Fly?) and is a great match for Jon's voice. If you are looking for Close to the Edge, listen to Close to the Edge. If you want to hear something uplifting in these troubled times, this just might cure what ails you.

Report this review (#1586201)
Posted Saturday, July 9, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Truly an epic album. This album reminds you just how essential Jon was to the sound and music of Yes. On "Invention of Knowledge" Jon soars to new heights as one of the great masters of his craft. Lyrically, IoK carries on where Magnification leaves off. Musically, I find more similarities to Relayer. This is classic style Yes music. Truly, Invention of Knowledge sounds more like Yes, than the current Yes line-up does. Anderson/Stolt is the best Yes album in a good many years. And, it is possibly the best solo album of Jon's long and illustrious career outside Yes. From the opening notes of the title track to the final sound of "Know" Anderson/Stolt delivers the goods.
Report this review (#1587485)
Posted Thursday, July 14, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Close up of brightly coloured flowers. Zoom back to get the sun beaming down from an azure sky with a few billowy cumulus clouds drifting by. Pan to the sparkling river and then pull back to include the full view with green hills and Jon Anderson standing in white robes with his arms held out to his sides, palms to the sky, head back, eyes closed and smiling. Now raise the view higher and begin revolving the camera around him while choirs sing, strings and wood winds play, some uplifting lead rock guitar, keyboards, emphatic percussion...

When Yes released "Fly from Here" in 2011, Jon Anderson was not to be just dropped at the side of the road. Though he'd suffered vocal troubles due to an illness, he soon teamed up with Yes alumni and long time friend Rick Wakeman to produce an album which to my ears was slow, sleepy, pretty, and offered little to captivate my ears. Anderson's vocals sounded frail and shaky. However, a couple of years back I read about how Anderson was enthusiastically writing new music in the spirit of Yes. So when I saw he had teamed up with Roine Stolt, I reckoned that this should be an album with some "adventurous music".

After the first listen, I wasn't sure what I'd heard. At least not in detail. The album sounded like one extended journey through Anderson Land, a sweeping ride through an world of Love, Light, Life, and Truth. Bright smiling faces, vivid colours to lighten the spirits, beams of light, everything and everyone simply radiant. It took three listens before I began to identify a song or two that stood apart, and a fifth listen with full attention to learn to recognize each song for some outstanding feature.

The songs here are essentially sweeping, uplifting, spiritual messages both lyrically and sonically. Anderson's vocals are lead and backing with a chorus of background vocals. Though Stolt is an accomplished lead vocalist with a distinct voice, he's not obvious here. The only times I notice that Roine Stolt is on the album at all is at the albums opening when the music resembles a Flower Kings song (and we know that the Flower Kings are inspired by Yes) and in a few places where the guitar sounds like Stolt's style. As for the other guest musicians, everyone is swept into the sparkling rainbow swirl that is Anderson Land. At times there are classic Yes-like moments with a cascade of bright synthesizer notes, some cheerful guitar chatter, or some conspicuously placed bass notes. Classic Yes it is not however with only a slight resemblance to "Tales from Topographic Oceans", "Relayer" or "Going for the One". I personally feel there's more similarity to "Magnification", "The Ladder" or even "Keys to Ascension", though notably different due to the absence of Maestros Howe, Wakeman, and Squire.

Some reasons that the music all seems at first to be part of the same spiritualized hippy fantasy nebula is because a number of songs segue into each other while the songs have a free-flowing structure, shifting to new melodies and themes within songs and sometimes drifting through gentle atmospheres or rising up to powerful crescendos. One never knows so readily if a song has shifted gears or if another has begun unless you're paying attention, which is not easy to do as it's easy to get drifting on a glowing cloud while watching cherubim and rainbow-horned unicorns dancing by. There's also the fact that some songs reprise the lyrics and accompanying melodies from other songs, so with your mind sailing through radiant beams of light and love, you might be excused for thinking that "Knowledge" is still "Invention".

Nevertheless, this is not a bad album by any means. If you can handle about 65 minutes of "Love and Light" lyrics about truth, holding Jon's hand, standing together, and the Spirit coming to you, you are eternal, etc., and Anderson Land theme music, then fans of the force behind Yes music and what inspires The Flower Kings should enjoy this. This is where Yes could have / might have been by now if Anderson had stayed on with them.

Or this is just where Jon Anderson has always been traveling toward. Three stars, four stars, five stars all possible. If there's a two star rating or two I wouldn't be completely surprised. But you can't deny the greatness of the effort that goes into making an album like this.

Report this review (#1589856)
Posted Friday, July 22, 2016 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Seemingly a match made in Prog heaven, `Invention of Knowledge' brings together two massive progressive rock icons in Roine Stolt and Yes' Jon Anderson, the two spiritually minded musicians (along with several additional notable prog guests) delivering what is easily the standout Symphonic Progressive work of 2016. This is really a meeting of two vintage prog-era players, because despite finding more personal status in prog circles with the Flower Kings in the Nineties onwards, Roine was one of the key musicians of Seventies Swedish symph-prog group Kaipa, playing on their first few albums. But despite one or two niggling issues discussed later, they've delivered a complex, ambitious and endlessly grand symphonic work that can easily be considered creative high-points in their already endlessly impressive careers.

Although Stolt and Anderson will deservedly receive all the attention, closer inspection behind the scenes reveals several other gifted musicians lending crucial musical contributions to this project. Jonas Reingold, no stranger to the Flower Kings as well as working with side-projects such as Karmakanic, Barracuda Triangle and the Tangent, is simply one of the most consistently impressive bass players currently active in modern prog circles, and as always, his inclusion pretty much makes this album an instant `must buy'. Fellow Karmakanic member and keyboard player Lalle Larsson has also delivered several outstanding solo albums worthy of investigation (especially his `Weaveworld' trilogy and solo piano disc `Until Never'), Michael Stolt, brother of Roine, is from an earlier version of the Flower Kings, and Feliz Lehrmann is the skilled latest drummer from their last few albums. The disc also includes some welcome backing vocals from the likes of Unifaun /Agents of Mercy singer Nad Sylvan and Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlow amongst others, and keyboardist Tom Breslin will be familiar to many Yes followers, being the keyboard player on Yes' superb `Live Symphonic' DVD from 2002. Giving credit to these guests is important, for reasons mentioned later on.

Although early press-release comments compare the album in spirit to Yes' (perhaps!) defining classic `Tales from Topographic Oceans', this is not really the case very often here. It sounds more like the most dense Flower Kings album to date without the flashy soloing given an extremely vocal-heavy fronting by Anderson, so fans of both those groups should be quite at home here. Although comprised of nine tracks, most of the sixty-five minute album is divided into four multi-part pieces. Stolt is no stranger to lengthy compositions in any of his music, and considering the complexity of the album, all of the transitions between passages here are seamless and natural, with plenty of constant clever reprises that slyly return before you even know you're back again! Symphonic themes with plenty of organ, whirring synths and tasty guitar solos rising into the heavens constantly weave in and out of the entire disc, and the sound of Stolt's soloing will be instantly noticeable to Flower Kings and Transatlantic fans, but thankfully he never resorts to aping the tone of Yes' Steve Howe in an attempt to make this sound more `Yes-like'.

But the album pretty much belongs to Jon Anderson (with Stolt surrendering all vocal duties to his more famous counterpart), and to his credit, he hasn't sounded so relaxed, inspired and varied in decades. Jon completely drives the course of the album with his distinctive breezy, hopeful and embracing lead voice, but also surprises with some exquisite multi-part harmonies that seem to hover in the air around the listener, and he leaves Stolt to craft these weighty majestic passages to hold his new age proclamations and spiritual musings. Plenty of passages see the two musicians successfully gelling and complimenting each-other perfectly, others sometimes come across as if Anderson's gems of belief are added on top afterwards, but most of the time the album is surprisingly and consistently cohesive. It's also a welcome relief to find that `Invention of Knowledge' is hardly commercial or (gulp!) AOR-driven, something that many of the older prog-related musicians depressingly resort to!

As for the music itself, the three-part LP side-long length title-track is full of stirring orchestration and victorious chimes, Anderson's voice impossibly pretty and announcing with plenty of rumbling drums, chunky bass spasms, strains of sitar and regal synth veils, Stolt delivering everything from drowsy slide guitar, reflective slow-burn wisps and scorching quick little bursts. The uplifting melody in the opening minutes of the two-part `Knowing' is one of the loveliest moments of the disc with intricate vocal arrangements over commanding organ, piano ringing through and booming symphonic bluster breaking out, and this eighteen-minute track perhaps drifts the closest to Jon's old band, with an almost `Awaken'-like quality in the dreamier spots. "Faith to the real salvation life" Jon offers on the sweetly romantic and reassuring three-part `Everybody Heals', with some crisp soaring guitar runs ringing through from Stolt and very welcome brisk jazzy piano races. `Know...' is simpler and stripped back, floating gracefully and triumphantly, containing some of the only longer instrumental moments of the disc which thankfully allow all the players to shine brightly, and a final reprise of themes from `Knowing' bring a satisfying sense of closure.

But it all comes down to this - How much you enjoy this album may depend on exactly what Jon Anderson personally means to you, because, make no mistake, this whole album is completely geared around his personality, word view and spiritual beliefs. To many, he is in the heart and spirit of true Yes, so many will adopt this as `the best and most true Yes album since (for instance) `Going for the One', but the truth is - this album sounds nothing like Yes. Nor is it an experimental loopy tour- de-force like his `Olias of Sunhillow' solo album was, yet `Invention of Knowledge', whilst sounding nothing like that one either, is absolutely the most complex and dynamic prog-related work he's been involved with since that landmark distinctive release.

If you're one of those more easy-going Yes fans that believe Anderson CAN be a wonderful ingredient to making up the beautiful music of Yes, but are just as thrilled by Steve Howe's fiery guitar runs or Chris Squire's upfront chugging bass, then this album will make you very aware of what's missing - longer instrumental passages. `Invention of Knowledge' boasts some exceptional players providing endless progressive-music colour and skill to the arrangements, but they're almost constantly pushed behind Anderson's airy vocals. There's fleeting little instrumental breaks of 30 seconds or so here and there, but then it's right back to more vocals, and unless you are simply the biggest Anderson fan-boy in the world (which is not actually a slight in any way), this can become very tiresome over the course of an album than runs over an hour. Of course, it's natural with an icon of the genre such as Anderson that he's going to be a main attraction to the work and it makes sense to have him constantly front and center, but it kind of short-changes the contributions of some fine musicians who deserve to given more attention in undistracted showcase opportunities, that you have to sometimes strain to hear in the background beneath the endless vocal trickery.

But in the end, it's still a joyous triumph of progressive music that doesn't merely remain lazily vintage-flavoured or resort to tiredly remaking the sounds of the classic bands of the style. `Invention of Knowledge' is impeccably performed and produced, is lyrically, vocally and musically utterly convincing, even sometimes a little overwhelming, but holding true magic in several standout spots. It should have provided more interludes of longer purely instrumental sections to break up all the vocal flamboyance, but it's no doubt going to remain the biggest symphonic prog moment of the year that lovers of that grandest of prog-rock styles will absolutely adore to bits. Now let's see if the Anderson/Stolt project is going to become a recurring concern or the iconic pair will just leave us with this one teasing masterwork!

Four stars.

Report this review (#1590108)
Posted Saturday, July 23, 2016 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars The remembering

Jon Anderson is one of the more prolific members of the Yes family tree with a large number of solo albums and also several collaborations with other artists over the years, for example with Vangelis in 80's and more recently with fellow Yes man Rick Wakeman and with Fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty in the Anderson Ponty Band. The present album is a collaboration with Swedish musician Roine Stolt. I was previously familiar with Stolt from Transatlantic and I also saw him live with Steve Hackett's band recently.

The Invention Of Knowledge is a vocally driven album, and Jon's vocals are almost constantly to the forefront. His voice sounds very well indeed, better than on other recent releases. The style is what I would like to call "soft progressive Rock". A reasonable comparison in terms of the style here could be to Open, a digital only release from Jon which consists of one 20 plus minute epic piece of symphonic music. Anderson/Stolt is not similar to Yes music, but the closest you get is probably on Tales From Topographic Oceans. The mood of The Invention Of Knowledge is almost constantly uplifting and bright and even though the music is thoroughly pleasant and enjoyable, it is not very challenging. I feel that it never really truly gets off the ground and with a running time of over an hour, it tends to get a bit samey at points.

I like The Invention Of Knowledge. Indeed, I think it is better than most of Jon's solo albums and I would say it is one of his best non-Yes releases. It is well worth having certainly, and a nice listen, but I do not find it terribly impressive.

Report this review (#1590153)
Posted Sunday, July 24, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Invention of Knowledge is up there with the best Yes or The Flower Kings albums. It is an excellent creation from two of the greatest talents in the history of Progressive Rock. Both Yes and The Flower Kings are favorites of mine, so I was really excited when I heard this was coming out. I did NOT expect it to be this good. It really is a work of art combining that early Yes feel with that modern The Flower Kings vibe. You absolutely can hear both influences at work as Invention of Knowledge unfolds into a masterpiece of modern Progressive Rock. If you are a fan of Yes, The Flower Kings, or Progressive Rock, then this is absolutely a must buy.
Report this review (#1592726)
Posted Friday, July 29, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars Wow, a collaboration of Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings and Jon Anderson of Yes! How exciting to see the old school and the not-so-old school (Roine will be 60 later in 2016) working together! Or is it?? That's the question my mind pondered as I fell asleep multiple times while listening to this. Or perhaps the meaning of this music is simply above the ability of my brain to comprehend? Like it was intended for spirits in another dimension to listen to and maybe humans simply have not evolved (at least in my case) enough to understand Anderson's enlightened gibberish.

Let's get the first thing everyone wants to know out of the way. Does it sound like the Flower Kings? No. Does it sound like Yes? Barely. What does it sound like? It sounds like the plodding, slow-moving, new age music Anderson has featured on many of his solo albums (Olias of Sunhillow is one reference point), with an occasional Howe-like nod from Stolt. There really is no prog rock workout here. It plods along at the same speed for over an hour, occasionally reaching minor crescendos in places. The music is by no means simple either. It has some complexity to it in an almost orchestral fashion. And with musicians such as Lalle Larsson, Jonas Reingold, Tom Brislin, and Felix Lehrmann at their disposal, I'm shocked that there wasn't anything worthy enough to provide the "rock" portion of prog rock. The entire album had this folky, new age vibe running throughout; a never-ending "sameness."

Now, maybe there were some interesting instrumental things going on, but they were lost on my ears from the incessant wordiness of this album. Anderson's vocals are nice, but they are forced way above the rest of the mix and there are few moments on the album where he isn't singing. I never imagined Anderson's vocals being "too much" for an album until now.

I can't really comment on the lyrics much as I don't understand them (as I suspect most humans that haven't reached whatever world Jon lives in). There is much repetition, but that still doesn't help me understand them either. I would have better luck understanding the output of a random word generator than this gibberish.

Fans of Anderson's solo career will probably like this; maybe Yes fans that like the softer, sleepier side of Yes. Fans of gibberish will also enjoy this. If you want the rock equation of prog rock, look elsewhere.

Report this review (#1592748)
Posted Friday, July 29, 2016 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The prolific Jon Anderson has been quite a busy man lately, having recovered from illness with a new found energy and passion, a trait that disproves the long held misconception that rock music is the governance of the young and only the young. Beyond 71 years of age, he continues to voyage into unfamiliar territories such as his long delayed cooperation with Jean-Luc Ponty, a thoroughly successful venture that yielded the aptly named 'Better Late than Never' album and subsequent well-applauded tour. Here, he has teamed up with Swedish mastermind Roine Stolt of the Flower Kings and Transatlantic fame, to create a very Yes-like opus that proves only that the creative juices that inspired him in the glory days of progressive rock, still has a resonating voice and audience today. Sadly, the judgmental universe that we now live in will give way to some unfair and foolish criticism from shameless detractors who need to fuel their pill-fed apathy (to stay awake at the keyboard at the very least) by puncturing this symphonic opus with brazen detritus. Well, like they say at the hardware store: screw them! If you no like, move the hell on!

Gathering a rather stellar crew of familiar faces from both the FK, such as bassist extraordinaire Jonas Reingold, drummer Felix Lehrmann and former FK bassman Michael Stolt) and from the Yes side, Tom Brislin, whilst including the supremely talented Swedish keyboardist Lalle Larsson, the two protagonists certainly have aimed precisely at what they wanted to achieve, a classic sounding Progressive Rock album. Both Anderson and Stolt have never sounded better and more confident, and truth be said, you can hear the enthusiasm displayed throughout. Let us be honest first of all, this collaboration has more musical width and breath than anything spewed by Yes since , my goodness' since Relayer!

That being said, the nine tracks do flow into one another rather seamlessly, a very linear sounding series of arrangements within each piece that get busy one moment and quite atmospheric the next, as on the end of 'Knowledge', where the swirling effects really take hold. As with the Ponty collaboration, the music is totally uplifting, spirited if not necessarily overtly spiritual, spiced by occasional bursts of energetic gusto and dazzling playing by all instrumentalists. Roine can carve with the best of them, a talented guitarist who can infuse a variety of styles that span the gamut of influences, from Howe, Hackett and Gilmour to more oblique talents such as Allan Holdsworth. He can play fast, controlled and delirious when prompted. While Squire has always been a giant, Reingold is one hell of a player, seeing him live seals the deal. A monster.

I also cannot help noticing that three songs contain the sound NO (as opposed to'Yes) in Know, Knowledge and Knowing. Coincidence? Nah, must be my meds. Yeah, I know (no). In fact, all the titles have a positive spin and message. Eat that Steve Wilson!

The glorious track 'Knowing' is an 11 minute celestial epic that reeks the most of 'Close to the Edge', owner of a skilled melody and some complex orchestrations, Lalle's divine grand piano, screeching synth swirls and a fully determined vocal performance that is easily among the very best ever captured by a microphone. The two follow up pieces 'Chase & Harmony' and 'Everybody Heals' are equally masterful expressions of musical craftsmanship and passionate delivery. Shorter ditties offer hope and salvation, 'Better by Far' and 'Golden Light', a lovely diversion that goes straight to the owner of lonely Heartstrings and pulls on them delicately. The jazzy, windswept and airy 'Know' is an 11 minute tropical paradise of topographic ocean breezes, Jon's voice a warm zephyr that soothes the soul and medicates the mind, a beach with grandiose piano, shuffling bass, brushed cymbals and a laid back, laissez-faire attitude. 'An answer to a promise that delivered you' as Roine swirls his guitar like Carlos Santana. Totally delicious.

I enjoyed the whole enchilada, an album that will need made more listens and new details to discover, so dense this is. I was expecting something a bit lamer I guess and I was wrong. The cover artwork, booklet and inlay are truly first-class and worth the eye candy.

4.5 Devices of Awareness

Report this review (#1615651)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars 2016 finds a certain Prog God in marvellously rude health and top form. The aforesaid award for Jon Anderson was, in my opinion, thoroughly well deserved. There is a tour, long promised, with fellow Yes cohorts Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman, which, to all accounts, seems to have been extremely well received. And, to start off the year, this collaboration with Roine Stolt, he of Flower Kings fame, with more than a little contributed by a stellar backing band, including the marvellous Jonas Reingold, Stolt's Kings collaborator on bass, and the wonderful Tom Brislin on keys (whose piano work especially on Chase and Harmony is clear and uplifting), this marking a return to working with Anderson.

The album was created over the Internet, Anderson's preferred method of recording, with vocals and musical ideas and compositions sent to each protagonist over the ether. The idea started when Stolt and the Transatlantic boys had Anderson singing Yes classics with them on one of those prog cruise trips which are in vogue at the moment.

Structurally, the album is, understandably, an attempt to recreate the feel of Yes classics from the Topographic symphonic heyday, although, perhaps more than many others who have commented on the album, I feel that Stolt and his unique Flower Kings sound and feel is also stamped over the work. It is not a collection of songs, as such, but a group of suites joining together to segue into a whole body of work. I also think that the Topographic comparison was, in reality, a clever marketing ploy to bring us classic Yes fans on board. They needn't have bothered, because the album stands up more than well enough on its own as a symphony of modern progressive rock, utilising the latest technology and loving production to bring a vision to life.

Does it work? Undeniably, yes. Those who do not buy in to Anderson's mystical view of life, the universe, and everything, will probably not be converted by this, because it is very much his lyrical creation, in keeping with many of his better solo albums. I do buy into this, so it is not a problem for me.

For the first few listens, in fact, you do feel that he is in danger of drowning out the music lyrically and vocally. It is not the case, however, when you become familiar with the album and allow it to wash over and influence you, for example allowing the sheer lifting beauty of We Are Truth, with Anderson sounding better than he has in years, accompanied by a choral backdrop, and the most beautiful soaring symphonic noise, extremely reminiscent of Stardust We Are period Kings (Knowing, by the way, could easily have fitted on that exceptional album), then you know that what you have here is classic progressive rock played by its leading proponents, classic and modern.

Listen to the orchestration on Everyone Heals, and then recoil at the power of Stolt's riff, before Anderson introduces the vocal with a fragile power one thought had been lost to us forever.

Some of Stolt's guitar work really is to be treasured (the delicate sounds produced on Knowledge with the sounds of the ocean waves lapping over it are simply wonderful), and Reingold has his fret fingers working as if it is the last thing he will ever do, and wants to go out on a high.

Both of them have promoted this album with vigour, and it quite clearly is a work of some importance to them. I heard Anderson on BBC Radio on more than one occasion, and he is clearly revelling in the autumn of his career. Given that it is only a few years since he almost died, I thank God that he has survived to carry on his musical legacy to the world. I also wonder what would have been had Squire and Howe showed just a little bit more patience, and allowed him the recovery time he needed, because one thing is for sure. This is a far better, rounded, and genuine "Yes" album than the debacle that was Heaven and Earth, or Fly From Here, as much as I enjoyed the suite on the latter.

This is an excellent album, which all lovers of genuine symphonic prog will want to own. For the PA rating system, four stars, but 4.5 if we had such a rating. I, for one, would like to see this collaboration continue to see where it takes them. To the stars, I think!

Report this review (#1632766)
Posted Monday, October 17, 2016 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Back in the 1980s, Jon Anderson was invited to sing in what was to become that decade's version of Yes. Along with Chris Squire and Alan White, as well as Yes alumnus Tony Kaye, and driven by Trevor Rabin, this version of the band played a much more pop driven style, dancing around the fringes of prog. But Anderson was not completely content with that. He eventually assembled old friends Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe and Bill Bruford into a more traditional Yes-sounding band.

More recently, during an extended bout with illness, Anderson asked the Yes of that day for a break from touring. Instead of either putting Yes on hiatus, or finding a temporary replacement singer, the group unceremoniously fired him. In the years since, Yes has recorded two fair, but mostly unremarkable albums with two different replacement singers. While these albums again have hints of that old Yes spark, they are missing some key ingredients of what Yes was about.

Joining up now with Roine Stolt and a band of Stolt's cohorts, Anderson has now proven that he is the keeper of the soul of Yes.

Their first (I do hope this band continues) album is an inspired suite of four linked songs, split into nine movements, with underlying themes, lyrically and musically, that weave throughout the album. It is an uplifting, spiritual piece that sound more like Yes than anything the present members of the group have come up with.

I compare this album favorably with "Tales From Topographic Oceans", another full-album concept piece.

Stolt takes care to deliver the Yes sound, crafting his guitar to simulate Howe's unique technique, both in phrasing and tone. And both bass players that perform here, Jonas Reingold and Michael Stolt, do a fine approximation of Chris Squire's outstanding melodic bass lines.

Anderson's lyrics are in the classic Yes vein, positive and spiritual, without focusing on any particular religion or dogma.

On the whole, this album revives the Yes experience better than anything any of the members have released in decades. If I could give any advice to the remaining Yes, it's "Do whatever you can to get Anderson back!!!!"

Report this review (#1635499)
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2016 | Review Permalink
2 stars Tales From Soporific Oceans...

On paper it couldn't miss: a collaboration between YES icon Jon Anderson and guitarist Roine Stolt of THE FLOWER KINGS, in a return to the sort of long-form Symphonic Rock not heard from Anderson in decades. The finished album was advertised (in a big sticker smack-dab on the CD cover) as "new music in the spirit of early works such as Tales From Topographic Oceans & Olias of Sunhillow" ...strictly sales talk, but the comparison caught on, in a textbook model of autosuggestion.

Reviews so far have been glowing, enough to warrant a dissenting opinion. And here it is, from a reluctant spoilsport old enough to recall when the music of Jon Anderson and Yes really did strive toward "The Revealing Science of God".

As a bridge uniting two generations of Progressive Rock, the new album is built of flimsy stuff. The original "Topographic Oceans", keep in mind, found its genesis in the ancient Hindu shastras described by Paramahansa Yogananda in his autobiography, famously introduced to Anderson by maverick King Crimson percussionist Jamie Muir. "Invention of Knowledge", in contrast, was born poolside aboard a luxury Prog Rock cruise ship sailing the Caribbean, with free food, fine drinks, and a casino belowdecks.

The so-called collaboration was ersatz from the start. Jon Anderson would email ideas to Sweden, where Stolt force-fit them onto older, unreleased music of his own before sending them back to California for more amendments (and still more lyrics) by Anderson, working alone on his home studio computer. The only time the two were actually in the same room was during a promotional photo shoot.

All a sign of the times, in this Brave New World of web-linked music production. But still a lousy way to write and record an album. It's no wonder the outcome resembled a lesser Flower Kings effort, featuring a celebrity guest vocalist who sounds like he wandered into the studio by chance and began singing about Ley lines before anyone could stop him.

Maybe Stolt was reluctant to assert himself over material developed (suggested, really) by an obvious idol. We could have then been spared this tepid collection of uninspired soft-prog, certainly effective in spots, but with a numbing uniformity in tone and tempo over its 65-minute length. Olias of Sunhillow? Try Olias of Sleepy Hollow instead...

Mine is a minority opinion, to be sure. But no way is the album worthy of comparison to classic Prog, sounding to this Grinch more like something the Whos of Whoville would sing while carving their holiday roast beast. Quoting Jon Anderson himself, from an earlier and more enlightened age of Progressive expression: What happened / To wonders / We once knew so well?

Report this review (#1677198)
Posted Sunday, January 8, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars When I read that Jon Anderson and Roine Stolt would collaborate, I thought 'Why hasn't this happened sooner?' Well, after returning to this album several times over a period of half a year, I can safely say that I'm thoroughly disappointed with the outcome. Now, this is not a bad album but it is neither great. The problem is the lack of diversity within the album. Each song blends seamlessly into the next and it's hard to know that you are on track four when it still sounds like track one.

The vocals are always out front, and Anderson's vocals are still good considering his age, but I was hoping Stolt would at least contribute one vocal track to the album. It would have adding some needed change. Then there is a distinct lack of instrumental sections. Where is the energy? There is one short jazzy instrumental section at the end of 'Everybody Heals,' yet after about ten listens over the past half year, I was hoping for more than two memorable minutes from the album.

And that sums up the experience for a me. A nice, mellow, uplifting album but utterly forgettable. 2.5 stars from me because two stars seems a bit too low so I'll just round it up to three.

Report this review (#1680501)
Posted Monday, January 16, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars Better than most Jon Anderson solo albums.

Many reviewers have suggested this album comes across as a parts Olias of Sunhillow and Tales from Topographic Oceans, and I would not, on the whole, disagree. However, it is missing key elements of both albums that pushed them into 'excellent' territory. On the positive side, all the music on this album is highly listenable all the way through, which can't be said for most Jon Anderson solo albums (which often have duds that must be skipped over, except Olias of course), and all of the pieces here are solid even if not highly memorable. Jon Anderson's lyrics here are also pretty good - better than a lot of his more cheesy lyrics on some of his solo albums, and his voice has kept well - he sounds pretty darn good for a 70-year old! So, good on these scores, and worth picking up for these reasons. On the negative side, the vocals are too constant, with insufficient instrumental breaks. While I generally love Jon Anderson's vocals, too much of a good thing can be a bit tiring to listen to - there is not sufficient time to wander off into the music before perking up one's ears again for the lyrics. Related to this, while the music behind the lyrics is excellent, it is not sufficiently the focus of the album. Often the excellent playing is too low in the mix (leaving the vocals always up front and centre), and the musical interludes are too short. Among the great thing about Yes (and the Flower Kings and Roine Stolt's solo work) was/is the high degree of musicality in their instrumental sections, and you can hear right away the potential for this in this album too, but alas there are no extended instrumental pieces (not even extended new-age-y ethereal tails like on Olias) - AND there are not enough guitar solos! Roine Stolt is a fantastic player and on a duet album one would like to hear him play the guitar some more (there are a number of short solos, but most are more like bridges or transitions than real solos). Saying all this, I don't want to give a bad impression of this album - it is actually very good for what it is and worth hearing. I have listened to this about 10 times now, and I find a number of sections quite musical, and nothing is off-putting. But it is not quite 4-star material. I give this album 7.7 on my 10-point scale, which translates to 3 PA stars.

Report this review (#1703415)
Posted Saturday, March 18, 2017 | Review Permalink
2 stars I've never been a fan of Jon Anderson's solo albums, but was intrigued by what a combination of writing skills of Anderson and Roine Stolt would achieve. Jon Anderson achieves his best work collaborating with other talented artists like Steve Howe, whose song writing idol is Bob Dylan, or with Rick Wakeman, whose classical background allows the structure and form for Jon Anderson's ideas to breathe. Unfortunately, I think Roine Stolt is too enamored with Jon Anderson's standing and reputation in the prog community to involve himself in the writing of the album and limits his involvement to his guitar playing skills. Other great artists contribute to the playing as well ' Jonas Reingold on bass, Tom Brislin on keyboards, Michael Stolt on bass and Moog and Felix Lehrmann on drums. And Jon Anderson hasn't lost any of the power and range of his amazing voice, despite an age pushing 70.

With such incredible musicians and an array of instruments out of prog paradise you'd think there would be enough to appetize the listener, but the luster of the instrumentation fades after about the second song. One doesn't know when one song finishes and the next starts and there is nothing memorable which sticks in the mind. There just aren't the key shifts in the music and the modulations that distinguishes one verse from the next and gives the music its tonality. I found myself persevering with the music to a point where I just found it too plodding to continue with. This is one of the very few albums I was unable to get to the finish listening to it.

Report this review (#2436573)
Posted Monday, August 10, 2020 | Review Permalink

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