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Jon Anderson - Survival & Other Stories CD (album) cover


Jon Anderson


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3.70 | 90 ratings

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4 stars I thought that the Anderson & Wakeman collaboration last year, The Living Tree, was a good album, but not anything particularly memorable, and part of the problem was that I felt that Anderson, a singer who has always had the capacity to move me very deeply vocally, had not really fully recovered from the illness which almost took his life and also signified his ejection, under not particularly pleasant circumstances, from the band with which he will be forever associated.

So, I eagerly awaited this latest solo release, the first of three promised new albums in the next year. In particular, I asked, had the great man's voice fully recovered?

The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. This album finds Jon back in soaring and full blooded voice again, and, in this reviewer's eyes, the world is a far happier place for it.

As one could probably guess from the title, the album, lyrically, is intrinsically bound up in the illness and his subsequent recovery, aided in a fabulous fashion by his wife Jane and friends such as Wakeman. Probably the feature of the lyrics that most stands out is the absolute directness of the words Anderson puts across. Whereas, in the past, he has tended to use words as sounds more than messages, sometimes extremely obliquely, on this work, his faith, gratitude, and love of life and the planet shout out loud and clear in lyrics which could never be mistaken other than for what they are.

There are some beautiful moments on this release. The opener, New New World, is a strong track which fairly races along. Unbroken Spirit, a paeon to his own inner strength and faith, is simply superb, with Anderson's voice absolutely scaling the heights of yore and with a musical backing very close to that of later Yes albums. The longest track, The Incoming, clocking in at just under eight minutes, features some wonderful piano and acoustic guitar work, backing a rather lovely reflective vocal, and as the track develops, it moves into another gear and what I can only describe as a symphonic masterpiece very close to some of the marvellous tracks recorded for Change We Must. The "Same Love" passage is amongst the finest I have ever heard from this legend.

Love And Understanding reminds me strongly of the Anderson led material Yes produced on The Ladder, full of joy and relentlessly upbeat thumping rhythms. The album closes with Cloudz, a wonderful track which is perhaps as close in spirit to the best of the work Anderson did with Vangelis, certainly in the sound of the main keyboard backing. If you didn't like this, then you won't particularly enjoy this track. I did, so I do, simple as that really.

My favourite track, though, is Just One Man, a very overtly religious song, sung with such passion and heights, it near moves you to planes that you barely imagined existed. Musically extremely simple, with a mellow piano and soft orchestration backing, the real instrument is Anderson's voice, and it is here that you realise that he is back to using it at its most effective. Quite simply beautiful, and a reaffirmation of all that I enjoy about this man's music.

The remainder are not bad, by any measure of quality. They are, though, not as good and Effortlessly, especially, has the mark of filler written all over it. The one track that many will find difficult to even halfway appreciate is Big Buddha Song. The title is a little misleading, because in this, Anderson actually sings the praises of one Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Krishna, and the mystical Earth Mother with whom he has long been associated. It's all very cheerful, but perhaps too direct to appeal to many. It is funny, however, when he moves a massive nod to his erstwhile band colleagues with a rendition of We Have Heaven. It's almost like being back in 1972!

Anderson, by the way, assembled his backing musicians by advertising for contributions on the internet worldwide, and the result is perhaps surprisingly excellent. I cannot put names to all the contributions, but the music is uniformly of a very high standard, and perhaps this is a decent model on which artists can create in the future. It wouldn't be the first time Anderson had led the way musically, by any means.

This album is not a masterpiece. That would be an exaggeration. It is, however, simply wonderful, a hugely enjoyable musical, spiritual, and vocal journey with one of rock's most important contributors, and it is simply fantastic to see and hear him back in such form.

Do not buy this expecting to hear a Yes album. Although Anderson describes himself as the guardian of "Yes Music", this is an album which is far closer to his solo work and collaborations with Vangelis and Wakeman than a full blooded Yes album, although I for one think that had Yes been a bit more patient, this material could well have formed the backbone of a far stronger effort than Fly From Here. Perhaps I'm biased, I don't know, but this is an album to treasure.

Not a masterpiece in the fashion of Olias, but certainly very much up there as the best of an (admittedly) mixed solo career, this fully deserves a four star rating and comes highly recommended.

lazland | 4/5 |


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