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Jon Anderson - Olias of Sunhillow CD (album) cover


Jon Anderson


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3.97 | 488 ratings

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4 stars Jon Anderson's first solo album was recorded and released in 1975-76, after the release of Yes' 'Relayer' album. After touring quite heavily for 5 years, the band thought that it would be a good time to take a break and that they would all work on their own solo albums (Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Alan White and Patrick Moraz was the Yes line-up at the time). 'Olias of Sunhillow' was Jon Anderson's solo album, but he would later release several others through his career.

Anderson wanted to release a concept album that was unlike anything Yes had done, yet that still told a story. His idea was a science-fiction tale that was inspired by the album cover artwork from Yes' 'Fragile' album which was done by Roger Dean. Using the flying ark from that album, he created a story of a magician named Olias who constructs an ark named the Moorglade Mover. The purpose of the ark was to fly the people of the planet Sunhillow to a new planet, which they do just before the planet disintegrates. The ark eventually lands on the planet Asguard.

All of the instruments and vocals on the album were performed by Anderson. However, the style on many of the tracks very closely resemble Vangelis' style, so much so that Vangelis' record label told him that they were unhappy with the fact that he played on the album, which he denies. However, Anderson does thank him in the credits, suspiciously enough. Vangelis does appreciate the album and is flattered that Jon was inspired by his style, but says that it does represent Anderson's style and talent a lot more closely.

The music on the album is beautifully orchestrated with a lot of synthesizer, but also use of middle and far Eastern instruments and styles which give it all a very mystical feel. The music is definitely non-traditional in a pop sense using a lot of progressive elements and styles. The harmonies are lovely and many times are densely layered to give it a chorale effect on several tracks. The original album was broken up into 8 tracks, however, 4 of those tracks combine two or more titles. The music tends to flow seamlessly on those tracks with combined titles, with obvious breaks between the main 8 tracks. The music usually does sound quite a bit like Vangelis' style on many of the synth heavy tracks and instrumental sections, and Anderson does cite him as an inspiration on this record along with Rick Wakeman and Patrick Moraz.

The music is also very positive sounding as is the case with most of Anderson's endeavor's. It is different from the typical Yes style, less heavy, and with a more balanced and simpler style, yet complex all the same. There is a nice use of percussion throughout the album, though it is also non-traditional in a popular sense, using folk style percussion (tribal) and also with several folk traditional instruments to help add to the mystical sense of the album. Sitar, harp, saz, mandolins and wooden flutes help with this element, yet there is also a heavy use of synthesizer and some (mostly rhythm) guitar.

This is quite a lovely album and one of Anderson's best solo projects. As he released several other albums through the years, he has veered closer to some pop-sounding albums and at other times, approached a more progressive style, but there is always that signature voice and singing style of his that ties them all together. Overall, he has managed to keep his solo albums unique and distinct from his music with Yes. Thus it makes sense to present these albums under his own name, but you can still easily tell that it is Anderson. This particular album is an impressive solo debut, especially considering that he felt a bit insecure in this album during its recording only allowing one other person to hear it. When he was finally satisfied with the result, it was released for the world to finally hear. And it is an excellent effort worth 4 stars.

TCat | 4/5 |


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