3D Great Rock Bible
Jon Anderson iTunes Tracks

Jon Anderson

+ {Jon And Vangelis} + {The Anderson/Ponty Band} + {Anderson/Stolt}

Carrying the voice of an angel as an instrument of the heavens, high-pitched singer JON ANDERSON is almost synonymous when one talks about Britain’s bewitching prog-rock supergroup YES. During spells to escape the intensity and pressures of superstardom, and leaving his beloved YES, Anderson was to create another success story as part of Anglo-Greek duo JON AND VANGELIS.
Born John Roy Anderson, 25th October 1944, Accrington, Lancashire, the singer would cut his teeth in his brother Tony’s R&B-slanted outfit The Warriors; one 45, `Don’t Make Me Blue’ (without Tony), was issued early in 1965. Having performed with the group in Germany, Jon returned his home soil in 1968 to deliver a couple of low-key 45s for Parlophone Records (home to The BEATLES). Released under the Hans Christian Anderson moniker, both `Never My Love’ and `Autobiography Of A Mississippi Hobo’, failed to generate any interest outside a small circle of friends. Almost abandoning all thoughts of breaking through, Jon befriended bassist Chris Squire (then of Mabel Greer’s Toy Shop) and, in turn, guitarist Peter Banks, additions keyboard-player Tony Kaye and drummer Bill Bruford. A change of group moniker led to a change of fortunes, and the rest was history for rock music’s greatest discoveries, YES.
From 1969 to 1974 (the pinnacle being their `Close To The Edge’ classic in ’72), and with a few personnel variations along the way, mainly RICK WAKEMAN for Tony Kaye, STEVE HOWE for Banks and Alan White for BRUFORD, Jon and Co were never far away from the spotlight.
When things took a downturn in the mid-70s, all who sailed with them at the time (PATRICK MORAZ superseding Wakeman) took leave to create their own solo sets.
OLIAS OF SUNHILLOW (1976) {*7} was JON ANDERSON’s UK Top 10 concept, an idea inspired by the literature of Ver Stanley Alder and futuristic artist David Roe; creating one of the most commercially and critically fruitful of the bunch. Centring the storyline around “Sunhillow” spaceship architect, Olias (with other characters Ranyart and Qoguaq also on board), singer/performer Jon almost single-handedly navigates his listeners to another world by way of the almost celestial `Meeting – Sound Out The Galleon’, `Qoquaq En Transic…’ and `Flight Of The Moorglade’.
Deserting another ship of sorts, YES (after their tortuous `Tormato’ bombed), the pairing of JON AND VANGELIS reunited in 1979, having combined on the latter’s `Heaven And Hell’ album for the `So Long Ago, So Clear’ excerpt. Sadly, although `I Hear You Now’ marked a nice return to the higher echelons of the charts for both parties concerned, the parent Top 5 album SHORT STORIES (1980) {*6} bored the socks off mostly all who dabbled within its pithy grooves. Yet it had some appeal to the duo’s followers who found grace with tracks `Far Away In Bagaad’ and finale piece `Play Within A Play’. The snoozy partnership heralded another futile futuristic folly with the release of second new age collaboration, THE FRIENDS OF MR. CAIRO (1981) {*5}; its draw this time stemming from Top 20 cuts `I’ll Find My Way Home’ and `State Of Independence’, although for the latter it took disco superstar DONNA SUMMER to take it there in ‘82. Almost formulaic in its neo-classical mood-swings, the misleadingly-titled PRIVATE COLLECTION (1983) {*6} – not a compilation! – affirmed that J&V were masters of dinosaur divinity, concluding via a 23-minute magnum opus `Horizon’.
Meanwhile, ANDERSON was finding his own way via a second solo sojourn, SONG OF SEVEN (1980) {*4}, an upbeat mainstream pop-rock record that one found hard to see the point of – bar the 11-minute imaginings of its title track finale. Albums ANIMATION (1983) {*3} and the festive 3 SHIPS (1985) {*1 for each ship} would follow it to the bargain bins. In 1986/87, Jon was credited on MIKE OLDFIELD singles `Shine’ and `In High Places’, but his newfound anti-YES pop status was proving futile and commercially fruitless. Breaking from YES yet again (although the ANDERSON BRUFORD WAKEMAN HOWE was about to create something of a storm in a legal teacup), IN THE CITY OF ANGELS (1988) {*4} was given the green light by Columbia Records. With CULTURE CLUB producer and Motown-meister Lamont Dozier (or TOTO’s David Paich) utilised on some session-friendly pop songs, it was indeed another unseasonal turkey-shoot for the critics. And who really needed a fourth JON & VANGELIS outing. PAGE OF LIFE (1991) {*4} showed elements of jazz, soul, neo-classical, new age, worldbeat and the proverbial kitchen sink of genres, but despite ANDERSON holding his own on songs such as `Garden Of Senses’ and `Anyone Can Light A Candle’, this collaboration was well and truly sunk.
All but the ardent YES supporter was still on board by the time CHANGE WE MUST (1994) {*6} found its way to the shops. Reviving past nuggets including `State Of Independence’ and other such J&V quirks for the London Chamber Academy (conducted by Nigel Warren-Green and produced by Tim Handley), the record garnered the odd Celtic or worldbeat arrangement. That South American rhythm and a host of the continent’s best-loved chanters (including Milton Nascimento, Maria Conchita Alonso and Boca Livre), ANDERSON took a back-seat on the warm and friendly DESEO (1994) {*6}; 1996’s TOLTEC {*6} was another in this concept “new age” series.
Possibly inspired by the work(s) of ENNIO MORRICONE (`The Mission’ comes to mind), or indeed a mash-up of ENO and VANGELIS, ANGELS EMBRACE (1995) {*7} heralded a new beginning for a reinvigorated ANDERSON; almost hymnal and festive, one could imagine the heavens opening for such enchanting delights as `New Eire Land’ and the equally self-explanatory `Naturemusic’.
Prolific to the point of overload or excess, ANDERSON was responsible for a further clutch of cerebral and personal sets during this period. The Celtic-biased THE PROMISE RING (1997) {*5}, the cosmic-centric EARTHMOTHEREARTH (1997) {*6} and the Latin-weighted THE MORE YOU KNOW (1998) {*4} pulled Jon in various directions, but not all of them suited his soprano chords. Settling down to life in the slow-lane once again, post-millennium releases were cut to a minimum, while his YES career continued on regardless, whatever personnel changes provided; his place as stalwart frontman was duly over after the `Magnification’ set in 2001, although live appearances ensued until ill-health put paid to any further group work(s).
Then, just as the singer/guitarist looked to be putting his proverbial slippers on for good, an album – at first only available at concert venues – by JON ANDERSON and RICK WAKEMAN, THE LIVING TREE (2010) {*6} was made available to the public; as was THE LIVING TREE IN CONCERT PART ONE (2012) {*6}. Just as hopeful and bright as ever, ANDERSON and his 14th studio solo set SURVIVAL & OTHER STORIES (2011) {*6} – produced with his daughter Jane – completed a transitional awakening for both himself and his legion of loyal fans.
Combining forces with French virtuoso violinist JEAN-LUC PONTY (once an associate of ZAPPA and MAHAVISHNU), The ANDERSON/PONTY BAND emerged from under a prog-rock moon for a concert at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colorado on September 20, 2014. Augmented by guitarist Jamie Glaser (a late replacement for Jamie Dunlap), bassist Baron Browne, keyboardist Wally Minko and drummer Rayford Griffin, the magic of the night was turned into a bona fide CD/DVD package, BETTER LATE THAN NEVER (2015) {*7}. Featuring no less than five re-arranged YES cues (namely `Owner Of A Lonely Heart’, `Time And A Word’, `Wonderous Stories’, `And You And I’ and `Roundabout’), the fusion was well worth the Kickstarter finance afforded its eventual release.
Only a year down the line, further wonderous stories were revealed under the ANDERSON/STOLT banner, as INVENTION OF KNOWLEDGE (2016) {*8} returned Californian resident Jon to the UK charts (#58). The Stolt in question was The FLOWER KINGS’ guitarist Roine Stolt (the Swede also of TRANSATLANTIC), a fantasy fusion of prog and neo-prog that also roped in Roine’s brother Michael and fellow bassist Jonas Reingold, plus drummer Felix Lehrmann and keyboardists Tom Brislin and Lalle Larsson. Heavenly harmonies, complex chamber-rock, glissando guitar lines and four elaborate sides that spread a labyrinth of spiralling, segmented soundscapes (e.g. `Invention Of Knowledge’, `Knowing’, `Everybody Heals’ and `Know…’), the “Olias Of Sunhillow”/YES man was truly re-born.
© MC Strong 1994-2000/GRD // rev-up MCS Apr2012-Jul2016

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