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Jon Anderson

Live From La La Land

Review by Gary Hill

When Jon Anderson embarked on his fully solo tour in 2005 it was presented as the DVD Tour of the Universe. It was also recorded and produced as this CD that, until now, was available only at live shows. This was recorded straight to DAT and therefore has an exceptional sound quality. The tour found Anderson performing purely solo, on either an acoustic guitar or piano and backed up by midi triggered keyboards, percussion, backing vocals and other elements. The result is a show that’s intimate and entertaining. This is a great set and a “must have” for any Yes or Anderson fans collection. The only complaint I can make is that the date of the concert is not printed anywhere on the CD or the packaging. As minor as that is it should tell you how great this set is.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Long Distance Runaround
Anderson opens things up with a short (a little less than 2 minutes) rendition of this classic Yes track. Performed in this intimate acoustic format, this is pretty and potent alternate take on the cut.
Father Sky
This is a fast paced number that has some intriguing lyrical themes. The combination of quick acoustic guitar themes and triggered keyboard elements makes for an interesting arrangement. This moves through a number of different motifs and also includes some midi-triggered backing vocals. I also particularly enjoy the quieter, dramatic, nearly ambient portion in the midst of the tune.
Yours Is No Disgrace
Here Anderson takes on another Yes classic. This interpretation differs far more from the original than did “Long Distance Runaround.” It’s a lot more focused on Anderson’s vocal performance than the musical motif. While I don’t think it stands up as competition for the original, it’s an intriguing change of pace and probably a killer for those who were actually in attendance. The “armies gathered” section is more effective than some of the other parts of the song for me here. Then again, I’ve always thought that section of the song showed more emotion in the vocal delivery than other portions – meaning that in this stripped down performance it would certainly shine brightest.

Richard
This tune is delicate and quite pretty. It’s balladic but yet has a classical, dramatic texture. It might not stand as one of the highlights here, but it isn’t far from it. When it powers up a bit it looses some of the delicacy, and takes on more of a rock and roll sound. We get a couple of other alterations along the way.
Reggae Song
Here we get (as the title might tell), Anderson’s take on reggae. I know that he’s a big fan of Bob Marley and I suppose you can feel a bit of that here. I wouldn’t really think of this as “reggae,” but it does have some definite reggae influence. Besides, it’s some great Jon Anderson solo music, how can you ask for more? We get some great scat sounds on this, too.

I'll Find My Way Home
Jon and Vangelis material is presented here. Since the original is so keyboard oriented, having it moved over to acoustic guitar presents an intriguing twist on the sound. Truly the lyrics and vocal approach have always been the most important part of this song (at least for this reviewer), so this arrangement serves it well. This is actually one of the highlights of the set.
Buddha Song
I love the melody to this ballad. It’s powerful and evocative. The lyrics, too are potent and empowering.  We get backing vocals on this arrangement. This is a spiritual number that is another of the highlights here.
Piano Songs
Literally we get Jon Anderson showing that he can play piano quite well. He works through a number of piano based musical themes and tells the story about how he began to be able to sing along while playing piano. Without giving any of his tale away, I’ll say that I wouldn’t recommend his method of acquiring this skill to anyone. Anderson pulls parts of “Close to the Edge” into this musical endeavor.  We get some of Tales From Topographic Oceans in this medley, too.
Disc 2
Show Me
This is great song. It’s a ballad-like number that has been performed by Yes. It’s got a folk rock texture to it and powerful lyrics.
Nous Sommes Du Soleil
We get more music from Tales From Topographic Oceans, this time delivered on acoustic guitar. This is pretty and works quite well in Anderson’s solo performance.
Owner Of A Lonely Heart
Yes’ biggest hit is delivered here is a stripped down acoustic performance. I’ve never been a big fan of the Rabin era of Yes, but this song is a good (but not great) one to begin with. I prefer Anderson’s solo version here to the original, though. The acoustic guitar and stripped down arrangement change the focal point of the track and give it a different texture and dimension. Anderson’s scat singing on this is a nice touch, too.
Wondrous Stories
This song (from Going For The One) was originally based pretty heavily around an acoustic guitar sound. It’s always been a great balladic piece and it works quite well here. We also get some scat type singing here.

Turn of the Century
Coming from the same Yes album as the last number, this is a gentle and very lovely and intricate piece of music. While Anderson’s arrangement here differs quite a bit from the original, it’s every bit as potent.
White Buffalo
Not to be confused with “Great White Buffalo” from Ted Nugent, this is another gentle piece of music that combines a tribal percussion backdrop with a very Yes-like ballad-like feeling. This actually has a texture like something that could have come from The Ladder or Magnification (in that last instance, minus the orchestra).  

State of Independence
Another Jon and Vangelis piece, once again, changing the focus from keyboards to acoustic guitar gives this number a completely different texture. Once again it’s a track that had a strong focus on the vocals to begin with and that holds it nicely here.
And You And I
Anderson turns his attention to the Close to the Edge album again. This is another that, at its core, is essentially an acoustic guitar based ballad. That aspect of the track means that this arrangement serves it quite well. It’s always been one of my two or three favorite Yes songs and I’ve never heard a recording or variant of it that hasn’t pleased me. This one continues that trend. There are some definite differences here from the Yes version, but this is a great rendition.
Soon
This time Anderson turns to the closing section of “Gates of Delirium” from Yes’ Relayer album. This has often been presented by itself even though it’s part of a larger epic. This solo version is one of the more faithful performances on the disc. It’s also another where the emotional vocal performance has always been one of its biggest strengths. This is one of the strongest pieces on show here. I like this a lot.
Your Move
Here we get the “Your Move” section of “I’ve Seen All Good People.” It’s bouncy and solid. It doesn’t differ greatly from the Yes version as this is essentially the same arrangement it had to begin with.
O'er
This is a Celtic mellow track by Anderson. It’s pretty and delivered acapella. I have to say that I really like it this way.

Roundabout
Ah, the other mega Yes hit is performed as the encore here. I’ve gotten a bit bored with this over the years, but variants like this bring a new life to the old classic. I suppose you couldn’t ask for a more fitting end to a Jon Anderson show.

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