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Jon Anderson

Toltec

Review by Gary Hill

Based on Carlos Castenada’s work, this album has a mellow motif. It’s far from the most hard rocking thing we’ve ever gotten from Jon Anderson, but it’s quite deep from a philosophical point of view and quite beautiful from a musical one. The track “Enter Ye the Mystery School” is a masterpiece and well worth the price of admission by itself. A Native American medicine man Longwalker is featured in spoken segments throughout much of the disc. Musically a lot of this album shares ground with Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow while I hear his Animation on other points. There are sounds beyond those two discs, though and this one should please all his fans. If you haven’t yet added it to your collection what are you waiting for?

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Book Opens
This starts off with the words of a Native American medicine man. It’s almost a minute in before we get any music, and it’s atmospheric at first – with hints of Native American music. The spoken teachings end and the music begins to rise up a bit with the sounds of children coming and going. At around the three minute mark the track seems to end, but instead this gives way to a rocking reincarnation. It seems ready to explode out into a powered up jam, but instead drops back for a gentle melodic exploration. It works through a couple variants and then a new segment with a more definite Native American texture comes to play. The medicine man returns to end the track.
Quick Words (Talk-Talk)
A bouncing ballad-like approach serves to lead us out here. This is quick paced and tasty and Anderson’s voice flits about the outskirts of the music. The chorus is catchy and more rocking in nature. We get a bridge that has a folk music texture and a choir of gentle voices. Then bits of the Native American sounds take us to the next set of Anderson’s vocals. This isn’t quite acapella, but not far from it. There’s a short transitional segment that reminds me of something from Olias of Sunhillow and then we move on to the main musical theme. This segues straight into the next piece.

Shall We Play the Game
Continuing the musical ideas started in the previous number as the vocal continues I’m reminded of the faster paced stuff from Anderson’s Animation album. We get a return to the “talk-talk” chorus from the previous piece. There’s a dramatic instrumental interlude that has a bit of an Asian feeling to it and then more of those Olias of Sunhillow moments. When it comes back to the “talk talk” section after a time there are extra vocals and other elements added to the mix. Then there’s a shift to a rather Yes-like section of staggered lines of vocals. Once more this moves straight into the next cut.

Semati Siyonpine
There is more of an organic texture to this. It’s pretty and gentle with children’s voice serving in a choir. We get the medicine man’s return on this track. It’s a pretty and gentle number. Around the half-way point a saxophone solos bringing with it some jazz elements. Then Anderson joins as the choral voices return. He lays lines of lyrics across the top of this backdrop. A bouncy world music element takes it in playful ways at the end.

Good Day Morning
Textural musical elements start this off. It feels a bit dark and ominous. Anderson’s voice skates over the top of this as it moves along. The medicine man returns here. This never really moves very far from its origins, though. Instead it serves almost as an extended introduction to the next piece.

Leap Into the Inconceivable
This is a rather bouncy number that has sections that are ballad-like. The truth is, though, this is one of the most dynamic pieces on show here. It moves through a series of changes and alterations. Parts of this make me think of Animation, while others call to mind Olias… There are a couple killer instrumental sections that are dominated by keyboards and feel a lot like Yes.

Song of Home
With harp as the central instrumentation, this is pretty and gentle. It’s only a little over a minute and length and sort of an interlude.

Building Bridges
The arrangement on this feels a lot like something from Animation to me. There is a fast paced tempo and some interesting musical elements – yet it still remains fairly gentle. Around the half way point this launches into a dramatic keyboard laden instrumental section. It’s worked through a number of changes and alterations before eventually dropping back to ambience to segue into the next number.

Sound and Color
Combining harp and classical instrumentation into a ballad-like structure, this is pretty and delicate.

Longwalker Speaks
The medicine man (Longwalker) gets a full song devoted to him here. He is the star of this track, with only minor elements showing up a couple times to accompany him.

Maazo Maazo
This is an acapella chorale type treatment for the bulk of its nearly minute and a half length. Musical elements come up to end this and move it into the next track.

Enter Ye the Mystery School
With harp and other elements that were begun in the last track, Longwalker returns here. At just past the minute mark this feels like it’s about to launch into a hard rocking jam. It becomes a rather symphonic treatment, calling to mind Holst quite a bit. This grows into a prog rock masterpiece from there. It’s definitely the highlight of the CD and well worth the journey we’ve taken to get here. It drops way back down after a while and we get more of the medicine man. Once more it is built up in dramatic fashion after a time. Layers of vocals are added over this in the new incarnation. Again I’m reminded of Olias of Sunhillow at times, but in many ways this is far more symphonic. It eventually drops down to textural elements to segue into the disc closer.

Ave Vernum
Take Mozart and add in Jon Anderson and this is literally what you get. It reminds me a lot of Jon and Vangelis.

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