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Jon Anderson

In the City of Angels

Review by Gary Hill

I don’t know what it is but I’ve always loved this CD. Sure, a lot of the music here really borders on pop – OK, maybe more than borders on it. The truth is, though, Jon Anderson and company deliver an album that is entertaining while still bringing a hopeful sense of spirituality to the table. That ain’t easy, but they make it seem like it is. This is not a Yes album, nor is it really like anything else in Anderson’s solo catalog. That doesn’t mean it’s not a great CD because it is.

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
Hold On To Love
This has a bouncy, jazzy texture. It’s a lot like Toto. Anderson’s vocal timings here have a definite jazz groove to them – at least on the earlier portions of the track. When it shifts out into the expansive chorus this is much more like what we expect from Anderson’s solo output. The “da da da” section later is just plain catchy and cool. There’s also still a jazz air to this vocalizing – it’s not far from scat.
If It Wasn't For Love (Oneness Family)
Take a bit of the speed out of the last song. Then pull out a bit of the jazz. Mix in a little 1950’s rock and roll. Add a pinch of reggae to the mix. Now you’ve got the basis for the bulk of this track. For the chorus take some of Anderson’s Animation album. Remove the electronic basis and you’ve got the recipe.

Sundancing (For the Hopi/NavaJo Energy)
The repeating rhythmic pattern that serves as backdrop for Anderson’s opening vocals (and actually the entire song) feels like something from Jon and Vangelis (minus the electronics). There is a reggae sort of vibe brought in through tuned percussion here and there throughout the cut. This gets quite powerful before it ends.

Is It Me
A jazzy ballad styling makes up this track. I know there are those who might say this is “too poppy” or has a lounge feeling to it. The truth is, though, Anderson brings his particular magic to the table here and I really like this track a lot. There is a bit of a 1980’s pop feeling to it, but it’s still a highlight of the CD. Is it progressive rock? No. It is great? Yes.  They infuse some more energy into it later and we also get a couple tasty saxophone solos.
In A Lifetime
The expansive “adult contemporary” stylings that were heard in the last number return here. They are paired with a more progressive rock oriented soundscape. This is another strong cut despite (or perhaps because of) its simplistic innocence. It’s less obviously catchy than the previous one, but yet it’s got so much charm.
For You
This number is even more sedate than the other music we’ve heard. The thing is, it also has a gentle power and majesty to it. It’s got some of the innocence from the last piece, but it’s also got a lot more progressive rock built into the mix. This is really another highlight of the CD.
New Civilization
Here we get a lot more upbeat, high energy number. In some ways this reminds me a lot of “How it Hits You” from Three Ships, but I also pick up a definite Animation vibe from this. There’s also a lot of jazz put into this mix. This is probably the most energized and dynamic song by this point on the CD.
It's On Fire
This is pretty much a merging of the typical Jon Anderson solo sound (yeah, there is kind of a typical sound) with the more organic elements that make up the rest of the disc. It’s a good piece and has a lot of energy. It just doesn’t seem to stand as high as some of the other music here.
Betcha
Here we get the first really “hard rocking” piece. There are elements here that call to mind Trevor Rabin era Yes. There are also some jazzy moments. This is a major change of pace from the rest of the disc and stands quite tall.

Top Of The World (The Glass Bead Game)
It seems that the whole disc has prepared us for these last two songs – the apex. This is a building prog rock masterpiece. It rocks out quite well. It’s dramatic and powerful.

Hurry Home (Song From The Pleiades)
This is less dramatic in terms of musical structure. That doesn’t mean it’s a weak or simple tune, though. The vocal arrangement with its many layers and powerful delivery is what really drives this piece. It’s a hopeful and soaring climactic piece. It serves as a great way to end things on a high note.

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