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Jon Anderson

Survival and Other Stories

Review by Gary Hill

This album, featuring collaborations Jon Anderson made with various independent musicians, was originally released last year, in a very limited release. Anderson has made some changes to the music in terms mixing and other tweaks, and now it’s seeing widespread release. It’s very much in keeping with Anderson’s musical visions presented in his earlier solo releases, but also crosses into some new territory. Different songs seem to reflect echoes of different periods of Anderson’s career, while creating an updated vision. It’s a very strong release of beautiful and uplifting music. It’s highly recommended to all fans of Anderson’s solo work.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
New New World

A percussive thud leads off, but then it shifts out to a symphonic arrangement. Another thud is heard before Anderson starts singing. Rock instrumentation joins, but the symphonic element still drives this. In some ways this cut calls to mind Anderson’s Animation album. It turns to a more energized and rocking arrangement later. Then it drops back a little before the minute and a half mark for some vocalizations from Anderson. The bass line that joins when the arrangement fills back out really brings in a Yes-like feeling. There’s a symphonic interlude later, but then it moves out to rock again. The outro, though, is fully symphonic.

Understanding Truth
Acoustic guitar opens this in a gentle and intricate way. Anderson’s vocals over the top feel vulnerable, somehow – delicate. This is a mellow and folky number that never really rises beyond this opening sound.
Unbroken Spirit
There’s an almost Native American electronica element to the intro here, perhaps a bit like Jonathan Elias’ Requiem for the Americas. That gives way, though, to a slow moving, but emotionally powerful balladic melody that carries that track. This is very much trademark Jon Anderson solo music. It’s a potent tune.
Love of the Life
This starts with just Anderson’s voice for a  couple lines. Then it powers out to an arrangement that feels a lot like a cross between something from Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe and Anderson’s Animation album. The cut drops back for slower, mellower movements, but has a lot of energy on the alternating segments.
Big Buddha Song
Here we get a melodic rocker that’s more pure prog than some of the other stuff here. Listen carefully for nods to Anderson’s solo contribution to Yes’ Fragile album, “We Have Heaven,” as there are several. At times I’m reminded of Anderson’s In the City of Angels

album, but more in terms of vocal delivery than music. There are also some Beatles-like elements on this number.

Incoming
This number starts with just piano and that motif, along with voice, holds it for a time. The arrangement grows out into a more powerful version of itself with other layers of sound added to accentuate. It drops back to just piano for the outro. This is a pretty song that’s more or less a powered up ballad.
Effortlessly
Based on an acoustic guitar motif, this feels rather playful. There is a definite folk music element here and it’s gentle and tasty. The guitar gets quite intricate at times.
Love and Understanding
Here’s a cut that’s quite typical of Anderson’s solo work. This really feels like it could have come from any number of his classic solo releases. It combines some bits of world music with a melodic rock sound. It’s got energy and is quite tasty. There are even some hints of country music in the guitar soloing on this.
Just One Man
Piano starts off here and Anderson’s voice joins that instrument to start the cut off. It’s almost two-minutes in before the arrangement fills out. That doesn’t mean the melody doesn’t progress because it does. More keyboards and some strings are added later to fill it out, but this remains a pretty and mellow, but still evocative, balladic piece of music.
Sharpening the Sword
Opening with some hints of Native American sounds, this works out to a balladic motif that is definitely rooted in that sound. This feels a bit like it would have been at home on Elias’s previously mentioned tribute to the Native American culture – at least for the first minute. It works out to a more mainstream Anderson arrangement from there. Some world elements come over the top later in the piece.
Cloudz
Keyboards and vocals start this out. It feels like a less electronic version of something Anderson might have done with Vangelis. This never rises above the keyboard and voice arrangement, but it’s quite a beautiful piece of music.
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