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Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman

The Living Tree In Concert: Part One

Review by Gary Hill

Whenever a live album (or any album from that matter) comes out featuring two of the most charismatic and popular former members of a band like Yes comparisons to that group are obvious. They are also rather unfair. I mean, really, Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman may be associated with Yes and do some of the songs originally performed in that group, but they were not touring under the name “Yes,” so it’s safe to expect music that’s of the same quality as that group, but it’s not right to hold the release up to the Yes catalog for comparison.

Truly Anderson and Wakeman have brought new life and new angles to the Yes songs performed here. That’s only part of the picture though because roughly half the album is composed of live versions of songs first released on Anderson and Wakeman’s Living Tree disc. For those of us who caught this duo live, this goes a long way towards recreating the music magic that is a Anderson and Wakeman show. The music is only part of the picture live, though, with Anderson spinning stories and Wakeman making funny comments and telling jokes. Still, the music is, in so many ways, the reason for the whole thing. So, this is a great way to recreate that experience and for those who didn’t make the tour to get an idea of what they’ve missed.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
And You And I

Jon Anderson opens this piece on guitar and Wakeman joins very shortly. As this builds out, it’s obvious it’s not Yes, but then again, it’s Anderson and Wakeman. So anyone expecting Yes has come to the wrong place. While it loses some of the symphonic bombast of a Yes rendition, it gains something in the way of a delicate nature. Anderson’s voice carries a lot of this, but it does feel like it’s in a lower register than the original at times. There are alterations in the arrangement (and even some switches in lyrics). Still, it manages to create the same kind of mood and magic as Yes.  

Living Tree (Part 1)

Pretty and delicate, this one features a keyboard opening. It’s closer to Anderson’s solo work than it is to Yes, but then again, there have been some Yes pieces in the later incarnations of the group that were like this. It’s also got some Jon and Vangelis like elements. Of course, when you do a keyboard dominated arrangement with Anderson’s voice over the top that comparison is obvious.

Morning Star
Piano dominated, this is a powerful cut. It rocks out and is one of the coolest pieces here. There’s a definite Yes-like magic in place along with an almost jazz-oriented energy. Yet it still drops back for more delicate instrumental work at points.
Long Distance Runaround
Another Yes piece, the keyboards are more prominent in this arrangement. It’s a cool twist on the piece and works really well. Again, it’s not Yes, but if you came looking for a Yes album, you are obviously in the wrong place. Wakeman creates some intriguing solo movements. They turn it out into some cool little bouncing sounds at the end.
The Garden
A beautiful and delicate piece, this seems to gain equal power from Wakeman’s keys and Anderson’s vocals. It works straight into the next number.
Living Tree (Part 2)
Still keyboard oriented, Wakeman brings a more symphonic bent to it. It’s still delicate and pretty and Anderson’s voice shines. Parts of this come in along the lines of Wakeman’s solo work.
Time and a Word
They bring this Yes tune in with a reggae rhythm. There is some cool Wakeman soloing later. As they take it out into a jam further down the road, it evolves into some Beatles quotes. It’s a fun way to rethink the classic piece.
Just One Man
A beautiful and delicate keyboard dominated tune, this is a cool one.
23/24/11
This powerful cut is one of the best of the whole set. It’s a song about the horrors of war on all levels. It dreams of a space beyond war and it’s sad, but also somehow hopeful.
Southside of the Sky
Always one of my all time favorite Yes songs, this arrangement captures much of the magic and power of the song, while stripping it to an acoustic performance. Of course, on the last tours that featured both Anderson and Wakeman, the group did an acoustic take on this piece. In some ways, this comes closest to Yes music of any of the Yes tunes here, because of that original acoustic interpretation. It’s a powerful piece of music whether performed by Yes or Anderson and Wakeman. There’s a dramatic and rather mysterious keyboard section in the middle of the track.
House of Freedom
Although dominated by keyboards, this cut really feels a lot like something Yes might have done. It’s a powerful balladic cut that works quite well.
The Meeting
This pretty piece was originally recorded with Anderson Bruford Wakeman and Howe in this format, just Anderson and Wakeman. So, this is a pretty faithful rendition of a pretty ballad.

 

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