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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Jon Anderson

Animation

Review by Gary Hill

I bought this on vinyl when it first came out. Since the onset of the CD era this has been in and out of print for a while. This is the first time I’ve owned it on CD. I’ve read some reviews about this that say it’s just a pressing created by recording the CD straight from a scratched vinyl record. Well, I’ve compared my scratched vinyl record to this version, and I just don’t hear that. There are layers of sound in the album proper that I can’t hear on my LP. However, with the two bonus tracks, that might be believable. They are both worth having for the sake of completeness and also for some definite musical interest, but they are not of the same recording quality as the rest of the album. This is one of my favorite of Jon Anderson’s solo releases and I think the album proper holds up very well. I’m not certain I’ll listen to the bonus tracks all that often, but I’m glad to have them.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Olympia

 Energized and powerful, this has a great guitar sound, but it’s quite electronic at the same time. I love Anderson’s vocal performance on this thing. This was such a fresh sound at the time.

Animation
The introduction here has some great twists and turns. This is lush and powerful. The various layers of vocals playing off one another on the introduction are quite stunning. This is progressive rock in structure, moving through varying sections. It’s an intense piece that’s magical. I really love this. I’d consider it one of the highlights of the set. That makes it a great choice for title track. The mellow, neo-classically inspired section later in the track is beautiful. The piece continues growing and changing beyond that, though and some of the prettiest music is in the closing movements. This is an epic piece in terms of scope and duration.
Surrender
Although this is more of a soulful pop song, I like it a lot. It’s got a great funky, rubbery bass line. There are prog elements in the mix, too. Jon Anderson delivers a great vocal performance and this might not be the most complex piece here, but it’s potent.
All in a Matter of Time
A meaty guitar riff starts this. Then it launches into a progressive rock jam that works this way and that. In a lot of ways this feels like a Yes song, much like the music that was being worked on before Anderson and Wakeman left after Tormato.  It has a great vocal arrangement and some of the bass work is particularly noteworthy, too. It’s not a very long tune, but there is a lot packed into it.
Unlearning (The Dividing Line)
The rhythm section somewhat dominates this piece. There is a real tribal element to the percussion. A tuned percussion segment even serves as the outro here. The cut lends some variety, but isn’t one of my favorites. Still, it’s a strong tune. It’s just not on the same level as the rest of the set.
Boundaries
There is a real folk Celtic vibe to this piece. It’s got a bouncy energy to it, though. The vocals are what really sell the piece. Still, it’s another that doesn’t stand quite as tall as some of the rest of this.
Pressure Point
Percussion that’s both tribal and electronic in nature opens this tune. The cut has a real rhythmic focus. The vocal arrangement, though, is the shining star here. There are definitely a lot of links to the kind of stuff Anderson did with Jon and Vangelis.
Much Better Reason
There is a real jazzy vibe to this cut. Although the arrangement would be different, in some ways this makes me think of the kind of music Traffic were known for. That said, there is a tribal, world music section later in the piece. Although I love Anderson’s vocals throughout the disc, the performance here even stands out taller than a lot of other places in the set. This is perhaps a rather understated piece, but it’s also deceptively complex. It’s one of my favorites on the disc.
All God's Children
The vocal hook on this is arguably the most contagious of the set. The musical arrangement combines elements of the whole disc. It’s pop oriented, but it’s also proggy. It’s a driving number that’s fun and worked well as the original closer of the set.
The Spell
The first of two bonus tracks here, this is a real epic piece. In fact, it’s not often you find a bonus track that runs about eleven and a half minutes in length.  It comes in with a sound that really feels like it would have been at home on a Yes album. Anderson’s vocals come over the top with a rather vulnerable feeling. This seems more like a demo in some ways. The cut grows out musically into something quite powerful, though. The vocals shine, they just seem a little lost in the mix sometimes. This is one of the most Yes-like pieces here. After a few minutes it drops back out to the tribal type of sound we have heard quite a bit on the disc. Then it drops way down to some effects and piano and there are sounds here that make it feel like it was recorded from a popping record. Perhaps there were no master tapes of this remaining and that’s what happened. It works to some café styled music with lots of sounds of people talking. Those sounds seem a bit too high in the mix. This moves forward from there, working through several changes. It gets quite classical at times. Before the eight minute mark it moves out to a faster paced section that’s got some jazz in the mix. At continues to evolve it becomes almost musical theater for a time. It works out to a powerful progressive rock sound from there, with lots of symphonic elements in the mix. There are more of those record scratch sounds here and there.
Spider
An energized acoustic guitar sound opens this and the piece builds out from there into a killer prog rock jam. There is some jazz in the mix. In terms of the song structure and performances, this is right up there with everything on the album proper. The real issue seems to be the mix on it. There are too many things up near the top at times clashing against one another. It makes it too dense and confusing at times. That said, it’s still a welcome addition.
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