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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Anderson/Stolt

Invention of Knowledge

Review by Gary Hill

The “Anderson” in the name is Yes co-founder Jon Anderson. The “Stolt” is Flower Kings leader Roine Stolt. One would expect that this release would feel like the work of both of those acts, but I really don’t hear a lot of Flower Kings in this. It really feels in a lot of ways like a lost Yes album. It has a real flow, working better as “an album” than a series of independent songs. Of course, that’s reinforced by the fact that it’s actually set up as a series of mutti-track suites with a final “suite” that’s one song. This album is very likely to make my “best of 2016” list. It’s clearly a very special album. I’d love for this act to tour. I certainly hope they find the time and inclination to do more recording together. This is exceptional stuff.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Invention of Knowledge
                         
Invention
Atmospherics start this. A mellow music element rises up with the first vocals. It builds upward from there. Then it flows out into a balladic approach for the first real verse of the song. The cut continues to grow and evolve from there. This is quite a cool ride. It’s a great progressive rock excursion that covers a lot of musical territory. This is the kind of melodic prog that one expects from Yes. The changes are pretty fast paced with various themes arriving running through and being replaced only to join again later. There are some pretty amazing sections of music. This piece has some great peaks and valleys.
We Are Truth
This comes in with another mellower segment. It feels a lot like a continuation of the opening tune. It is a bit less fast paced in terms of the changes. There are some particularly potent balladic sections, particularly at the start. I think that the vocal lines on this are more catchy than those on the opener. In fact, this has some great vocal hooks. Those drive it more than the quick changes and musical intensity. So, while the first cut was more of an instrumental showcase, this one focuses more on the vocal songwriting and delivery. Don’t get me wrong, the instrumentation here gets powerful and intense, it just serves more as the icing on the cake than it did on the first track.
Knowledge
Again, this seems like another part of one extremely long song. It runs sort of between the first two pieces in some ways. I say that because this seems to have an equal focus on killer instrumental work and vocal driven “song sections.” In some ways that makes this a stronger piece than either of those, but honestly, it’s a hard call to make. That’s because everything on this album is so strong. The dropped back section mid-track is especially delicate and pretty. An ambient movement takes it from there. It remains mellow through the rest of the cut.
Knowing
                           
Knowing
This also comes in quite mellow. As it builds forward on that basis there is an aspect that feels more like Jon Anderson’s solo music. It gets an intense powerhouse prog build out further down the road, though. This piece feels more like an independent song than the previous numbers did. It drops back to a more folk prog balladic motif for the next vocals. It’s punctuated by more powered up prog, though. There is a jazzy kind of movement later, too. It’s another section that feels a lot like Anderson’s solo music. This is quite a dynamic piece of music. It eventually heads out with a rather symphonic section.
Chase and Harmony
They start this one with a piano based mellow arrangement. This becomes another powerhouse prog piece from there. In a lot of ways the title fits musically. There are chaotic parts in terms of bombastic, quickly changing hard rocking section. Those are contrasted with the harmonious ballad-like parts that are more purely melodic. It’s a great piece of music, but they all are, really.
Everybody Heals
                     
Everybody Heals
This comes in symphonically and worls forward from there into a killer soaring prog jam. It drops to a more ballad-like section for the vocals. This is one of the prettiest and most compelling passages here. When it grows out to more powerful music it still retains the same basic concepts, just increasing the intensity. They create another killer journey on this song, though. There are powerhouse jams interspersed with the more vocal driven sections. Mellower stuff (including a rather electronic based drop back movement) are contrasted with really powerful ones. There is a piano based jam later that’s quite jazz-like.
Better by Far
At just about two minutes in length, this is the shortest cut here. It really does feel very much like the kind of thing that would be at home on an Anderson solo album.
Golden Light
Another shorter (three and a half minutes) cut, this one seems like it would have fit pretty well on Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow album in a lot of ways. There are bursts of Yes-like prog intensity, but otherwise this is more of a balladic piece. There is a section at the end that has classical strings over a piano arrangement.
Know...
                       
Know...
This starts with a rather jazzy mellower movement. That holds it for quite a while, gradually working forward and building. I suppose that in a lot of ways this is another that feels a lot like Anderson’s solo stuff. There are more jazz elements in some of the further sections as it continues to work onward. It leans toward the mellower side of things, but isn’t quite balladic as a limiting factor. It is pretty. It has a great complex multi-layered vocal arrangement, too. I love the expressive soaring guitar solo around the halfway mark. The cut seems to shift after that, exploding out into a jam that takes it into more rocking, Yes-like territory. Still, there is an almost dream-like air to it in some ways. Familiar melodies emerge. There are really parts of this that make me think of both Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman. When the vocals return this feels very much like something Yes would have done in the late 70s. Around the eight minute mark (this one is over eleven minutes in length), it drops back down to gradually work its way back outward. It continues to makes its way from there in an organic sort of transition.
 
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