Anderson, Jon - 1000 Hands,
Originally released in March 2019 on Opio Media, Jon Anderson’s latest album was reissued in July 2020 after he signed a deal with Blue Élan Records. The title relates to the large number of musicians involved, which include the likes of industry heavyweights such as Rick Wakeman, Ian Anderson, Billy Cobham, Jean-Luc Ponty, Steve Morse, Chick Corea, Steve Morse, Chris Squire, Alan White, Steve Howe, and many others while the origins of the album actually go back to the early 90’s when he was working on a project which involved keyboard player Brian Chatton (who was with Jon in The Warriors before moving onto Flaming Youth). Jon involved some members of Yes on the recordings, but with the next tour coming up the tapes were put safely to one side and promptly forgotten about until producer Michael Franklin, who had also been involved in the sessions, suggested completing the album all these years later. Seven of the songs are co-written with Chatton, two with Franklin, and the other two by Anderson himself.
When listening to this album it is important to remember that Anderson has had an incredibly long career in music, and not all of that is classified as progressive, and to approach this with that in mind. I remember when I was at university that one of the favourite groups among my mates was Jon & Vangelis, especially the albums ‘Short Stories’ and ‘The Friends of Mr Cairo’, but none of them were fans of Yes, and this shows plenty of evidence of the diversity of his musical wanderings. Anderson has an incredibly distinctive voice, and even though he is now well into his seventies it shows no sign at all of waning and is as pure and clear as it has ever been. Musically there is a huge variety of styles within the album, and while it is fun to pick out individual musicians (Squire’s bass is one of the easiest), what provides the continuity are those vocals, shining clear.
There are times where the music feels more like it is designed for cinema, others where it is plain silly (“Makes Me Happy” for example), others where it is truly progressive but for the most part this is a collection of songs and performances which will make fans smile. I have quite a number of Jon’s solo albums, plus his various partnerships and collaborations, and this is one of the easiest to listen to and enjoy right from the off. There will always be those who bemoan the fact he isn’t in Yes, and I must confess I sit in that camp as that band has never seemed right without him, and many of those Yes fans will say this is not an album they enjoy. But when asked if I would rather play this or the last Yes album, ‘Heaven and Earth’, there really is no choice as this is superior in every single way. This is something to which I will often return, as it is light, bright, and full of joy and great songs.