Jon Anderson has loads upon loads of charm. He is an arresting performer that can command an audience with his unique and flawless vocal skills. He is also an excellent songwriter and this CD, with 1990 demos for the proposed second Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe record, shows this with impeccable certainty. If the rest of the guys in ABWH would have moved forward with several of these tunes, I feel it could have surpassed their debut in quality.
Songs like “We Make Believe,” “Axis of Love,” “To the Stars,” and others of course would not sound out of place on a Yes record. In fact “Take the Water to the Mountain” was later used on Yes’ Union. I actually prefer Jon’s version, as the bubbly sequenced keyboard and rhythmic guitar sits better with me than the moody atmospherics of the Yes version.
Some different paths for Jon are taken with “After the Storm,” where Jon sets a Sade or easy Kate Bush-like groove going and then lays a Burt Bacharach-style melody over it. Ultra cool. He takes a couple of missteps on “Santa Barbara,” coming off a little cheesy and “Tall Buildings,” where Jon does a little spoken interlude that seems a little over the top.
I’m especially impressed with the two instrumental works on this CD. I would have expected Jon to write good lyrics and melodies, but would not have thought this a strong suit for him. Nice job, Jon. Best song on CD? “We Make Believe.” Jon could have unleashed this rocking little number on the Rabin-era Yes and knocked that ball out of the park.
I’m sorry it took so long for Jon to release these songs in some form. Strong melodies, good grooves, interesting lyrics; almost all of these pieces are valid in some way. It’s regrettable that he could not further explore the studio perhaps on a solo record with some of these tunes, but here they are warts and all. This is just one disc in a box set proposing 20 CDs. I look forward to hearing other gems in the series.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on July 13th, 2008