March 26, 2019 Jon Anderson – 1000 Hands: Chapter One (Album Review)
His might just be an ordinary-sounding name, but the musical works that he has come up with as a member of his band, in his many collaborative musical projects, or as a solo artist, as well as his guitar-playing and songwriting prowess are more than extraordinary. He is Jon Anderson, and he is set to release his brand new album, 1000 Hands: Chapter One, on Sunday, March 31st.
Born on October 25, 1944, in Accrington, Lancashire, England, Anderson was the multi-instrumentalist co-founder, guitarist, singer, and one of the songwriters of YES – a foundation in the genre Progressive Rock that soared to commercial heights especially in the 1970s with fellow pioneers and luminaries King Crimson (“21st Century Schizoid Man”); Emerson, Lake & Palmer (“Take a Pebble”); Gentle Giant (“Nothing at All”); Van der Graaf Generator (“Aquarian”); and Rush (“Here Again”). Of the band’s 22-album studio discography, Anderson was in 20. As a solo artist, he has 15 albums to boot—from 1976’s Olias of Sunhillow to the forthcoming new offering, the aforementioned 1000 Hands: Chapter One.
Recorded at Solar Studios in Orlando, Florida, produced by Michael Franklin (Bruce Hornsby, Brian Wilson), 1000 Hands: Chapter One features a cast of heavyweight virtuosos who included Anderson’s fellow YES alumni Chris Squire, Alan White, and Steve Howe; Bass Extraordinaire Stuart Hamm; Jazz musician Chick Corea; and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson on flute. Additionally, it includes Jean-Luc Ponty, Billy Cobham, Steve Morse, Rick Derringer, Jonathan Cain, and the Tower of Power Horns; but they are just a few of the many guests.
A recording years in the making, it opens with the short, romantic, and rustic acoustic-guitar ballad “Now,” then builds up with “Ramalama,” combining synthetic dance-ability, Classical and Doo-Wop overtones, and Hindustani-flavored Psychedelic tendencies—signifying Anderson’s undeniable Progressive roots. The engaging rhythm and mood flows flawlessly into the ensuing Reggae-tinged “First Born Leaders.” Then there is the album’s highlight—the nine-and-a-half-minute “Activate”—cinematic, hypnotic, and epic, exuding faint echoes of Queen’s introductory theme to the 1980 film Flash Gordon. “Makes Me Happy” is another excursion to the sunny and playful island of horn-adorned Tropical music.
Brief but beautiful, the string-laden “Now Variations” is an effective prelude to the following, equally romantic pair of Folk ballads—the acoustic guitar–oriented “I Found Myself” and the violin-led “Twice in a Lifetime.” Then “Where Does Music Comes From?” is a delightful surprise, an unexpected frolic in trippy Dance territory; however, the initiated who will be paying attention will realize that it is, after all, a stylistic and rhythmic offshoot of the second track.
Nearing the end of the record, “Come Up” is an inevitable trek into the realms of Jazz Fusion and Worldbeat, showcasing the piano magic of Corea amidst a mélange of contrapuntal arrangement and instrumental syncopation of strings and horns among other wonderful things. Finally, Anderson closes Chapter One of his 1000 Hands aptly with the heartrending narrative “Now and Again,” in which YES comrade Howe comes in with his own golden guitar hands.
“I am always dreaming of creating great and lasting music that has its own dynamical power that will last forever,” said Anderson himself on his website. Listening to 1000 Hands, you will indeed smile and agree with the proficient and prolific artist’s proclamation. 1000 Hands is certainly a majestic sonic experience, especially for enthusiasts of Progressive, Folk, and Classical music. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Jon Anderson’s latest masterpiece 5 out of 5 stars.