After leaving Yes in 1979 following the tour for their ‘Tormato’ album, Jon Anderson barely rested. Between 1980 and 1982, he split most of his creative time between his own solo projects and collaborations with Greek keyboard virtuoso Vangelis, which brought the vocalist some UK chart success with the commercial new age/synth pop singles ‘I Hear You Now’ and the much-loved ‘I’ll Find My Way Home’. By the summer of 1981 and with the second Jon & Vangelis album ‘The Friends of Mt. Cairo’ having barely hit record shop shelves, Anderson was back in the studio working on the material that was soon to become his third LP ‘Animation’.
Upon release in June 1982, ‘Animation’ was a cult hit among fans, but not especially a commercial success. It marked the first time since the 1960s that Anderson failed to break the top 40 of the UK albums chart, and yielded no hit singles – which might seem weird considering his recent success with Vangelis – but, in all fairness, ‘Animation’ is a really complex animal. On the surface, it’s shiny pop oriented sound and extensive use of the technologies of the era make it appear as if it should’ve been much better received, but closer inspection reveals a sometimes challenging album that often delights in being busy, sometimes for the sake of it, and very occasionally at the expense of obvious hooks. However, it’s one of those albums which, with enough time invested, will eventually present a lot of brilliant material. Some of it is about as singalong as the more excessive bits of ‘Topographic Oceans’, but as is often the case with solo Jon, there’s far more at stake cheeky pop tune.
Following the essential reissue of Jon Anderson’s 1980 solo album ‘Song of Seven’ at the end of 2020, Esoteric Recordings are set to reissue the legendary vocalist’s 1982 album ‘Animation’ with bonus materials in April.
Like any band with a long history, Strawbs have gone through many changes over the decades. Musicians have come and gone; they’ve seen dozens of members come and go since their inception in 1964 – including legends Rick Wakeman, Sandy Denny and Curved Air’s Sonja Kristina – with each one bringing something different to the band. Through it all, Dave Cousins has been there to steer the ship. In fact, aside from very occasional silences, Strawbs have always existed in one form or other even though a lot of people would believe they threw in the towel some time during the mid 70s.
For most people, British progressive rock band Curved Air are known for two things: being the first band to ever issue a picture disc and for the having the legendary Stewart Copeland having occupy their drum stool in the mid 70s. Considering that vocalist Sonja Kristina had previously been an important part of the London theatre scene in the late sixties – appearing in Hair – and Curved Air actually scored a UK top five hit single in 1971, you’d expect them to be more widely celebrated. Perhaps the reason they aren’t is due to lots of their classically- and jazz-derived music being very hard going. Their earlier work often values complexity over obvious hooks – something that makes the funky ‘Back Street Luv’ single seem like something of an anomaly – and the way they switch between different moods from track to track can, at first, be disorienting. They are very much a band that requires a lot of time and patience before most of the listening rewards become obvious.
Following a gruelling tour for their complex ‘Relayer’ album in 1975, the members of Yes took time out to work on solo projects. Steve Howe’s ‘Beginnings’ and Chris Squire’s brilliant ‘Fish Out of Water’ most closely resembled the directions the a Yes album could’ve taken, while Jon Anderson’s ‘Olias of Sunhillow’ opted for something far more experimental. Its forty five minutes blended pseudo-science fiction lyrics with ambling new age and prog rock sounds. Although loved by fans, it didn’t offer much in the way of actual songs. Despite its lack of commercial potential, the album reached #8 on the UK album chart, making it the most successful of the Yes solo discs.
By the time Yes reconvened in 1977, they adopted a much leaner approach to songwriting. On their next album ‘Going For The One’, the indulgent epics that had dominated their three previous albums were largely sidelined in favour of something more accessible. This saw them applying their usual prog traits to something more rock based on the title track, exploring Jon’s new age pop on ‘Wondrous Stories’ (a surprise UK top 3 hit), and in the epic ‘Awaken’, there was even a chance to appease the die-hards who pretended to enjoy ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’. In many ways, ‘Going For The One’ is the archetypal Yes album – it showcases the broadest range of the musicians’ talents while offering something for almost every interested listener. 1978’s ‘Tormato’ followed the same formula but yielded a lesser result, but still contained a few genuine gems. Nearing the end of the decade and having survived changing musical fashions, Yes seemed to be on a roll. Things then fell apart when tensions arose during the demo stage for the next recording. Keyboard player Rick Wakeman left the band for the second time and – potentially more devastating – vocalist Jon Anderson, one of Yes’ most distinctive contributors – followed him. Looking to pastures new, Jon quickly embarked on other projects. Sessions with keyboard virtuoso Vangelis (who’d missed out on a Yes job in the mid 70s and worked with Jon on his own ‘Heaven & Hell’) resulted in a very successful album, ‘Short Stories’ and a huge hit single in ‘I Hear You Now’. Armed with a couple of old demos and a whole world of ideas, Anderson then set about crafting what was to be his second solo LP.