Tentative Review #2

Jon Anderson
Change We Must

(released 1994)


Track:Rating:
1. State Of Independence ***1/2
2. Shaker Loops ****
3. Hearts ***1/2
4. Alive & Well ****
5. The Kiss **
6. Chagall Duet ***1/2
7. Run On, Jon ****
8. Candle Song ***
9. A View From The Coppice ***1/2
10.Hurry Home ***1/2
11.Under The Sun ***1/2
12.Change We Must ***1/2

Personnel:

Produced by Jon Anderson & Tim Handley

The London Chamber Academy directed by Christopher Warren-Green

Credits:



Comments:

Yes vocalist Jon Anderson has released a number of solo albums in recent years, ranging in quality from "very good" to "terrible". In 1994, he issued Deseo, an album which saw him taking a background role to many of his assembled guests and sessioners. The music was decent enough (aside from the embarrassing "Latino"), but many of Jon's fans might have wanted him to assume a more active role. Angel's Embrace, issued in 1995, was listenable but unengaging. Toltec (1996) had some strong music to its credit, but was marred by some unnecessary overdubs. Less successful releases include The Promise Ring (1997), earthmotherearth (1997) and The More You Know (1998), and there was also a private release through Opio of which the less said the better.

If you (ie. the reader) are only going to buy one Jon Anderson solo album from the '90s, however, my advice is to ignore all the above works and seek out the orchestral Change We Must. This is easily his best solo work of the decade.

A cursory glance over the personnel list indicates that Anderson wasn't skimping on the professional talent for this release (something that can't be said of certain other albums in his catalogue), and this shows through strongly in the music. With one exception, the orchestral arrangements are spot-on on this release. This is emphatically not a David Palmer-esque classical-pops fiasco; the classical music on the album is real, and should be appreciated by many of those who appreciated the classical stylings of the early Yes releases.

Five songs on this album were previously available in other forms: "State Of Independence" on the Jon & Vangelis album, The Friends Of Mr. Cairo; "Hearts" on the Yes album, 90125; "Candle Song" as "Anyone Can Light A Candle" on the Jon & Vangelis album, Page Of Life; "Hurry Home" and "Under The Sun" on Jon's solo album, In The City Of Angels (the latter as "It's On Fire"). The re-appearance of these songs on CWM is mostly a point in its favour -- the only dubious choice of the lot is "Candle Song", which was never a great number to begin with (and even here, the CWM version outshines than the POL version).

The other recycled tracks come alive in their new settings. "State Of Independence", in particular, gains a vitality that it never really had on The Friends Of Mr. Cairo, and "Hurry Home" earns an honourable mention too. (One puzzling thing about "Hearts", though: why do the credits differ from those on 90125?)

The highlight of the album, for me, is "Shaker Loops", an adaptation of a rather difficult work by the classical composer John Adams (if you can find a copy of Edo de Waart's recording of the complete piece with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, get it! -- it's very good). That the orchestra pulls off the track is a strong plus in itself. There is one problem, however: Jon's voice doesn't seem quite right here. He puts in a decent showing, but somehow doesn't quite interact with the music in a completely convincing manner. This puts the track a few notches below an epiphany, but doesn't change the fact that it's a very impressive work.

Also impressive are Gwendolyn Mok's performances on "Alive & Well" and "Run On, Jon". Even if measured by "classical standards", these hold up fairly well -- I could certainly name some lesser works from the genre. "A View From The Coppice" is good as well, although it doesn't quite use Mok's talents to the best effect.

The duet between Jon and Sandrine Piau on "Chagall Duet" is fairly good as well, proving that some things of worth may yet be extracted from Jon's ongoing project on the life of Marc Chagall. This isn't quite the album highlight that some people on alt.music.yes have made it out to be, but it's a solid performance nonetheless.

The only significant misstep on the album is "The Kiss", a mediocre lyric swathed in a syrupy arrangement. But this isn't enough to seriously scar the album.

Change We Must is still the best work that Jon has released in recent years, and is strongly recommended for all fan's of Yes's ongoing history.

The Christopher Currie

(review originally posted to alt.music.yes on 6 Apr 1997; revised 23 Mar 2000)


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