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Jon Anderson from Yes mines his vaults, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Tuesday, April 6, 2021

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Jon Anderson is working on plenty of new music in the present, but the former Yes frontman is also doing a bit of living in the past.

Anderson's most recent releases, in fact, have been new editions of his first two solo albums -- 1980's album "Song of Seven," which came out in December, and 1976's "Olias of Sunhillow," which came out during March. An expanded edition of "Animation," from 1982, comes out April 30, and the British-born Anderson, who now resides in northern California with his wife, Jane, will also be featured as part of "Union 30 Live," a box set from the 1991 tour that featured eight members from different eras of Yes playing together, out on May 28.

They're all marks of a long and accomplished career that put Anderson in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with Yes, four years ago and also includes collaborations with Vangelis and Jean-Luc Ponty. He certainly plans to add to that legacy, but these days he has time, and some words, to talk about that robust past...

Anderson, 76, says by phone that he's having a good time revisiting his past works and becoming reacquainted with his catalog. "By the time you've actually gone through the experience of creating a piece of music and then you fix it and mix it 20 times, it's not something you listen to much after you've done it. You kind of let it go. And then you hear it now and again, a song here, a song there. So going back and listening to (the albums) all the way through again, I was really surprised how enjoyable that was."

"Olias of Sunhillow" was at the time part of a Yes respite that found all five members of the band recording solo albums. In Anderson's case it was a largely one-man-band project, with him playing a variety of instruments as well as singing. "I had a really nice time doing it. It was like going to school. Mike Dunne, the engineer who suffered through three months as I learned to play all the instruments, was invaluable. The talk was, 'Let's all do solo albums,' so I said, 'OK, I'll do a real solo album, by myself. I put myself in my garage with all these instruments and said, 'OK...now get it done.' It was a day to day thing where you send at least six hours a day working, maybe longer, and it started to piece itself together based on nine years of songs I had. I really enjoyed it."

The "Union" project, meanwhile, is also something Anderson remembers fondly despite the sometimes unwieldy nature of the larger band and unavoidable personal politics between the members. "It was sort of a shaky start...but eventually we realized, 'Hey, this band's really good. No matter who we are, what we are, who writes the songs -- this band is really good!' So off we went and, believe me, we were good every show. Some nights it was pure magic; I remember we were doing the Forum in L.A., and the energy at the end of 'Awaken' was, like, the roof disappeared and I could look up and see the stars.' Something miraculous happened on that tour. So even though musicians will complain about this or that, then you get on stage and everything's great." (laughs)

Anderson's next project will likely be songs created with people he met via an open call for collaboration via the Internet in recent years. "It was, 'Send me a minute of your music, and if I like it I'll get back to you' sort of thing. I got hundreds of people sending me one minute of their music, and I liked a lot of it. I picked out a couple dozen to start with, and that created a network of people, and a lot of them, around this music that I want to release maybe next year -- probably not this year, but you never know."

Anderson, by the way, reports a unique side-effect from his experience with the COVID-19 vaccine. "It's the funniest thing -- I'm so stoned! Really. I got very high on the first one and it lasted all the way to the second one, and I'm still high. If affects people different, I suppose."

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