In and Around the Lake With Jon Anderson

I love the complex, trippy songs that YES has produced since they first formed in 1968. The voice of the progressive rock band YES is Jon Anderson, not Benoit David, in my humble opinion. I was disheartened when I first heard of the life threatening acute respiratory failure incident that pulled Anderson out of the Chris Squire, Steve Howe, and Alan White lineup. But even more disheartened to hear that YES was continuing to tour without Jon even when he had recovered. David  is a decent enough singer, but he's no Jon Anderson.

Jon Anderson will be 66 years old on October 25th. Despite his departure from YES he continues to write and perform. But I think his best work is within the confines of YES. There is just no other music like it. It doesn't follow any kind of formula, the songs are long allowing the listener to lose herself in the layers, and often without any kind of typical hit-making hook. All reasons why I enjoy it so much.

Close to the Edge was my first exposure to the group in 1972. It was the fifth album for the group, but I hadn't really listened to them until this point. I remember putting the album on my stereo in my bedroom, laying on the bed, and closing my eyes as I took it all in. I almost couldn't handle any visual stimulation on those first few listens. I needed to let it sink in and process it. And I'd pick up the stylus at the end and listen all over again. It was the most unique and complex thing I'd ever heard.

The beginning of this next part gives me chills every time I hear it and usually makes me feel like crying. What is that? How can a song I've heard dozens of times invoke that feeling I had the very first time I heard it?

And You & I

I was lucky enough to see YES in concert with Jon Anderson at the helm. The complexity of the music and the level of musicianship was in full bloom at this show. It's one thing to produce complex music in the studio with multiple tracks and an entirely different thing to create it live on stage.
Jon was in and out of YES on several occassions. He departed in 1980 to return in 1983 and left again 1988 when the band was more interested in commercial success and radio play than he was during that time. In 1989, Anderson joined up with former Yes members to  form the group  ABWH ( Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe), joined also by bassist Tony Levin who had played with original YES drummer Bill Bruford in King Crimson. When their first ABWH album was successful, the group  reunited with current members of Yes who had still been searching for a new lead singer. This eight man group toured under the name YES but never recorded an album together when they disbanded in 1992. Jon Anderson has the unique distinction of appearing on all YES albums except for the 1980 release Drama.
I realize Jon Anderson and progressive rock in general may have a more limited following than mainstream rock. But in this next video,  YES-Symphonic- Don't Go- I love seeing the joy on the faces of the young members of the symphony. So even if you want to skip over the other videos I embeded, please enjoy this one. Happy birthday Jon, and thanks for the music.

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Comment by Charlie Thornton on November 22, 2012 at 11:23am

Saw Jon with YES on the "In The Round" tour somewhere around '78 or '79.  I think they were supporting the album "Tormato" on that tour.  Was a thrilling, reverent experience from the first note till the last.  That lineup was at their prime at that time. So glad I saw Howe, Wakeman, and Squire when they were still at the peak of their prowess as musicians.

Jon was one of my heroes as I grew up.  Epitomized masculine grace to me.  He openly admired beauty and personally strove for it in his writing and singing, yet never postured himself as anything but straight up masculine.

His "Olias of Sunhillow" solo album is still one of my favorite records.  So beautiful, and always a little sad to me because I've never listened to it with anyone else who appreciates its compositional scope and its willingness to chase beauty out onto limbs where few other composer/performers ever dared to climb out on.  That he personally played every  instrumental note and sang every part of the multi-layered vocals that are featured on every track though out the whole album made it an even greater record to me.

I had a similar reaction to the album  "Close to the Edge."  That record logged more listening hours than any other.  Jon's vocals on the title track are so impassioned and beautiful and such a technical stretch for any singer. Just wow. 

As a natural baritone myself, envy played a part of how much I enjoyed his vocals, I am sure.  Anyway, this post brought it all back.  Thanks for that. 

Comment by Schmoopie on November 24, 2012 at 6:58am
You've summed up so many of the things I adore about YES. I started following Jon on Facebook and while he is not overly active on the site, every post does come directly from him and not some assistant. It's a nice way to keep up with what he is doing in his solo career and catch a few moments of his mystical outlook on life. Thanks so much for sharing some time here with a fellow fan.


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