Jon Anderson: 1000 Hands

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The lad from Accrington hasn’t rushed this one: it’s an album he started 28 years ago. The title is a reference to the fact that numerous guest musicians perform, including Yes bandmates Chris Squire, Alan White and Steve Howe, as well as the likes of Ian Anderson, Steve Morse and Chick Corea.

Thankfully the album doesn’t have some fancy concept and if there is a theme, it’s being happy and having fun with music, though there are three linked tracks across the album. The 1,000 hands are also used wisely, and the songs are lively, sparse and sprightly. Anderson’s voice is as good as ever; someone else could make the same album but without Anderson’s voice it would not be half as good.

Anderson has been interested in world music for a long time – his first solo album, Olias of Sunhillow, included world instruments. This album again features jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, who we assume contributes the eastern string sound in songs such as the outstanding Ramalama.

First Born Leaders features Yes’s Chris Squire (who died in 2015) and Alan White, and is a jolly song. Activate is similar, opening with guitar and flute (Ian Anderson we assume, playing a jazzy refrain). Makes Me Happy is as it sounds, a bouncing song with a faint reggae undertow.

Twice in a Lifetime has some good keyboards, WDMCF (Where Does Music Come From) is a bit cheesy in the lyric department but it’s nicely layered, with a beat that could almost be garage. Almost.

It’s followed by the nine-minute Come Up, which opens with double bass then Chick Corea on piano and rock/jazz drums – it’s great, possibly as good as anything he’s done, with kettle drums, an 80s Phil Collins sound somewhere down beneath, more Squire and Luc-Ponty getting a neat violin solo (in which a second or two of slap bass appears, a beast best taken in small doses) before building up and fading to a Yes-like ocean of sound.

There’s no doubt about it, Anderson has produced a great album, the level of musicianship coupled with Anderson’s joy at making music and his great voice making it a hugely enjoyable and varied.

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