Jon Anderson - Olias of Sunhillow
Our resident music guru David Martin reviews the February 2014 album release from Jon Anderson - Olias of Sunhillow.
AUDIO FIDELITY: Hybrid SACD - AFZ 156
Released February 2014
By the close of 1971, having released the ” FRAGILE” album , YES were one of the premiere Prog Rock bands on the planet. To this day, their 1972 album, ” CLOSE TO THE EDGE” is honoured as the high point of the genre, and remains the cornerstone for any serious prog collection.
Having toured the world to enraptured acclaim, they took the risk of releasing the triple live album set “YESSONGS”, followed by the splendid, but much derided “TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS” , and the debut album for Patrick Moraz, (following the departure of Rick Wakeman), the initially misunderstood classic, “RELAYER”.
With these not insignificant achievements under their collective belts, the band took time out to consider solo albums, as was the habit of the day.
Guitarist Steve Howe was first out of the blocks, with the critically well received album, “BEGINNINGS” in late 1975. It still has much to commend it, and has not dated at all.
Bassist Chris Squire released his effort, “FISH OUT OF WATER” weeks later, and this remains a respected and much enjoyed set. It is currently, if rumour holds, being remixed and remastered as a 5.1 effort by Steve Wilson.
Drummer Alan White released his effort, “RAMSHACKLED” four months later, to mixed reviews. Lots to enjoy, but you can almost pick the year just by listening to it.
Rick Wakeman, who had departed YES expressing dissatisfaction with what he considered to be the overblown and pretentiousness of the bands direction, went off and released a series of mega-successful, but. ........er…..... overblown and pretentious concept albums.
This left the resident 'pixie on a toadstill' of the band- ladies and gentleman, I give you, Jon Anderson.
Flush with dollars and time, brimming with music in his head, and intent on recording his whimsy for future generations, Jon headed for the studio.
With the ability to draw on the A-list of players, Jon took the only sensible path. He composed and played every note himself. He set about learning the basics of any interesting instrument that he felt would provide an interesting sonic pallette to suit his conception. In general, he succeded well.
It had a storyline; something about a hero rising and leading us to a better world, but he buried much of the vocal lines deep in the mix.
It was a dense and murky production, but it had a continous 'feel' and atmosphere that , for a so inclined listener, was very alluring.
Critically, it was well reviewed. Commercially, to the amazement of just about everyone, it sold well.
37 years later, to the general puzzlement of all, delight of some, Audio Fidelity has chosen to do a hybrid SACD of this eccentric album. Mastered from the master tapes by one of the resident A.F. mastering men, Kevin Gray , and released late January, this was a release that begged to be critically mauled.
But, guess what? It is a worthwhile addition to Audio Fidelitys' current run of mastering triumphs. If you have the slightest prog inclination, you will love it.
“OLIAS” was never a 'demonstration ' type of album.
It is Jon running amok in the studio, full of piss and vinegar, daring to go 'the full pixie', which his colleagues in YES probably felt was a bridge too far.
The actual instrumentation is fairly rudimentary, but he is playing within his capabilities. The vocals are often recessed in the mix, but to counter this, there is often flashes of instrumentation that 'pings' out of the speakers in a very 3D fashion. This album was meant to wash over you, and this edition does exactly that. It actually snaps into focus when you give it a good cranking, and to roughly paraphrase John Lennon; switch off your mind, relax, and float downstream.
This lovely, but obscure album is just the ticket.
A walking encyclopedia of music, David’s broad music knowledge is a valued member to the team. Without music, there would be no HiFi. Look out for his words on current, past and future music, as well as album reviews.