One Track Mind: Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman, "23-24-11" (2010)

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“In the darkness,” Jon Anderson sings on this haunting track, “there is always a song for you.”

His road back to us has been dark, indeed, from the surprising split with Yes (Anderson had fronted the band since 1968 before being replaced in 2008 by Benoit David) and through a difficult bout with respiratory problems. Anderson, for all of that, remains in fine voice, and “23-24-11” — part of The Living Tree, a quietly powerful 9-song duo recording with fellow Yes alum Rick Wakeman on keyboards — points to this reenergized muse inside of a narrower, more personal context.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REVIEWS: Jon Anderson’s 2011 release ‘Survival and Other Stories’ is his best solo record, simultaneously a brilliant valedictory for his time with Yes and a bold move away from his old band.]

Don’t go in expecting mountains to come out of the sky, prog-rock style, on “23-24-11.” Instead, this visceral ride into the terror of war finds Anderson wondering aloud how violent conflict remains such a consistent facet of daily life — all from the point of view of a soldier in Afghanistan, who is counting down the days and hours until he can return home. “We are the first generation to know that war really doesn’t relieve,” Anderson finally surmises. “It just breaks the soul.”

On first blush, “23-24-11” and much of The Living Tree doesn’t match Yes’ outsized penchant for the epic. But repeated listenings uncover a growing emotional impact. Wakeman’s playing, shaded, delicate and direct, is a particular wonder. While shedding the pomp and circumstance of their former band, the duo pulls the listener close — maybe closer than ever before.

The effect is intimate, unnerving, then transformative.

[ONE TRACK MIND: In an interview with SomethingElseReviews.com, Jon Anderson discusses returning to a favorite from 90125, rocking out with Vangelis and Tolstoy — and, yeah, how mountains really did once come out of the sky.]

On the heels of turning 66 on October 25, and the recent finish of a triumphal tour of the U.K with Wakeman, Anderson is preparing an acoustic tour of America in support of his forthcoming release Survival and Other Stories.

Here are the announced dates, so far:
4/23/2011 – Somerville Theatre – Somerville, MA
4/26/2011 – Havana New Hope – New Hope, PA
4/28/2011 – Infinity Hall – Norfolk, CT
4/30/2011 – B.B. Kings Blues Club & Grill – New York, NY
5/02/2011 – Musikfest Cafe ArtsQuest Center at Steel Slacks – Bethlehem, PA
5/04/2011 – Theatre of Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA
5/06/2011 – Princeton University – McCarter Theatre – Princeton, NJ
5/07/2011 – New Jersey Performing Arts Center – Victoria Theatre – Newark, NJ
5/09/2011 – Rams Head On Stage – Annapolis, MD
5/11/2011 – Rams Head On Stage – Annapolis, MD
5/13/2011 – The Flying Monkey Movie House & Performing Center – Plymouth, NH
5/15/2011 – Bates College Olin Arts Center – Concert Hall – Lewiston, ME
5/18/2011 – Tupelo Music Hall – Londonderry, NH
5/19/2011 – Tupelo Music Hall – Londonderry, NH
5/21/2011 – Woodstock Town Hall Theatre – Woodstock, VT
5/25/2011 – Ellsworth Grand Auditorium – Ellsworth , ME

For more information, visit Anderson’s new website at www.JonAnderson.com.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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