One Track Mind: Jon Anderson, "Give Hope" (2007; 2011 reissue)

Sure, it’s a guilty pleasure. But what part of Christmas isn’t, really?

Originally a bonus track for the 22nd anniversary reissue of Anderson’s fourth solo album, the Yuletide-themed 3 Ships from 1985, “Give Hope” was part of a project that includes Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin, Cars guitarist Elliot Easton, Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali and vocal director Andre Crouch.

Yet the whole thing was dominated by Rhett Lawrence, whose keyboard work and programming — in particular on the album’s quickly cooling holiday chestnuts — worked like a cotton-candy lacquer on everything it touched. Not even Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, Journey, the Cars) could save 3 Ships, it seemed, from this presupposed fate as a merry little synth-pop curio.

Not so fast. Though similarly struggling at times to emerge from their gauzy surroundings, the bulk of Anderson’s original tunes were instead intimate and unshamedly hopeful, sweetly effective, delicately emotional. For all of the ways this album stumbles through the production cliches of its era, I’ve often come back to songs like “Give Hope” — one of two new works which bookended an expanded edition of 3 Ships in 2007.

Imagine my delight when “Give Hope” showed up again in my email box this week, along with a seasonal salutation from Anderson and an impossibly cute cold weather-themed photo.

With a pixie choir and this heavenly chant right out of “Meeting (Garden of Geda)” from 1976′s Olias of Sunhillow, “Give Hope” melds the hippified bliss of new age with the orchestral intricacies of classical and just the lightest dusting of twinkly Christmas-morning wonder. Maybe it’s the season (OK, yes, it’s definitely the season), but I fall for it every time.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock 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 nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.