Truly progressive music without any proscribed boundaries…
Out through Inside Out Music on 24 June 2016 and reviewed here by Paul H Birch
Six years back Jon Anderson wasn’t in the best of health and Yes, the legendary progressive rock giants he co-founded, did the dirty and ran off to play without him. He put on a brave face, scaling down his workload. Or so it appeared. They build them tough up north, and it now looks like he’s been plotting and scheming rather creatively all along. First he collaborated with virtuoso jazz fusion violinist Jean Luc Ponty to release the charming Better Late Than Never demonstrating age had not diminished his alto tenor vocals. Next came the bombshell that Rick Wakeman, Trevor Rabin and he were putting a frigging super-group together! Then, amidst all this, Invention Of Knowledge calmly creeps out from the ether.
A collaboration with Roine Stolt, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist with The Flower Kings, it was in his guise as a member of Transatlantic during a Progressive Nation At Sea cruise in 2014 that the pair first met. Deciding to collaborate, Anderson would send sketches of ideas and vocals digitally across the ocean while Stolt gathered his Flower Kings and other acolytes to form a sympathetic band that could perform the songs he was developing and rearranging for Anderson to further oversee. The remit was to create a truly progressive music without any proscribed boundaries.
That it’s the missing link between Close To The Edge and Tales From Topographic Oceans definitely puts it in the old school category and yet it’s a band Yes themselves could never have created. Why? There are no egos at work. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense: Yes at their best are five bravura musicians joined in a musical quest, charging alongside each other in a show of strength, admiring each other’s’ skills but not prepared to ride in each other’s’ shadows. This is altogether a more harmonic voyage, Anderson’s presence and an awareness of Stolt’s integral contributions can’t be denied but the overall feel is different.
Yet it also returns those old hippy eastern values that got lost as such theosophies got transmuted into new age leanings within Anderson’s work to offer on Invention Of Knowledge a more esoteric view towards intelligent design as the source for creation – a point of view I’m more prepared to listen to than any verbal arrogance from Richard Dawkins, no matter what my views on evolution.
Songs shift easily from one to another, with themes listed but even those clustered with minor related parts, and so it begins with ‘Invention’: a sustained guitar note looks east as chimes echo with the sound of sitars replicated until an acoustic finds an opening and a bass fidgets, pushes, and slides contentedly without showcasing underneath. Anderson’s voice is clear as keyboards infuse and layer with melodic asides as an electric guitar wrangles forth, harmony vocals reinforcing values as it becomes both dance and mantra. That repetitive motif is reinforced latterly with choral effects and military drumming on ‘We Are Truth’ between its busking acoustic and a fluid electric guitar that glides into the gracefully ascending ‘Knowledge’ alongside the odd time signature there to remind us this is prog as we know it.
The sections that encompass ‘Knowing’ feature piano heavily throughout, but is also noticeable for the offbeat electric rhythm guitar section that docks its cap more palatably than the cod reggae/calypso Anderson has grown fond of. ‘Everybody Heals’ echoes the previous number but bolder and then moves into a wonderfully sensual slow dance shuffle as you take your choice whether Anderson is professing cosmic awareness or marital bliss when he sings: “You’re always in me, no matter where I go”. We also get a rock guitar solo, some jazz fusion, classical sections applicable for ballet and concert hall, and some suave shuffles with close harmonies. It concludes as it has to with ‘Know…’ a precisely noted guitar solo being underpinned by bass, keyboards becoming entwined in the melody, building, taking in motifs from earlier until reaching a harmonious conclusion.
Invention Of Knowledge does not reinvent progressive rock, but reinforces some of its greater values while delivering a joyously modern recording that I find myself listening to repeatedly.
8 out of 10
- Invention Of Knowledge
- We Are Truth
- Chase And Harmony
- Everybody Heals
- Everybody Heals
- Better By Far
- Golden Light