Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Living Tree - Anderson Wakeman

The idea that Jon and Rick would one day team up and write a series of songs together was always a given. They wrote a good deal for the abortive “Yes” recording sessions in 1979 in Paris. When Jon and Rick with Steve Howe and Bill Bruford came together in 1989 one of the highlights of that CD was “The Meeting” a classic Rick tune much like his work on the Country Airs CD to which Jon wrote some beautiful lyrics. Indeed this is the piece that planted the seed that lead to the Living Tree.
In 2006 whilst Yes was in hiatus Jon & Rick toured the UK with a number of new tunes but it wasn’t until 2010 in preparation for a second UK tour they finally recorded a whole batch of material which became the Living Tree.
This project was always going to operate in musical territory quite distinct form “Yes music” however what made it particularly intriguing was this would be recorded in the wake of the various illnesses’ that Jon had suffered. How would this affect the music given his physical and emotional state?
The Living Tree Part 1
The piece begins with a stately performance from Rick beautiful rhapsodic runs on the piano and in comes Jon intimate, committed with a close in  mike sound husky and fragile. He sets up a beautiful image
“There was a sacred lady soul …so daily laid a trail of light”. Her spiritual power suggests renewal rebirth “learning to live learning to love again”
This is counter pointed by the image of the sacred man journeying searching for the secret learning and this is done in the shadow of the living tree. Now deep in to his sixties he acknowledges the need for spiritual romance in the combining of woman’s beauty and man’s wisdom and then we break for
Morning Star
Beginning with a syncopated piano motif Jon is asking questions where is the energy to move on/ keep on/ where is the future.
Then the recognition the game of youth has to stop and anger at getting old.
And then the answer “catch the deeper spell…” full of hope and life dig deeper for the answer.
We now see an echo of the message of Topographic Oceans “and the more we see the world as one, not fractured but regained to the question there’s the answer”        
The piece lyrically now finds the answer to the question posed he finds his morning star. An interesting journey lyrically, setting up the doubt and the difficultly but eventually finding the answer. Musically it is driven by Ricks insistent formal playing and a gentle acoustic guitar moves into the mix adding colour and intimacy.
House of Freedom
Rick sets up a gentle ballad some delicate string surges and Jon husky and sincere sings about the right of us all to move on powered by the freedom of the Internet. “All the answers, coming in the house of freedom…” What strikes me forcibly on this piece is that Rick’s performance is so beautifully judged and sincere. A bedrock of piano and the most sympathetic of solos mid-way through.
Living Tree Part 2
Having set up their musical store Jon is ready for some affirmation “We are the master class of all we receive we are the branches of the truth the living tree” Echoing all these years later sentiments expressed by Donald Lehmkuhl in the Tales for Topographic Oceans tour booklet. And a wonderful glimpse of the notion of the mind creating the story “In the pages  that you sing your song again you will write yourself a life” Maybe not so pyrotechnically clever or impressive as Yes’s main sequence lyrics nevertheless the lyrics here can be sign posts should we chose to read them.
Anyway and Always  
This piece composed in 2006 starts with a clear statement of the main melody and switches to a strong rhythmic attack from Rick to under pin Jon’s spoken vocals over the top. A gentle message of hope and one is reminded how Jon’s Northern English voice rounds on certain words in such an attractive way... incredible ….truth…receive… realise… clear it’s those strong open vowel sounds!! These are very engaging performances and whilst it is obvious his voice is not what it was it is still truly special
23/24/11
This flawed me when I first heard it a beautiful melody ushers in a vocal performance that is devoted to the hopeless war in Afghanistan and the despair of the young soldier desperate to return counting down the hours. This is worth the price of admission alone. Rick is so mature and sober and I will always consider it a privilege to have heard two performances of this song on the recent UK tour. Jon’s lyrics are direct impassioned and devoid of any of the criticisms that detractors of his work place at this door. “We are the first generation to know that war really doesn’t believe it just breaks the soul clearly around us every day” …. Indeed.
Forever   
A celebration of divine loves this song maybe about his partner, but equally those whom are precious to his spiritual journey. It is charming and sets up a beautiful rhythmic dance. “No one ever could love you the way that you love…” This is direct impassioned and brave given it operates artistically in an entirely different place to the ten minute pieces of music full of pyrotechnic playing where many would wish Jon to go.
Garden      
A gentle waltz leads us into another gorgeous lyrical dance entirely appropriate for this 66 year old man who has had such severe health issues. “I’m planting in the garden, I’m moving to the centre, I know the sun will shine on today” here is a practical example of how to move on guided and healed by the “Morning Star”.
Just One Man  
Jeremy Cubert wrote this piece and it appears on the demo CD Survival and other Stories. Jon fragile and challenged sings of all those men who have engaged in the spiritual awakening of mankind down the ages. In concert his simple and coherent explanation of the lyrics matched the performance then and on this CD. Given his own rehabilitation you cannot escape the notion that there is some witness in the grooves.

A restrained reverential highly melodic performance from Rick, a fragile sincere performance from Jon combines to offer us a diary of thoughts and feelings from August 2010. This CD eschews slick production techniques lives with its short comings and in breaking the rules is capable of speaking to us directly in a unique and compelling way.    

          

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