Friday, 28 October 2011

Open - Jon Anderson

So what does Open tell us about Jon Anderson in 2011?

It tells us that Jon has returned home musically and he has re found his capacity to plug into his musical imagination.

Open echoes and builds on the minor small forces compositions on Change We Must rhythmically based and minimalist. The emphasis on rhythm and top line melodies rather than harmonically sophisticated.

Re returning Home

In many ways he has gone back to Sibelius who made use of  continuously evolving cells and fragments culminating in a grand statement and Stravinsky who developed the notion that the rhythmic structure of music can be more fluid and in a certain way spontaneous and pre-eminent.

A new creative pulse

What “Open” exudes most of all is a sense of inner purpose it does not let up or wander. Jon now has a new creative pulse.

It is over in the blink of an eye but where does that blink of an eye take us?

The journey

An intense Philip Glass inspired wall of violin strings builds as the first melody appears before the rhythmic pulse begins. A five note repeat lays down the basis of the main rhythmic motive that will flourish Sibelian like at the end of the piece.  A mini crescendo involving an electric guitar interjection, nothing to get too excited about, and then a real surprise a melody seeped in Andalusian charm full of warmth and romance.  Jon’s voice stronger, but changed let us not pretend, this hasn’t the purity and clarity of yesteryear but it is full of charm and sincerity. Of all the solo instruments the acoustic guitar is the best. The music drops right down until a change of mood.

“The sun is calling”  gentle folky this is the warm up song from the J & R concerts, then more musical ideas, Stravinsky like, the emphasis on rhythm and chanting vocals. This hasn’t the harmonic sophistication of the best of the Tom Curiano demo’s it’s a series of single line melodies fused together with rhythmic interjections. The sophistication is in the horizontal building of ideas not in the depth of the harmonic structures. Once again there is that Sibelian quality repeating patterns using different forces adding and subtracting note sequences. At 9.30 we have an electric guitar run followed by a rotating keyboard, I suspect this is the school of rock contribution.

At 11.00 we return to the beginning with a cello restatement of the opening melody and 11.59 a quality acoustic guitar with a harp echoing the tune introduces the quiet movement, folky with Jon’s lyrics fully exposed.  They exude a sense of spirit reborn fired up, however these instant vocal lines would benefit from being worked over so the depth of his creative imagination is fully realised. We do not want cod CTTE lyrical expression but I sense he takes to obvious a route to make a point. Whereas the music is full of evolving surprises the lyrics are not.   

14.05 a wonderful arrangement from Stefan displaying more harmonic subtlety and sophistication and then a restatement of the Andalusian theme and the “Sun is calling” but it undergoes a subtle shift and the promise of the early five note  riff returns and Stefan adds some gorgeous counter melodies.This piece now builds to a powerful but fresh climax. Jon is a little predictable and repetitive and it could ascend further with more sophisticated key changes but that inner resolve and tension gets it through without flagging.

My concern with The Survival route is with so many collaborators one doesn’t get real development. By focusing on one piece with Stefan, who can feel justly proud of his invaluable contribution, we now have something substantial to enjoy. I hope this is the beginning of a series of serious challenges.