JON ANDERSON – 1,000 Hands [Chapter One] (2020)
It’s been decades in the making and finally is being released: YES classic era vocalist JON ANDERSON will release soon a new solo album titled “1,000 Hands (Chapter One)“.
Anderson began the album nearly 30 years ago working with a group of musicians that included Yes drummer Alan White and bassist Chris Squire (RIP). However, due to his heavy touring commitments with Yes, Anderson put the record on the back burner.
“1,000 Hands”, as the name implies, includes collaborations with many others. While that may not total 500 (i.e., 1000 hands), the album, produced by Michael Franklin, does feature contributions from many of Anderson’s former Yes bandmates including, notably, the group’s late bassist Chris Squire, as well as longtime guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Alan White, keyboardist Rick Wakeman and guitarist Trevor Rabin (the Yes albums with whom Anderson has been performing with for several years).
But the impressive list doesn’t end there: here’s the likes of Steve Morse (Deep Purple), Pat Travers, Larry Coryell, Stuart Hamm (Satriani), Carmine Appice (King Kobra), Jonathan Cain (Journey), Chick Corea, Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Bobby Kimball (Toto), and the list continue endlessly.
Grammy-nominated producer Michael Franklin had at one point begun working on orchestrations for the album, but once again Anderson’s jammed schedule required the project to be put on hold.
Finally, a year and a half ago, Anderson and Franklin got the album back on track and were determined to see it through.
Setting up shop in Franklin’s Solar Studios in Orlando, Florida, Anderson laid down backing vocals to his original lead tracks, and Franklin called in an astonishing array of rock and jazz luminaries to fill out the gaps.
Of course the risk with an album with so many “hands” involved is that it becomes awash with overdubs.
The production here though is exquisite with economy, space and cacophony having their moments – definitely an album that is worth hearing on your headphones too.
The album is bookended by the “Now” / “Now and Again” themes with a short version of the concluding track getting things underway. “Ramalama” begins with samples of Jon’s voice that bring to mind moments such as “Leave It” and underpin the whole track. One thing that’s already clear in this album is that Jon Anderson’s voice has returned to the level of power and clarity of the highest level and has survived his illness. The chant is joined by a variety of instruments in a whirling, dizzying build up with sitars, tablas, violins and vocals building to an ecstatic peak.
“First Born Leaders” is a track that features Yes rhythm section members Chris Squire and Alan White, with Squire appearing here and on two other tracks. My Yes-ears place the sound here as something that with little modification could sit alongside “The Ladder” album albeit with more diverse instrumentation.
The next song “Activate” is a light acoustic piece which kicks off with Ian Anderson’s signature flute playing, joined by Robbie Steinhardt’s violin and a glimpse of Squire’s bass for a few bars. Steve Morse and Pat Travers appear on this one.
I should note at this point, on account of the playing on “Twice in a Lifetime” the great keyboard work of Michael Franklin, one of the architects of this album and a key player throughout should be noted and applauded. The end section of this track brings brass and strings to compliment the arrangement – a full sound but never overpowering.
“WDMCF” (Where does music come from) surprises; it adds electronic beats, and it’s very modern.
Next there’s a 9+ minute track called “Come Up”… the credits are mouth watering enough and scanning them as Chick Corea kicks the song off on piano, you realise: music like this doesn’t really exist elsewhere. Guests aside this is actually a really great song. Coryell, Squire, Luc-Ponty, Cobham and Corea are legendary names in their fields and add in Stu Hamm and Jonathan Cain plus many many others, this track has huge talent but again isn’t over crowded and the sound is crisp and clear.
“Now and Again” ends the album with (some of) the cast returning to the stage for a reprise and the final bow. This is the full version of the opening song and it’s a significant one. It’s a great conclusion to the album and strings and brass and various other elements join to the finish, signaled by Jon’s small cymbals that appeared at the start. Full circle.
Jon Anderson’ “100 Hands” strikes a chord with you. Nearly to his 75, hearing him at the helm of such a project is a sheer joy – discovering that he can still produce an album as good as this one is a delight for Anderson (and Yes) fans after the disappointments of the absence of new music in the anniversary year.
Maybe this is the start of something?
01 – Now
02 – Ramalama
03 – First Born Leaders
04 – Activate
05 – Make Me Happy
06 – Now Variations
07 – I Found Myself
08 – Twice In A Lifetime
09 – WDMCF
10 – 1,000 Hands (Come Up)
11 – Now And Again
– Jon Anderson / vocals, composer & co-arranger
– Steve Howe / guitar
– Larry Coryell / guitar
– Tommy Calton / guitar
– Steve Morse / guitar
– Rick Derringer / guitar
– Pat Travers / guitar
– Bobby Koelble / guitar
– Christie Lenee / guitar
– Trevor Rabin / guitar
– Chris Squire / bass
– Tim Franklin / bass, ukulele
– Stuart Hamm / bass
– Allan White / drums
– Billy Cobham / drums
– Matt Brown / drums
– Carmine Appice / drums
– Chick Corea / keyboards
– Jonathan Cain / keyboards
– Keith Heffner / keyboards
– Rick Wakeman / keyboards
– Michael Franklin / keyboards
– Jeff Abbott / keyboards
– Brian Chatton / keyboards
– Antonio Esposito / keyboards
– Bobby Kimball / backing vocals
– Ian Anderson / flute
– Russel Chalk, Don Oriolo / ukulele
– Mitch Corbin / banjo
– Dariusz Grabowski / accordion
– Brian Snapp, Charlie DeChant / flute, sax
– Tower of Power / horns
– Jean Luc Ponty / violin
– Jerry Goodman / violin
– Charlie Bisharat / violin
– Olga Kopakova / violin
– Jason Thomas / violin
– Paul Fluery, Krissi Franzen / cello
– Pat Frost / steel drums, trombone
– Steady Joseph / percussion
– Eddie Metz jr. / percussion
– Nana Academy Youth Choir
– Orlando Symphony Orchestra
– Michael Winslow / Fx
– Voices of Lindahl