Jon Anderson – 3 Ships – 461

Produced by Jeffrey Crecelius, Wayne Hall, Preston Frazier and Bill Govier

Jon Anderson
Jon Anderson with Jon-Luc Ponty

It’s been a bit of a challenging week on the technical side with Mark in lockdown and without proper internet access and my move of the YMP Towers into a new location in the house. However, we did manage to listen to the Jon Anderson Christmas album, 3 Ships which was very enjoyable.

  • What’s Jon’s Christmas album like?
  • Are all the songs ‘Christmassy’?
  • Why listen to 3 Ships?

Listen to the episode and let us know what you think!

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from the following two creative commons sources: thanvannispen and

15 replies on “Jon Anderson – 3 Ships – 461”

Interested in your take on Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir. I predict Kevin’s favorite song will be the last one. But in my house this album has been the first one in the CD player the last three years when we pull out the christmas music. It’s as close as my wife will get to Yes. And I like it very much as a different take on songs familiar and unfamiliar.

Merry Christmas everyone! I’m a big fan of ‘3 Ships.’ By ’85 I had just finished as a radio DJ after 10 years & was managing a record store. On Nov 20th I unboxed the new releases. In one box was the new Asia album ‘Astra’ and ‘3 Ships’ by Jon. I played both on the store turntable, with 4 big speakers around the store. I loved them both. I bought each on cassette tape, playing them in my car for a few years. I also got the promo vinyls of each from the record rep. ‘3 Ships’ sounds dated due to the drum sounds but otherwise I enjoy the production by Baker. It sounds very Christmasy, upbeat, perfect for every December. I’ll dig out my cassette tape to post.

I have ‘3 Ships’ on cassette as well…will have to dust it off for a listen as it’s been a few years 😉

Three Ships is the physical embodiment of “a guilty pleasure”. There is no logic reason for liking this album. It’s cheesy, it has an AWFUL 80s production, Rabin’s guitar solo (he only plays on one track) is not his best (the most positive thing I can say about it) and the New Age slant to the lyrics is close to nauseating at times.

But darn it, I still like it! Jon sings wonderfully, Day of Days, How it Its You and Easier Said Than Done are catchy and I like the small Xmas tunes spread around (especially Ding Dong Merrily on High in the bridge of Easier…).

I bought this LP in 1990, after becoming a Yes fan through ABWH the year before, and I loved it since day one. I give it a few spins every single December, and it’s always a joy. I used to hope my neighbours wouldn’t hear it, throwing all my musical credibilyt out the window. But now I’m too old to care about cred, so to hell with it!

Actually, I’m gonna go decorate the Xmas tree, while listening to it, right now!

That’s the spirit, Hogne Bø Pettersen!

Thanks for all your musings in 2020, Kevin and Mark (and for the many fine contributors). We look forward to a bumper, tenth anniversary year for YMP in 2021… and some relief for all of us from the grimness, sadness and loss imposed by this pandemic. Music remains a light and a hope. Happy Christmas / Hanukkah / Solstice /Holidays to one and all.

Hi Folks,
First up I have to say I bought both the LP and the cassette back in 1985…and I and my brother play it every year at this time much to the indifference of our families and children.
I love this record , I think it is fun, often a bit cheesy but generally it seems honest and joyful.
In terms of my regular Christmas I am very much of a similar mindset as Kevin…I love the traditional Church of England services , music and lessons ….the journey into light services with candles at the start of advent , the midnight service on Christmas Eve and the Christmas Day morning service….to me that is Christmas and of course the sheer beauty and reality of the nativity.
I am not that keen on Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir ..but at least you get to hear Run with the Fox again.
There is an alternative CD version of 3 Ships with includes other Jon songs which is quite an enjoyable collection.
I remember Easier Said than Done being reviewed on BBC Breakfast Time back in 1985 and the reviewer …I think his surname was Blackwell heenjoyed the song and said something like ….a meaty song from a vegetarian!!

Anyway there are a few videos I think up on YouTube for some of these songs ..if you look carefully you can stop Trevor Rabin and Roy Thomas Baker.

My favourite joyful cheesy and just plain fun Christmas album is Christmas in the Heart by Bob Dylan…the daft video with Dylan wearing a wig and Santa hat for the song Must be Santa is bonkers !!!

I bought this in 1985 and I doubt I’ve played the whole thing all the way through for many years. As a Jon solo album it’s pretty lightweight, and as a Christmas album it’s not quite Christmassy enough. However, I still love bits of it. Some of the Christmas songs – particularly the title track and The Holly and the Ivy – sit nicely on Christmas compilations as they are so different.
Also, as Kevin rightly points out, How It Hits You is terrific – in my top 10 JA solo tracks. When he does euphoric pop, he really does it in style.
During Christmas 1985, I was working at the branch of WH Smith in Wallington in Surrey, and Santa’s sleigh (note: probably not the real one) stopped outside the shop and played the whole album. Really. It’s just possible that this is a false memory – it was 35 years ago – but I don’t think so.

I’ve posted Jon’s Christmas cards that came with the anniversary edition of ‘3 Ships’, from the Opio website then, on the YMP Facebook page. For some reason I can’t post them here from my phone. I got 3 cds & 3 sets of cards from Jon then, in ’07.

First of all, I truly LOVE Save All Your Love, so beautiful how it connects Jon’s mysticism & other spiritual themes to the birth of Christ. That said, most of the rest of this album is crap…very weak arrangements of the traditional carols, some solid Jon compositions & vocal performances in uninspiring settings. Sorry, Kevin but the problem mostly is the cheesy ‘80’s DX-7 & drum sounds. It’s so 1985 that personally I find bits of this unlistenable. Qualifier: I’m both a huge YES fan and also I love Jon—1K Hands is so excellent & his glorious tour was my last (& fantastic) pre-covid live YES (ish) encounter. But for Christmas, please everyone listen to the fantastic & quirky Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir & Rick’s gorgeous Christmas Portraits.

So interesting to hear different points of view. I was so disappointed when Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir came out ..I thought it was awful…a bit like those “ hocked on classics” albums from the 1980s where classical music was released with a rock drum beat…absolutely terrible. In recent weeks I have listened to it again…most of it is still pretty grating, but there are moments which are enjoyable like the two songs where Chris delivers a lead vocal and of course we get the add on of Run with the Fox.
In comparison 3 Ships is far more interesting, funny and simply very entertaining. On the contrary CSSC sounds and feels much more earnest….which makes it even more disappointing.

Anyway next Christmas obviously listen to 3 Ships again, but also listen to Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the heart…it is funny, bonkers and occasionally heartwarming ..since it was released all profits on all platforms go to charity…nice one Bob.

I can’t believe I disagree with Kevin! I love 3 Ships! I think it helps to have listened to it when it first came out. I usually don’t like synth heavy music, but I like this. This is Jon at his most joyful! His original songs blend well with the traditional ones. I don’t think I had heard “Ding Dong Merrily On High” or “The Holly and the Ivy” before I heard them on 3 Ships, so maybe that’s why I like them, as opposed to Kevin’s dislike. I play this every Christmas season, usually on my way home after Thanksgiving as an early treat.

I am astonished to find myself in disagreement with Kevin about 3 Ships! I think it helps if you heard this when it first came out. I usually don’t like synth heavy music, but this works for me. I don’t think I had heard “Ding Dong Merrily on High” and “The Holly and the Ivy” until 3 Ships, so I like them even if Kevin finds them treacly! This is Jon at his most joyful elf self! His new songs blend well with the traditional songs. It’s so amazing how it hits you! ****

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