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Produced by Preston Frazier, David Gordon, Bill Govier, Wayne Hall and Michel Arsenault.
It’s back to the 1980s this week as we listen to Jon Anderson’s third solo album, Animation. The two pence is about Roger Dean and his influence over the Yes music buying population.
- Is Animation prog?
- What is Anderson trying to do?
- Would you buy a Yes album without a Roger Dean cover?
Listen to the episode then let us know what you think!
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Preston Frazier | David Gordon | Bill Govier | Wayne Hall | Michel Arsenault
Joseph Cottrell | Jeffrey Crecelius | Michael O’Connor | Paul Tomei | Geoffrey Mason | Lobate Scarp | Fergus Cubbage
Paul Wilson | Jamie McQuinn | Miguel Falcão | Ken Fuller | David Pannell | Brian Sullivan | Joost Doesburg | Jeremy North | Tim Stannard | David Watkinson | Steve Roehr | Geoff Baillie | William Hayes
Bill Govier’s Levin Torn White photos:
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23 replies on “Jon Anderson’s Animation – 288”
Love this album like I had said prior to the show glad to hear you both like this album
Very cool that you had worked with the producer Mark wow just amazing the things that you can learn just by listing to the YMP. I just remember that All in a matter of time was played on the FM radio which was really cool to hear Jon finally getting his much need ado! I really like Much better reason I really liked that tune but really liked the entire album many hours spent listing to all the very cool sounds (still in the drug phase)…. Great work as always Love the show but I think that you both knew that already…
Yes and Roger Dean go hand and hand always has for me and always will be Their Logo is and always be Yes and I wish I had the ability to draw because Roger Dean is a awesome artist and to me the members of the band are true musicians so it all goes hand in hand.
I cited Animation (the song) in the podcast comments two episodes ago (favorite Yes epic…) so was thrilled to hear you guys discussing it today. It’s a terrific song and for me presses all the same emotional “prog buttons” as some of my favorite Yes pieces – And You and I and Ritual both come to mind.
Jon’s embrace of 80’s pop was interesting and, had he worked with the right people, he perhaps could have become a progressive rock-turned-pop-star in his own right (along the lines of Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins). He got close with “In the City of Angels” and “Three Ships” but then went in a much more eclectic and experimental direction after that, so we’ll never know.
Thanks again guys for bringing these forgotten gems back into the light!
Animation! When I saw the title of this week’s podcast my memory was immediately sparked with the ascending melody from All in a Matter of Time. The album is loaded with catchy and creative melodies that have attached to my brain and never became cloying. Brilliant stuff! By far my favorite solo release from Jon Anderson, and my second favorite solo release from any member of Yes (not that I have heard them all!). Apart from the two singles (both of which I love), I do not view this as a pop album at all. Along with his early 80s work with Vangelis, Animation shows Jon at his most creative, quirky and experimental and the positivity feels genuine and never forced. In contrast to much of Anderson’s abstract lyrics with Yes, the majority of songs on Animation are at least attempting to be about something concrete, not just a jumble of positive sounding words. The title track is about the birth of a child (I am guessing his daughter Jade) and even though the music moves across several styles, the lyrics stay focused on that central idea. Unique with Jon is Pressure Point, a very experimental sound that works for him, plus lyrics that center on the strange idea of Doomsday. Jon had never done anything like this during the 70’s and marks a true progression and improvement from the direction he was heading toward in Song of Seven. A lot of the success of this album comes from collaboration with the first-rate session musicians and producers. All this creativity from Jon coincidentally came at the time in his career when his voice was arguably at its strongest – some of the best singing of Jon’s career came during the early 80s. The only clunkers on Animation that are not completely successful for me are the first and last tracks. Kevin is right in highlighting the intrusive sound effects on the first track which makes Olympia too noisy for me to fully enjoy, and I love his description of All God’s Children as EuroVision music! Personally it has always sounded too close to the Sing-Along socially conscious star-studded anthems that were fashionable during the time. I know I am in the minority, but I consider Animation to be Jon’s best solo album – far better than the popular choice of Olias of Sunhilllow. The album has it all – creativity, a brilliant backing band, memorable songwriting, and Jon at his vocal peak. My score – 9.5 out of 10
note to admin – I am sorry I submitted this comment under a name I do not typically use on this site and it is awaiting moderation. Please do not accept that comment and I apologize for the hassle and confusion.
re: Roger Dean. I think I am not alone in saying that the fantasy album cover art was the lure that initially drew me to the band Yes. I still remember 1978, the used record store, and looking at the gatefold art of an album called Close to the Edge. I love Mark Anthony K’s description of staring at the album art of Yessongs while the music played. Ah yes – those were the days of giant, fold-out album covers, and fantastic poster art that complemented the music. Of course I was 14 years old at the time, and I listened to music lying on my bedroom floor with a crappy Sears speaker on either side of my head. These days I still value and purchase music CDs created by the endless supply of brilliant musicians that older bands like Yes inspired, but these days I primarily listen during yard and garden work or road trips. Album art is the last thing that concerns me in new music anymore – sad to say but it is just in the nature of changing listening habits. I must say I did get a perverse joy out of the idea our hosts entertained – that of competing versions of Yes trying to outbid each other for the services of Roger Dean. I for one think ARW should get hire an artist who blatantly copies and maybe even exaggerates in a sloppy and grotesque manner the painting styles of Roger Dean, and maybe for added litigation bait they could credit the album art with one ‘Robert Bean’. Now *that* is an album cover I can get excited about!
Roger Dean * (featuring – Roger Bean)
What a coincidence!
I found a copy of Animation just two days before this podcast came out, at an Arkansas flea market record store – and bought it for the princely sum of $5. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it just yet (and I haven’t heard it since the 1990s when I found a copy in the Austin, TX public library), but that’s what the holiday weekend is for. So this podcast is perfectly timed!
I think we’ve all bought a Yes album without a Roger Dean cover. I feel that Dean’s artwork (or at least the logo) are used whenever the band (or some member/spin-off) want to reassure the buyer that an album is from ‘the real Yes’ or give a release some special significance – it almost seems defensive at this point, and it’s kind of a cliche. I love Roger Dean (I have all three of his coffee table books), and feel that his impossible, colorful landscapes are the perfect visual representation of Yes’s music – but I also feel that, as long as whichever artist they choose can reflect the expansive quality of the best Yes music, they don’t have to use him. I definitely liked Hipgnosis’s work (though I realize naked butts aren’t to everyone’s artistic sensibilities). I definitely think that whoever did the covers to 90125 and Big Generator did a great job – I was fascinated by those covers at the time, and thought they really stood out compared to other albums of the period, though again that 8-bit technology look may not be to everyone’s tastes either. I won’t name any albums in particular, but I also don’t think a Roger Dean cover is a guarantee of quality anyway.
After a partial listen……….. I like what I heard. His voice sounds really good in this setting.
I can kind of see why Jon never became a solo superstar like, say, Peter Gabriel. It’s admirable in its way that Jon is willing to try a bit of anything/everything, but I think he lacks the sort of career-oriented focus necessary. Listening to Jon’s solo work, it’s all over the place stylistically, while a lot of other solo artists (especially the ones who’ve been frontmen for a major band before going solo) have a continuity of style or sound from one album to another. There’s something there that musically will tell you you’re listening to, say, a Robert Plant album – but Jon Anderson albums usually need an explanation: “You loved his trip to Brazil, and now you’ll love it when he goes Celtic!”
You know…you may just have hit on the reason I’ve never really gotten into Jon Anderson as a solo artist. Of course, I loved Olias (A nod to Yes and Vangelis), and then I was always a fan of Jon and Vangelis as well. All of this music, while quite individualist in it’s own right, at least track by track, was all of a certain sound. A kind of expected sound, that suited him as a solo artist. He never really returned to it again after a few hints on Song of Seven, and most recently his work with Roine Stolt. I bought many of Jons albums over the years, kind of chasing the dragon to find that magical something that he did with Yes, and to a lesser degree with Vangelis, but it was never really the same for me again, and I find him to be the least interesting solo artist overall. By being flamboyantly eclectic, he is just too hard to get into for me. I can ‘appreciate’ his work from one standpoint, in that he will follow his muse wherever it leads. Sometimes it’s interesting to me…..(I kind of liked “The Promise Ring”, but usually, it’s just something I’m not very into, and it ranges from boring me to aggravating me, so I’ve only bought a few Jon Anderson albums over the years. Olias, Short Stories, Friends of Mr. Cairo, Private Collection, and Change We Must, which all have a similar vibe and feel to them that I like out of Jon, and The Promise Ring, which I like, because I like Irish music in general. Nothing else really grabs me. Whereas, I’ve bought many a Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, Pat Moraz, Bill Bruford, and Trevor Rabin album on faith, and was never really disappointed. I got what I hoped for generally when I bought solo works from those artists.
Heck….I’ll just say it. Jon was made pretty much for Yes. He is not Phil Collins, or Roger Hodgson, or Peter Gabriel, or even Robert Plant (who is, himself a little hit and miss). He’s got great talent in the context of a solid working band into which he can provide inspiration and content GUIDANCE, but in the end just sing what the band has interpreted from his input. He was the best ever at that. When he ventures out on his own, or gets a temporary band…….meh. There’s just not enough there there. Great voice. Perhaps the best ever in progressive rock overall. But without Howe, Wakeman, Kaye, Moraz, Rabin, White, Bruford, Sherwood, Brislin, Khoroschev, Vangelis, and especially Squire to bounce ideas, motifs, and interpretations off of. Strong band artists who will tell the truth, reign him in when necessary, or punch up a lazier idea of his, it is often just not very good to my ears. He truly NEEDS at least one other very strong artist to work through his musical ideas with. And preferably a Yes or strongly Yes related person at that. He gets better the closer he moves towards a Yes aesthetic.
Interestingly, some of the other artists you mention, do a great job defining their own vision well outside of their band’s context. Genesis members excel in this for some reason. I’ll take most Gabriel, Rutherford, Collins, and especially Hackett solo albums over many of the their albums as Genesis.
Kevin asked a question which really jumped out at me: What is Jon doing here? A couple of things, I think. One, he was trying to put as much distance as possible between himself and Yes. The other is simply his Musical Attention Deficit Disorder expressing itself. On one hand, perhaps he’s just exploring as many musical styles as possible; on the other, perhaps it’s just that he can’t seem to concentrate on any one thing for very long… so, when that inevitably leads to poor album sales, he always comes back to Yes when he needs to pay some bills. (ARW, anyone?) Go ahead, call me a cynic… or just a crusty old fart.
Would I buy a Yes album without a Roger Dean cover? Duh. GFTO – their best album ever – had a cover by Hipgnosis (to be fair, it did still feature the Dean ‘bubble’ logo), along with Tormato (also with the bubble), which was fairly passable as an album, don’t you think, Kevin? Also The Yes Album, 90125, Big Generator, Magnification… Some of their most iconic music, however, is perpetually linked to Roger Dean’s art – think Close To The Edge and Tales, but no more perfectly displayed than on Relayer – to me, that cover art looks exactly the way the music sounds. I can’t really explain it further; as Steve Martin once said, “Some people have a way with words and others… ummm… not have way, I guess.”
A couple of other thoughts on this: what would Yes’ career path have been if they had never teamed up with Roger Dean? I don’t think it would have affected the music much at all, but, more interesting, what would Roger Dean’s career have been like without Yes? Quite different, I think, although there still would have been a whole slew of magnificent album covers, he probably wouldn’t be a permanent fixture on Cruise To The Edge…
From last week: I purchased ‘Levin Torn White’ from iTunes and gave it a couple listens. My first reaction was I WANT THIS ALAN WHITE TO COME BACK PLEASE! (Actually, I’d much rather have the Alan White from Yessongs… ah, well…) Mark, you’re spot on – it’s remarkably like ‘Thrak’-era King Crimson, but strangely somehow more accessible. Possibly because it seems to have been done with a large dose of humor, especially in the song titles.
Finally, this is for Steve Roehr: Liquid Tension Experiment is probably the best thing to ever come out of these “Temporary Supergroup” experiments (Okay, Transatlantic has been pretty phenomenal, too). Tony was involved in another called Black Light Syndrome, with Terry Bozzio and Steve Stevens. More experimental and not so tightly focused as LTE but worth checking out.
“One, he was trying to put as much distance as possible between himself and Yes. The other is simply his Musical Attention Deficit Disorder expressing itself. On one hand, perhaps he’s just exploring as many musical styles as possible; on the other, perhaps it’s just that he can’t seem to concentrate on any one thing for very long… so, when that inevitably leads to poor album sales, he always comes back to Yes when he needs to pay some bills. (ARW, anyone?)” – Joseph Cottrell
^ This ^
By the way Joseph…..I’m a huge fan of Transatlantic, (as well as pretty much any other project with Neal Morse or Roine Stolt) i.e. Flower Kings, Spock’s Beard, Flying Colors, and Neal solo.
I’ve never heard Black Light Syndrome, but will indeed be seeking it out. Thanks for the tip.
And does anyone else notice some structural similarities between Animation and Ritual? Both start out with a fairly raucous instrumental intro accompanied by lots of non-word singing. After that both songs have a long singing part (exposition?) that ends with powerful drumming and strange synth-scratching sounds (Animation’s of course being much shorter). Finally both songs are capped off with two of the most beautiful love songs in the entire Yes/Anderson catalogue.
Most of my favorite Yes covers are Roger Dean, but I really like the cover for Talk, 90125, and Magnification as well. Primarily, because I found a great tie between the cover and the music within. That’s what I really love about an album cover. The Beatles covers for Revolver and Sgt. Pepper were brilliant for this. Genesis Foxtrot, Wind and Wuthering and Trick of the Tale.
Roger Dean has formed the strongest association in my head with Yes Music. And MOST, but not all of his covers for them were an incredible match for the music inside. Fragile; Close to the Edge (Inner painting); Drama; and perhaps the greatest cover to music matchup in this history of of the LP, Tales From Topographic Oceans. Brilliant. Roger had to have been very intimate with that music, PRIOR to even beginning that painting. That had to be sending him acetates or something while he was creating it.
I love the Heaven and Earth album, much to the dismay of pretty much every other Yes fan on the planet, but I will say that it does not match the cover. H&E probably should have had something non-Dean. As well as Fly From Here. Not that the music isn’t good on those albums. I like them both. It’s just that, it’s a poor match with the music. They’re good Roger Dean paintings, (a couple of his best, honestly), put on what I think are very good albums. But not albums which cry out for Roger Dean. Hard to explain.
Agreed. The last time a Dean cover really fit the music was maybe Relayer, done in the days when the band and the artist worked together on the artistic vision of the music. After that Dean covers are well done but random fantasy landscapes.
OH, I must protest! The cover of ‘Drama’ is a direct visual interpretation of the lyrics to ‘Tempus Fugit.’
Doh! Silly me – I forgot about that one. Correct you are!
On the subject of Roger Dean. That was definitely a huge factor in my buying my first Yes albums. I was just getting into paperback science fiction at the time (secondhand copies of Brian Aldiss novels mainly) and the Yes logo and sleeve art seemed to be bonded with those notions of interplanetary colonisation, utopian dreams and dystopian nightmares. The HR Giger cover for Brain Salad Surgery and the images on the Genesis Live sleeve had the same effect. There were very few 70s artists with Dean covers that I didn’t check out at some point. My sister had two Osibisa records with Dean sleeves and I delved into Gentle Giant and Uriah Heep at a fairly early stage in my record collecting. I held my nose for Going For The One (a record that really deserved a top tier Dean sleeve) but for me a Yes album without a Dean sleeve is almost as unthinkable as one without an English guitar player. The Views book was a Christmas present the year it came out and I would spend hours pouring over those images. Especially his architecture and stage designs. The man simply hasn’t been given the credit he deserves for what he brought to the wild and solitary imaginative process that formed a huge part of listening to rock music in the mid 70s.
In the mid-70s Roger Dean art work and Yes were inseparable in people’s minds. Even ppl who weren’t big fans or even really knew their music. Yes was known as a great live band. The Yes bubble logo was instantly recognizable. Girls wore crop-top t-shirts with the Yes logo that sent a clear message that had nothing to do with the band.
Charles Christopher, Steve Roehr, Joseph Cottrel. A brilliant hypothesis as to why Jon has never been a solo superstar in the way of Gabriel et al. And what a great discussion!
(BTW Steve, I’m the other person in the world that likes Heaven and Earth)
As for Animation, I used to own a copy and remember enjoying it. This weeks episode filled me with great expectations, so I fired up Spotify, (free version as I prefer to buy CDs for music I want to listen to more than once) which for some reason didn’t want to play the title track, and clicked “shuffle”. It kicked off with “All God’s Children” and, particularly after Kevin and Mark’s praises, I found it a disappointment. Not quite as bad as Eurovision, but really rather dull and repetitive. From there it became worse for me. Finally we got to the album opener. Now this, for me, is and was a fantastic track – full of excitement and new instrumentation that signalled Jon’s foray into 80’s electronic pop. Indeed it is all about digital/computer music (at least I think it is, you can never tell with Jon) and it embraces this – the electronic sounds that some of you find an annoyance are, I’d suggest, essential to the song. I loved it.
However, whilst it was playing, I couldn’t help but think of it as a reworking of “For You, For Me” from “Song of Seven”
Sadly I haven’t managed to listen to the title track again, but I remember it pretty well as a good’un.
Shuffle was probably a bad move – but it indicates to me that the strength of the opening two tracks “carry” the rest of the album. Try it – listen to the others in isolation.
For Jon’s short “poppy” songs, I don’t think “Song of Seven” can be beat (and the longer pieces on that album are great too). It depends on my mood as to whether that or Olias are my favourite.
Somehow I missed Animation when it first came out. Maybe it was the awful cover! Listening to it now makes me sorry I did! I certainly does hold up, although I like Song of Seven better (Olias is in a class by itself!).
If Yes came out with a new album sans a Roger Dean cover, I would still buy it–but I definitely think they should have one. As for ARW, they need something like the cover of Invention of Knowledge, especially if they stay on the prog side of things; that cover helped sell me on the album! If it is more of a 90125 Rabin era sound it could be different, but the cover should tell me what to expect from the music. That’s why so many bands go with their picture on the cover; they are selling themselves, not the music. I am sure there are many artists out there who would love to do a cover for ARW/Yes!
The best part of Dean’s art with Yes it that it not only fits the music but it tells the story of Yes. Great point about the bubble logo, Kevin. Even though it changes in fill color and texture, it identifies Yes so clearly.
Animation is one of Jon’s best albums. There are some songs which continue the vibe of Song of Seven then some which take a new direction. I enjoyed the reviews of both of you Kevin and Mark. I was however disappointed that neither of you mentioned the reference of Eventide Delay, a piece of studio equipment.
I think the sound quality too is excellent. I can’t speak of the CD sound as in 1982 only the LP was an option, fortunately it was and still is the better of the formats.
On the subject of Roger Dean covers, I was indeed drawn to Yes in no small part because of them. I think I’d still have been a fan because of the music alone but LP covers were hugely important back then. I remember being fascinated by the Yessongs cover in particular. Not only that but was somewhat disappointed when I found The Yes Album which was not very Yes like, at least from what I’d seen. GFTO’s cover was a horror but because the music was still that of Yes was forgivable. Beyond that the covers meant little as the spell, the magic was no longer there. Relayer was the last great cover.