Olias of Sunhillow by Jon Anderson – 254

Olias of Sunhillow by Jon Anderson
Olias of Sunhillow by Jon Anderson

Produced by Preston Frazier

Jon Anderson’s conceptual epic, Olias of Sunhillow, is under the microscope this week and the 2 Pence segment is about Yes and ARW in 2016 and 17. Many thanks to Joseph Cottrell for sending me a vinyl copy of the album!

  • Does this album live up to its amazing reputation?
  • How does Jon Anderson get on playing all the instruments?
  • Does Olias feel like a complete work or a bit bolted together?

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

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Mark’s and Kevin’s copies of Olias of Sunhillow:



German CD

Show notes and links

Preston Frazier’s Awaken review

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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

12 replies on “Olias of Sunhillow by Jon Anderson – 254”

Well, as I mentioned last week, ‘Olias’ and ‘i’ are the sort of albums I expected to hear from the band that gave us TFTO and Relayer. If I were to rate all the post-Relayer solo efforts from best to worst I’d have to go ‘Olias,’ ‘i,’ ‘Fish Out Of Water’… and that’s it – I just don’t like ‘Beginnings’ or ‘Ramshackled’ at all.

I think that every once in a while there’s a musician or composer who comes along who just has an innate sense of what a great work is, fully formed in his head and simultaneously having each individual part of the whole worked out as well. This seems (to me) to be what makes the Great Composers the Great Composers. And despite the fact that he’s never really done an orchestral piece, I think ‘Olias’ qualifies Jon as one of the Great Composers. There’s only so much that can be taught, the rest of it is already there, waiting to be expressed. With the possible exception of Howard Hanson, who could just sit down with the intent of composing a particular style of symphony and then doing it.

To have the idea of something like ‘Olias’ in your head, and then putting down each individual part of it is much like the composition of a symphony – you have to know what the finished product will sound like, and then know how all the separate parts create the whole. And then if you’re Beethoven you can do it after you’ve gone deaf.

The two of you pretty well described the actual tracks so there’s no need to go back and rehash it all. Interesting to note that while the art itself was by Dave Roe, “art direction” was by Hipgnosis – responsible for so many iconic album covers from the seventies and eighties… including, of course, the very next Yes album ‘Going For The One.’

As for the “Yes Year In Review” – does anyone know if any of the U.S. “Drama/Topographic” shows were filmed? Despite the fact that Alan was not able to participate, I’d hate to think that this particular concert series was NOT officially documented.


I share your hope for a DVD release of the 2016 U.S. Album Series show with Drama and Tales Parts 1 and 4. I’m a huge fan of the “Like It Is” series of CD/DVD sets. If they add the full albums recorded at this last tour, we’ll have The Yes Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge, Tales, Going for the One, and Drama all in full album performance on DVD. Pretty hard to beat. That would leave me then wanting live DVD’s of the current band doing all of Tormato and Relayer (2017 tour please?), and what most folks consider the entire main sequence done in a DVD series by essentially the same band, (save for Chris since his untimely exit) on the Drama/Tales DVD and Alan on the same one. But I’ve seen Yes on nearly every U.S. tour since Tales in ’73. This years show, at least here in Vegas was the best I’ve seen since 1994’s “Talk” tour. (I missed “Symphonic”, and have that one on DVD. If I had been at the Symphonic show, I may say since that one. But the Drama/Tales show here was amazing to behold. I’m going to see AWR in a couple weeks and frankly my energy level about that one is a bit down. I’m hoping to be converted, and I’m certainly looking forward to it, but Yes proper, imho, has set the bar pretty high. I see the irony myself in being less excited about seeing some of the classic fellas, then by the mostly younger set of musicians currently carrying the Yes banner, but there it is.

Be that as it may, it will be another Yes oriented concert in the same year, which seems so unlikely for a band begun in 1968, that I can scarcely believe it is happening. We are a truly blessed classic rock fan base.

Hey Steve,

Thank you for the comment. I’m also a huge supporter of the whole “Like IT Is” series…I’m sure their plan is the continue filming these and make it a complete series.

Personally I’m not surprised by your not being as excited to see ARW live after witnessing the brilliant performances of the current Yes line up. I think they are extremely strong in this line up..which is why I hope they make a new album soon.

Thanks again for your support.
Hope to hear from you again soon.

Mark Anthony K

Hi, Steve – I noticed you said “…here in Vegas…” – I grew up in Boulder City; the first two times I saw Yes was in 1976 on the Relayer/Solo Albums tour (with Renaissance opening!) and then again a year later for Going For The One – both times, obviously, at the now defunct Aladdin Theater for Performing Arts… what a great hall that was! I almost bought tickets to see them this last summer Downtown but – having grown up there and knowing how ‘iffy’ August weather can be – I went to Reno and saw them indoors. It was the third best show of the six times I’ve seen them live – it’s pretty hard to beat Relayer and GFTO!

Currently residing in Tooele, Utah, I have tickets for ARW in SLC in another ten days. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that it will be a good show; probably the last time I’ll get to see Jon and Rick live, not to mention the first time for my wife to do the same.

I think Steve’s intent is to get as many of the “main sequence” albums permanently set down in HD audio and video, so I’m also holding out hope that there will indeed be yet another “Like It Is” release… and that “Relayer/Tormato” tour… well, won’t that be an opportunity for an interesting T-shirt artwork mashup?… if they can disentangle all the legal ramifications of fusing Roger Dean and Hipgnosis together…

Greetings Joseph,

My apologies for the late response. business taking up sometime here..but getting to your points…I think you hit the nail on the head as far as Jon being inspired and having the whole of the musical idea in his head. Also the point of “there is only so much that can be taught”…is well put…ism a believer that you can be a brilliant writer and composer with no training at all.
As for the filming of the Drama/Tales tour. ..i don’t know for sure, but my money is on Yes. ..I think they did…I have a feeling another CD/bluray package is on the way. .oh and hopefully vinyl.

Take care my friend and thank you for the support.

Mark Anthony K

I really enjoyed the show this week, I also have some thoughts or hopes for 2017 I too would love to hear new music from Yes and new music from ARW. I was a bit disappointed that ARW did not make a stop by my area instead opting for the west side of my state with I’m guessing they could do the Chicago show the fowling night. Also I would that these grown men could some how put aside there bitterness and let things be. For a band that sings about love and harmony you would never know by all the nasty comments about each others bands I don’t believe for a minute that those comments are nothing more than a way to get attention for them self’s.
I’m sure with two from’s of yes out there they are just trying to fill seats. As you mentioned I would love to hear what Billy could bring to a new album with yes and more progressive way more so than Heaven and earth. One more thing why has ARW not played anything from Talk ? to me this album was outstanding and was just put out with no fan fair and seeing this show was simply amazing.

Sorry did not mean to go off ….


Paul Tomei

Greetings Paul,

Good to hear from you. I totally agree with you about this whole arguing business…I never thought Jon, Steve Rick and sometimes Trevor could be as bad as the Gallagher Bros from Oasis.
I really hope that they find a reason to stop all this soon…maybe an induction to a certain Hall may do it.

In any case feel free to rant as much as you want. As Yes fans we expect a certain level of class and dignity that isn’t being shown right now.

Thanks again for the kind words about the show and we look forward to hearing from you again soon.

Mark Anthony K

Olias is a masterpiece. If I take off my Chris Squire tinted headphones, it is the greatest of all of the Yes solo albums by far. By more than a country mile, probably by as far as the Moorglade had to travel.
It is the only one which is truly a solo album, it has a concept and is musically brilliant. The artwork is magnificent. Basically as a piece it is unsurpassed.
For me it has the frisson right from the word go. I’ve told my story before here but feel it is worth repeating.
Its release was put back several times. I remember phoning the record shop asking if it was in stock so much was I anticipating its release. The day it finally appeared I made the bus journey to Durham to buy it. Having waited several months I was not disappointed.
Later, to add to my pleasure, my friend Gillian Scott who worked at Windows Record Shop in Newcastle saved for me the whole collection of promo material they had for it. Awesome artwork.

The album is a tour de force. I’m not one to be bothered overly by details of lyrics or minutiae. What I love about this record is that the music carries one through the piece rather like a symphony by Beethoven or Brahms. There’s a programme but it’s not in your face, it simply flows.

Not that I’m comparing it to the great masters of music. It is a piece in its own right pure and simple. No pyrotechnics but beautiful and moving.

In the previous show you were asking about other Yes solo albums. I’d agree with you Kevin that Change We Must is a great choice. Also Song of Seven I’d add but in truth Jon Anderson made lots of great albums with and without Vangelis. If it were to be with the Greek keyboard wizard, Friends of Mr Cairo is The best followed by Short Stories, both of which have proper retro romanticism. In any case Jon’s music has been consistently excellent.

I have long felt that Olias is the interpretive key to Yes music, esp. given the strong connection between Olias and Fragile. Roger Dean’s artwork on Yessongs with is planetary fragments floating through space and then landing as seeds on a new world owes much to the story of Olias. It’s a visual theme in much of his work for Yes. In a rare disagreement with Kevin, I think the artwork for Olias is perfect for the sound of the album and the story. I’d love to see an animation for Olias in this style, or art direction for a movie! But, alas, I think you are both right that a follow-up to Olias is best avoided. Has that kind of thing ever worked in music or movies or books?

2016 was certainly a great year for the Yeses–all of them! Why not have 2 bands? I wish I could have gotten to a ARW root beer show, and the Drama/Tales tour was beyond amazing! New music would be great, but I hope they learn from past: don’t rush it and get a producer who understands Yes music.

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