Almost a year ago I wrote about Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards dubbing him “The Ultimate Rock and Roll Survivor.” This time, as the article I saw that inspired this post observed, Jon Anderson is another musician who has earned the right to be considered a rock and roll survivor. What the two have survived has little in common beyond rock and roll. While Richards was known as a more typical practitioner of the rock star lifestyle who makes no secret of his years of drug use, sizing up Jon Anderson brings to mind words like cerebral and spiritual.
Anderson, a founding member of the progressive rock group Yes, is no longer associated with the band, which is something that’s obvious after listening to the group’s first new album since Anderson’s departure, although it might be more accurate to say that it was Yes that departed and left Anderson to make his own way.
There’s no denying the vital role Anderson played in creating one of the most-recognizable names in progressive rock history. His name appears on songwriting credits for Yes classics like “I’ve Seen All Good People,” “Roundabout,” “Long Distance Runaround,” “Going For The One,” and many more. Although Yes continues to tour and record, I think the remaining members did as much a disservice to themselves as they did to Anderson when they decided to continue without him.
Anderson is not sitting still these days – far from it. Although the move by his former band mates does make him sound a tad bitter at times, particularly after he initially learned about their decision to continue on without him, it seems Anderson has come to terms with where life has led him. The release of his collaborative album Survival and Other Stories along with his touring as a solo act indicates that he has no intention of giving up on music.
Next month Anderson will join forces with his former Yes band mate Rick Wakeman whom Anderson obviously holds in high regard. “He’s a good friend, and he’s really been the only member of Yes in contact with me,” he says. The two will tour together starting on October 19th in Milwaukee. It won’t be the first time the two have toured together outside of their time with Yes. They’ve collaborated in the past, including the time they spent as part of Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe – a group of fellow Yes members who produced an album of the same name.
Anderson and Wakeman also teamed up to work on some new music last year which resulted in the release of an album called The Living Tree. The two toured a bit in the U.K. during the fall and presumably their upcoming tour will more-or-less pick up with the previous tour left off.
Anderson’s recent solo touring and his plans to reunite with his old friend Rick Wakeman make one wonder if he could have stepped back into his old role as front man for Yes. I suppose only Anderson and his doctors can answer that question with any authority, but there’s no question he’s seen a dramatic improvement in his health since the respiratory problems that hospitalized him in 2008.
I suppose I would have preferred to see Jon Anderson retake his place with Yes, but I shall watch with interest what he comes up with in the future. For Yes fans who may be a bit disillusioned with the current state of the group, I suggest checking out CIRCA, a group that includes former Yes members Tony Kaye and Billy Sherwood. For me, CIRCA’s sound is more reminiscent of the “classic” Yes I first became familiar with back in the late 1970’s. I’ve been listening to it quite a bit lately and find myself enjoying it more than the most recent release by Yes entitled Fly From Here.