Better Late Than Never
It's not out of place to wonder what became of Jon Anderson after he was unceremoniously dismissed from Yes in 2008. If you haven't been keeping score, Anderson seemingly got over the acute respiratory issue that led to his departure from Yes, and carried on making music with former Yes bandmates Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin, as well as producing songs of his own and collaborating with numerous others. When it was announced Anderson would be working with violinist Jean Luc Ponty, the stakes got raised and everyone then started wondering: What could possibly come out of this union? Better Late Than Never spills the beans.
Better Late Than Never includes a bonus DVD that features the AndersonPonty Band at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colorado from September 2014, along with interviews with all the players. The material is a mix of rearranged Yes songs like "Owner Of A Lonely Heart," "Roundabout," "And You And I" and "Wonderous Stories" with some of Jean Luc Ponty's compositions underlining Anderson's vocals with new lyrics added. On "Infinite Mirage," Anderson adds a few subtle lines to "Mirage," one of Ponty's more revered tunes from 1977's Enigmatic Ocean. The singer also lends his unique vocals to "Renaissance Of The Sun," inspired by Ponty's "Renaissance" from 1975's Aurora.
The record has a very cohesive feel and clearly underscores Anderson's endurance as a singer and songwriter. In addition to Anderson and Ponty, there is a cornucopia of seasoned players: guitarist Jamie Glaser, has worked with Ponty, Chick Corea, Bryan Adams and Lenny White; keyboardist Wally Minko, another player from Ponty's camp, as well as a veteran musician whose had stints with Pink, Toni Braxton, Jean Luc Ponty, Tom Jones, Gregg Rolie and Barry Manilow; bassist Baron Browne has played with Ponty, Steve Smith, Billy Cobham and Ponty; and drummer Rayford Griffin is yet another Ponty collaborator, as well as a time-keeper who's logged time with Stanley Clarke, George Duke and Michael Jackson. Together, this is a gropu of musicians to behold.
Lots of fans will want to hear the Yes songs, and the new arrangements are fresh and unique. "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" bounces and hops like an excitable bunny rabbit, and it sparkles. A loose and reggae-flavored reading of "A Time And A Word" provides ample space for Ponty to swish away on the breaks before Anderson sips and salivates the words. "Wonderous Stories" assumes a rather regal, jazzy face as Minko's piano trills align adjacently with Anderson's vocals. It all works out beautifully. "And You And I" is equally enhanced by Minko's nimble fingers, as Anderson swings through the verses and choruses as suavely and assuredly as he has done hundreds of times before. With everything else given a different spin, it's somewhat disappointing that "Roundabout" barely strays from the original. Fortunately, Ponty's violin offers enough of a seasoned flavor to make it worth the ride. Truth be told, there are so many good things to say about Better Late Than Never, that it might be best at this point to stop and let you go out and experience it for yourself. Get ready for pure musical joy.
~ Shawn Perry