Atlantic 1980 / Esoteric 2020
Going for the one, singer of affirmative spirituality finds swift wings of freedom in simple joie de vivre.
Perhaps, nothing spelled the end of the ’70s more eloquently than Jon Anderson‘s second solo offering – an opus as far removed from his regular progressive rock tapestries as possible… or so it’s often perceived. If “Olias Of Sunhillow” – the artist’s individual debut, released mid-decade – seemed to confirm his status of a sci-fi concept-pursuer, that album’s follow-up found the singer drastically diversifying his approach, the development first seen on YES’ “Tormato” in 1978, when the ensemble explicitly displayed their pop leanings and also demoed a few of their frontman’s numbers – “Days” and “Some Are Born” among them – which didn’t make the final cut. These tracks became the starting point for the 35-year-old’s next melodic cycle – a magical, as the titular composition would suggest, set of pieces destined to give the young veteran new wings.
Featuring fresh designs that don’t project any coherent narrative to send the listener on another spiritual journey, the songs of “Song Of Seven” offer instead a joyful trip via variety of moods which allow Jon to compartmentalize his stylistic arcanum and clearly outline its ingredients. More so, these moods – each destined to define material for Anderson’s further records – have triumphant air about them here, as signaled by the glorious dance of “For You, For Me”: picking up where “And You And I” left off ages earlier, the album’s effervescent opener reflects his freedom and confirm his ability to become a pinup heartthrob as Virgin wanted – the idea the warbler rejected and moved to Atlantic in order to do things on his own terms. The terms included using the services of musicians the vocalist, whose voice is oozing rapture throughout, hadn’t worked with previously, yet they went along with Jon’s want to embrace the liberty of enjoying life rather than accept human existence as enigma, and the powerful, playful groove Jack Bruce and Simon Phillips lay down on “Heart Of The Matter” is the best example of Anderson feeling changed.
This number and “Don’t Forget (Nostalgia)” let the singer come back to his rhythm-and-blues roots, while “Some Are Born” – soaked in exotic chant – returns him to idealistic soaring over mundane routine, supported by Ronnie Leahy’s ivories which weave folksy motifs, Ian Bairnson’s funky guitar and Dick Morrissey’s happy sax. The same emotions may permeate the entire record yet – after Anderson has exultantly exclaimed, “Hear it!” on the introductory track – as a refrain of “Hear It” this phrase is turned into a portal to a fairy tale, a brief paean to nature, before “Everybody Loves You” forms a four-strings-caressed romantic ballad out of a madrigal. There’s an even higher level of solemnity to “Days” – with John Giblin’s fretless bass bulging on the serene surface – as opposed to the soft simplicity of the “Take Your Time” waltz that’s covered in retro patina, and then there’s the title epic to tie together all the strands of Anderson’s multicolored tapestry…
Observed separately, the 11-minute “Song Of Seven” can look like a typical art-rock opus, finely orchestrated and poetic, but Clem Clempson‘s electric filigree and Morris Pert’s stormy-cloud beat elevate the Rimsky-Korsakov-esque chamber wonder and Jon’s philosophical storytelling – not mentioning his angelic delivery – to celestial realms without sacrificing the album’s original diversity to prog tropes. Anderson would return to such unrestricted adventurousness forty years later, on "1000 Hands: Chapter One" – only to get there, mapping out the future in a solo mode was an important, necessary step, and this reissue stresses it impressively to say the least.