Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Album Review: Olias of Sunhillow

I recently acquired this rare import, having missed it greatly since the demise of vinyl. In 1976, wearied of critical savagery from without and political infighting from within the group, the rock group YES fractured and the members all took a year off to pursue solo projects. Perhaps the finest of the lot is this debut album from Jon Anderson (and in my opinion the only one of his solo albums worth buying).

The album portrays a cosmic Noah's Ark story, with Olias building the ship Moorglade and fleeing from a dying planet to found life on a new one. The plot only matters as it explains the sound of the album - it is very spacey and mystical; I think Jon Anderson was on a higher plane (the astral plane?) when he wrote this one.

Anderson plays every instrument on the album - harps, guitar, sitar, synthersizers, drums, what have you, as well as doing all the vocals. As a result, the album focuses on the sound and the music instead of technical virtuosity.

The whole album is basically ten different, lush soundscapes masquerading as songs, as Anderson draws you in to another world of peace and higher consciousness. If you like Tangerine Dream at their best, and Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Cray Diamond", then you will get the sense of this album. There is hardly any urgency (except at the crisis part of the story) just beautiful, mood-setting pieces that drift in and out. I like playing this at bed time.

This is one of my favourite albums of all time, and I was glad to finally acquire a CD version of it