It’s a good day to be a Yes fan: The OG prog gods’ original frontman Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe have both released new solo albums.
Even better: Both of them do a decent job of channeling the sound, style and ambience of their old band’s halcyon days. But if you only have the time, money, interest or inclination to pick up one of them — and you’re not a guitar player — just say yes to Anderson’s long-overdue 1,000 Hands. Between his undiminished sky-high vocals, a list of truly classic-sounding compositions and a star-studded supporting cast that includes former bandmates Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White; guitarists Rick Derringer, Pat Travers, Larry Coryell and Steve Morse; keyboardists Chick Corea and Jonathan Cain; drummers Billy Cobham and Carmine Appice; Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and umpteen more peers and icons, it’s by far the bigger, bolder and better offering. Sorry, Steve.
THE PRESS RELEASE: “For music fans everywhere, a new album by legendary Yes singer Jon Anderson is ample reason to celebrate. But Anderson’s grand and glorious new solo album, 1,000 Hands, is quite unlike any other record — it’s an event, one which the singer’s loyal legion of fans across the globe have been wildly anticipating for three decades. “I’ve spent long periods of time making some records, but I’ve never taken a journey quite like this one,” says the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. “To say that 1,000 Hands has been a long time in coming would be quite an understatement, but I’m thrilled that it’s finally a reality and that my fans will now be able to hear it. And I think they’ll be delighted to hear music that’s timeless. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.” Anderson began the album (originally called Uzlot — “it means a lot of us”) nearly 30 years ago, working with a group of musicians that included Yes drummer Alan White and bassist Chris Squire. However, due to his heavy touring commitments, Anderson had to put the record on the back burner. “Before you knew it, I started getting involved in other projects and tours, and years went by,” he explains. “I would listen to the tapes from time to time and think, ‘This could have been a great album! One day I’ll finish it.’ ” Finally, a year and a half ago, Anderson and Grammy-nominated producer Michael T. Franklin got the album back on track. Setting up shop in Franklin’s Solar Studios in Orlando, Florida, Anderson laid down backing vocals to his original lead tracks, and Franklin called in an astonishing array of rock and jazz luminaries to fill out the songs: fellow Yes alum Steve Howe, Ian Anderson, Jean-Luc Ponty, Billy Cobham, Chick Corea, Steve Morse, Rick Derringer, Jonathan Cain, and the Tower of Power Horns are just a few of the guests on 1,000 Hands. “That’s where the title 1,000 Hands comes from, all of the brilliant musicians who played a part in making the record,” Anderson says. “Michael acted like something of a casting director, bringing so many great players. It was really exciting to hear the record open up and become what I had always envisioned.” Anderson’s celestial voice — one of the most recognizable sounds in rock — is in stunning form throughout 1,000 Hands, an album that features some of his most breathtaking compositions.”
THE PRESS RELEASE: “Legendary Yes guitarist Steve Howe’s Love Is is his first solo album since the all-instrumental Time in 2011 and has a balance of five instrumental tracks and five songs. Howe sings lead vocals and plays electric, acoustic and steel guitars, keyboards, percussion and bass guitar on the instrumentals while Yes vocalist Jon Davison provides vocal harmonies and plays bass guitar on the vocal tracks. The album also features Dylan Howe on drums. Many years in the making, Love Is brings together a consistently strong and polished listening experience, forging the very best from the writing and playing throughout the album. This may well be considered the real standout album of Howe’s solo career. The instrumentals keep a highly progressive rock guitar style to the fore, with songs that explore stories of lives lived and lives only just begun. “I called the album Love Is because it hints at the central idea that that love is important but also love of the universe and the ecology of the world is very important, Alexander Humboldt went around the world and recognised we are destroying the planet but that was 200 years ago! We are still destroying the planet and, I suppose, my songs show the yearning I have for the love of nature and how beauty, art and music all stem from nature. There is a theme about those things, love, beauty, ecology, nature and wonderful people.”