Survival & Other Stories
Taking inspiration from his recoveries following several events in 2008 (a near drowning while swimming in the ocean; an almost fatal respiratory attack that cost him his job as lead singer of Yes; and liver and pancreas surgeries), Anderson has culled an array of songs from recent online collaborations to create his first studio record of new material since 1998 as well as one of his finest albums.
When the singer/songwriter put out a call on his website four years ago for one-minute music samples from artists interested in working with him, he didn’t necessarily envision an entire album.
“I wasn’t sure what would happen,” Anderson tells Good New Music via e-mail. “I was very happy when I got so many people contacting me, and a lot of them very talented, so I just started working with a dozen of them, writing music for songs, musicals — symphonic, indigenous ideas, all very different; some of them have worked, some are still being created.”
The global submissions gradually morphed into full-on compositions. “(The collaborators) would send music, aka backing tracks, and I would sing the melodies and lyrics, send them back for a feedback, and then move on to production,” he says. “It’s a way of creating. Most of the time I’d leave it to them to finish all the music, and then they’d send me the files for me to mix.”
Anderson makes it sound easy when he explains how he came up with the words and music to lay over the backing tracks: “Melody and lyric seem to come at the same time. I get an idea of what I’m singing about as I try out the first melody.”
Good New Music was also able to reach four of Anderson’s eight “Survival” collaborators by e-mail. Here’s what they had to say about their work on the album:
JAMIE DUNLAP: “I’m based out of Los Angeles composing for film and TV. Been the composer for ‘South Park’ since 2003. Currently scoring for a Disney XD show called ‘Pair of Kings.’ … I met Jon through mutual friend/amazing musician Fritz Heede a few years back. I would send sketches to Jon over the past three years and we would bounce ideas back and forth, as he has a large network of musicians around the world. … ‘New New World’ is a blend of midi strings enhanced by the real deal. I played guitar and bass with programmed drum loops à la Alan White, one of the best fucking rock drummers on the planet!! My bass attempt was to remotely capture the essence of Chris Squire’s style from ‘Close to the Edge.’ … ‘Sharpening the Sword’ was a track inspired by a documentary I worked on about the plight of the people in Uganda. … ‘Effortlessly’ was a very rough guitar track I sent to Jon and he actually used it as is. … Additional musicians: Don Markese — woodwinds on ‘Sharpening the Sword’; Aryeh Frankfurter — hammered dulcimer on ‘New New World.’ ”
JANN CASTOR: “I met Jon Anderson in 1993 in Los Angeles. His manager at the time, Linda Livingstone, heard my ‘Concerto for 11 String Guitar & Orchestra’ and from her office she called Jon saying, ‘Jon you gotta meet this guy.’ … I was then a Polish immigrant, who settled in Australia, fresh in USA — my next stop where I wanted to pursue my career as a film composer. … After many years (Jon) invited me to collaborate with him on his projects. I took his offer and things started rolling; some of the music was symphonic, but the song I sent him via e-mail, ‘Unbroken Spirit,’ was a milestone in our collaboration. … I recorded, mixed and produced not just the music, but also a video clip for that song. Basically, the whole thing was done over Internet. Let it be said that Jon’s input, musically and lyrically, was very crucial. The song started to have a new lease on life, just like Jon, after his respiratory collapse he suffered in 2008. The video clip I made reflects his ‘coming back to Earth’ in a subliminal way, I think, and found its place on Jon’s official website. … Jon is an inspirational and prolific songwriter with much to offer, as usual. His ‘after Yes’ artistry proves that one stays creative and forever young with no qualms or apprehension. After all, music is the most powerful of The Arts.”
PETER KIEL: “I got in touch with Jon on a gig he did in Fryslan (north Holland) in late 2007. We exchanged ideas on the Internet ever since. One day Jon put a melody with lyrics on a piece of music I sent to him some months before, and ‘Understanding Truth’ was born. Sometime later, Jon mentioned he would like to use it for his new album and it happened. My contribution was strictly instrumental, because (my) music was there already before the (melody and lyrics).” Note: Guitarist Peter’s keyboardist brother Arjan also collaborates with Anderson, doing orchestral work.
DAN SPOLLEN: “I was contacted by Jon in the summer of 2008. I recalled handing off a CD of mine after a show he did in Philadelphia a couple years earlier, and I presume this is what he called about. He asked if I would be interested in trading a few ideas via e-mail and then ‘see what happens.’ I sent a couple of mp3’s, one of which was an excerpt from a larger work of mine called ‘Moment to Moment.’ Two days later he sent it back with his vocal part. This was to become the track ‘Incoming.’ … ‘Love of the Life’ also came about after I sent Jon the basic song, which he then added vocals to. It then continued to evolve over a period of time. For both tracks, Jon did all of the vocals, and I wrote and recorded all the music, with a few ideas from Jon. We continue to trade thoughts and ideas, with several songs in various states of completion. I hope to release these at some point in the near future.”
Despite so many people being involved in “Survival,” the songs seem to be cut from the same cloth. The singer’s newfound appreciation of life is obvious in his voice, which sounds as good — if not better — than ever. And Anderson has hinted in interviews that there are at least a couple more Internet-collaboration albums to come.
So it really is a “New New World.”
1. New New World
2. Understanding Truth
3. Unbroken Spirit
4. Love Of The Life
5. Big Buddha Song
8. Love And Understanding
9. Just One Man
10. Sharpening The Sword
Total time: 48:13