Album Reviews

Issue 2016-036

Anderson / Stolt - Invention of Knowledge - Round Table Review

Anderson / Stolt - Invention of Knowledge
Country of Origin: UK/Sweden
Year of Release: 2016
Time: 65:02
Track List:
Invention of Knowledge: I. Invention (9:41), II. We Are Truth (6:41), III. Knowledge (6:30), Knowing: I. Knowing (10:31), II. Chase and Harmony (7:17), Everybody Heals: I. Everybody Heals (7:36), II. Better by Far (2:03), III. Golden Light (3:30), Know... (11:13)
Geoff Feakes' Review
As a teenage prog fan I was privileged to see many classic performances during the early 70s, with the Close To The Edge and Tales From Topographic Oceans tours by Yes being particularly memorable. My passion for the genre waned however during the 80s, and it wasn't until the mid-90s and the emergence of band's like Glass Hammer, Spock's Beard and The Flower Kings, fronted by Roine Stolt, that my interest was rekindled. Somehow these artists captured and revitalised the sound and spirit of the early 70s (and Yes in particular) whilst retaining their own identity.

Although an avid fan, Stolt didn't meet Jon Anderson until February 2014 on the 'Progressive Nation At Sea' cruise organised by Mike Portnoy. Anderson joined Transatlantic on stage and performed several Yes classics including the 20-minute The Revealing Science of God from ...Topographic Oceans. He and Stolt hit it off straight away and were soon sharing music files over the internet. In March 2015, TFKs' guitarist entered the studio to lay down the backing tracks, and piece together 65 minutes of music around Anderson's vocal melodies.

Consisting of four long pieces, Invention of Knowledge has been compared by many to ...Topographic Oceans. However, it doesn't have the same dramatic peaks and troughs as Yes' magnum opus, being more linear and lighter in tone. True, there are some similarities to Yes, but no more so than say the 1979 ABWH album. A more apt comparison would be Anderson's solo outings, especially Olias Of Sunhillow (1976) and his work with Vangelis, Kitaro and Tangerine Dream coupled with the symphonic style of TFKs, with their The Sum Of No Evil album from 2007 being a good example.

Invention sets the tone and mood of the album, with Anderson's now familiar chant-like singing (a style he developed outside of Yes) underscored by Stolt's lush arrangements. We Are Truth is sung in a more naturalistic style and is all the better for it, with the uplifting, gospel-tinged chorus of "We are truth made in heaven, we are glorious" sending a genuine tingle down the spine. Other highlights include Stolt's Steve Howeish guitar lines during Knowledge and Tom Brislin's ethereal keyboard orchestrations during Knowing, which are very Vangelis in tone. Brislin's association with Anderson dates back to 2001, when he was the stand-in keyboardist for Yes' 'Symphonic Tour'.

Everybody Heals is the most stylistically diverse song. Here Stolt's soaring guitar theme contrasts with a rare blues solo, followed by a jazzy piano interlude from Karmakanic keysman Lalle Larsson. The concluding Know is for the most-part a departure for all concerned, with Anderson romanticising over a mellow, late-night piano backing. It's more Burt Bacharach than prog, although a Rick Wakeman-style synth fanfare brings it back to more familiar territory, heralding the triumphant finale.

There is a real sense of wonder and optimism that pervades this album, due in no small part to Anderson's voice, which has lost none of its clarity or charm, even though he celebrated his 70th birthday during the recording process. Although Stolt utilises a standard rock ensemble, the textures created have an orchestral quality, with his melodic (and often understated) guitar being pivotal. The choir-like backing voices (courtesy of Daniel Gildenlöw and Nad Sylvan amongst others) are perfect, whilst the drums and bass of Felix Lehrmann and Jonas Reingold are smoothly integrated into the overall sound.

If like me, you were extremely disappointed by the most recent Yes offering, Heaven and Earth (2014), I strongly urge you to give Invention of Knowledge a try. You might be pleasantly surprised and may well find yourself saying; "I didn't know they still made albums like this".
Kevin Heckeler's Review
"This is some true, classic prog". Those were my exact thoughts when the first few minutes of Invention of Knowledge filled my car's interior. Accomplished prog rockers Jon Anderson and Roine Stolt have created quite a time capsule, gracefully transporting me back to Yes-teryears. The nostalgia is quite thick in places and it may even bury some of the truly great music on this album. If able to look past this, there is a trove of excellent musicianship and songcraft, that only such progressive royalty could accomplish.

My personal tastes have shifted towards darker and heavier music in the past few years. But I've kept in constant contact with my musical roots, namely Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, ELP and The Moody Blues... bands that have had the longest and greatest impact during my lifetime, both as a musician and as a fan of music. It's in that vein that this album falls.

Walking the fine line between contrived complexity and virtuosity, the album's success hinges on Stolt's ability to balance great hooks with music that is unpredictable and original. On Invention, Knowing, and Everybody Heals there's a familiar sense of melody that I would immediately brand as that indistinguishable Yes sound, but with unique embellishments, song structure, and catchy vocal accompaniment. The opening verse of Knowing is one of progressive rock's greatest earworm tracks. This template of contrasting fresh with familiar, can be heard on many of the other tracks.

Jon Anderson's lyrics are traditionally idealist with a degree of positivity that makes me a tad sick in my stomach. I don't share all of Mr. Anderson's uplifting views of the world, so some of this is tough to swallow [see the comments above regarding my recent trend towards darker music]. However, I was more than willing, eager even, to listen past this. After the second or third time through, the album started to click and these earlier impressions and hang-ups started losing their grip. It was less my needing to enjoy it, as it was learning again, how to enjoy the softer and supple side of the genre. As for Jon's vocals, he is in top form throughout.

There's several great guitar solos on the album, notably on We Are Truth and Everyone Heals, although the prevailing musical strategy is one of appropriateness and restraint. No single instrument dominates the recording, nevertheless you will hear more 70s sounding synthesisers than on most contemporary prog. Anderson sings themes of harmony, but it's the music that most reflects and achieves the seamlessly unified result.

Invention of Knowledge falls short of perfection, but not by much. This is prog personified, checking all the boxes, and easily one of the strongest progressive albums released in the first half of this year.
Arno Agterberg's Review
If I told you that Invention of Knowledge is probably the best musical output that any member of the extensive Yes family has released since that band's Tormato album from 1978, I probably wouldn't be telling you anything new, as most of the early reviews have been pretty enthusiastic about this joint effort by Jon Anderson (the Prog God who needs no further introduction) and Roine Stolt, known and praised for his lead role in the Swedish prog masters The Flower Kings and one of the members of Transatlantic.

I do not consider myself to be the type of man who follows the masses and I am not that sensitive for what other people say or think about arts and music. I do love to have my own view and opinion on things, especially music and football. So being a Yes and The Flower Kings fan, I was very aware of this project that these two wonderful musicians had started. Having said that, I was afraid that all the positive vibes that came through in the (social) media in the weeks before the release of this album were nothing more than words of people and fans trying to hold on to something they had heard decades ago, and who were afraid to say something bad or not that nice about their heroes.

On the day I went to my local provider of everything prog (Velvet Music in Ede), I had a clear mission. I needed to hear this for myself. So I walked to the prog part of the shop and there it was. Right in front of the selection of new arrivals, the album stared me in the face. The album cover by Silas and Eva Toball is beautiful, so I noticed it straight away. After a few friendly words with Joep (the shop owner) and a nice lunch, I headed home, where I immediately started to listen to the album. From the first notes everything fell into place.

I soon found out exactly what the fuss was all about. It grabbed me and threw me back to the late nineties. What? The nineties? Yes, because that was the time I first discovered the wonderful music Yes had made in the seventies.

I was a very big fan of heavy metal at that time and had become a Dream Theater fan earlier that decade. It was my introduction to progressive music, and looking for more progressive bands and sounds, I naturally was pointed in the direction of one of the bands that started it, all those years ago. Fragile was the very first album I heard from Yes. And what an amazing introduction that was.

Until then Owner of a Lonely Heart had been my only reference for the band, but hearing the albums full of wizardry and soundscapes that the band had created before their eighties hit, was nothing less than mesmerising. So with that in mind, this new album by the masters Anderson and Stolt is a very welcome addition to my collection. And I will listen to this as much as all the now classic albums by Yes and The Flower Kings as this really is the best album Yes never made!

Jon Anderson and Roine Stolt have both been around for quite some time, but the had never met until at the Progressive Nation at Sea cruise in 2014. After a year and a half of writing and recording, with the help of the internet and its many possibilities to swap files and share ideas, this disc was created. Joining Roine Stolt in the studio were Tom Brislin and Lalle Larsson on keyboards, Jonas Reingold and Michael Stolt on bass, and Felix Lehrmann on drums. The backing tracks were provided by Daniel Gildenlöw, Nad Sylvan, Anja Obermayer, Maria Rerych and Kristina Westas.

Invention of Knowledge is divided into four parts. The first part, that gives its name to the album, consists of three songs and could have easily fit on Tales From Topographic Oceans. From the start, this musical journey is filled with great harmonies and passages that set the mood for the entire album. Anderson's vocals and lyrical themes prove that his former band really miss his presence and talents. Roine Stolt must have had the feeling he was blessed with all the ideas and themes Anderson brought to the table. And for his part, Stolt proves he is capable of creating exactly the arrangements his idol and example needs to bring out the best of himself.

Parts two (Knowing) and three (Everybody Heals) are made up of multiple songs as well, all offering some great tracks and passages. The solos by Stolt are superb and sometimes soar in very heartfelt way, while the keyboards and rhythms provide a colourful canvas to the talents of all musicians involved.

The last song and the closing part of the album is Know ..., which in itself is a wonderful song and a message to everyone. The song eventually takes a twist to transform itself into a reprise of Knowing.

So after hearing the songs on The Invention of Knowledge I can truly say that this is an album that all fans of Yes or The Flower Kings will want to hear. But not only followers of these bands, as this album is a very wonderful and uplifting album for all lovers of progressive music and melody.

It is definitely a trip down memory lane, but it never sounds dated. Jon Anderson sounds beautiful and sometimes fragile, which in this case is complimentary to his lyrics and testimony as a whole, while Roine Stolt provides the glorious passages, solos and melodies together with all the other musicians who back up these great compositions. Even Rick Wakeman should love this one, as his legacy is a great inspiration for some of the keyboard parts on the album.

So go get your copy of this beautiful piece of music, if you haven't already, and take pleasure in listening to he fruits of the labour of two of the greatest prog musicians alive. And thank you mister Anderson and mister Stolt for sharing. Hats off to the both of you!
Geoff Feakes: 8.5 out of 10
Kevin Heckeler: 9.5 out of 10
Arno Agterberg: 10 out of 10
Album Reviews