Do you remember that scene in the original Star Wars movie where Luke is watching nightfall on Tatooine and we see two suns sinking beyond the horizon… Well, scientists not that long ago in their search of the Heavens came across a similar phenomenon 200 light years away which they like to call a circumbinary planet — a planet orbiting two stars. These scientists obviously are not into Prog Rock because we could have told them they should have searched a lot closer to home and discovered two stars orbiting us who have recently put out an album called “Invention Of Knowledge.”
To those of you who own Kanye West albums, Anderson/Stolt are Jon Anderson (ex-Yes, ABWH, APB, ARW and other assorted projects) and Roine Stolt (Kaipa, The Flower Kings, Transatalantic, Agents Of Mercy and equally other assorted projects), and thanks to a little boat ride out to sea they’ve hung out together over many thousand miles apart to create a real gem of a Prog album. Oh, did I mention it is a PROG album? Welcome back, Jon. You’ve been sorely missed.
Now there is a great expression, or maybe I heard it in a song lyric back in the 90’s… that goes something like this, ”… man on fire prays for rain…” And the reason I mention it is that a few fans are trying to make out that this is a Yes album. They’re desperate for others to see this as a bona fide Yes album. To be fair, they were probably saying that even before they heard it. They’ve been anxiously waiting for Jon to do another Yes album. If you see it that way, then enjoy. I don’t, but that just me. I think the interactions of Roine with Jon has created an amalgam of many parts and influences that show moments of Yes and The Flower Kings not to mention other projects both musicians have been involved with over the many years. Countless listening ingrained into our very being makes it easier to know and feel it when we hear it. Identify with it. So for me this is “beyond” Yes or The Flower Kings music. Let’s just call it “Circumbinary Prog.” Two stars orbiting us with a potpourri of many musical scents and colours.
Roine excitedly told us fans via email not long after the cruise where he and Transatlantic played a number of Yes Classic standards with Jon as guest vocalist that they were going to work together on a new project. Of course we know a number of projects with Jon have started but still linger in some sort of dimensional freezer and may never see the light of day. So although we were all as giddy as you can get on hearing that Jon will be working with one of the best Progressive rock musicians in the business, there was in the back of our minds a certain reservation on whether this could be pulled off. Sure, Roine told us that they had a 20 minute piece they were dabbling with that would make any Prog fanboy wet themselves with joy. Sure, we know Roine is a musical workhorse moving from one project to the next and churning out so much material on this and that. Then again, this was a time when Jon’s health was still questionable. And then we got word of Inventioning and then that split where Jon with Jean Luc Ponty formed Anderson Ponty Band, and then the concert happened, and the tour, and the album, and another tour, and suddenly we get several announcements the album with Roine and Jon is completed and coming out in the very near future. And here it is!
There’s a kind of ‘The Revealing Science Of God (Dance Of The Dawn)’ intro to the first track, ‘I. Invention’ mixed in with a bit of ‘Olias of Sunhillow’ and Jon & Vangelis’s ‘The Mayflower’ from ‘Friends of Mr Cairo’ with lyrics like “All the stars. So much space…” teasing us and wondering if Jon is really back with his Prog Rock disciples, all in the first 50 or so seconds. Throw in a bit of Steve Howe slide and the track builds up enough to know Jon has shaken some of his New Age nuances off and promises us Prog, thanks in part to Roine and some of the other Flower Kings members (Felix Lehrmann [drums], Jonas Reingold [bass], including ex-members Daniel Gildenlöw and Roine’s brother, Michael Stolt) familiar sounds one minute and 15 seconds in. All bodes well as we settle down for the rest of the 50 minutes. And I kid you not – when you get to track 3, ‘Knowledge’ you’ll swear you heard a strain from ‘Nous Somme Du Soleil.’ But then again, each of us are coming from our own yes experiences and will pick up thing that are or seem similar to each of us. I could have sworn I heard the same keyboard sounds Jon used on Olias Of Sunhillow, but don’t hold me to that.
If you like Jon’s lyrics from other albums then you’re going to love this. I’m still trying to work out what he meant with “coloured door of time” on ‘And you And I’ so goodness knows what folk are going to make of “… all in the trance of the tremalon days…” Some of us kind of think Jon’s singing about some sort of sparkle effect but who knows… It’s the knowledge of Invention we’re learning about here, or is it as the title says – The Invention of Knowledge?
You’ll be knocking your socks off if Jon’s whimsical word structuring is your bag. I think personally Roine should be credited for reining in Jon’s bent for New Age meanderings. There is a little bit of his trademark chanting but overall not so overbearing as on some of his solo albums. As for Roine, he’s stamped The Flower Kings signature sounds over parts and there’s a good balance here of both artists working on building a song together. Personally I would have preferred a lot more instrumentals and a little less singing in parts, but let’s remember, this isn’t Yes. Those were and are five individuals finding a way to add their own musical DNA to create one all encompassing helix of sound. Here we have two artists working their stuff over large distances, back and forth and layering each song with a number of other artists. they did good.
Favourite track is ‘Knowing’ and this has radio play written all over it; that’s if radio will play ten minute plus tracks. Certainly Prog radio will make good on it. There are plenty of hooks in this both with the melody and backing instrumentals to make this instantaneously likeable. Do check out the video of this song if you haven’t heard it before.
And how eye-catching is the album cover by one of Roine’s preferred artists, Silas Toball? Simply amazing! Silas has provided exceptional work for The Flower Kings and Agents Of Mercy albums previously.
Will they tour with this album? Who knows. Not in the foreseeable future as Jon is about to start touring with Anderson Rabin Wakeman in the USA and then Europe. Roine has voiced he would love to, but he is philosophical about what the future holds with Jon as do we all. We’ll see.