Jon Anderson
Olias Of Sunhillow


4.5
superb

Review

by e210013 USER (101 Reviews)
May 15th, 2018 | 28 replies


Release Date: 1976 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This is one of the most original, exotic, hypnotic, complex and fascinating prog albums. It was created by one of the most complex, creative and brilliant prog minds ever.

“Olias Of Sunhillow” is the debut studio album of Jon Anderson and was released in 1976. The performance on the album was all only in charge of Jon Anderson. He played every kind of musical instruments by himself.


Anderson is a British poet, composer, and multi-instrumentalist and is better known as one of the founder members of the legendary progressive rock group Yes. He was also one of the main composers of Yes. However, he is also known due to his extensive and interesting solo career and his collaboration with several bands and artists. Anderson collaborated with Vangelis on Jon & Vangelis project, with his colleagues of Yes, Bill Bruford, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe and Alan White and also with many other artists and bands, such as King Crimson, Iron Butterfly, Vangelis, Mike Oldfield, Giorgio Moroder, John Paul Jones, Tangerine Dream, Milton Nascimento, Dream Theater and Glass Hammer.

As happened with Genesis, “Olias Of Sunhillow” is one of the five solo albums released by the five members of Yes in 1975 and 1976, during a hiatus time of the band after the release of their seventh studio album “Relayer” in 1974. It was released along with Chris Squire’s “Fish Out Of Water”, Steve Howe’s “Beginnings”, Patrick Moraz’s “Story Of I” and Alan White’s “Ramshackled”. It was the most successful of Yes’ solo efforts, reaching nº 8 in the UK charts and breaking into the US top 50. It’s also probably the best musical work of all solo albums of Yes’ members, at the time.

“Olias Of Sunhillow” is a conceptual album inspired by the writings of Vera Stanley Alder, an American portrait painter and mystic woman which wrote several books on self-help and spirituality and also founded the World Guardian fellowship. Anderson developed the entire story around the idea of an interstellar exodus from a place, a planet named Sunhillow, and he wrote the lyrics around the narrative based on the character of a spaceship’s architect named Olias. In short, “Olias Of Sunhillow” tells us the story of an alien race and their journey to a new world due to a catastrophe. Olias is the chosen architect of the glider Moorglade, which will be used to save his people to their new home. Ranyart is the navigator of the glider and Qoquaq is the leader who unites the four tribes of Sunhillow to realise the exodus.

Anderson’s solo debut album is an impressive and unique conceptual album with a very mystical and otherworldly atmosphere. All tracks float into each other and make a continuous and very pleasant flow. The music often borders on New Age, but without becoming boring and too sweet. The arrangements consist of lots of overdubbed vocal harmonies by Anderson, who also plays some harp here, percussion, acoustic guitar and loads of very Vangelis inspired synthesizer work. The compositions vary between acoustic and structured songs, more free floating and almost spacey passages and then to parts with atmospheric themes that build up and are repeated for several minutes to create a very hypnotic effect. Personally, I think the sound of the album is so unique that it’s hard to compare it with anything else. The acoustic passages can of course remind of some Yes’ songs like the first part of “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Wonderous Stories” but the sound as a whole is very original and unique. Some slight eastern influences can also be heard on some parts of the album. The music here is a seamless combination of acoustic instruments, guitar, sitar, harp, many types of percussion and synthesizers. As simplistic as that description is, add many layers of Anderson’s voice, in melody and harmony, and you have a timeless treasure. By today’s standards this is not such an amazing accomplishment. However, in 1976 it was a brilliant revelation to achieve such a cohesive final balance.

The album’s concept cover was inspired by the art cover of Roger Dean of Yes’ “Fragile”, which depicts a tiny planet breaking apart and a glider escaping into space. “Olias Of Sunhillow” sleeve features a series artworks by English artist David Fairbrother Roe. He was also known due to the produce of the artwork, posters and tickets for the famous three Isle Of Wight festivals from 1968 to 1970, and also because the art cover for books and albums of some other groups.


Conclusion: “Olias Of Sunhillow” remains Anderson’s only really worthwhile solo album, in terms of progressive rock music, but it’s a little masterpiece in itself and should appeal to everyone who wants a unique piece of atmospheric and beautiful music to drift along to. It’s the closest album to the original sound of Yes, of all the five solo albums. Despite the differences, we can say that there are several songs that could have easily fit in Yes’ own musical catalogue and also the lyrics continue to mine the mystical musings of the band and that Yes fans had come to enjoy. However, “Olias Of Sunhillow” isn’t the missing Yes’ album that some might hope to be, but remains as the most original album, with “Story Of I” of Patrick Moraz, of all those projects. “Olias Of Sunhillow” remains, even today, a very exotic, hypnotic, complex and fascinating album, created by one of the most complex and brilliant minds of the progressive rock world.


Music was my first love.
John Miles (Rebel)



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user ratings (35)
Chart.
3.9
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
e210013
May 15th 2018


2112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

So, after the reviews about Yes' albums, it's now time to pursue my prog path through the world of Yes, but this time, with some studio solo albums of their members.

As many of we know, between 1975 and 1976 after the release of "Relayer", the then 5 Yes' members, Anderson, Howe, Moraz, Squire and White, released 5 solo studio albums. So, it's now time to take a look to those albums and some solo albums of Yes' past members, too.

So, nothing better than to begin with the solo album of Anderson, the frontman of Yes. For many he is one of their most influential members and the real soul of Yes. For many others, without Anderson there isn't Yes.

Besides, this is an album that deserved finally have a review here.

Divaman
May 15th 2018


3150 Comments


Very nice, e. Way to fill in those blanks.

Digging: Dead Can Dance - Dionysus

Zig
May 15th 2018


1215 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This's so underappreciated.

Boa review, amigo.

Digging: Nico - The Marble Index

e210013
May 15th 2018


2112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks, Diva. Yeah, it's the same you do, usually.

e210013
May 15th 2018


2112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@ Zig

"This's so underappreciated."

I absolutely agree. And it's a shame. I think it deserves more love.

Obrigado amigo. Vamos preencher mais lacunas neste site, cada um à sua maneira.

MotokoKusanagi
May 15th 2018


1619 Comments


yeah this is great

e210013
May 15th 2018


2112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks, Moto. It really is.

Jethro42
May 15th 2018


15571 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don't know what to think about that music. It doesn't speak to me that much. I'm hard to please when it comes to meditative, New Age music, and this album is no exception. it sounds uninspired and boring to me. Would be better in a band context I presume. I won't rate it, cos it's hard for me to be objective, here.



Good review, buddy.

MotokoKusanagi
May 15th 2018


1619 Comments


damn Jethro you don't dig Flight of the Moorglade? easy stand out on here in my opinion. i don't really fuck with New Age type stuff (as broad a term as that is, you know what i mean) but i think this is a fun easy listen

Jethro42
May 15th 2018


15571 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good try, Moto, but it's still meh for me. The vocal lines are not bad in general, but my gripe is mostly with the soundscape. Like I said, I wish it would rock more with the presence of a full band. Also, my expectations were high for an Anderson release from 1976. I'm sure he could have done much better than that. Maybe it was rushed, who knows. I'm at my 3rd listen now, and I'm still not impressed, but it's perhaps a little bit better now...a little bit.

e210013
May 16th 2018


2112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@ Jethro

I can see your problems about meditative New Age music. But, sincerely, I think, despite those traces clearly presents on this album, there are also many prog traces on this album too. I even dare to say, that this is the best and one of the most prog albums of the five solo albums released by all five Yes' members. I can clearly see many Yes' traces, and as I wrote on my review, some tracks could fit perfectly well into a Yes' album. Besides, we aren't on a prog site, like Progarchives, and all kind of music fits perfectly well on Sputnik. Anyway, personally speaking, I don't like only of prog rock music, as you know, which is the same with you, I know that. So, and in short, I think "Olias Of Sunhillow" is a great album, made by one of the best prog composers of the 70's. Besides, I always thought if Anderson was the soul of Yes, Squire was their heart. Anyway, I always thought too that Anderson and Howe were the main responsible for some of the best music pages composed by Yes. And, in my humble opinion, this album sustain my my personal point of view.

Anyway, my friend, you know me very wel already, I think. So, as you know, I always respect the point of views of other people, special my close friends, despite in some moments I profondly can disagree with them and even don't understand them.

However, and as you know, it's always a pleasure to talk to you and see your point of view and can discuss it.

So, thanks and cheers. I hope that my arguments can change your opinion about this album. Lol.



TheIntruder
May 16th 2018


392 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice to see this album finally reviewed here. I had some expectations that you could review this album in your prog journey through the world of Yes. This is really a fine album. Great review as always. I have great expectattios about your next reviews. I am a big fan of Yes as you know, because of my father. Have a pos.

TheIntruder
May 16th 2018


392 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@Jethro

e21 and Moto are right, Jethro. This is a great album. It is not a truly prog album, but who cares! It is a great album in any genre of music. Give it another chance, pal.

e210013
May 16th 2018


2112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks, Intruder. I'm very happy that you are one of those who like the album. I think it was a kind of a cursed album by many prog fans, since the begining. One of the many misunderstood prog albums.

About my next reviews, you'll see very soon. Anyway, you need to wait a bit for some of them, since I'm going to spend the rest of the year linked with Yes, somehow.

Cheers.

TwigTW
May 16th 2018


3529 Comments


I was not a fan of this when I first heard it, but I gave it another listen after reading the review and I have to say I'm liking it more now. For me, it works better on Spotify as a single piece of music than it did broken up onto two sides of vinyl. It flows better and creates a nice atmosphere. I'm not sure what my final verdict will be, but I'll enjoy giving it a few more spins while I figure it out.

Digging: The Bathers - Sunpowder

Friday13th
May 16th 2018


6601 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review, e21. No joke, I pulled this album out of my vinyl stash along with Fish Out of Water on a whim yesterday.

Digging: The Mercury Tree - Permutations

Jethro42
May 16th 2018


15571 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Funny coincidence, Friday!...





I don't like the ethereal instrumentation here, but Anderson delivers good melodies. All these 4 though...

Jethro42
May 16th 2018


15571 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@e21, I can hear you. I was already aware that Jon Anderson has tendency to make New Age music, so it's not a big surprise for me, but that musical approach doesn't help. I may be conservative, but I'd preconize traditional rock instruments played by guest musicians instead.



@Intruder, I gave the album another chance. It's better with each listens, but like I said, I don't like these omnipresent New Age instrumentation at all. I won't rate the album cos I'm too negative about it.



Edit; There are some songs I tend to like, so who knows how it could turn out.

e210013
May 17th 2018


2112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@ Twig

You're absolutely right about the album works better as a single piece. Remember that this is a conceptual album and usually, conceptual albums work better when they are listened to as an entire piece of music. I have a CD copy, so I don't have the problem to have the album broken into two parts.

Personally I always loved the album and I alwys was very impressed by Anderson plays all the instruments on the album. I knew he plays very well acoustic guitars and harpb but I didn't know that he was cappable to play so many others. Ireally hope you can enjoy it even more.

Cheers, buddy.

e210013
May 17th 2018


2112 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@ Friday

Thanks, buddy. What a coincidence. Nice. In my opinion, you was listening two great albums of two great artists that deserve more love and care on Sputnik.

Cheers.



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