Jon Anderson from the iconic art rock super group - YES!
Wave Mechanics Union releases Further to Fly on November 27, 2012. A couple of arrangers (much like myself) decided to free themselves from the shackles of the major label pressures associated with the industries and essentially bet on themselves. Free from the constraints of client and label restrictions they have chosen some of their favorites from the progressive rock area where of course Jon Anderson could easily be considered a founding father, the Jeff Lorber of arena rock if you will. From this progressive ground zero there came a natural expansion into tunes that cool, memorable lyrics with simple unadorned melodies that take to jazz sensibilities like a duck to water with the end result Further to Fly.
The first if not most logical question is how has Anderson's voice held up over the years? On the YES classic "Wonderous Stories", Anderson helps take the trademark harmonic progression to another dimension with a voice that has improved with age and if anything the subtle nuances in Anderson's voice are far more emotional and distinctive in this organic setting as opposed to the more over the top stadium sound YES is more famous for. The reharm includes a beautiful soprano solo and is reinvented with a bright and breezy feel to make a classic seem like a new present on Christmas morning. Never having been a Ben Folds fan there were certain misgivings with "Selfless, Cold and Composed" and these were quickly blown away with a deceptively subtle swing and impeccable vocals by Lydia McAdams who again reinvents a tune and places her own indelible stamp on a number some may not be familiar with. Better than the original? Yes. This tune makes a perfect transition to a more whimsical light hearted jazz waltz with a band that understands the lyrical sense of purpose behind the original and simply lifts the melancholy lyrics to a more elegant sense of swing. A stroke of genius. The Dire Straits number "Your Latest Trick" is simply a musical landmine waiting to be stepped on. Well, wrong again...The jazz angst and and angular development of this bittersweet tune are embraced by McAdams with an elegance and grace not often found from a "jazz" singer attempting to pull off a cover of this nature and here is where the release works in spades.
Instead of a bunch of first call musicians with the talent to slap together some passable covers and play musical "Where's Waldo" in being so fortunate to acquire the services of Jon Anderson, this is a serious working ensemble whose arrangements add everything to the original work by simply giving a fresh slightly more contemporary riff on tunes most of us grew up with. Normally releases of this nature and like nails down the proverbial chalkboard for me but there are simply no missed steps here. Other killer covers include "Third Stone From The Sun" from Jimi Hendrix and "Dirty Work" from Steely Dan. Not quiet a big band but certainly the perfect size ensemble necessary to take what would have normally been just an ordinary release and push it to that extraordinary level. Jazz fans that cut their teeth on some of this music will be in heaven, those 30 something folks in the musical sweet spot of not knowing which direction to turn should absolutely give this release a test drive. A little something new is discovered with each subsequent spin. A former editor that I wasted 90 days of my life with once said a critic should not make gratuitous reference to them self unless it has direct bearing on the story. True dat! It was in fact wasting my valuable time and getting very little in return that inspired me to write as my own client and hopefully you dig the fresh perspective too. This anal retentive individual inspired me which has alot to do with my appreciation of Wave Mechanics Union's Story. You know where I am going with this don't you?
Tracks: Further To Fly; Selfless, Cold, and Composed; Caramel; Wonderous Stories; Hearbeat; It Will Be A Good Day (The River); The Ability To Swing; Think Of Me With Kindness; Swordfishtrombone; Third Stone From The Sun; Your Latest Trick; Dirty Work; The Show Must Go On.
Personnel: Lydia McAdams: vocals; Guest Vocals: Jon Anderson; Flute & Alto Flute: Eddie Rich, Kara Moran, Theena Lewis Strope; Neil Broeker; Clarinet & Bass Clarinet: Shawn Goodman; Bassoon: Henry Koperski; Saxophones: Sylvain Carton; Josh Weirich, Dave Helms, Eddie Rich, Dorothy McDonald, Robert Olivera; Trumpet & Flugelhorn: Alex Noppe, Jeff Anderson; Trombone: Ryan Fraley; Tuba: Tom Thomas; Piano: Justin Kessler, Art DeQuasie (14); Vibraphone: Robert Stright; Guitar: Sylvain Carton, Chris Capitano; Accordian: Henry Koperski; Bass: Lynn Medeiros, Ralph Johnson (1); Drums & Percussion; Ralph Johnson, Tim Moore (6); WMU Strings: featuring Steve Goodman, Violin; Alice Demby, Viola; Marjorie Hanna, Cello.