Jon Anderson - Animation album review

Jon Anderson’s electronic 80s epiphany rarely stops moving

cover of Jon Anderson's Animation
(Image: © Jon Anderson)

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Jon Anderson enjoyed a state of independence in the early 80s, throwing himself into a productive first hiatus from Yes. His work with Vangelis bled into this 1982 solo album. If his prog visions had entered more accessible terrain on its predecessor, Song Of Seven, then this was where he embraced the then newfangled electronic technology. It has that contemporaneous quality of trying out every new toy in the box whether creative or counterproductive, and there are spells later where it all gets rather shrill and frenetic. Yet the irresistibility of Anderson’s joyful worldview blasts its sunbeams through any reservations. With a wealth of gilt-edged musicians, that evergreen Jon’s joie de vivre abides.  

Recorded mostly at his home with starry friends, the album was co-produced by Neil Kernon (who’d worked with Brand X, and, somewhat versatile, later produced everyone from Kansas to Michael Bolton). He did the desk stuff while Anderson wrangled the big-idea visions. Clem Clempson (Humble Pie, Colosseum) brought guitar solos, E-Streeter David Sancious played keyboards and Simon Phillips drums. Cameos came from Jack Bruce, Blue Weaver and Greenslade’s Dave Lawson. For all that, it’s cohesive. The overall tech-based sheen can be thanked (rather than spanked), despite the occasional now-dated decision. 

So it’s with a characteristic breeze of Pollyanna-ish glee that the record swings in with the bounding, beaty Olympia. The surprise, given the artist’s tendencies, is that this isn’t a song about the Greek gods but about a music tech show he’d visited with Vangelis at the exhibition centre of the same name in Kensington. ‘Computer Casio overdrive’, he sings. ‘Sanyo, Sony – power multiply!’ Never let it be said he got bogged down in topographic oceans. The nine-minute title track, however, proudly highlights his spiritual side, detailing his delight at being present for the birth of his daughter. ‘There’s nothing in life to touch it,’ he declares, as the music meanders between AOR architecture and minimalist electronica, and the voice conveys the new father’s happiness. Surrender, with a funky shuffle, was a logical single choice, as was the lilting All In A Matter Of Time. The influence of State Of Independence is evident on both. There’s a dip then (Pressure Point is where those modern toys get irritating), but Tony Visconti was called in for a day to produce the gospel pop of All God’s Children, which takes us out on a cheerful high.

This remastered edition includes regular add-ons The Spell (a weird, wandering, very Yes, 11-minute demo) and Spider (a brief, busy, worldbeat whirl). Even now, the hyperactive Animation can’t keep still.

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.