RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

AndersonPonty Band - Better Late Than Never

Rating: A

Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty are two similar souls. Both have been in the music industry for decades and both have unique and graceful styles. It seems only natural the two would find a way to team up to produce wonderful music. Well, now they have. It took a while, and in this case it’s literally Better Late Than Never.

In five simple words, I really love this album. It is a perfect confluence of two wonderful talents. Anderson and Ponty blend together extremely well and have produced a fantastic new mix of old and new music; and they did so using a unique recording style that is both risky and highly rewarding.

There is a lot of music from Yes on this album, but this very definitely is not Yes. It proudly doesn’t try to be. What it is, really, is two master musicians lovingly bringing back songs from a golden era and reinterpreting them in a newer alternative format. And it works! It should be remembered the songs from Yes on Better Late Than Never represent a major part of Anderson’s life work and he deserves to play them in this new interpretation. It is clear he loves these songs and recognizes they do not have to remain vintage pieces of progressive history. They are strong enough to be reborn and reinterpreted with a new and able partner with an entirely new set of instrumentation played with passion and light.

I never wish to take anything away from the current Yes lineup; they have their place in the remarkable lineage of a wonderful, iconic supergroup. This is not a comparison and one is not better than the other. Having said that, it’s such an uplifting experience to hear the classic Jon Anderson voice breathing new life into older Yes songs. It’s like a new glove with an old fit. It is always his voice I hear first when I think of these songs. It just belongs there.

It is great to hear the contributions of Jean-Luc Ponty as well. I fondly remember him from the Cosmic Messenger  tour of the late 70’s, when during his performance I was introduced to this splendid new thing called an Echoplex - actually, about six or seven of them - and I stared in amazement as this one violinist ran around the stage building a beautiful multi-part tune right there in front of us. It was a magical moment. That magic is still present in his music (though not so much of the Echoplex) and there are allusions to those elegant songs all through this album, such as the beautiful performance of “Renaissance Of The Sun”, a combination of Ponty’s “Renaissance” and Anderson’s airy lyrics.

Upon first listen you can feel something is a bit different with the style of recording. This is an unusually recorded album. Through much of the recording there are hints that some of these tracks are performed live. Better Late Than Never does not promote itself as a live album, but there is a lot of live material on this album with additional enhancements made in the studio. It’s difficult to tell the performances are live, but you can definitely feel the live energy in the performance. Again, it works. The energy is powerful and encompassing. It’s like that unknown spice in your food that you can’t quite make out but its presence makes all the difference.

Still, for me, when listening to Better Late Than Never it is impossible not to keep coming back to the Yes tunes that were such an influence during my adolescence. Songs such as “Wonderous Stories”, “And You And I”, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, and “Roundabout” have long been some of my favorites from Yes. They have a glorious new life on Better Late Than Never. Additionally, I can say conclusively that I never expected to hear “Time and a Word” performed in a reggae format. It’s on this album and sounds as natural as if it was originally written in that style. Yeah, that threw me as well!

Anderson has been having health issues recently that have caused concern about his ability to produce new music at the level of quality we have grown to expect. Better Late Than Never eliminates these concerns. If anything, Anderson’s voice has improved with age. He has always possessed the talent to capture your attention and send you to some mystical ethereal plane. Gladly, it seems the years have even further heightened a strength and wisdom maybe less developed in the recordings of some of these songs the first time around. Perhaps because I have grown older as well, I hear these renditions differently. They’re much deeper and immensely more joyful.

I think it is entirely possible some new to Yes and unaware of Jean-Luc Ponty and all that has come over the decades will miss the treasures on this album. That’s their loss. But for those who lived through those years and were inspired by the music of Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty, this is a gold mine. This album will take you back to places thought lost long ago with a whole new set of eyes, ears, and sense of appreciation. I hope this is only a first attempt from these two masters. It is clear they will get even better as they continue.

Prog fans, spread the word about Better Late Than Never. I know of no other album that better brings together the golden age of progressive music and the modern era. This album belongs in your library.

Track List:
One In The Rhythms Of Hope
A for Aria
Owner of a Lonely Heart
Listening with Me
Time and a Word
Infinite Mirage
Soul Eternal
Wonderous Stories
And You and I
Renaissance of the Sun
I See You Messenger
New New World

By Roy Rahl