Anderson/Wakeman: The Living Tree
“Light, love, belief and truth combine to create true friendships. Add music and you have a bonding of souls. That’s what has happened with ‘The Living Tree’ from the day the seed was planted,” says Rick Wakeman, pianist/composer, about his recent collaboration, ‘The Living Tree’, with vocalist Jon Anderson.
Both artists are members of Yes and were two-time contributors to Anderson Bruford Wakeman & Howe, but this time they have joined forces to creating an album exclusively of their own.
“Just One Man” was written by Anderson and Jeremy Cubert, and performed by Wakeman, but the other songs are co-written by the two men.
The title song, ‘The Living Tree’ appears at the beginning of the album and then recapitulates with sharper focus. ‘Morning Star’ features jubilant strings and stark jabs of piano which simmer beneath themes of love and peace. “Where were you morning star/When I needed you the most?” is the question posed.
Many of the subsequent songs center around a singular thought or spiritual epiphany. ‘Just One Man’ is a paean to a higher entity; the underlying counterpoint keeps the energy sizzling. In contrast, the message in the ‘House of Freedom’ is direct and emphatic, “Don’t aspire to chain me down.”
Wakeman’s semi-classical touch and gift for melody contributes greatly to the lush and cerebral pool of compositions. ‘Anyway and Always’, for example has a striking melody.
‘23/24/11’ conjures up the image of the weary soldier who, after serving in Afghanistan, is anxious to get home. There is a haunting feel of Armageddon approaching amidst a trace of optimism; “In the darkness, there’s always a song for you” sings Wakeman. The dark, yet mesmerizing arrangement set against flower-child lyrics makes it poignant.
‘Forever’ is a simple, love ballad that zips recklessly through key changes, yet, too, deceptively retains its innocence. ‘Garden’ is lyrically gentle and fairy-tale like, but still commands movement mostly because Wakeman is a superb arranger.
Jon Anderson’s vocals are well-suited to the material. This is not an album that embraces pounding 60s style rock, yet it does pay tribute to the consciousness of that era. The symbolism of “The Living Tree” reflecting the power of nature shines through.
Wakeman and Anderson will have completed their U.K. tour, at the time of this publication, and it will be interesting to know how these songs were received live, as they flow so well on this recording which was co-produced by Wakeman, Anderson and engineer Erik Jordan.