Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jon Anderson - "Naon" from the Album Olias of Sunhillow

Jon Anderson Olias of Sunhillow album coverPreviously unpublished excerpts from Olias' Wiseguy Brother: Another View of the Doom and Salvation of Sunhillow:

So he built a space ark, and saved the tribes of Sunhillow from certain doom: BIG FAT HAIRY DEAL.

Olias was a freakin' klutz, so discombobulated, it was a wonder he found the tree-pod egress each morning. "Pay attention to what you're doing, for Arya's sake" I'd tell him. "You're drinking your soul into the ocean so goddamned much, you're walking around like a fucking zombie. And you're bug-eyed from the Garden's fountain lights. One day we're gonna dredge you from a Tallowplanic swamp after you stumble in 'cause you weren't looking where you're going. You think the fish of the plain are your play pals, wait 'til they start munching on your bloated corpse."

But he'd just mumble, "Brother, the Moorglade occupies me constantly."

Moorglade, Schmorglade. I told Olias what he really needed to be doing instead of building some stupid music-powered star-galleon was bringing some extra income into the treehouse so our begotten father could stop breaking his back and enjoy a little comfort creation for a change.

"If you're set on this ridiculous Moorglade thing, if you're so sure of the coming apocalypse, you ought to at least charge fucking admission," I said. "Jack up the price for those fat cat Nordranious, and Pops could retire on the take from them alone."

But Olias just shook his head in that pious, holier-than-thou way he had. "The silver chord of life is precious, brother, and there is room enough for all."

Olias got the "room enough for all" bullshit from that pansy-ass buddy of his, Qoquaq. They say Q. sang his transic song of welcome over Tallowcross and united the four tribes, and you can say that if you want, but for me, Qoquaq was day-cruise entertainment, if you know what I'm saying.

OK, I had a little egg on my face when Sunhillow, you know, actually exploded. "Into millions of silent teardrops," the bards wrote.

Whatever. It was probably a Nagrunium conspiracy all along. That's what Moon Ra the discord said, anyway, and I believed 'im.

* * * * * * * * * *

OliasBut seriously, folks. . . .

Olias of Sunhillow is not as visceral or as muscular as a Yes album, and that is for the very good reason that Jon Anderson, for all his multitracked multi-tasking on Olias, simply can't play his instruments as well as Steve Howe or Rick Wakeman can. For all its ambition--and it may be the most ambitious single album ever made--Olias is still scaled to Anderson's instrumental talents and rather simple musically.

Yet it's not something you notice, because of all the textures. I once read a review, can't find it now, unfortunately, that called Olias "samey," and boy, did I think that was wrong-headed. "Naon" is a great counter-example to that accusation of sameness. It is one of the most organic and therefore distinctive prog songs you'll ever hear.

I love a good synthesizer as much as the next prog fan, but they are as a matter of course synthetic. "Naon" foregoes that route, while sacrifing none of Olias' core progressiveness. Back when I was a kid and getting stoned every Friday night, I would listen to "Naon" through headphones afterward, and without fail I would be transported into the dark, cramped passenger hold of a great spacefaring wooden ship. I could almost smell the sour sweat and the incense and hear the creaking of the timbers beneath the sitar and the harp.

And that's a testament not just to the drugs, but to the meticulous worldbuilding of Jon Anderson, music and text and art all combined into (heh-heh) an intoxicating melange, very likely prog-rock's most fully realized world.

The Gardens of Geda, I do believe

File under:Progressive Rock, Apocalypse Rock


rastronomicals said...

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TAD said...

R: Jeez, I don't think I've heard OLIAS since about 1978, & my ears weren't ready for it then. Don't remember much, but I do remember it was pretty complex. Don't think I had the patience for it then. I might now. Nice writeup, anyway....

Anonymous said...

Really liked the review and the brother's parody. I just listened to Naon again and I get what you mean. Amazing organic rhythms, tribal chants being overwhelmed by another tribe... and I'm there on the wooden ship with you. Thanks for the great reminder of a special journey.