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Anderson/Stolt - Invention Of Knowledge CD (album) cover

INVENTION OF KNOWLEDGE

Anderson/Stolt

 

Symphonic Prog

3.69 | 184 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars Seemingly a match made in Prog heaven, `Invention of Knowledge' brings together two massive progressive rock icons in Roine Stolt and Yes' Jon Anderson, the two spiritually minded musicians (along with several additional notable prog guests) delivering what is easily the standout Symphonic Progressive work of 2016. This is really a meeting of two vintage prog-era players, because despite finding more personal status in prog circles with the Flower Kings in the Nineties onwards, Roine was one of the key musicians of Seventies Swedish symph-prog group Kaipa, playing on their first few albums. But despite one or two niggling issues discussed later, they've delivered a complex, ambitious and endlessly grand symphonic work that can easily be considered creative high-points in their already endlessly impressive careers.

Although Stolt and Anderson will deservedly receive all the attention, closer inspection behind the scenes reveals several other gifted musicians lending crucial musical contributions to this project. Jonas Reingold, no stranger to the Flower Kings as well as working with side-projects such as Karmakanic, Barracuda Triangle and the Tangent, is simply one of the most consistently impressive bass players currently active in modern prog circles, and as always, his inclusion pretty much makes this album an instant `must buy'. Fellow Karmakanic member and keyboard player Lalle Larsson has also delivered several outstanding solo albums worthy of investigation (especially his `Weaveworld' trilogy and solo piano disc `Until Never'), Michael Stolt, brother of Roine, is from an earlier version of the Flower Kings, and Feliz Lehrmann is the skilled latest drummer from their last few albums. The disc also includes some welcome backing vocals from the likes of Unifaun /Agents of Mercy singer Nad Sylvan and Pain of Salvation's Daniel Gildenlow amongst others, and keyboardist Tom Breslin will be familiar to many Yes followers, being the keyboard player on Yes' superb `Live Symphonic' DVD from 2002. Giving credit to these guests is important, for reasons mentioned later on.

Although early press-release comments compare the album in spirit to Yes' (perhaps!) defining classic `Tales from Topographic Oceans', this is not really the case very often here. It sounds more like the most dense Flower Kings album to date without the flashy soloing given an extremely vocal-heavy fronting by Anderson, so fans of both those groups should be quite at home here. Although comprised of nine tracks, most of the sixty-five minute album is divided into four multi-part pieces. Stolt is no stranger to lengthy compositions in any of his music, and considering the complexity of the album, all of the transitions between passages here are seamless and natural, with plenty of constant clever reprises that slyly return before you even know you're back again! Symphonic themes with plenty of organ, whirring synths and tasty guitar solos rising into the heavens constantly weave in and out of the entire disc, and the sound of Stolt's soloing will be instantly noticeable to Flower Kings and Transatlantic fans, but thankfully he never resorts to aping the tone of Yes' Steve Howe in an attempt to make this sound more `Yes-like'.

But the album pretty much belongs to Jon Anderson (with Stolt surrendering all vocal duties to his more famous counterpart), and to his credit, he hasn't sounded so relaxed, inspired and varied in decades. Jon completely drives the course of the album with his distinctive breezy, hopeful and embracing lead voice, but also surprises with some exquisite multi-part harmonies that seem to hover in the air around the listener, and he leaves Stolt to craft these weighty majestic passages to hold his new age proclamations and spiritual musings. Plenty of passages see the two musicians successfully gelling and complimenting each-other perfectly, others sometimes come across as if Anderson's gems of belief are added on top afterwards, but most of the time the album is surprisingly and consistently cohesive. It's also a welcome relief to find that `Invention of Knowledge' is hardly commercial or (gulp!) AOR-driven, something that many of the older prog-related musicians depressingly resort to!

As for the music itself, the three-part LP side-long length title-track is full of stirring orchestration and victorious chimes, Anderson's voice impossibly pretty and announcing with plenty of rumbling drums, chunky bass spasms, strains of sitar and regal synth veils, Stolt delivering everything from drowsy slide guitar, reflective slow-burn wisps and scorching quick little bursts. The uplifting melody in the opening minutes of the two-part `Knowing' is one of the loveliest moments of the disc with intricate vocal arrangements over commanding organ, piano ringing through and booming symphonic bluster breaking out, and this eighteen-minute track perhaps drifts the closest to Jon's old band, with an almost `Awaken'-like quality in the dreamier spots. "Faith to the real salvation life" Jon offers on the sweetly romantic and reassuring three-part `Everybody Heals', with some crisp soaring guitar runs ringing through from Stolt and very welcome brisk jazzy piano races. `Know...' is simpler and stripped back, floating gracefully and triumphantly, containing some of the only longer instrumental moments of the disc which thankfully allow all the players to shine brightly, and a final reprise of themes from `Knowing' bring a satisfying sense of closure.

But it all comes down to this - How much you enjoy this album may depend on exactly what Jon Anderson personally means to you, because, make no mistake, this whole album is completely geared around his personality, word view and spiritual beliefs. To many, he is in the heart and spirit of true Yes, so many will adopt this as `the best and most true Yes album since (for instance) `Going for the One', but the truth is - this album sounds nothing like Yes. Nor is it an experimental loopy tour- de-force like his `Olias of Sunhillow' solo album was, yet `Invention of Knowledge', whilst sounding nothing like that one either, is absolutely the most complex and dynamic prog-related work he's been involved with since that landmark distinctive release.

If you're one of those more easy-going Yes fans that believe Anderson CAN be a wonderful ingredient to making up the beautiful music of Yes, but are just as thrilled by Steve Howe's fiery guitar runs or Chris Squire's upfront chugging bass, then this album will make you very aware of what's missing - longer instrumental passages. `Invention of Knowledge' boasts some exceptional players providing endless progressive-music colour and skill to the arrangements, but they're almost constantly pushed behind Anderson's airy vocals. There's fleeting little instrumental breaks of 30 seconds or so here and there, but then it's right back to more vocals, and unless you are simply the biggest Anderson fan-boy in the world (which is not actually a slight in any way), this can become very tiresome over the course of an album than runs over an hour. Of course, it's natural with an icon of the genre such as Anderson that he's going to be a main attraction to the work and it makes sense to have him constantly front and center, but it kind of short-changes the contributions of some fine musicians who deserve to given more attention in undistracted showcase opportunities, that you have to sometimes strain to hear in the background beneath the endless vocal trickery.

But in the end, it's still a joyous triumph of progressive music that doesn't merely remain lazily vintage-flavoured or resort to tiredly remaking the sounds of the classic bands of the style. `Invention of Knowledge' is impeccably performed and produced, is lyrically, vocally and musically utterly convincing, even sometimes a little overwhelming, but holding true magic in several standout spots. It should have provided more interludes of longer purely instrumental sections to break up all the vocal flamboyance, but it's no doubt going to remain the biggest symphonic prog moment of the year that lovers of that grandest of prog-rock styles will absolutely adore to bits. Now let's see if the Anderson/Stolt project is going to become a recurring concern or the iconic pair will just leave us with this one teasing masterwork!

Four stars.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 4/5 |

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