Being a huge Yes fan, I was very intrigued by the debut from the Anderson Ponty Band featuring Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty. “Better Late Than Never” is the title and I would argue that “not at all” would have been a better choice for some of this material. The main thing that I take from this album and the last Yes album “Heaven and Earth” is that Jon Anderson and Yes need each other.
First off, the band on this is great. They sound amazing and all are great players. They sound better than the performance Yes gave on “Heaven and Earth.” Ponty is a great violinst but he seems to be just adding solos so you know he is there. If you removed his playing, I don’t think you’d notice. That’s really unfortunate.
The songs are originals and covers of Yes classics. The covers really aren’t a good idea. There are two reasons. One, if the covers are faithful to the original like “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Roundabout” are, they really need to be so much better otherwise what’s the point? They aren’t better of course. Second, if the band changes up the song to be different, they better be good. They aren’t!
“Time and a Word” is turned into a horrid reggae song that is embarrassing. “Wonderous Stories” is has a jazz vibe which is weird and the vocal is much faster so it loses it’s passion. “And You and I” is just an abbreviated version that underscores that Jon either doesn’t have the range to sing it or just didn’t want to. It does nothing for the song. Since this album is from a live recording (you can’t hear the audience at all), I suppose that’s why they are all included here.
The original music for the most part is good, but far from great. It does veer toward jazz at times but not enough. You’d think with Ponty’s background that it would make sense. One track (“Soul Eternal”) does have a slight reggae/Jimmy Buffet vibe but not as blatant as the “Time and a Word” cover. “One in the Rhythms of Hope” is probably the best original but it doesn’t stand with anything Anderson has done in the past, save a few of his terrible solo albums.
The bottom line is, while I love Jon Anderson, I really wish he and Chris Squire had made one last Yes album together. Neither this album or the boring “Heaven and Earth” are essential in any way, shape or form. Being a completist, I own it. I would assume that will be the case for other die hard fans.
2. One in the Rhythms of Hope
3. A For Aria
4. Owner of a Lonely Heart
5. Listening With Me
6. Time and A Word
7. Infinite Mirage
8. Soul Eternal
9. Wonderous Stories
10. Renaissance of the Sun
12. I See You Messenger
13. New New World