Exposé Online banner

Anderson Ponty Band — Better Late Than Never
(Liaison LM4034, 2015, CD+DVD)

by Paul Hightower, 2015-10-30:

Better Late Than Never Cover art

Jon Anderson and Jean Luc Ponty had crossed paths over the years and finally decided to collaborate in 2014, culminating with a concert in Aspen, Colorado that was filmed and recorded (a la Yes’ Keys to Ascension). Unfortunately controversy has swirled around this project from the get-go, including a botched Kickstarter campaign, revolving guitar players, and delayed product distribution. All that noise has clouded what is actually a fine album and arguably the strongest effort from Anderson in years (despite aging vocal skills). Many times I was reminded of the better moments on the ABWH album. The band – all veterans of Ponty’s live work – are uniformly stellar and Ponty himself sparkles throughout, lending a touch of elegance to ballads like “A for Aria” or lighting a fire under an otherwise tepid “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” Fans will warm to his energetic intro to “Renaissance of the Sun” or zesty leads on “Roundabout.” Other Yes tracks include “Wonderous Stories,” a reggae-fied “Time and a Word,” and a truncated “And You and I.” Oddly these seem obligatory and don’t quite measure up to the new compositions (“Soul Eternal,” “New New World”) or interpretations of Ponty’s songs (“Infinite Mirage,” “Listening with Me”). Buyers should also be aware that this is a live-studio hybrid, to the point where the live guitarist (Jamie Dunlap) had his playing entirely replaced in the studio by Jamie Glaser. The concert video is good but also replete with enhancements and post-production doctoring that tries to mask any discrepancies. The song “I See You Messenger” was actually completely re-recorded in the studio, and one wonders why the group didn’t just record an album this way to be played live. Schedules never seem to allow for such luxuries, though fans of both Anderson and Ponty will still find much to enjoy here.


by Jon Davis, 2015-10-30:

Conceptually, the combination of Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty provides a kind of satisfaction for those of us who listened to both progressive rock and jazz fusion in the 70s. Certainly Yes and Ponty were two of my favorites when they were releasing such albums as Fragile, Close to the Edge, Aurora, and Enigmatic Ocean. As it happens, my interest in both artists flagged during the 80s, and I think I’m not alone in that either. The full-band Yes albums worked really hard to be mainstream pop, Anderson’s solo albums and Ponty’s were too sweet and New Agey for my taste. So here they are together, and given my feelings about them, it could be a disaster or a triumph – or something in between, which is where it ends up. For the disaster side first, we have “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and “Time and a Word.” The former is spoiled by too closely following the original. This is a song that I have no problem with in its original form, though the orchestra-hit samples and some of the other sounds have not aged well. But using the same orchestra samples in this live rendition is really annoying – this is the 2010s, and given the multitude of sounds available today we can to better than copy a 30-year-old fad. Even Ponty’s flashy solo can’t save this arrangement. “Time and a Word” has almost the exact opposite problem: by straying far from the original, they’ve sucked all value out of the tune. I’m not opposed to reimagining songs (and in fact generally prefer it to slavish copying), but the choice here to back a lovely melody with a reggae beat just doesn’t work for me. (It’s not even the reggae feel I object to – Kate Bush’s reggae-inflected rendition of “Rocket Man” is wonderful.) That’s the bad news; the rest of the news about Better Late Than Never is relatively good. Several Ponty classics from the 70s are given new arrangements: “Infinite Mirage” and “Renaissance of the Sun” contain elements of old pieces mashed together with each other and vocal parts that didn’t previously exist. “Soul Eternal” is a good song, and even hints at a reggae rhythm and gets it right; its middle section features the guitar and violin trading fours like in the old days. The treatments of “Roundabout,” “Wonderous Stories,” and “And You and I” work in various ways, taking elements from the originals along with some tweaks. This album is quite a mixed bag, and seems so well-intentioned that I almost feel guilty pointing out its flaws… but I call ‘em like I see ‘em.


Filed under: New releases , 2015 releases

Related artist(s): Jon Anderson, Jean-Luc Ponty

More info

Latest news

2020-10-14
Audion Is Back in Business – Our esteemed colleague Alan Freeman has restarted Audion Magazine after a seven year hiatus. The new incarnation is available online on their Bandcamp site. Audion's history goes back to 1984, and included 58 issues up to 2013. Issue #59 is available now, and #60 is in the works. » Read more

2020-10-06
Romantic Warriors IV – Krautrock (Part 2) Is in the Works – Zeitgeist Media, the people who have brought us the great series of documentary films chronicling the history of progressive rock, are working on the second installment of their examination of German music. Krautrock 2 will focus on artists from Münich such as Guru Guru, Amon Düül II, Xhol Caravan, Kraan, Witthüser & Westrupp, and Popol Vuh. » Read more

2020-09-09
Simeon Coxe RIP – Simeon Coxe, best known for his experimental electronics in the band Silver Apples, has died at the age of 82. The band's 1968 debut album set the stage for both German electronic music and experimental punk music a decade later. Coxe died on September 8 from pulmonary fibrosis. » Read more

2020-09-05
Gary Peacock RIP – Legendary bassist Gary Peacock, veteran of many recordings and performances with Paul Bley, George Russell, Roland Kirk, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, and many more. » Read more

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Praxis - Collection – If a guitarist who calls himself Buckethead, wearing a white mask with a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket on his head and claims he was raised by chickens doesn't frighten the crap out of you, then maybe...  (1999) » Read more

Michel Zenino - Dérive Gauche – Zenino is a double-bassist, bandleader and arranger, working through a set of French “chanson” pieces arranged for an instrumental jazz quartet (bass, drums, piano and sax). His credentials...  (2004) » Read more

Pendragon - The Masquerade Overture – Pendragon's new release, The Masquerade Overture, further proves that this band is one of the better proponents of neo-progressive rock. Not because of any great originality, but because of their...  (1996) » Read more

Kit Watkins - Flying Petals – Haven’t heard much from Kit since Rolling Curve and three related ambient releases in 2001. Flying Petals is one of four new releases for 2004 (this, plus two new ambient releases Unraveled and...  (2004) » Read more

Hermetic Science - Ed Macan's Hermetic Science – If Macan's name sounds familiar, perhaps it's because you've seen or read his book Rocking the Classics (Reviewed in Issue #12). Macan's three-piece band Hermetic Science features...  (1998) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues