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

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more

2017-07-27
Yestival Dates Beef up the Beat – Word reaches us that Dylan Howe (son of guitarist Steve Howe) will be joining Yes on their "Yestival" tour, drumming alongside longtime band member Alan White. » Read more

2017-05-19
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more

2017-05-05
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Machine and the Synergetic Nuts - Leap Second Neutral – Luckily ethicists have not wrapped their clutches around the topic of genetic manipulation in music, or we might find Machine and the Synergetic Nuts banned, seeing how they are the result of a secret...  (2006) » Read more

Stella Maris - To the Promised Land – It can be difficult to review something like this latest offering from Germany’s Stella Maris. The musicians sound so sincere and believe in what they’re doing, and put a great deal of craft and...  (2005) » Read more

John Hackett - Velvet Afternoon & Checking out of London – John Hackett has long been in the extended shadow of his brother Steve, who has seen high profile both in and out of Genesis. The flautist has finally stepped out on his own in both duet and full band...  (2006) » Read more

Corte dei Miracoli - Dimensione Onirica & Live at Lux – Corte dei Miracoli only released one album on the short lived Grog label in 1976 (reissued on Vinyl Magic) and like Museo Rosenbach, left a series of poorly recorded demos, of which Dimensione Onirica...  (1996) » Read more

Dweller at the Threshold - No Boundary Condition – Dweller at the Threshold is a trio of Paul Ellis, Dave Fulton, and Jeff Vasey, on synthesizers, synthesizers, and synthesizers respectively, out to explore the far reaches of a finite universe with no...  (1996) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues