Album Review by Eric Sandberg
When Founding Yes singer Jon Anderson announced the forthcoming release of of his fourteenth solo album 1000 Hands —Chapter One-- I was bemused, at best. Of the dozens of solo albums released by the various members of Yes [hundreds if you include keyboardist Rick Wakeman's catalog] only a couple are worthy of the band's best work.
Jon Anderson's first solo album Olias of Sunhillow  was written, composed sung, played and produced by Anderson by himself. He spent countless hours out in a barn teaching himself to play a myriad of instruments and recording multiple overdubs of his unique high tenor voice. The result was stunning.
In and out of Yes, throughout Anderson's spotty solo career, Anderson became increasingly less inspired and, frankly, lazy when it came to making albums, preferring to solicit completed music tracks from other musicians, both known and unknown. He would take these tracks and warble nonsensical hippy-dippy platitudes over them, exposing a voice weakened by the acute respiratory failure he barely survived in 2008, just prior to a planned Yes 40th anniversary tour.
Much to his chagrin, Yes replaced Anderson with a stand-in and he has been an exile from the band he founded ever since. Well, sort of. Over their fifty years of existence, Yes has had over thirty-five different members pass through the ranks so it's not too difficult put together another version of Yes [or twelve] from among the remaining cardholders.
At the age of seventy-four, through disciplined physical and vocal workouts, along with the support of his second wife Janee, Jon Anderson has miraculously brought his voice back to near full strength, and has been fronting Yes: featuring Anderson, Rabin & Wakeman on several world tours over the past few years.
All of this brings us to 1000 Hands, Anderson's first solo album since 2011's Survival & Other Stories, an album of music he solicited from random musicians via social media. Anderson has been working on bits and pieces of the album for a number of years, which is why it features many guest musicians, including the late Chris Squire and the estranged "other Yes" guitarist Steve Howe.
The album, which was recently completed by Anderson in Florida with producer Michael Franklin, features contributions from a veritable host of world-class musicians including: Larry Coryell, Stuart Hamm, Alan White, Billy Cobham, Chick Corea, The Tower of Power Horns, Pat Travers and features some tasty flute work by Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson on one track.
With all of this, the question still remains: what did Jon Anderson bring to the proceedings? The answer is just about everything he has. After the opening prelude track "Now" Anderson unleashes the full power of his voice and melodic skills on "Ramalama" a song that actually brought a little tear to my eye.
Though the rest of the album doesn't quite match the heights of "Ramalama" it is a remarkably consistent collection of strong melodies, beautifully arranged, played and sung. The lyrics are more focused but still retain Anderson's usual message of love, peace and light. They are easily swallowed when paired with the more inspired music accompanying them this time around.
If you are not a fan, or just a casual fan of Yes, I am not encouraging you to seek out this album, but if you are a long-suffering devoted fan of Jon Anderson's I can tell you that 1000 Hands is your reward.
Sadly, the album is only available from Jon Anderson directly at this time and, although his team has done a remarkable job of getting the word out, they have failed just as badly at letting people know where they can buy the album. I was unable to find a way to obtain it until I complained in a comment on a Facebook post promoting a review of the album, and another fan sent me the apparently secret link. All in all, it's just another example of the chaos that has ever swirled around Anderson's long career.
By the way, here is the link:
Your welcome, Jon.
Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.