For Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer Jon Anderson, the near future lay in the past. In his garage, to be precise.
Anderson’s new album, “1,000 Hands,” emerged from sessions for a solo album that the frontman for progressive rock kingpin Yes stored in his garage 30 years ago. Producer Michael Franklin, working from the original master tapes that included tracks from Yes drummer Alan White and the band’s late bassist Chris Squire, built an album that sounds at once familiar and new.
Anderson comes to Rocky Mount’s Harvester Performance Center on Tuesday with music from that disc, Yes classics and his fruitful solo career.
A plethora of other performers, including violinist and Anderson’s longtime musical associate Jean-Luc Ponty, drummer Billy Cobham, pianist Chick Corea and Anderson’s former Yes bandmate, guitarist Steve Howe, participated in sessions that refreshed the old material. At the heart of it are Anderson’s own ethereal vocals, from the original tapes, along with plenty of Anderson harmonies, freshly tracked on the aptly named “1,000 Hands.”
The Anderson voice of today is extraordinarily similar in range and quality to the voice heard on those garage-kept master tapes. Does the tenor/alto have a secret to taking care of his voice, or is he just a lucky guy? We asked him in a Monday morning phone call.
“I’m just a lucky guy,” he said, with a quick chuckle.
Producer Franklin was the driving force behind the project.
“He had done a couple of mixes of the original tapes 30 years ago, in Chicago … it didn’t quite work,” Anderson said.
When the time came to revisit some old music – Anderson said he has about five projects like it in the garage – Franklin “was still interested … we got some very talented musicians to play on the songs.”
Among those talented players were Howe and another Yes guitarist, Trevor Rabin, along with rockers Steve Morse and Rick Derringer, and Christie Lenee, a Florida-based finger-tapping whiz who has performed multiple times in Roanoke nightspots.
Five keyboardists on the record include jazz monster Chick Corea and Yes bandmate Rick Wakeman. About a dozen horn players include Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, blues/rocker Edgar Winter and the Tower of Power horn section. Anderson’s longtime associate Jean-Luc Ponty is among the eight string players, and the record is full of Ponty’s work.
“Well, we’re brothers,” Anderson said. “He’s from Brittany, in northern France, and my great-great grandparents on my mother’s side are from Brittany. So, we’re musical brothers from way, way back, and I’m so happy to have him perform on the record.”
Frankin's brother, Tim Franklin, and Stuart Hamm get bass credits. And a load of drummers, including Billy Cobham and Carmine Appice, kick beats on "1,000 Hands."
There’s even a banjo player, Mitch Corbin. He came in to lay down a track on the album’s second track, “Ramalama.” Anderson described the banjo addition as a spontaneous moment. The song itself emerged from a series of “vocalisations” that the singer uses to warm up.
“We picked out a couple of them for this album,” he said. “When the actual tune for ‘Ramalama’ came in, I just turned to Michael and said, have you got a banjo player for the track? We need something that has kick.”
“1,000 Hands (Come Up)” is the multi-player tour de force that provides the record’s climax. It includes Corea with a piano solo and Cobham on drums, along with many others.
“Billy Cobham is my favorite drummer of all time, along with Jack DeJohnette,” Anderson said. “[Michael Franklin] said during the sessions, Chick Corea can come over next week. I said, please.”
“Ramalama,” “Makes Me Happy,” “First Born Leaders” and “Come Up” will be in the set list, but so will Yes classics “Owner of A Lonely Heart,” “Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper” and more. Anderson is bringing out music from his first solo album, the 1976 disc “Olias of Sunhillow,” “Flight of the Moorglade” and “To The Runner,” as well.
Joining him at the Harvester are drummer Rayford Griffin, percussionist Steady Joseph, Jocelyn Hsu on violin and ukulele, Joe Cosas (keys, trombone, guitar, banjo), guitarist Tommy Calton, Tim Franklin on bass, Zach Tenorio Miller on keys and Billy Meether on saxophone and flute.
Meanwhile, he’s compiling songs and ideas for the possibility of a future Yes reunion. By the time the band was inducted into the rock hall, in 2017, there were two versions of Yes. Anderson sang in the one that featured Rabin and Wakeman. How and drummer Alan White led another version of the band.
Anderson holds out hope for a reunion of the full band. He has written multiple numbers he feels are perfect for Yes.
“When the time comes, I’ll just present them to the band,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but … there’s a lot of good music coming, so I’ll be prepared.”
He won’t wait around, though. He dealt with health issues that led to his departure from Yes, then started a version of that band with Wakeman and Rabin, which is now off the road. He was energized to continue recording and performing.
“You always feel like the best music is coming,” Anderson said. “You’re looking back at all the great music I was able to do … I’ve still got time and energy to do some new music, so I’m excited about the future.”