Today's guest reviewer is Jen Grover, author of Second Choices and The Rooks Parliament, and editor of the former Tone and Groove magazine.
"Open" begins and ends with a delicate chime, like a formal meditation. What falls between those small tones is exuberant, joyful, and wide. This 20+ minute "single" was released on October 25, 2011, Jon's 67th birthday, as a download only, currently available on both iTunes and Amazon.com.
Though structurally and lyrically it resembles long-form, 1970s Yes songs, it's not a rock song, nor would I call it New Age. It's a fully orchestrated sweeping epic, composed on Jon's 19th century guitar with orchestration added by Stefan Podell. The introduction functions as an overture, stating the variety of musical themes that will follow. Dawn-like at the outset, it grows from quiet to bright and sprightly, dominated by horns, until electric guitar and piano come in. Then it falls into quiet melancholy just before the vocals begin, reminiscent of the soundtrack to a grand Hollywood film (think Ben Hur) married with a bit of Ralph Vaughan Williams, accompanied by strummed acoustic guitar.
The lyrics and music suit each other artfully, building, quieting, full and grand in parts, sparser in others, always reflecting the emotions of seeking and encountering the divine and learning to express that in one's life. The themes are typical Jon Anderson: musical segments flow one into another, despite their diversity and dynamic changes. Panentheistic lyrics center on the sun as a symbol and manifestation of God, with messages of affirmation, hope, peace, love, care of the earth, and music as a reflection and celebration of life and wisdom received. A primal, danceable rhythm recurs. I defy you to not sway to it.
Jon is a gentle, persuasive preacher, as webmistress Andrea and I witnessed recently at the Jon Anderson/Rick Wakeman performance in Philadelphia. He is able to make us feel good about who we are, while admonishing us to grow and improve the lives of others as well as our own, through love, peace, respect, recognizing the same light that shines in all of us. As this song states, "Open doors will open hearts/Open hearts will always open doors." In these trying times, a song like this is an oasis of hope and joy, and a motivator for the listener to do his or her part to make things better.
Play it loud. Immerse yourself in it. Recommended listening outdoors on a sunny day. Back-to-backs rather well with Keith Emerson's "Piano Concerto No. 1".
Jen Grover [http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/brushpanther]