July 1976. It was the year before my O Levels. I was sitting in an examination hall with all the windows and doors open. It was the beginning of the Legendary Summer of 76 in the UK. It was absolutely boiling. I finished my exam early. I was quite good at exams then. I had a copy of the Melody Maker with me. In those days you weren't allowed out of the exam hall but if you handed in your papers you were allowed to read whatever you wished. Within its hallowed pages was the review of the forthcoming solo album by Jon Anderson called Olias of Sunhillow. I even remember the headline - 'Hail, Olias of Accrington' - a reference to Jon's hometown in the north of England. I poured over each line, time and time again, just imagining what the sounds would be like that were described in the review. Nothing could prepare you for the music that was actually released as Olias of Sunhillow.
Olias.. is a concept album. These were de rigueur in the mid 70s. But if anyone had an imagination to pull it off it would be Jon Anderson. The guys in YES had previously included short solo tracks in the 1971 YES album Fragile. So I THOUGHT I knew what to expect.
Jon's track was We Have Heaven.
Nothing could prepare you for Olias. It is like no other album out there. Jon plays all of the instruments himself and sings all of the vocals. It is a SOLO album in the true sense of the word.
The album opens with Ocean Song
I remember at the time even YES fans were astounded by the sounds and rhythms contained within the record. It sounded like no YES album that had been released so far. It was more tribal and was probably a precursor for the World Music phenomenon that exploded in the 80s.
Every time I listen to the album - and I still do, all these years later, I find something that I haven't heard before.
It ends with the glorious To The Runner.
Nothing YES did ever came close to the sounds of Olias. The closest they've come in feel is the mighty Awaken, which for me is their finest track.
But, all these years later, a sequel is in the pipeline and could become a reality. It's called The Songs of Zamran.
And the song Open that was released by Jon has been described as being very close to the sound of the new project. It'll be like being 15 all over again. Minus the hair down to my bum.
But why not hear John talk about it with the Legendary Bob Harris on The Old Grey Whistle Test.