Olias of Sunhillow (SACD)
Probably best known for his founding of and many returns to the band Yes, Jon Anderson has had a long career through many stages. His first solo album, from 1976, Olias of Sunhillow, reissued in 2006, is being re-reissued in a remastered SACD format.
This album is a product of the 70s. It has fantasy inspired cover art, and the discs 8 tracks tell a story, and the booklet inside the case contains a short story telling a tale of Olias. Most bands these days don't think much in terms of "album". They think of "single" and "download". The days where most people would sit down and just let an album play from first song to last and mostly gone. Olias of Sunhillow suffers in that regard, because it is meant, designed and constructed, to be listened to in that way.
Of course, being that I am but a mere two years older than this album, I didn't listen to it back in the day. I wouldn't even hear of Jon Anderson until 1983 or 1984 and Yes' "Owner of a Lonely Heart" would hit the airwaves and MTV. A friend's older brother owned that album, 90125, and in 1987 I would illegally copy someone's tape of Big Generator. But oddly enough, I wouldn't become an actual fan of Jon's until 1991, when I got my first CD player and one of the initial small stack of CDs I bought with my own money was Union by Yes. I say oddly because looking at that album the art of it is similar, and it too contains a story, and the music sounds so very much like the early work that Anderson produced in the 70s. For years it was one of my favorites.
Olias of Sunhillow, as I said, is meant to be listened to in order, all at once. Any single track pulled out of it wouldn't make a lot of sense and would appear to be just an airy filler between other songs in your playlist. But together, in order, all at once, it remains as it probably was originally intended nearly 40 years ago, a story told in song.
The SACD version isn't for everyone, in fact it's mostly for audiophiles as the average person won't be able to noticebly discern any difference from the regular version. But if you buy the MP3s you'll only get the songs and miss out on the written tale. This is a good album, and well worth listening to if you've got 45 minutes to set aside and a willingness to relax and get enveloped in the music.
Review by Jason Pace