Back in the 1980s, Yes vocalist Jon Anderson first mooted the idea of working with violinist Jean Luc Ponty but it has taken until now to make that reality.Anderson_Ponty_Band_Better_Late_Than_Never

Both Anderson and Ponty are, of course, legends in their own musical genres – Anderson is synonymous with Yes, despite his on-off relationship with the band over the years – and Ponty’s work with The Mahavishnu Orchestra and Frank Zappa, along with a long string of solo albums, have helped to shape the history of jazz/rock fusion.  Musical meetings of minds, however well-intentioned or well-suited don’t always rise to meet their potential though and it was with some trepidation that I approached Better Late Than Never.

Thankfully, my fears were largely ungrounded.  On Better Late Than Never, Anderson and Ponty have revisited some of their old work and the results, on the whole, work remarkably well.  Anderson has added lyrics to Ponty’s tunes, bringing a new twist to them, and a selection of Yes classics are given a brush up and polish.  Only one track is totally misjudged: a cod-reggae version of Time And A Word sounds every bit as good as you might imagine – ie not very good at all.   Wondrous Stories, Roundabout, And You And I and Owner Of Lonely Heart can all hold their heads high; they are never going to replace the originals as your versions of choice but they make a refreshing change.  Likewise, if you are a Jean Luc Ponty fan you will find much to like in the reworkings of his material here. With the basic tracks recorded live and then given a bit of studio tweaking, this is a surprisingly frisky collection of songs and Anderson and Ponty are supported by a really tight band with an extensive jazz/rock pedigree.

Better Late Than Never is better than you might have thought.  If you are a fan of Anderson or Ponty, give it a go.

John Scott

 

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