Jon Anderson – Chagall (Highland HL242/243)

Chagall (Highland HL242/243)

CD 1 (55:28): Intro, First words, Waterfall, Man in the moon, Home, Color of love, Song of Bella, St. Petersburg, Welcome to the big city, Nijinsky, Such is the reason, Is it love, Such is the state, Mother Russia

CD 2 (47:07): Intro, Paris dance, Picasso, Renaissance, Big city USA, USA, Kingdom, He’s a star, Duet, Which way, Stained glass, Poet, Fanfare

From Jon Anderson’s fecund genius are two musicals that remains unreleased.  The first is First Born, a piece based on the life and work of Daphne Charters and her relationship with the fairies.  The second is called Chagall and is about the Russian artist Marc ChagallChagall was recorded in 1982 in Paris about the time he rejoined Yes for 90125.  Anderson has spoken much in recent years about resurrecting the project.  In an Oct 2005 interview with Progressive Rock Radio, Anderson said of Chagall, “I created a sort of musical interpretation of his life. I should finish it! I know that a demo of the project got bootlegged [speaking bout this release by Highland].  I’m thinking of putting it out as it was originally recorded and finished 18 years ago and then take it on the road as a new version.”

He later spoke about reworking the piece with significant changes and even, as of April 2006, mentioned he sent the discs to his record company.  Interest is such that the very first question on the ask page of his website is about this piece of work.  Anderson answers, “Chagall is foremost in my heart to become a theatre work, I’ve seen it work in my ‘mind’s eye.'”

There is really nothing else in his oeuvre quite like this even by Anderson’s standards.  Most of the work is Anderson himself acting as narrator and voice actors taking the roles of Chagall, his wife Bella and others.  The instrumentation is almost entirely all electronic and a female singer on tracks such as “Duet” by the end of the piece.  It begins with Anderson’s reflection of living by him in the south of France before it launches a narrative covering the major events of his life and art including his early life in Russia, his fleeing the country after the Bolshevik revolution, life in  France with Belle, and his artistic career including his work in the  medium of stained glass windows by the end of his life.  

Since it is a narrative, Anderson doesn’t sing too much but some of the actual songs, such as “Nijinsky” and “Such Is The Reason” are classic Jon Anderson pieces and “Is It Love,” which he recorded for Page Of Life with Vangelis, also finds it way in.  The instrumentals are effective in underscoring the drama in the narration.  Highland released this in 1999 and it is obviously a higher generation tape since there is slight hiss, but overall it is in excellent sound quality throughout the entire piece.  Since more than twenty years has pased since it was first recorded and still has yet to see release, this might be the only opportunity to hear this great lost work.  The label makes good use of Chagall’s art on the front cover.     

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