About Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow

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The featured slide show set for Jon Anderson’s great masterpiece Olias of Sunhillow is the work of vzqk50 who provides the following information on the music, from the wikipedia article (slightly edited by me).

Olias of Sunhillow is a progressive rock concept album by Jon Anderson, the lead singer of the band Yes. Released in 1976, it was his first solo album.

The album tells the story of an alien race and their journey to a new world due to catastrophe. Olias, the title character, is the chosen architect of the glider Moorglade, which will be used to fly his people to their new home. Ranyart is the navigator for the glider, and QoQuaq is the leader who unites the four tribes of Sunhillow to partake in the exodus.

The concept may have been partly inspired by the cover art for the 1972 Yes album Fragile, which depicts a tiny planet breaking apart and a glider escaping into space.

[note: Anderson stated very clearly in a 1976 post-release radio interview with New York DJ Allison Steele “The Nightbird” that a primary source was Roger Dean’s artwork for the album Fragile. In answering the question “Who is Olias of Sunhillow?,” he says

Olias was the kind of fantasy that came about out of the artwork of Roger Dean on Fragile. I had the idea that that ship…that kind of hovered around…was playing some little  part in this idea, of the story that was coming out at that time…

yes-fragileThe wikipedia article continues…] Anderson has stated that works by J.R.R. Tolkien were also an influence, underlying the epic scope of the narrative compressed into the album.

Olias of Sunhillow has been Anderson’s most acclaimed solo work both by critics and fans. Through months of effort, Anderson achieved arrangements of musical virtuosity that he has been unable to match in later solo works. (Many later works, such as Animation, relied on session players.) Since Anderson produced Olias soon after Vangelis had auditioned to be a part of Yes, there has been widespread speculation that Vangelis contributed to the album, with some fans going so far as to say that Olias represents the kind of sound that Yes would have created if Vangelis had in fact joined the band. However, both Vangelis and Anderson have denied that they collaborated on the album, and it must be noted that Olias sounds markedly different from the five albums that Jon and Vangelis did actually produce together in the late 70s and early 80s.

Olias has been re-released several times, most recently with a US CD release by Wounded Bird Records on February 28, 2006.

The album sleeve features a series of artworks by the artist David Fairbrother Roe, RA (whose other work included graphics for the Isle of Wight Festival, Nazareth – Hair of the Dog, and the Dragonflight novels of Anne McCaffrey).

The image in the sidebar of (I think) Qoquac, reproduced above, is claimed to be a copy of the Roe original. The artist “John D.” says he painted it in 1977 at the age of 17 (posted by Niaka at flickr). It may be signed just to the right of the figure, but I was unable to read the script.

The image just above the photo of Chris Squire (lit red, wearing cape) in the sidebar is a painting titled “Welcome Home Olias” made by the artist Daniel B. Holeman, whose work may be found at awakenvisions.com.

Olias of Sunhillow billboard, 17 July 1976

(above) Olias of Sunhillow billboard on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, California, dated 17 July 1976 at the source: YES Museum, which thanks Roger Meyers. The billboard rises above the Licorice Pizza record store.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Cover artwork by David Fairbrother-Roe « Olias of Sunhillow

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