With last years Japanese SACD box set of Yes studio albums and Steven Wilson's on-going remixes of the Yes catalogue, it looks like Audio Fidelity are now concentrating on the Yes solo albums after their dalliance with CTTE and GFTO. Olias was the last of the solo albums to be released by all members of the band during the hiatus between Relayer and Going For The One. It was also the one everyone was waiting for. For many Jon Anderson wasn't just the voice of Yes but the vision and soul of the band.
I actually bought the album back when it was released in 1976. I remember seeing it displayed in the front window of a Glasgow record shop as I made my way to the Glasgow Apollo to see Genesis play on their Trick of the Tail tour. Those were definately the days!! Atlantic Records must have thought this was going to be a biggie as the cost of producing the sleeve must have been huge. It is one of progs best sleeves. Beautifully illustrated by the late David Fairbrother Roe. That's right not Roger Dean, which surprised many, though many thought it was a Dean cover. I am not sure why Anderson didn't use Dean. Maybe he thought Roe's style was more suited to the book-like layout of the sleeve.
Musically Anderson, set free from the constraints of being part of a band went to town. Playing everything himself, he used guitars, synths, harps, percussion to produce a really dense otherwordly sound. Of course this was all surrounded by his ethereal multi-layered, multi-harmony vocals. Not bad for someone who wasn't really a prodigous musician. What he lacked in instrumental prowess, he more than made up for in a singular musical vision.
The problem with producing a CD version of this highly visual album is reproducing the sleeve effectively. This is one sleeve that loses all the detail, storytelling and beauty in a CD sized booklet. Even the Japanese SHM papersleeve edition of a few years ago, gorgeous as it is, doesn't quite do justice to the original 12inch format of the original vinyl. Hats off to Audio Fidelity for trying their best to layout the text and lyrics over the 12 page booklet in such a fashion as to make them readable as well as keeping the overall look faithful to the original design. Soundwise, Kevin Gray's remastering has resulted in the best sounding digital version of this recording. Though it was originally recorded in Anderson's own home studio, sonically it is a rich, complex, layered recording. A bit murky perhaps, but Gray has managed to produce a warm, detailed remaster. A really pleasant listen. This will do till Wilson gets his grubby little mits on the multitracks. Which he may do, as he rated Olias as one of his favourite concept albums in the November 2009 issues of Classic Rock magazine. One day maybe!