In 1988 Jon Anderson quit Yes for the second time. Free from the constraints of the group-setting Anderson worked with producer Stewart Levine and a who's who of session cats (including most members of Toto) to record his first solo album in six years.
The rather un-Yeslike result was In the City of Angels which comes across sounding more like Anderson fronted Toto album than like anything Anderson had ever recorded before either with Yes, as a solo artist, or with Vangelis.
While the album is enjoyable it's not quite convincing. The lyrics are largely down-to-Earth and Anderson's voice, as usual, is somewhat ethereal. It gives the often touching lyrics a rather chaste vibe. The music sounds like an extrapolation of Anderson's This Time It Was Really Right which he recorded for the St. Elmo's Fire soundtrack. Perhaps Jon hadn't quite explored that style quite to his satisfaction with that song.
That being said, as a fan of Toto, I thoroughly enjoy this album. It was recorded shortly after Toto's The Seventh One and uses many of the same studio musicians that worked on The Seventh One. Anderson's voice makes for an interesting counterpoint to the late eighties fusion influences that the members of Toto and their contemporaries were known to dabble with at that point in their careers.
Unfortunately, the reliance on synthesizers gives the album a rather dated sound. Some songs have aged well (Hold On To Love, If It Wasn't For Love), while time has not been quite as kind to others (Betcha, Top of the World). There are some songs that straddle between prog and pop, Top of the World (despite sounding dated) also has hints of 90125 era Yes. It is likely the most Yes sounding song on the entire album.
While the album was largely avoided and/or ignored by his fans, some credit should be given to Anderson for trying something new and stepping outside his comfort zone to release an album different than what one might expect from him. Sometimes experiments like this fail, but credit should certainly be given in the attempt.
In The City of Angels (Amazon.com)
In the City of Angels (album credits)
Jon Anderson (Official Site)
Jon Anderson (wikipedia)