This Blog is dedicated to the
notion that whilst we grow in
many ways through the long
years of our lives the music
that my generation fell in love
with as a teenager is more than
nostalgia it had something genuine
and unique to say and was the
beginning of many more journeys,
many of which are reflected here.
There are a number of forces influencing the outcome
on this new offering from Michel St Pere’s Mystery with clear and overwhelming
conclusions to be drawn.
I thoroughly enjoyed there last offering however there
was a shadow of sub Genesis tribute band about some of the music. On this CD Michel
has evolved into a fully-fledged rounded musical personality who is capable of
writing and producing his own personal brand of intelligently crafted, high
quality, high energy rock music.
The CD abounds with great musical ideas every track
is infused with great melodies and unique musical moments. The post blues rock riffs of
"Pride" and "Another Day" generate a magnificent big excitement and more so because
of the mature use of loud/soft contrasts. When Michel plays piano or acoustic guitar
it is not self-consciously classical or folky it is merely a natural extension of
the compositional process. One organisational decision he has taken with this
CD is to avoid over reliance on electric keyboards indeed they are almost absent.
This has a great liberating effect on the sound, the prog- rock by numbers feel
of some of “One Amongst…” is entirely
The lyrics and the guitar solo’s have a wonderful
symbiotic relationship. There is pathos and a sense of loss and pain in both, it
gives the whole project a “now” feeling, they capture the mood of the time. Particularly
worthy of note are the pieces that Benoit David contributed lyrics to. From “The
World Is A Game”
in the line of fire
hero’s flag flying high
way above their pride
anyone win that game”.
And the previous verse
on the grand design
some it almost feels divine Sipping
the last drop of their wine For
the World is just a game”.
finally though from an earlier verse
you feel all the fear that shadowed their eyes?
all that remains of their lives”
Applicable to Benoit’s observation of Yes, possibly, applicable from a Yes listeners view definitely.
does not put a foot wrong, his performance here is as complete as Trevor Rabin’s
on “Jacaranda”, great guitar playing (acoustic and electric) and most importantly his work on the piano is full
of authority and flair.
Nick D’Virgilio is the real surprise of this CD. From
the next generation down he has dexterity pace and can swing and be powerful in
a heavy rock sense, a rare combination. He drives the music with tons of energy,
flair and élan and to borrow a Bruford “ism” he is capable of admiral restraint
Antoine is agile and of great support, his role is
key in avoiding the “prog. by numbers” criticism. There is no sub squire grinding
bass or high “melody taking” runs, it maybe more orthodox but that helps Mystery
stand in its own musical territory.
Benoit - hmm – this is difficult. I love the
unorthodoxy of Benoit’s position as a vocalist. He is essentially a wonderful “pop”
singer, see his Horn/Downes work on FFH, who finds himself in a rock environment.
For four years he sang high tenor over the thundering bass of Mr Squire. To
begin with he simply showed a lack of experience in coping with long haul
touring and his performances were uneven, though he did very well in the UK in
the winter of 2009.
He performed very well on “One Among the Living”
recorded during the early Yes period. However
by the time he emerged on the road with Yes for yet another US winter tour in
2011 after recording FFH the effect on his voice was beginning to have a more broad
based effect, rather than him merely suffering from minor ailments.
understand this CD was recorded mid- 2011, what I hear is a voice which is losing
its range – at the bottom end. If you compare Benoit’s performance on this to the
previous recording you hear a thinner more stretched voice indeed tired, some
of the timbre is missing.
Ironically it is a more typical rock tenor voice
and for the most part has no impact on my enjoyment of this excellent Mystery
CD, which I would recommend to anyone who likes well-crafted post progressive
rock music. However those whom met Benoit took to him. I hope that when Mystery
reconvene for more work he will have fully recovered the voice on display on “One
Among the Living” which helps give Mystery its unique and compelling musical personality.
In the meantime every Mystery fan should have a copy of this, their best effort yet, and it should also win new friends even in these difficult times.
In the closing weeks of 1980 new music emerged
from a respected successful keyboard player and a great vocalist where the sum
was greater than the two parts and created an identifiable musical style of its
own. Not only was the music of the highest quality it was also very accessible
and gave them a 10 ten hit.
Here we are in 2012 and some morning warm ups from
early 2011 have been turned into a project full of energy, life, sophistication,
great singing and superbly orchestrated keyboard playing.
Jon and Vangelis "Short Stories" was a breath of
fresh air and gave us some great sophisticated pop music, so does "Pictures of
The CD opens with the pocket symphony of “Sunday News
Suite” a great vocal narrative and wonderful shifts of tempo and pace, giving it
a musical gravitas, and ends with the gorgeous reading by Chris of “Sky Sailor”.
For those looking for renewal whether personally or collectively the lyric to
the latter hits right between the eyes. There is magic out there just seize it
and go the distance.
In between these two stand out pieces are a range of carefully crafted songs with great hooks and melodies which showcase Geoff’s ability to orchestrate and arrange great pop music. Incidentally listen out for the Fly From Here and Video Killed ...musical quotes.
It is not Messiaen, Crimson, Bartok or John
Coltrane but it is a great part of my musical day. This is music to warm you
up, make your feet tap, bring a smile to your face and take you to place of
light hearted joy. As well as the emotional returns from this music one can draw a good deal of pleasure just from listening to this as an example of peerlessly crafted lyrics,
given a beautiful vocal performance and supported by a well judged and appropriate application of keyboard technique and technology.
When Billy released the third Circa CD I suggested
Billy was operating within an artistic straight jacket. The music seemed to
represent a narrowing down of his vision instrumentally and vocally. It was
highly symbolic that he had played the drums on the CD. The sense of reduction was
exacerbated by the guitar department being vacated by Jimmy Haun who had
delivered a stellar performance on HQ.
I suggested he needed to break out and add new
sounds and ideas.
Well coincidental or otherwise that is precisely
what he has done with “Prog Collective”. Whilst keeping a strong reign on the
overall design of the music he has brought in a cadre of musicians who have
enriched the music and added sounds and qualities that lift much of this music
to an entirely different level. This is an event, not just taking care of the
business. There are also some refreshing lyrical ideas.
John Wetton, Jerry Goodman and Annie Haslam are
wound into the thread of the pieces that they contribute to punching through Billy’s
“formula” giving the compositions a
freshness and sense of adventure, whereas Messrs Downes and Wakeman keyboard
forays on their contributions, whilst not exactly cutting edge, add nicely to
Billy’s basic composition.
The “Laws of Nature” sees John back in Crimson
territory reaching put and pushing his voice quite different from his smug and
beguiling work with Asia.However Jerry Goodman's "fiddle" work is inspired and takes Billy in to entirely new ground - "Bravo!"
“Over Again” rhythm shapes can sound a little too formulaic
Billy but Geoff’s Hammond sounding solo, which might be a Hammond solo, is a
nice add on.
“Technical Divide” has a strong vocal groove and
classic declaiming Sherwood vocal chorus. Chris plays some solid bass with some
neat additional figures. Best of all is David Sancious’s keyboard work adding
some real idiosyncratic magical foraysfull of imagination.
“Social Circles” is superb, Annie Haslam reinvents
Billy’s vocal style in her own image. This is up there with the opening track.
“Buried Beneath” is another one of those
declaiming vocal chorus’s with a neat oriental sounding keyboard figure.
“Following the Signs” has one of those classic
American Rock sounding guitar lead openings and an attractive exposed chorus.
These pieces remind me rock music has come of age it is its own genre with its
own language and when the guitar solo emerges its powerful entertaining and
beautifully judged but have we heard this type of thing before Yes! The success
or failure of this music is about the strength of the musical ideas the tunes
NOT how far out, cutting edge and experimental is it. However those who find
Asia to “pop-prog” may well find this clever well played “rock-prog” more to
And finally “Checkpoint Karma” The pairing of Colin
Moulding and Rick Wakeman sounds unlikely but it works. Ricks baroque inspired
electric keyboard work is the best thing on electrics I have heard since Billy
recorded his work on Keys and it represents a clever juxtaposition with Ricks
keys punching through the slowed down chorus during this excellent eclectic
Billy is a gentleman, hard working and sincere
about his work, this thoughtful move away from his more inward looking work is
most welcome and anyone who enjoyed Oneirology will enjoy this work.