Thursday, 15 November 2012

Prog Collective Billy Sherwood

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 forays full 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 their taste.

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 piece.

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.             

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