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Billy Sherwood

Oneirology

Review by Gary Hill

Arguably Billy Sherwood’s biggest claim to fame is his stint in Yes. The truth is, he’s an incredibly talented and prolific musician and producer. He really does have a progressive rock sensibility that unites modern and classic progressive rock sounds. He understands creating sonic layers and using vocals as parts of those layers. Sherwood appreciates the drama created by alternating dark and light, hard-edged and mellow. All of these things contribute to the strength of his song-writing. Musical talent contributes to the strength of this album. Sure, some of it sounds like Yes because he was a big part of Yes’ sound while he was in that group (and he was also greatly influenced by them) but that’s sort of a starting point here. All in all, this is a great progressive rock disc that is a true solo effort.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Oneirology

This powers in with a hard rocking modern prog sound with symphonic overtones. It turns more melodic for the vocals. As it grows it’s very much in a Yes’ Open Your Eyes mode, but with more of a symphonic and pure prog air to it. It drops down to a cool, mellower segment and then works out to more proggy territory for the rest of the instrumental section before rising back out into the expansive song proper. I really like some of the guitar soloing on this a lot. That section becomes another extensive instrumental movement, this time with the guitar really dominating. When it works back out to the song proper, the tune seems to have a more powered up and intense motif.

Setting Sun
Starting in sedate ways, the cut builds in an acoustic guitar dominated motif. It builds up from there into a harder rocking jam. This song has a great contrast between mellower and harder rock oriented sounds. It drops way down to mellow territory again around the four and a half minute mark, but then powers up with a smoking hot jam that combines modern progressive rock with an almost bluesy guitar sound. It eventually works back out to the song proper from there.
Wake Up Call
Intricate, sedate and pretty tones open this and it builds out from there gradually. It grows out in organic ways and has a very intricate and almost symphonic texture. It builds into more melodic hard rocking progressive rock after a time. This is deceptively complex and quite intricate, but still manages to maintain an accessible motif. It resolves to more of a pure ballad-like approach later to close out.

The Following
There’s a killer flowing jam that opens this and feels very much like Yes. It’s a real smoking hot sound. The bass really drives this thing and as it drops to mostly just bass the vocals create an almost Beatles-like prog element. This started off very Yes-like, but it turns into hard-edged modern progressive rock with a lot of psychedelia built into the mix. After turning to some hard-edged explorations for a while, this shifts out to a more stripped down approach for the next vocals. It’s got some screaming guitar and other elements, but there’s a lot of open space and definite modern psychedelic texture to it. It drops way down to just keys to end.
The Recurring Dream
Coming in more like what one expects from Sherwood, this feels like something from Yes’ Open Your Eyes era. It alternates between an energized melodic movement and something akin to balladic. This moves along in an organic way, but has plenty of shifts and changes nonetheless. It’s got a cool groove and an accessible texture.
Lost Inside
While not a huge change in terms of musical style from the one that preceded it, this cut isn’t a clone by any means. It’s a great piece of music that works in a very melodic progressive rock style.
The Gate
Coming in tentatively, the first vocals are heard over a fairly stripped down musical tapestry. It powers out from there into some harder rocking sounds that almost feel Pink Floyd-like at times. There’s a great flowing movement that comes in after and feels quite Yes-like. A cool expansive jam moves it on past that point. A short bit of vocals gives way to a jam that feels a lot like Yes’ Tormato era. This works through a number of changes with different instruments taking the front slot here and there. It drops back to a mellower movement for more vocals later.
Walking With You
Vocals with no accompaniment open this. It powers out from there in hard edged prog that works quite well. It drops way down to a mysterious sounding mellow movement for the next section of vocals. From there the cut continues growing. At times this feels like Yes, at times it doesn’t.  Moments feel like Pink Floyd and other movements have an almost unrecognizable modern progressive rock flavor. Of course, that flavor is really Billy Sherwood. This track does a great job of alternating between more energized and mellower movements. It’s a great tune and an excellent way to end the set in style. There are some intricate and beautiful moments.
 
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