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Billy Sherwood

What Was the Question?

Review by Gary Hill

Well, if there’s a question about this set, it’s "why wasn’t it done by Circa:?" OK, the title just begged a review that starts out that way. The truth is, though, that is a valid question. It’s more and more apparent the more releases come out with Sherwood involved, that he’s incredibly influential in any act he’s part of in molding the sound. For that reason, more than anything else, there’s a “Billy Sherwood” sound that permeates Yes’ Open Your Eyes album and both Circa: and Yoso. So, why a solo album at this point? Maybe he just had more material to record and the guys in Circa: didn’t have the time. I could live with that answer. This disc, though, holds no real surprises. It’s just another slice of killer Billy Sherwood progressive rock, and all that represents in terms of a modern sound with lots of classic tendencies and multiple layers of vocals. It is steadily shifting and changing music that is hard for a reviewer to keep up with, but keeps it interesting for progressive rock fans just along for the listening experience.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
What Was the Question

Coming in tentatively, this powers out to a hard rocking progressive rock groove. It has both an accessible air and a definite prog rock texture at the same time. There’s a mellow instrumental section later that really feels Yes-like, but a harder rocking guitar takes it in different directions. There’s a cool driving movement later in the piece.

Counting the Cables
Mellow and atmospheric music makes up the early sections here with multiple layers of vocals. There’s a cool acoustic guitar solo later and then it drops to textural sounds for the next vocals. It’s about two and a half minutes in before it powers up to any real rocking sounds. It moves slowly and many layers of vocals are heard. This definitely feels a lot like something from Open Your Eyes era Yes. There’s a cool expansive jam later. Then we get a guitar solo based section that has hints of blues amongst the progressive rock changes. It works out to something more in keeping with the earlier sounds from there and a killer driving jam emerges later. With some killer exploratory guitar soloing, the instrumental section late in the piece is very Yes-like. Ambient keyboard based sounds take it out.
Living In The Now
There’s a bit of a symphonic texture on the swirling rocking sounds that make up the introduction here. It drops way down for the first vocals and then builds out from there in a trademark Billy Sherwood type of progressive rock arrangement. Sherwood takes it through a lot of changes as different sections emerge, play out and go away. He shows that he’s got a great grasp on the power of alternating mellower sections with harder rocking ones. This really builds in a classic progressive rock way.
Delta Sierra Juliet
Intricate acoustic guitar stylings open this up and the mellow motifs are built upon that. Still it fires up from there after a time. Again, Sherwood takes us on quite a musical journey here, but this one doesn’t have quite the same level of contrast between mellower and harder rocking shadings.
Neutral Ground
There’s a cool echoey guitar part that opens this. Then it takes on an almost funky groove from there. Eventually it works out to some of the most Yes-like music of the whole set. The guitar soloing calls to mind Steve Howe a lot of the time. It doesn’t stay in that Yes-like territory for long, though. Instead it works out through a number of different sections.
Free World On Fire
Dramatic hard edged prog leads things off. It drops way down for the first vocals. It grows out incrementally from there. It eventually turns out towards more Open Your Eyes styled sounds, but that doesn’t stay around too long. There’s a harder rocking guitar solo over the top of a cool atmospheric progressive rock movement. Again the track works through a number of changes and different sections before it finishes.
Made Of Stars
Mellow motifs open the track. It grows out from there in an almost Pink Floyd-like texture. There is an awesome prog rock groove later in the piece. The never ending sea of changes again hit this one. It’s hard for a reviewer to keep up with all the variances throughout, but it’s fun to sit back and enjoy.
Going Under The Radar
Coming in harder rocking, there’s a killer retro groove to the opening sections here, with an almost jazzy approach. Later some of the coolest and most unique hard rocking sounds of the whole disc are heard. This is a great example of how a song that’s quite progressive rock oriented and very diverse can still be accessible as the chorus is extremely catchy.
Just Breathe
Again we’re treated to a steadily changing jam that’s trademark Billy Sherwood. Still, parts call to my mind the type of sound Yes did on Tormato. There are more pure rock segments heard, too, though.
 
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