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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Billy Sherwood

Citizen

Review by Gary Hill

A contender for best of the year, this is arguably Sherwood’s best solo album ever. It’s definitely recognizable as a Billy Sherwood album for anyone who is familiar with his work. At the same time, it’s more diverse than a lot of the rest of his catalog. There are some great guest appearances here, too. Perhaps the most notable one is Chris Squire, who appears on the first song.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Citizen

The late, great Squire guests on this track. That means this is probably his last recorded work. This powers in with a symphonic element along a sound that leans toward heavy metal. As it shifts into the verse section, it’s more of a mainstream modern prog sound. This is such a cool song. It’s rather Yes like in some ways, but that makes sense. In addition to Sherwood and Squire, Tony Kaye is featured here, making three Yes alums. This is a classy tune that makes a nice opening statement. The keyboard solo segment is cool, and the whole thing rocks.

Man and the Machine

 Steve Hackett provides guitar on this number. The piece starts with an appropriately mechanical segment. It works out from there to a cool AOR prog number. It balances well between rocking and mellower territory. There are definite Yes references to be heard here. I like this song a lot. It’s one of my favorites here, really. I really like the guitar section a lot, too.

Just Galileo and Me
As this opens, it has a real folk rock vibe. The opening verse lands in a ballad-like arrangement that combines that sound with something that reminds me a little of Genesis. The choruses power up, and the cut really flows extremely well. It’s quite effective. Sherwood is joined on this track by Colin Moulding who hands the lead vocals. There were hints of country on the opening of this. An instrumental movement mid-track really reinforces that. There is even harmonica in the mix during that section. Still, this is definitely prog rock.
No Mans Land
Steve Morse is the guitar player on this smoking hot prog rocker. It’s driving and powerful. The balance between harder edged and mellower is great. The vocal arrangement is classic. There are sections here that definitely call to mind Open Your Eyes era Yes. The guitar soloing really is trademark Morse.
The Great Depression
The opening section of this makes me think of Hogarth era Marillion. It’s mellow and beautiful. Rick Wakeman provides the keyboards on this song. This is quite a dynamic and diverse cut, though. It includes some Yes-like moments. There are even some sections that lean toward epic metal in some ways. It’s just so cool start to finish, though.
Empire
Alan Parsons provides lead and backing vocals here as Jerry Goodman plays the violin parts. This is a cool AOR prog song. I love the bridge on this thing. Those violins really add a lot, too. I can hear some hints of Peter Gabriel on this along with Yes and a lot more.
Age of the Atom
The opening section here makes me think of Rush just a bit. It works out from there into something that’s more easily recognizable as Billy Sherwood music. Geoff Downes handles the keyboards on this cut. It’s an energetic prog rocker.
Trail of Tears
With Patrick Moraz on keyboards, this song is another that makes me think of Peter Gabriel at times. It’s a modern prog rocker with a lot of classic sound in the mix. The vocal arrangement is classy, but so is the entire track. The bridge is particularly effective. The keyboard solo movement is particularly noteworthy, too. I love the symphonic tones to this.
Escape Velocity
This time out Jordan Rudess handles the keys. This is arguably the most “different” song here. Big parts of it are in a rather quirky jazz sound. Other parts land very close to fast paced Yes. While this is an unusual cut, it’s surprisingly compelling, too. I wouldn’t consider it one of my favorites of the disc, but that’s less a statement about this song than the strength of a lot of the other material here. This is arguably the most purely prog thing here.
A Theory All It's Own

This fast paced and dynamic prog tune features John Wesley on guitar. It’s another strong tune that works well. The only problem is, so much here is so strong that something this powerful even struggles to stand above the rest. It has some great changes, a lot of dynamic range and really rocks.

Written in the Centuries
Yes singer Jon Davison guests here. This is one of the strongest pieces here. It’s also one of the most purely progressive rock oriented tracks. It has a diverse arrangement. It shifts and turns. Rock elements are merged with classical ones and more. The multiple layers of vocals work great. So does the musical construction. All in all, this is one of the strongest tunes here. That makes it an excellent choice to close the album.
 
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