Mabel Greer’s Toyshop 2017
Open tonight at the end of the universe: a story of a little store that refused to close is continuing.
It’s not easy, looking for past glories when there was no glory in the beginning – only myth – yet given this ensemble’s role in the genesis of YES, the reformation of MGT in 2014 was difficult to ignore. Still, it was also easy to dismiss, as two original members – guitarist Clive Bayley and drummer Robert Hagger – invited latter-day colleague Tony Kaye and current associate Billy Sherwood to join them for “New Way Of Life” that didn’t become a one-off proposition and is followed by “The Secret” where there’s no name guests to rely on. The result proves arresting anyway, if a little bleak, to be growing on the listener.
Gloomy as befits the group who entered the stage when rock’s innocence was being lost, “Big Brother, Little Brother” has a nice rumble to its folk-inspired tune which is able to find home in a modern goth’s playlist, an exquisite guitars weave rendering this darkness alluring before cosmic ivories sweep the weight away and pass the newly found lightness to a spaced-out six-string wave. Unfortunately, for all its impressive renaissance flow, “Love’s Fire” fails to carry forward the momentum, and further overreliance on classical composers, such as Tchaikovsky, in order to keep melodic focus, especially in the likes of “Swan” whose source is too predictable, doesn’t serve the songs – strong as they may be – well.
The delicately dimmed “You” and “Angel Sent” aim for hymnal awe with no need of “Ode To Joy” to get there, and “Turning To The Light” that rolls in on an organ bedrock, is lucid, indeed – thanks to its idealistic air and mellifluous vocal harmonies, rather than a quote from Jeremiah Clarke – but the vaudevillian romp of “More And More” somehow breaks away from the album’s overall solemnity only to overstay its welcome by going for epic scope to match the rest of the record. The inner expanse will assist “Image Of Existence” in embracing contemporary prog tropes that these veterans helped shape aeons ago, Peter Banks’ posthumous appearance on the title track pouring fusion intrigue into the piece’s gentle velveteen nightmare.
Done for pleasure, not for fame, “The Secret” is worthy of divulging.