Cherry Red 2015
Concise, if intrinsically protracted, introduction to prog maven’s solo oeuvre – exquisite yet not always engaging.
Tragic circumstances which lured Billy Sherwood back into the YES fold have inevitably drawn attention to his own work – not as producer of concept and tribute albums with various classic players involved but as a primary artist. In his case, though, “primary” means doing everything, as Sherwood’s a multi-instrumentalist, whereas it’s a compositional side of things that’s the focus here, on seven pieces released between 1999 and 2014 and two issued for the first time. Prog rock at its most refined, these tracks demonstrate all the best and worst about the genre, while making the point as to why Billy’s current position is a deserved one.
Singing might not be his forte – albeit there’s a lot of vocal soulfulness in the cover of Sting’s “I Hung My Head” – yet slight embellishments to some of the intricate epics are: country elements such as steel guitar and banjo sound very organic on “Dying Breed” and, together with a vibrant acoustic solo, make it lucid, but Billy’s bass propelling “Seeing Through The Walls” to the climactic end reveals Sherwood’s elegantly ferocious facet. It can also be felt in the tribal buzz of “Drone Decipher” whose harmonies and whooshing effects wrap softly around the listener’s ears.
At the same time, fluid guitars and orchestral keyboards of “On Impact” – from the artist’s latest, "Divided By 1" – fail to make a melodic punch unlike the Eastern motifs woven into “What Was The Question?” lead by its funky groove to the dancefloor. All of this goes to show how versatile Billy Sherwood can be once out of his chosen prog loop, so further investigation will be rather rewarding for those bent on it.