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Isle of Eight 25:32 Total Eclipse 27:06 Return To the Northern Wasterland 12:56
All titles composed, arranged, performed, engineered & produced by C. Masson (during 1998/1999 at "Greenacres Farm" studios in Wiltshire, UK). Lyrics by C. Masson. Cover artwork by C. Masson.
Line-up: Colin Masson - bass, el. & ac. guitars, keyboards, recorders, trombone, percussion & drum-programs; Cathy Alexander - vocals (1,2), additional keyboards (3)
Prologue. Colin Masson is (probably) one of the founders (if not the leader) of British (contemporary, progressive or progressively psychedelic, as I guess) band The Morrigan. Haven't heard anything from them, though a close relation between Colin Mass and The Morrigan is obvious thanks to press-kits that I received from Hi-Note 'in company' with CDs. Finally, I salute the very first Solo Pilot from England that landed here, on ProgressoR.
The Album. As you see, there are only three long compositions on Colin's first solo album, and two of them are the longest ones I've ever met in works of Solo Pilots. Cathy Alexander sings a couple short themes somewhere in the middle of Isle of Eight, and the 'rest' instrumental canvas are so diverse and amazing that it would be more than just enough for some moderately progressive band to create an excellent double CD! Arrangements with lots of purely acoustic episodes among others follow one another kaleidoscopically. Colin Masson as a real multi-instrumentalist uses his large instrumental arsenal the most effective way. I am impressed by the work of each instrument here, but especially by how tastefully and diversely Colin works with all guitars: acoustic, electric and bass. Keyboards are also a special instrument for the artist's hands that are able not only to masterly handle them, but also to create some unique sounds Although there is a note of the presence of drum-programming in Colin's equipment; fortunately it's turned out that actually there are by no means too many of them on the album on the whole, especially since Colin programmed them well enough to imitate sometimes real live drumming. While most structures on the album's title-track are either exclusively acoustic (with some percussion solos done very nicely) or semi-acoustic (with just few real electrified moments supported by programmed drums), both the following pieces Colin constructed differently, - as a true progressive composer. Total Eclipse is a true centerpiece of the album. The first part of it is practically totally acoustic - with the most mellow musical structures on "Isle of Eight". Not really meditative yet really hypnotic, even mysterious in some ways, the arrangements of the first part of Total Eclipse are almost as diverse as those on Isle of Eight. Cathy sings here as "much" as on the opening track, i.e. actually just the same few choruses, though in both cases she does it nicely and... properly - concerning the time and space of the whole musical palette of these compositions. It was more than unexpected to transit from the places of calm philosophic (!) thoughts to a completely electrified, bombastic sound closer to the middle of Total Eclipse (really, heavenly bodies affect the human being's mind deeply). Star Wars changed the wisely calm thoughts of the Universe not in order to return to the 'peace talks', and the second half of the piece just anti-mirrored all previous events. Being created by a harsh contrast between two parts (of the united track), the composition itself, as a whole, wins, as if showing what our dual world is really about. It seems that Return To the Northern Wasterland wasn't easy and bloodless, as the feel of the battle field crawled inside of me from the first to the last note of this harsh'n'heavy composition. Of course, there is no place for some female vocals in this hard-edged violent instrumental. Cathy's hands, however, gave a small key support to a viking-like Colin who fought all his guitars like swords by punching a gong from time to time.
Summary. While "Isle of Eight" is undoubtedly one of the best albums ever created by Progressive Solo Pilots, musically, this is the most contrasting, wonderfully contrasting one among them. Albion's Colin Masson is a very serious rival to all the other Solo Pilots flying free in progressive air. And as for musicianship, there is the only guy, Teutonic Arne Schafer of his solo project (just named as) Apogee - who can measure swords with Anglo-Saxon Colin Mason (incidentally, as far as I know both Colin and Arne are coreligionists (at least officially). Compositionally "Isle of Eight" is a pure masterpiece and the only drawback I've noticed not to rate this album with all my sound six stars is the unreal drums programmed too thin in a few places. These few thin things are those that ate a half of the star... (but not me!).
VM. May 18, 2001
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