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TRACK LIST: 1. The Wish-I 2.53 2. The Clock 6.42 3. Just for a While 8.24 4. Broken Wings 5.09 5. Axis of Men 7.34 6. Once in Time 3.22 7. Song for Them 21.21 8. The Wish-II 3.34 SOLO PILOT: Daniel Gauthier – vocals, ac., el. & bass gitars; keyboards
Prolusion. Hailing from Quebec, Daniel GAUTHIER is a gifted multi-instrumentalist with a deep, lifelong passion for progressive rock. Though he has been writing and playing music since his early teens, he was only able to start releasing his music in 1997. “The Wish”, his third album, recorded in his home studio like its predecessors, is a one-man project started in 2003, and finally released at the end of 2008.
Analysis. The story of Daniel Gauthier is a heart-warming example of triumph over adversity, and of how it can be possible to make the dream of a lifetime come true. Gauthier fought long and hard in order to be able to play the music he wanted, instead of surrendering to the sirens of the current music market, and compromising on the quality of his product. A passionate admirer of Yes, he has managed to infuse some of the beauty and complexity of the seminal English band’s music into his own output, as “The Wish” clearly proves. After such an introduction, I would dearly love to be able to write a glowing review of the album, and say it is one of the best releases of the past few years. Unfortunately, while “The Wish” is a more than competent effort, it does not really stand out from the multitude of releases that fall under the ‘symphonic/neo-prog’ umbrella. It does indeed have its good points, but, as a whole, it fails to impress in the way one might have expected. For one thing, the album is probably a bit too long, even though, for today’s standards, 58 minutes is the rule rather than the exception. In this particular case, however, the album seems to be somewhat unbalanced in structural terms - ‘bottom-heavy’, so to speak, with the obligatory epic (the 21-minute Song for Them, three times as long as the second longest item) placed almost at the end. There is also some filler involved, with the above-mentioned epic being the main culprit in this sense. In my view, the album would have worked better as a leaner, 45-minute offering, dispensing, for instance, with the rather undistinguished, token ballad Broken Wings. The vocals might be seen as another problem area – while not exactly unpleasant, they can sometimes come across as faintly jarring, especially in those tracks when the Yes references are at their most evident. One would almost expect something reminiscent of Jon Anderson’s clear, ethereal tones to kick in after the complex instrumental passages, but Gauthier’s voice is too ordinary to convey a similar impression. On a more positive note, for an album entirely composed and recorded by just one person, “The Wish” does not sound like your typical one-man project, and one might even believe there was a real band involved. Generally speaking, those albums can be damaged (in some cases quite badly) by the use of programmed drums, whose cold, clinical sound is often at odds with the rest of the instrumentation. I was therefore extremely (and very positively) surprised to hear how warm and ‘human’ the drumming sounded on this album. Gauthier’s stunning bass playing is certainly to be credited for beefing up the drum sound, though I believe the artist also used a lot of expertise in the programming, in order to avoid obtaining too mechanical a sound – which would have obviously been detrimental to the overall effect. As the main inspiration for “The Wish” are Yes circa their 1972 masterpiece, “Close to the Edge”, it will not come as a surprise that the bass is the undisputed star of the album. Though Gauthier is undoubtedly skilled at all the instruments he plays, his performance on the four strings is much in the vein of Chris Squire’s ‘lead bassist’ take on the instrument, sleekly interacting with the guitar or the keyboards, and creating varied textures that add interest to the individual compositions. The keyboard work is also quite good, alternating the powerful whistle of the synthesizers with the warmer, more organic sound of the organ and piano. As I stated in an earlier paragraph, I found the album’s epic, Song for Them, to be a tad overlong – especially as regards the first half, with its plodding, Yes-meets-Pink Floyd feel and vaguely soporific mood. While the second half is an improvement, one cannot help feeling that the artist did somehow overextend himself here. Much more interesting examples of his sound can be found on the more uptempo Just For a While (which is possibly the closest Gauthier comes to the classic Yes sound), and on Axis of Men, a bass-heavy effort that at times may bring “The Yes Album” to mind, though the effect is somewhat undermined by the weak vocals. On the other hand, The Clock and Once in Time display evident Pink Floyd influences, both in their stately pacing and the distinctly Gilmourian guitar work. The two-part title track bookends the album in atmospheric, melodic fashion, the second part sporting some pleasing folksy overtones. Though definitely not a ground-breaking proposition, and occasionally a bit too derivative, “The Wish” can make a rewarding listen for those who worship the classic acts of the golden era of prog, and prize melody and instrumental brilliance above all. Kudos should also go to Gauthier for having managed to produce a one-man project that does not sound as contrived or one-dimensional as so many of those efforts can be. The very nice, gatefold packaging of the disc, quite lavish for a completely independent production, also deserves a mention.
Conclusion. “The Wish” is likely to appeal to fans of old-school progressive rock, with some judicious mainstream-friendly touches here and there. Those looking for anything innovative, on the other hand, are bound to be disappointed. To Gauthier’s credit, it should pointed out that he has always been very forthright in stating his allegiance to classic prog (and especially to Yes), without ever trying to push his product as the proverbial best thing since sliced bread. In any case, he is a very gifted musician, and a lot of the instrumental work on the album is well worth exploring.
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