ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages


Johnny Unicorn - 2014 - "Angels in the Oort Cloud"

(36:15, ‘Johnny Unicorn’)


1. Angels 16:42
2. Creation 2:01
3. LCD 2:32
4. Nebraska 4:38
5. Floaters 3:53
6. Inertia 8:31


Johnny Unicorn – vocals; various instruments
Naomi Adele Smith – vocals; synthesizers
Jason Campbell – drums 
Eric Padget – trumpet 
Max Steiner – guitars 
Ashley Miller – flute 

Prolusion. US composer and musician Johnny Unicorn is perhaps best known in the world of progressive music for being one of the musicians in the backing band of Phideaux (Xavier), although in later years he has also been visible in the US, Seattle-based, band Autumn Electric. His solo career has been ongoing for quite some time however, releasing seven studio albums from 2006 and onward. "Angels in the Oort Cloud" is the most recent of those, and was self-released in the fall of 2014.

Analysis. One aspect of this album, that many soon will discover, is that there is a tinge of Phideaux to the music of Johnny Unicorn, which probably is rather telling as to just how much of himself Johnny Unicorn adds to the sound of Phideaux. In addition to certain subtle similarities in sound, this is also an album that is rather firmly placed in what one might describe as a vintage context. This is an album that, by and large, could have been released back in the ‘70s. Johnny Unicorn's take on this retro-oriented music is rather different than what Phideaux does, however. Especially in the centerpiece track on this CD, the opening epic-length piece Angels. 16 minutes of harder edged classic ‘70s rock combined with psychedelic tendencies, subtly spaced out sections and funky vibes, at times combined into an impressive whole, coated in the sound and the feeling of the golden age of sophisticated rock music. More appealing and less sophisticated on the surface level than what it actually is, and a joyful creative take on the sounds of yesteryear indeed. As the rest of this album plays out, it continues pretty much in similar veins, with both folk music and funk elements added to a vintage-era classic and psychedelic rock music foundation, and more often than not with at least a whole foot inside of a progressive rock framework to boot even of some of the songs on a more superficial level may appear as more of a mainstream-oriented creation. If anything Johnny Unicorn appears to be a master of applying sophisticated details in an extremely subtle manner, at times. For those who'd like to have a specific track to start with from this disc, I'd recommend second to last track Floaters as a good starting point, even if its more funk-dominated tendencies aren't actually typical of this CD as such, the vitality of the composition does show the best and most enjoyable side of this artist as he appears here in my opinion.

Conclusion. Those with an affection for vintage-oriented, retro-style rock are spoilt for choice these days, with multiple and often different niche environments for a great many styles that originated back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Johnny Unicorn's rather eclectic, smorgasbord take on a retro-oriented classic progressive rock blend shies away from most of these niche conventions however, and as such, this album might be seen as a good specimen to get familiar with for those who crave someone doing something innovative within this stated context.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: July 26, 2016
The Rating Room

Related Links:

Johnny Unicorn


ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages