Frontiers Music [Release date: 12.07.2019]
The prolific Mr Sherwood is a busy man.
Not only is he now ensconced as bass player in the ever-revolving door of personnel that is Yes and also as the wonderful John Wetton’s replacement in Asia, but he still has time to be the go-to man as producer and instrumental gun-for-hire in many other projects.
And now he’s found the time to release his solo follow-up album to the reasonably well-received ‘Citizen’ from 2015, which included among its guest luminaries Tony Kaye, Steve Morse, Jordan Rudess, Rick Wakeman, Steve Hackett and the final recorded work of the sadly departed Chris Squire.
‘Citizen: In The Next Life’, however, is an entirely solo work with Billy playing everything (even drums) as well as producing – and therein lies the problem – a complete lack of quality control. There’s no-one there to say “you sure about this, Bill?”
A concept album (yes, I know…) which describes a journey through time and space where ‘The Citizen’ meets a number of historical figures from Adolf Hitler to Monet, from Wyatt Earp to Stephen Hawking and all points in between.
Now, the problem with attempting to tell stories about famous people, is that you’re preaching to the converted as it were – we all know who these people were and why they’re famous.
The track ‘Sailing The Seas’ for example – a song about Christopher Columbus – begins with the line “he was born in 1450”. We know.
Unfortunately this is a trend throughout the album and, it has to be said, it becomes more irritating as things progress.
As for the music, much of it sounds like latter-day Yes, which you would expect, but much more of it sounds like pop dressed up as prog with cheesy, almost sing-along choruses.
Things get underway with the strangely upbeat riff of ‘The Partizan’ a tale of Hitler in his bunker and drops down significantly with ‘Sophia’, a particularly bland tale of an A.I. woman accepted as a citizen of Saudi Arabia – a seriously soporific track that could have been on a Phil Collins solo outing.
Things don’t improve with ‘Monet’, a big ballad about one of the most overrated artists ever and ‘Skywriter’, indistinguishable from the track before.
And so it goes on – ‘We Shall Ride Again’, a song about Wyatt Earp, has no discernible song structure and by track six ‘Via Hawking’ I’ve started to drift off…
The one saving grace is the nine minute album closer ‘Hold Quite’ where accapella vocal play is interweaved with some lovely acoustic guitar – ah but that the whole album could have been as inspired.
Billy Sherwood is a great musician and his contributions to Yes, Asia and progressive music in general are not to be underestimated, but the lack of quality control and the unimaginative, monochrome fare on offer here is as surprising as it is disappointing.
The major disappointment was expecting so much more. **
Review by Alan Jones
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