Date First Published: 27 Oct 2012 – Classic Rock Radio (UK) Official Facebook Page
Uncle G’s FUN Music Reviews
Spotlight: Billy Sherwood – The Art Of Survival (2012)
By Gary “Uncle G” Brown – American Correspondent for Classic Rock Radio (UK)
Technically, I didn’t start hearing of Billy until the 1990s. Being a prog fan I knew of his band; World Trade. From there his association with one of my all-time favorite prog-rock bands; Yes. Over the years I collected what I could of Sherwood’s. He always puts out or is always involved in a good product.
Be it with his past bands, the tributes (must be thousands by now), or his current endeavors, I file it all under one place here at home; YesRelated. Whatever it is, as long as Billy’s involved somehow, it qualifies. I have stacks of CDs. Using this filing system, CDs are easier to find (at least for me). A very cool selection/body of work. No wonder, because Billy’s one of the hardest working musicians in rock music today. No real clunkers in Billy’s career, and he’s been a professional player since the mid-’80s. The dude’s got his name on a vast collection of work. Be it as a musician, or doing the tech stuff behind the scenes. A multi-instrumentalist. I have been digging on these players since I first started loving progressive rock music. Two names come to mind; Vangelis, and Mike Oldfield. While these guys have slowed down productivity drastically nowadays, Sherwood is stepping on the gas launching one new quality product after the next.
‘The Art Of Survival‘ is Billy’s sixth solo endeavor. Music on this CD ranges from mellow, more beautiful moments to almost seriously rocking out. Stepping up to the plate anyway. Two songs are what I would consider the best outright prog songs to come out of this year; 2012. Toe-tapping numbers for sure.
So after MANY repeated plays, here’s what I got.
The disc starts off with Billy’s voice. He sings the title of the song; The Military Industrial Complex. Odd words to hear in a song. Lyrics that could be inspired by today’s headlines. One Country in our vast World trying to keep others in check. Look Mom…serious lyrical content. The music changes styles and tempos to get the lyrics where they need to be. An even mix of word and instrumentation. Long time prog listeners should be satisfied with what they hear. Sherwood’s got his roots in prog, so no surprise. All instruments and all vocals are Billy’s. Simply amazing !! Hits the listener all at once. What an awesome start to a CD really.
The musician behind everything the listener hears on this CD is into his 40’s now. That’s including the lyrics. The thinking process of a somewhat mature man in his fourth decade of existence is different than that of a younger man, say in his twenties. It’s not only natural but intelligent to stop and take life seriously from time to time. Especially if one has acquired a family. It’s instinct to provide and make the best so those can carry on. All Moms and Dads normally want the best living environment for their children. If possible, even provide a leg up, to help ensure them a brighter future. Parents wonder all the time; what’s the future going to be like for their little boys or girls? If a newsaholic, one’s perspective may be bleak; war, bombs, and death. Nothing wrong with keeping all this in check, or making it topics for a music CD. Social comments and music have always gone together.
Song two comes with sound effects, but those of a more scary type. Part of an outstanding song called; Drone Deciphers. Flying machines carrying cameras and in some cases, buzzing away leaving a wake of destruction. This song ponders their existence. Good thing or evil. The lyrics make you think. Billy’s vocals are outstanding. He backs himself up. Harmonies are beautiful.
The first two songs are more than just good, but it wasn’t until after hearing the third track, that I stopped the CD, and played what I just heard, over again. That’s a very cool thing when I do that. This means it seriously caught my attention. The song is called; Whose Side Are We On. This would be one of the two songs that I think while typing this, is among the BEST new Progressive rock songs I heard so far in 2012. Plenty of new stuff out there also. It’s been a very productive year for many musicians this year, including Mr. Sherwood.
So to save time, and hundreds of typed words, certain things with this CD are consistent throughout; solid vocals and harmonies, bass work, drums, and synths (keyboard work). Everything here including behind-the-scenes production is all Billy Sherwood. Solid in many ways. Has a beautiful overall sound to it. One can hear distinctively Billy’s bass work, as an example. For me a treat because I always enjoyed listening to a well-versed bass player. Another example would be Billy’s drum work. Sounds exceptional, as is Billy’s playing.
The Yes Connection: Something else obvious if already turned onto Billy’s work. He has a build-in YesSound to him. Can’t help it I guess. Imagine playing alongside those superior musicians for any length of time. Somethings got to rub off right? It’s all good. Lyrically with ‘The Art Of Survival’, Billy does do a 180-degree turn. While on stage with the band Yes, Billy would do background vocals on a song called; I Seen All Good People. A song about the game of chess, which is in essence a game about war. The band Yes’ stance; “let’s give peace a change.” So far the lyrics of these first two songs heard on ‘The Art Of Survival’ expressed serious-minded concern up to and including the idea of total annihilation of the human race. Peace may be one thing, but obviously other forms of action are being looked at here. This leads me to say that overall, whatever the lyrical content is about, that really no sides are taken. It’s not a Republican / Democrat party line stance. Don’t be frightened off by thinking about political thoughts. This is really more or less thinking aloud with a really cool score behind the thoughts or impressions given. Nothing said or suggested in the lyrical content, pissed me off. We can all make the same observations if we gave it a go. The listener will get from the recording, what energy they put into it. Better when one could conclude one’s own thoughts themselves. Based on what they know to that point, as is what Mr. Sherwood is presenting here. After listening, don’t feel it weird to follow up by getting online, and catching up on current events. In the meantime, the music will very much entertain. Some really outstanding/take notice tracks here.
Songs four thru nine are solid compositions, each in their own way. The song ‘Humanity’, rocks a tad more than the others. My second favorite song on Sherwood’s The Art Of Survival is the last track; I Must Begin Again. Has a nice quiet intro, and then builds up. Again, one of the best new prog songs I heard this year. Worth the price of the CD, all by itself (but get the whole thing).
Rating: Using a one to a five-star rating system, whereas one star means its dreadful, to five stars which means it’s definitly not dreadful, CRR UK “Uncle G” rates Billy Sherwood’s The Art Of Survival; 5 stars !!! My only real complaint is that I wish it rocked a tad more. The core fans here, are rock fans in general. We all got that in common. I’ve seen Billy in concert with Yes years ago, play some mean ass guitar. Like on the Grammy Award-winning YesClassic, Cinema. That what I like !!! Maturity is cool, but I always recommend if and when possible, I’d let that young rocker come out and play more often. Rock on Mr. Sherwood. Rock on !!!
Note: Billy Sherwood is an independent musician. How the music train keeps rolling is by us not only being interested but paying customers as well (enough said). Here’s your hotlink of the day. Should you really dig it (as I do), then please share with your friends (remember…with Christmas around the corner, Billy’s CDs make GREAT stocking stuffers).
Billy Sherwood Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/billy.sherwood.54