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Monarch Trail - Sand CD (album) cover

SAND

Monarch Trail

 

Neo-Prog

3.98 | 146 ratings

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memowakeman
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A delightful symphonic journey!

I would like to thank the amazing Ken Baird for introducing me to his music, first with solo albums and then with Monarch Trail, I have enjoyed both projects and this new album is not the exception, the 'power trio' here provide once again a blast of lush symphonic keyboards reminiscent of some 70s prog acts but with a bran new fresh sound that both the old school fans and the avid for new sounds would surely enjoy. In this album, Monarch Trail offers 7 compositions and a total time of 55 minutes. 6 out of them are the short ones, while the last one is a wonderful 24-minute epic.

Since the first moments of 'Station Theme' we notice that keyboards take the leadership, which is wonderfully supported by Verginella's bass and Lamont's drums, the three of them are great musicians and make a balance importance. However, to our ears the first we will notice are those lush symphonic keyboards that also have some spacey nuances and a clear reminiscence of the 70s. The piano parts are also sweet here. 'First Thoughts' starts with vocals (the opener was purely instrumental) and the sound here is much softer, even with a ballad-like feeling, but it is actually an introspective theme, with a soft acoustic guitar after half the track.

'Back to the Start' has that spacey feeling made by keys and bass but then it totally takes us to a journey to the 70s, it is impossible (at least to me) not to think of some Genesis and Camel resemblances here; but it is also a wonderful new element here: the guitar, provided by a guest musician who adds a soft but deep atmosphere at the same time. The song flows wonderfully, giving the prog rock fan a feast of the music we truly love. 'Missing' has a beautiful start, classical piano and a flute sound made by keys, creating a bright atmosphere that later changes a little bit when vocals enter. Although there are some kind of neo-proggy passages, the bombastic keyboards let us know that Monarch Trail clearly belong to the symphonic side of prog.

'Charlie's Kitchen' continues with that symphonic sound but it also adds a jazzy feeling here and there. In moments, it even reminds me a bit of some Wakeman passages. After a couple of minutes the mellotron appears for a while, creating some goosebumps by the way. There are so many textures created by keyboards, however, the bass notes and the rhythm made by drums produces together a true solid and bright prog sound. 'Another Silent World' is the shortest track here but it is beautiful, symphonic but spacey keyboard driven, something like Bowie's Crystal Japan, to mention an example, but it could work also as a short Tangerine Dream track.

The last song is the longest, quite long, by the way. 'Sand' with 24 minutes of lush symphonic prog with so many changes and a wonderful blend of atmospheres. It starts with a pastoral sound, soft and delicate, but later it turns a bit darker but still soft until minute five when keyboards make a bombastic appearance. Guitar is also present here with a nice solo, while bass and drums maintain that symphonic structure in which keyboards are in charge of the countless atmospheres the song blasts. What I love here is that there are not repetitive moments; the minutes pass and the musicians dare to share a nice diversity of sounds that tear away any chance of feeling bored. So once you are immersing, you will not escape from this amazing journey. After 14 minutes there is a passage where things become calmer, with acoustic guitar and with new lyrics, so a new structure is being built up here so in this second part of the song we will find different nuances and passages. Wonderful!

A solid, amazing album by Monarch Trail that I would like to suggest to any prog fan since I believe it has arguments to be considered as one of the best 2017 releases.

Enjoy it!

memowakeman | 5/5 |

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