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Colin Masson - The Mad Monk And The Mountain CD (album) cover

THE MAD MONK AND THE MOUNTAIN

Colin Masson

 

Crossover Prog

3.92 | 58 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Mad Masson

The Mad Monk And The Mountain is The Morrigan main man Colin Masson's second, and to date most recent, solo album. It appeared some eight years after his first solo album, Isle Of Eight, and seven years after the last The Morrigan album, Hidden Agenda. While in some respects the present album follows basically in the same style of the largely instrumental solo debut, it is also quite different in other respects. One difference is that The Mad Monk And The Mountain consist of six separate compositions instead of only three long tracks as on Isle Of Eight. Another difference is that this album has slightly more vocals that the previous Masson solo album. The vocal duties are divided equally between Masson himself and his Morrigan-colleague and also life-partner Cathy Alexander. With the two leading figures of that band present here, it is not surprising that some parts sound like The Morrigan. This is nowhere as apparent as on the mellow The Ends Of The Earth. This one would indeed have fitted very well on The Morrigan's Masque or Wreckers albums. There are also some very appealing Celtic Folk elements in several passages of the instrumental tracks that readily bring The Morrigan to mind. Overall, however, this is quite different from all previous Masson projects despite his often distinctive approach to music.

Masson is undeniably a very competent and versatile artist and a skilful multi-instrumentalist. Again, as on his solo debut, Masson himself plays almost everything including electric and acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards, various percussions as well as doing the drum programming. The drums sound a bit more genuine here though compared to the debut, but there are apparently no real drums here. The only other person credited is the aforementioned Cathy Alexander on vocals, keyboards and recorder.

The opening track, Two Lighthouse Keepers, is, in sharp contrast to most of the rest of this album, a vocally driven song. Here it is Masson himself singing and it is indeed an excellent number telling a very haunting and morbid story about two lighthouse keepers having to live in a small lighthouse out to sea for months on end and the personal problems they have with each other (involving the unexpected death of one of them). The only problem I have with this very good song is that it is entirely out of place on this album as a whole as all of the rest of the songs are very different from it. Tilting At Windmills is a very nice guitar-based instrumental that starts out in Mike Oldfield-mode and evolves towards a more intense Steve Hackett-like guitar attack. There are some very tasteful interactions between acoustic and electric guitars in this one including some dazzling almost Flamenco inspired acoustic guitar runs. This track runs for almost ten minutes, but it somehow feels like much less (which I mean as a compliment).

I have already mentioned the next track, The Ends Of The Earth which again is a vocal number. This one is very mellow and serene and it is again a very good song. However, I tend to feel that it - just like the opening track - is slightly out of place among the largely instrumental tracks that make up the rest of the album. The overall direction of the album is not very clear and there is no overarching style, musical theme(s) or concept to hold the different tracks together.

The last three tracks are almost entirely instrumental. The title track only has some wordless vocals. It is in the title track and the 17 minute closer The House On The Rock that the similarities with Isle Of Eight becomes most apparent. Like the material on that album, these long tracks seem to be heavily Mike Oldfield-inspired and, as such, they are indeed very enjoyable. But despite some great parts, these two tracks are maybe a bit too long for their own good and they lack a strong enough direction. Caradon's Surprise is a classical guitar piece very similar to those by Steve Hackett in his classical guitar mode. Simply lovely!

The Mad Monk And The Mountain is indeed - like almost everything else that Colin Masson ever has put his talents to! - a thoroughly pleasant and enjoyable work. The very best parts of this album are easily up to par with the best things Masson did with The Morrigan and previously as a solo artist, but overall I prefer The Morrigan over Masson's two solo efforts.

Still, this is definitely a recommended album in addition to earlier musical projects of the man

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |

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