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Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories) CD (album) cover


Steven Wilson


Crossover Prog

4.28 | 2061 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Steven Wilson may have finally done it: He may have created an album that will stand, years from now, among the classic prog masterpieces of the 1970s. Though extracting many, many sounds, riffs, stylings, and themes from past masters, M. Wilson has woven together quite a tapestry of mature, masterful artistry. The opening song, "Luminol" (12:10), starts out part POLICE "Synchronicity" and part YES "Close to The Edge" (though, to be most accurate, more like WOBBLER's "L6 Bealtaine"). Once established, in high gear I am more reminded of YES' "Tempis Fugit" from Drama. Throughout the song it is the drumming that most attracts my attention, though the organ play is also pretty cool. The soft section at 4:50 is very nice--especially the FRIPP/BACHMAN electric guitar flourishes and, later, the flute play. From the 8:35 mark on they might as well be singing, "But I fear tomorrow, I'll be crying. Yes, I fear tomorrow, I'll be crying" (a la Greg Lake on KING CRIMSON's "Epitaph"), but the final two minutes again excels with its return to its original RTF "Duel of The Jester and The Tyrant (Part I)"/POLICE pace and outstanding collective instrumental performances. Like 2009's "Time Flies," this is a great song despite its derivative sounds and parts. (9/10)

2. "Drive Home" (7:27) begins exactly like a FOCUS/JAN AKKERMAN song (from Mother Focus? Or from Focus Con Proby?) before becoming pure Steven Wilson: plaintive singing voice, acoustic guitar, piano, light drums--a lot like "Lightbulb Sun"-era PT. Incredible melodies (including the AMERICA "I Need You" acoustic guitar picking foundation), great teamwork and sound mixing. The orchestration and clarity of mix make this a beautiful and powerful song despite its bucolic pace and soft-jazz feel. (9/10)

3. "The Holy Drinker" (10:13) has an incredible RETURN TO FOREVER Romantic Warrior/Music Magic-era sound to it--including synth work reminiscent of Chick Corea, bass work reminiscent of Stanley Clarke, drumming reminiscent of Gerry Brown, and sax work reminiscent of Joe Farrell. Once the vocal section arrives the song has taken on a much more heavy element--kind of AYREON, THE TANGENT and NEMO-ish. I hear Andy Tillison- like keyboard play, Theo Travis's flute, and Keith Emerson-like organ play. The final section feels very ELP-like. Good song. (8/10)

4. "The Pin Drop" (5:10) has an interesting OCEANSIZE feel to its first couple minutes--especially interesting considering the word "pin" is in the song title. Once the soprano sax solo takes charge, the song takes on a different feel--through the chorus, but eventually returns to the opening themes with multiple voices singing as if in some Mother Goose fairy world. The chorus section "Love learned" is stellar, and the "I am tired of struggling" bridge section is equally awesome. Really, with "Luminol," this is a standout song for me. (9/10)

5. "The Watchmaker" (11:43) begins with a kind of ANTHONY PHILLIPS/GENESIS Trespass-era feel (because of its 12-string guitars, no doubt). The vocal enters giving the song more of an AMERICA feel--doubly so when the multi-level vocal harmonies are used. The background pastoral flute solo is more like that of John Hackett on his brother Steve's first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte. Yes, this feels strongly as if it is a Hackett/early Genesis reproduction. The upbeat turn treads more into the realm of WOBBLER's last album, Rites at Dawn--a carbon copy of the basic elements of "L6 Bealtaine" without the amazing vocal and vocal harmonies. The piano-led second part introduces some new themes and instrumental combinations along with some excellent multi-layered vocal harmony work--part Moody Blues, part CSN&Y, part The Association--followed by some awesome sax, bass, and drum soli. Chris Squire-familiar bass riffs precede a psychedelic, mellotron-enriched section a bit like UTOPIA's "Still We Are Here" part of "The Ikon"--evolving more into something like "The Ikon" finale with its own finale. "Watchmaker" is an awesome recreation/imitation of some of the best delicate songwriter- singers of the 70s, though, IMHO, not nearly as good as WOBBLER or BROTHER APE. Still, this a very pretty song of sensitive instrumental play and vocal work. (8/10)

6. "The Raven That Refused to Sing" (7:57) is, to my mind and ears, the album's weakest song--and also its least derivative of the past masters. It has more of a RADIOHEAD-Post Rock/Math Rock construct and feel to it, which is, in fact, IMHO, its downfall in that I'm always waiting for some big denouement or dramatic shift. Instead, it slowly--very slowly--builds around a very odd, persistent, RADIOHEAD-like piano chord progression, eventually crescendos and then dies. (7s/10)

This is an album of reprocessed, reused, recycled and repurposed musical sounds, riffs, ideas--mostly from the 1970s. Though it is an excellent production of very well constructed and incredibly well performed songs, it really is all too familiar. BUT, I recognize and value the fact that someone with an incredible reverence for the music of the past has made an incredible effort to meticulously weave together splices and bytes from the past into new songs. Genius? Yes. Masterful? Yes. A masterpiece? Perhaps. Raven et al. is definitely my favorite work from Mr. Wilson since Fear of A Blank Planet?and much better than Grace for Drowning. And definitely one of the best albums I've heard from Y2K13. Though it seems too early to judge whether or not this will go down as a "classic" or "masterpiece" I have to admit that it has the feel of a classic masterpiece--one that will be played, remembered and perhaps even revered years down the road.

4.5 stars, rated up for outstanding production, performances, consistency, maturity and memorability.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


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