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Cirrus Bay


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4 stars Cirrus Bay returns with their fourth and finest album to date, a significate step up from their last album for a number of reasons. From repeated listens on their bandcamp site, I notice several things right away. First of all, the inclusion of viola in many of the tracks is a wonderful addition, playing many heartwrenching melodies, infusing warmth and an organic feel throughout. The playing in the album's instrumental, 'A Door Into Yesterday' helps make that track an immediate favorite for me, and seems to me to be perhaps the track that I always wished Tony Banks would write. It sounds like something he could do, in a prog setting, and with the right musicians. Other favorites include 'Learning To Fly', 'Out of the Box', and 'Me and Wokara'. I also have a soft spot for 'Cotton Skies', especially the last minute of the song. In fact, just about every song has an excellent last minute or so, so if one were to skip through tracks without hearing them to the end, they would usually miss the highlight of the track. Other strengths of this album include the backing vocals, the overall sound, and the contributions of guests Amy Darby and Phil Mercy of Thieves' Kitchen. Inconsistancies of their previous album 'Whimsical Weather' are gone. There is a warm, spring/summery outdoorsy feel to this highly emotional and beautiful album, which is definitively their best, and will certainly be among my favorites of the year. And no, I am not a friend of the band as the one condescending reviewer so snarkily asserts must "obviously" be the case of anyone who gave this cd 5 stars. I don't give 5 stars often, but do for a few deserving cds each year.

Cirrus Bay is my favorite band right now, and my wife, not really a prog fan, even likes them. As she puts it, "They have a lot of emotion." And I guess that's what I like about this album more than anything else.

Report this review (#1146560)
Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars "The Search For Joy" is clearly a beautiful work, with layers and subtleties that require additional listenings. I was amused by the reviewer who was reviewing it as he listened to it for the first time on bandcamp. It took several listens for me to really appreciate the depth and beauty of this album. But I don't think this is an album for everyone. The darkness and dissonance that appeals to many today is found rarely here. This is overall much more of an uplifting album, a bit like Moon Safari or early Flower Kings. I find the music a bit more appealing than either for some reason. I suppose the melodies hit me harder, and though I don't think Bill Gillham plays quite in the league of Roine Stolt, his playing, apart from being less flashy, is certainly tasteful enough, and more importantly, the feeling of the actual music is very strong.

I really do like the viola solos, which I hear in about half the songs, notably 'Out of the Box' and 'A Door Into Yesterday', and these are two of my favorite pieces on the album. The keyboards are lovely too, but what could make the album a bit stronger are the vocals. They are pleasant, but apart from Sharra Acle's gorgeous voice in 'Out of the Box' and guest Amy Darby's voice in 'Waking Wild', are not quite worth 5 stars for me. But the music is very heartfelt and enjoyable for me, and I know I'll get a lot of mileage out of this one.

Report this review (#1149424)
Posted Monday, March 17, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Bill Gillham takes his sound to the next level on 'The Search For Joy', the fourth and strongest cd to date in the Cirrus Bay catalogue. 'Search' features 8 strong tracks, all with their own identity, with lots of variation not only from song to song, but also within each song, all but two of which surpass 7 and a half minutes. Its an album of second halves, as the first half of most of the songs build the groundwork for a superior 2nd half. The album as a whole also has a stronger second half, and each song sounds new and fresh compared to the previous track. 'Song of the Wind' opens the album, and though it is far from the best song on the album, it works very well as an opener, upbeat, with hints of both Yes and The Sundays, Yes in the chordings and slide guitar work, Sundays in the feel, and of course, female vocals. The instrumental sections later in the song are pretty glorious, making me think of riding a horse on a beautiful summer morning. The third song, 'Me and Wokara' is completely different, an interesting story involving two Native American girls that hide while their family is murdered by bible-sporting settlers. 'Out of the Box' is a personal favorite. 'Joy was hurt while she was young, forcing her inside. Now she must pay to able to step outside again', begins this song of personality layers. 'Waking Wild' features Amy Darby of 'Thieves' Kitchen', whose singing here is breathtaking, to say the least. This is a song of subtle recurring themes and features a Crimson-esque energetic conclusion. 'Learning To Fly' is probably the best song on the album, firmly rooted in 70s tradition, perhaps most notably Camel. Phil Mercy, also of 'Thieves' Kitchen' adds a dynamic guitar solo to conclude the song. Compared to their previous albums, this one sounds less like 'Wind and Wuthering', and is a bit more dynamic as well as original, with stronger guitar work, and better keyboard sounds. The addition of viola in several tracks also is a plus, and fits well with their sound. For those unfamiliar with Cirrus Bay, their strength is certainly in their strong melodies, complex and often unorthodox chord progressions, and subtle arrangements, for whom this album is a great introduction. Highly recommended!
Report this review (#1160643)
Posted Saturday, April 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Cirrus Bay has been commercially around since 2008 when they released their first album The Slipping Of A Day. I was a guest vocalist on that debut album.

We last heard from this progressive rock band in 2012 with the release of Whimsical Weather. Their music is best summed up as a cross between perhaps the Bands Genesis and Renaissance. Genesis for the musical style and Renaissance since after their first album Cirrus Bay went to completely female vocalists. I have known Cirrus Bay's front man Bill Gillham for many years. His roots into progressive rock go deep. So I am happy to review Cirrus Bay's latest offering entitled The Search For Joy. This is their 4th album release and it is a strong one at that. There are 8 tracks on this CD and they come to over 63 minutes of progressive music. The whole album is recorded and produced very well. Cirrus Bay has come a long way since their first debut album.

The Search For Joy has a number of tracks on it that to me really capture the Cirrus Bay sound. Among these tracks the first one that really caught my attention was Song Of The Wind. It is sweeping and has lots of feeling and is quite intricate. Anisha Norflet does the lead vocals for most of the songs on this album and does a nice job. Another track which I really like on this release is Me And Wokara. It has at least to me a somewhat Genesis feel to it. Cirrus Bay included a viola on this track which was something different and a nice surprise. Overall it's a great song. Track 7 is another song which took me by surprise. The August Zone is breathy and light. Sharra Acle does the lead vocals on this track. I also really liked the lyrics to this song.

Cirrus Bay had some guests included with this new release. Phil Mercy and Amy Darby from the British band Thieves Kitchen make an appearance on The Search For Joy. With this fourth album Cirrus Bay really have come into their own on the progressive rock stage. They are a band that offers something fresh and new in the progressive rock style of music. Hopefully we will see more of them in the years to come.

Sincerely Alex Brighenti

Report this review (#1160684)
Posted Saturday, April 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
2 stars The Search For Joy, the fourth release by American outfit, Cirrus Bay is, if you believe the ratings and reviews given thus far, a masterpiece of progressive rock. Indispensable. Right up there in the list of incredible albums released in not just 2014, but all time.

This is why, I believe, our ratings and review system here on Prog Archives really needs to be taken with a massive pinch of salt, and why, also, people who frequent this place for some time tend to filter in and out their "trusted reviewers" when deciding whether to part with hard earned cash for a new slab of music.

I have broken with my normal rule for reviewing this one, my normal rule being that I have either purchased an album, or been provided with a copy by the band to review. I am listening to this via Bandcamp as I write.

So, I went to said site, expecting to have my mind blown away. It is safe for you, dear reader, to assume from my tone that I will not be parting with the $7USD price asked for there on that venerable location.

Does that mean this is an appalling work? Well, no. It is just nowhere as good as those (obvious) friends of the band who have taken the time to rate and review would have us believe.

The music is a clear attempt to provide the atmosphere and structure of pastoral Genesis and Renaissance. Anisha Norflet, who provides the bulk of lead vocals, has a pleasant enough voice, if slightly monotone in parts. Project founder Bill Gillham can clearly play his varying guitars, keys, wind, and string, but, the electric guitars especially, leave me rather cold. It is just not particularly original, with Hackett and Howe flashes especially abounding. Likewise, one man rhythm section, Mark Blasco, can play, but not in such a manner as to make me sit up and take notice. There is a viola in there, apparently, but is rather lost in the mix, I am afraid, for most of the proceedings.

Also, I rather loathe it when a band tries to be just that little bit TOO clever, with a change in tempo or key simply to prove one's prog credentials. A good case in point here is A Door Into Yesterday, a track which started off as a very pleasing instrumental, but, half way in, has the most horrendous change from symphonic pastures to appalling, jazzy, noodlings. Quite what was being thought of here is beyond me, because I really rather liked the start (and the very end, a reprise of what came at the start).

There is, of course, another key to masterpiece. Without an exceptionally produced work, I cannot see for the life of me how a listening experience can be anything but a slight disappointment. In this case, it is more than slight, because the production is simply not that good.

The Search For Joy is a pleasant enough way to spend an hour idling away at home whilst the other half watches some tv, but an essential listening experience? Sorry, no.

Whilst I hate to be disparaging to any act we have here, and Cirrus Joy are most certainly an honest and earnest act, I cannot award this as anything more than an album which would appeal to those who simply must own all of this type of music. There is, of course, quite a bit of it out there, so deep pockets will be required.

Report this review (#1167397)
Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a very pleasant collection of pretty, melodic songs. Usually based in piano or strummed guitar, the songs provide strong foundations for the steady singing of Sharon Acle. There is an undeniable similarity to the music of 1970s prog heroes RENAISSANCE--though the instrumentalists are not as accomplished or as steeped in the traditions of classical music as John Tout or Terry Dunford. I've found this album much more accessible than their previous release, but I feel the production is still lagging in the quality that one hears from modern musicians. Most of the time the sound and song stylings and moods evoked by In Search for Joy actually have more similarity to the "flower child" music of the late 60s and early 70s--bands like America and The Association (and, I have to admit, Stereolab) playing beautiful songs by composers like Jimmy Webb, Burt Bacharach, Todd Rundgren or Gregg Alexander. Listening to In Search for Joy is like taking a leisurely stroll through the park on lovely summer day. My beef with Cirrus Bay is that, in my opinion, the band has still not yet realized its tremendous potential. All of the musicians are playing it too safe, too straight and narrow, not enough adventurousness and craziness. This is more a like a search for Joy when instead they've stumbled into a permanent state of bliss. Sharon has a beautiful voice--so peaceful and calming. Bill writes very catchy melodies with supportive chord progressions and his keyboard and guitar play is competent. The drumming is solid but metronomic. But where is the vim and vigor, risk and reckless abandon that makes one reach the high joys of ecstasy?

A very nice 3.5 star album that I'm rating down for unrealized potential.

6/17/2020 edit. Over the years, the pleasant hooks and overall upbeat, melodic sensibilities of this album have kept it and several of its songs on favored playlists of mine, which can only mean, in my estimation, that this album is good--very good. Revised rating: bumped up to four stars.

Report this review (#1254337)
Posted Tuesday, August 19, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is great suprise.

I've been playing this record for the last few weeks, as a warm up to their new album. The music reminds me of 70's symphonic rock. I find it weird that their music is in the neo-prog section. It doesn't sound as Marillion or Saga or IQ at all.

The music is pastoral and has lots of acoustic moments. Also the female vocals remind me of Renaissance. This is a very good album, although the female vocals are not the best I've heard. It's nowhere near Heart or Renaissance.

As said, the music is very 70's. The production aswell. The guitar is very Steve Howe. The keyboards very Rick Wakeman and the vocals remind of Renaissance. Well that's what this band sound like. The follow up is a better, because the vocals are better

Report this review (#1610339)
Posted Monday, September 12, 2016 | Review Permalink

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