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Cirrus Bay - Places Unseen CD (album) cover

PLACES UNSEEN

Cirrus Bay

Neo-Prog


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5 stars I rarely give an album 5 stars. And in fact, this is the only Cirrus Bay album that I feel is worth the rating. But this album hits all the sweet spots for me. I like the fact that it is about 2/3 instrumental (previously most all my favorite moments of theirs were the instrumental sections). But new vocalist Tai Shan has such a beautiful voice that I actually enjoy the vocal sections just as much. The writing is top notch on this album. The music is a perfect blend of beautiful and complex, and the playing also seems better on this album than previous albums. My favorite is clearly the album's finale, "Second Departure". Wow what a beautiful piece of music. And "Horseback to Hanssonland" is a wonderful tribute to Bo Hansson, capturing the mood of his music very well. "The Sheltering Cove" and the title track are also lovely. The cover artwork is also outstanding, a perfect fit. I can tell this will also be a grower, as usual.
Report this review (#1605208)
Posted Saturday, September 3, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars I received a copy of the latest Cirrus Bay album entitled Places Unseen! It is their 5th venture into the commercial world of music! I will say right up front.....this is my favorite Cirrus Bay effort to date. It is an album that will find a place in your CD player. Cirrus Bay has crafted and polished their progressive sound with Places Unseen. They have a new female singer (Tai Shan) that has a beautiful voice and can bring out the feelings to the music. This album has elements of Genesis, ELP, Bo Hansson, Renaissance and for me even a bit of Jade Warrior to it. While all the tracks on the album are well done....there are some tracks which stand out for me. The first one is First Departure....it is something that I have never heard Cirrus Bay do and they do it well here. It is a progressive rock instrumental track which is one of the best things they have done. It is a strong track that is dynamic and flowing. The second track of note for me is Horseback To Hanssonland.......it is a great tribute to the late Swedish progressive rock musician Bo Hansson. I am sure he would have been pleased with Cirrus Bay's recognition of him. The next song which caught my attention was Boats......Tai Shan sings this song with great feeling and it's very nicely done. Finally the instrumental Second Departure also will send your CD player into repeated listening's. Cirrus Bay has found the right chemistry and formula for this album which will please any progressive rock fan...........Great job.......to Bill Gillham and the Cirrus Bay group!
Report this review (#1609973)
Posted Sunday, September 11, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Beautiful pure symphonic prog, with some departures from previous albums. As stated by other reviewers, "Places Unseen" offers much in the way of instrumental music, notably in the lengthy "First Departure" and "Second Departure", aside from some wordless voicings by newcomer Tai Shan. These two pieces are clearly in the Genesis/Hackett/Anthony Phillips vein, with both lively and slow sections, impressive solos and some very strong melodies, somewhat in the vein of previous Cirrus Bay albums, but only somewhat, as "Places Unseen" is more proggy and varied than previous albums, even more so in the other instrumentals, "Dimension 7" which breaks new ground, progressive in the true sense of the word, and "Horseback to Hanssonland", which, yes, does recall Bo Hansson, albeit a bit more dramatic. Brendan Buss' sax and flute work here contribute well to this feel. Elsewhere, the title track and the similar "The Sheltering Cove" recall a mix of Renaissance, Genesis and Caravan, the latter having an especially playful flute and piano interaction during the lengthy instrumental portion. Finally, "Songs Unheard" and "Boats" provide the contrast in being more song oriented, and arguably the only 2 tracks that resemble their previous album, "The Search For Joy". A solid 4.5 or more, rounded up, definitely one of my favorites of the last couple years
Report this review (#1612401)
Posted Sunday, September 18, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wonderfully, romantic and pastoral music, wich reminds the listener immediately of Renaissance.

The music mostly based upon piano and acoustic guitars augmented by drums, synths, electric guitar, flute and saxophone. Singer Tai Shan is really a gifted vocalist, wich (as said) resembles Annie Haslam (Renaissance).

The music is symphonic rock as we knew it in the seventies; comparisons to Caravan, Genesis, Renaissance, Camel are easily made. The music and vocals really makes the listener dream about lush landscapes and warm summer days. The overall feel is sweet, kind, naive, dreamy and intellectual. When the soloing takes place, you know this is progressive rock, but the soft parts keeps you dreaming and relaxing.

I haven't heard a modern release of this high standard in a long, long time. Really recommended to Renaissance-fans, but any progressive rock fan should try this one out.

Report this review (#1613129)
Posted Wednesday, September 21, 2016 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Although labeled as neo prog, Cirrus Bay nowadays plays truly symphonic prog music. Somehow I missed their last two albums, but Places Unseen is surely their very best. It seems that the band finally came of age, songwriting wise: the music here is very well written, inspired and solid. They were always fantastic musicians and had a very good singer, but now they did find their own sound, even if the Renaissance influences are still quite overwhelming. This is not a demerit: the tunes are original and much more jazzy than 70´s Renaissance, although the classical music and folk references are present too. New singer Tai Shan has a marvelous voice that is simply perfect for this music: brilliant, ethereal, warm and soulful. As good as the previous vocalist was, Shan is definitely on another level entirely and graces the album seamlessly.

Another point that impressed me is the skillful duo of founding members Bill Gilham ( keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, recorder, auto-harp, additional backing vocals) and Mark Blasco ( drums, bass guitar, backing vocals, additional keyboards and electric guitar). Not only they play almost all the instruments (it seems that the only other musicians is Brendan Buss on Flute and Sax), but they also play everything very well. Considering the complexity of several parts of the album, with long instrumental breaks and solos this is no small feat. The tracks are all excellent, with no fillers to be found anywhere. There are many acoustic and electric segments, with the pastoral side being the most noticeable, but the music here is surprisingly eclectic and varied. A crystal clear production and very well balanced mixing helped to bring the best of the all involved. A kind of album that is better appreciated as a whole: like me, you´ll probably find yourself longing to listen to it from start to finish, rather than picking up specific songs. And the 55+ minutes of music will only sound too short.

As with the latest albums by Jadis, Big Big Train and Kaipa DaCapo, Places Unseen is among the best prog releases of 2016. A truly remarkable album that I place dearly in my symphonic heart. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4,5 stars.

Report this review (#1676772)
Posted Friday, January 6, 2017 | Review Permalink

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