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Colin Masson

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Colin Masson The Mad Monk And The Mountain album cover
3.98 | 66 ratings | 15 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 2009

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Two Lighthousekeepers (5:28)
2. Tilting at Windmills (9:34)
3. The Ends of the Earth (8:43)
4. The Mad Monk and the Mountain (9:28)
5. Caradon's Surprise (2:32)
6. The House on the Rock (16:52)

Total time 52:37

Line-up / Musicians

- Colin Masson / guitars,bass, keyboards, vocals, percussion, drum programming
- Cathy Alexander / vocals, recorders, keyboards

Thanks to windhawk for the addition
and to SouthSideoftheSky for the last updates
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COLIN MASSON The Mad Monk And The Mountain ratings distribution

(66 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(52%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

COLIN MASSON The Mad Monk And The Mountain reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by TheGazzardian
4 stars In this day and age of music, it is easier than ever for an artist to put his music out there where it may be heard by others - and harder than ever to find people to listen to your music. There are many low-profile artists that are making truly impressive statements with their music and who only need to find those who will heed their call. Colin Masson is one such artist.

The music is composed of many folky elements, and mostly instrumental (only two songs, Two Lighthousekeepers and The Ends of the Earth) featuring lyrics. The majority of the songs are full of drama and emotion. It is a very excellent album and comes highly recommended.

Two Lighthousekeepers starts off the album on a very powerful note. Like Van Der Graaf's famous epic, this song deals with the slow crumbling of sanity in the oppressive locale of a lighthouse, but where Van Der Graaf dealt with the effects of loneliness, this track focusses more on the grating effect of being stuck with one person for months on end and the side effects of it. Definitely a great song; at times, it makes me think of Genesis playing a Van der Graaf Generator song, although this is more due to the content and the style of the very clever lyrics and their delivery than because of the music. This song slowly sounds more intense and in some ways insane, perhaps not as explicitly so as to imply that sanity has completely vanished. It makes me think of standing at the edge of a cliff and slowly leaning forward, until you reach the point where it seems like you must fall over if you lean just the slightest amount more.

The other lyrics driven track on the album is The Ends of the Earth, although this one is almost the complete opposite. It is mellow, acoustic, and driven by Cathy Alexanders lovely vocals. I can't claim to love this track as much as the opener, but it is definitely very impressive.

Beyond that, all the albums are instrumental (there are some vocals in The Mad Monk and the Mountain, but they are wordless). In general, they follow a common theme of building as the song progresses so that by the end the drama and intensity is at a very high pitch, but it works very well. The exception to this is Caradon's Surprise, which in my mind fits on the album in much the same way Horizons fits on Foxtrot - a moment of peace and quiet before the epic finale that is The House on the Rock. For, while the last track is structured similarly to the other instrumental tracks, it is the most successful of them all, ending with such intensity that one cannot help but be impressed. The ending is built up masterfully - when the 9 note guitar scale first appears, it sounds like it could be hopeful or pensive, waiting for something on the horizon to become known - but by the time the song ends, it is downright electric.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Aah, the important thing in such minimal lineup project is that it shouldn't sound empty, it shouldn't sound that just one man is sitting there. Which "The Mad Monk and the Mountain" fortunately doesn't sound and I'm glad for that.

The sound is very lush, "duet" of voices in Two Lighthousekeepers sounds very dramatic, only guitar line is mostly quite monotonic for my taste (yes, it helps to create an atmosphere of interesting introduction to the story - I have a feeling that it's more story than music though). Tilting at Windmills starts in a calm approach, with the guitar (and later guitars) capturing me with it gentle beginning, slowly progressing, being faster and faster, before finally climaxing. It's a long song, but certainly not a boring one, even it's basically study of one repeated theme in its second part. The Ends of the Earth is Irish flute themed one (actually I can find many similarities with atmosphere of Irish music - not the funny type one, but more melancholic instead) with ethereal vocals. There are many layers in this song.

And the story is slowly continuing.

The Mad Monk and the Mountain is a moderated storm of music. Again, graduating type of song, even this time I think I like it more than Windmills. It's more thrilling and tasty. Caradon's Surprise - Who's surprised ? I certainly am, even I should be accustomed to encounter this kind of interludes. This word exactly describes what it is, pleasant little song which links two parts. In this case, two wilder parts. Nice contrast. The House on the Rock is actually a very beautiful piece of work. Complex, more complex than the rest of this album starts in a style that "The Enid" or some South American Symphonic Prog band (Quaterna Requiem) could use, it shifts four minutes later into more "rocky" (like sandy or perhaps windy) and second half is similar to Windmill and title track.

4(+), Being mostly instrumental, it's more demanding for your imagination to work the story out, but I think it's a fine album and I can give it heart-warming rating. Three stars is too low and I don't feel like giving the best rating, while there are few flaws present.

Review by J-Man
4 stars A Truly Impressive Unknown Gem

Colin Masson is a really talented guy. Between his impressive body of work with The Morrigan, and now two solo albums available, it's safe to say that Colin Masson is one of the best prog musicians you've never heard. Thus, I challenge any fan of adventurous and dramatic progressive rock to check out Colin's newest CD, The Mad Monk and the Mounain. Colin's masterful talents on various instruments never cease to amaze me, and the breathtaking compositions help to enhance the quality of this album even more. Though the production isn't the best in the world, the charm and beauty of this album makes up for any budget-related shortcomings in the end.

Colin Masson plays an interesting and eclectic progressive rock style. There are especially lots of folk influences in Colin's music, but there are also some ambient and new-age influences in there as well. Colin Masson clearly has a distinct sound that's easy to pick out from a crowd of Genesis and ELP clones. This highly original approach is partially what makes the album so enjoyable, but the high level of compositional quality helps as well. Every song is great. Sure, they may take some time to sink in, but once they do, this is a captivating, highly addictive album worth many more spins. Although much of the album is instrumental, the vocal sections help to add in some good variation, which is already very present. On The Mad Monk and the Mountain, I especially like The Ends of the Earth, which features beautiful vocals amongst atmospheric instrumentation, and features a climatic build at the end. The title track and the closing epic, The House on the Rock, are also tremendously notable, but every individual track is worth hearing.

As I've mentioned earlier, Colin Masson is an exceedingly talented musician. He does an incredible job on the guitars, bass, and keyboards, and he is actually quite a unique vocalist. His vocals are used sparingly, but when they do appear they really enhance the music. Cathy Alexander also helps out on vocals, keyboards, and recorders, and she does a great job as well. I especially have to applaud her vocal talents ? she really is a beautiful singer!

With all that praise, I do have two small complaints ? the drum machine and the production. First of all, I'd like to state that neither of these things is extremely crippling to the music, but they do detract from my listening experience a little bit. The drum machine, while it keeps up with the music, is still not the same as having a human body behind the kit. The programmed drums sound okay, if a bit synthetic. The production isn't a huge issue, but it sounds a bit low-budget and amateurish. It's a bit of an acquired taste, though, and I've grown to like it more over time.


The Mad Monk and the Mountain is a terrific album by Colin Masson that's essential for any prog fan looking for a truly unique adventure. This is a moody, dynamic, and highly impressive roller-coaster ride of an album. Because of the unique approach, great compositions, and talented musicianship, It'd be a crime for me to give The Mad Monk and the Mountain any less than four stars. Highly recommended to all fans of eclectic symphonic prog!

Review by memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A wonderful album!

Colin Masson's music was unknown to me until he entered to the "Review our Music" section and kindly offered his latest album. Now, I can say I am more than pleased. His inclusion in the progressive rock scene was several years ago with a band called "The Morrigan" (still unknown to me, but that must change) whose debut album was released in 1985, so here we have a full-time talented musician, without a doubt. Besides the Morrigan's albums, he released his first solo album in 2001, and until now (2010) he fortunately created and released this record entitled "The Mad Monk and the Mountain".

This album features six complex and intelligent compositions that complete 52 minutes of music. The first song is "Two Lighthouse Keepers" which has a dark and in moments tense atmosphere, the vocals together with the keyboard effects create a strong song that is completed by a well placed guitar work. It is also important to say, that Colin Masson is a musician who can play several instruments, in other words, he could be labeled as a one- man-band. This album was composed by him, only with the help of Cathy Alexander who shared her vocals and keyboard abilities.

"Tilting at Windmills" has acoustic guitar as foreground, with electric one as foreground, however when the electric is quiet Spanish-like acoustic guitar takes its moment and creates a nice atmosphere. However, the electric guitar that reminds me to Mike Oldfield, predominates during almost the whole song, with an intense, deep and heartrending sound. I really like the way he alternates the leadership until he cannot help but sharing his awesome skills with the electric guitar. Here we can notice that he is really talented, believe me.

"The Ends of the Earth" features sweet female vocals that can be better perceived if you close your eyes, because the soft acoustic guitar, together with a delicate keyboard ambient sound and the voice can tranquilize you and put images on your mind, it can take you to another world, if you allow the music. Despite it is slow and calm, once you are inside the song you will not leave it, I mean, I catches you until the very end. If I had to use a couple of adjectives to describe this song, I would say magical and beautiful.

"The Mad Monk and the Mountain" is an excellent, challenging and well composed track that offers good expectations since the first minutes. The female voice appears again, but the instrumentation and in particular the always good use of guitars, with a well placed keyboard sound, create extraordinary atmospheres, full of colors and textures that once again, catch the listener and maintains them wondering what's next, until the very end.

"Caradon's Surprise" is the shortest track, an acoustic guitar from beginning to end creating a calm and relaxing mood. Two minutes that work as the interlude of what will be the last, and longest song of the album.

So there it is "The House on the Rock" a sixteen-minute track that gathers all the elements that Colin offers: creativity, high quality composition, complex music, and emotion. This song comprises a division of passages where one can imagine in different places, with different stories, nuances and environments, there are moments where you can let the music take you and feel part of it, that's a thing I believe Colin aimed, so he succeeded.

I really love the way he broke the horizons, I mean where you are in a moment of calm and stillness, the music changes dramatically into a faster, aggressive but charming sound at the same time, so the song does not stay in one place, in one world, it covers several worlds. So there are various mini-songs inside this great body, and each one of them are essential, so the song reaches a point in which I thought: this is perfect, beautiful, magical, intriguing and wonderful.

Since the first time I listened to this album I was caught by its beauty and charming sound, now I can say once more that there are lots of talented and creative musicians all over the world, we have to search for them, and we won't regret. My final grade for this album is four stars.

Enjoy it!

Review by Conor Fynes
5 stars 'The Mad Monk & The Mountain' - Colin Masson (9/10)

Naturally when I come across an album by an artist I've never heard anything of before, I have no preconceptions or expectations about what the music will be like. Sparing a rather attractive front cover, I went into listening to multi-instrumentalist Colin Masson's second album without the slightest clue of it's quality, or even style. With that in mind, it is an even greater pleasure to speak of what a classy and beautiful album 'The Mad Monk & The Mountain' really is. Tipping the hat to the sound of classic symphonic prog and creating a work of music that thrives on it's marriage of melody and complexity, Colin Masson has created an hour of vibrant and intelligent music, as well as an underground gem of the progressive scene.

Although the album is primarily instrumental in nature, 'The Mad Monk & The Mountain' opens with a haunting and highly theatrical vocal piece, 'Two Lighthousekeepers.' Taking no time to get things started, the song is filled with strong vocal harmonies, an upbeat rhythm, and an orchestral approach to what could easily be considered a 'catchy' tune. Telling a tale of bleak isolation and the two mentioned lighthousekeepers in conflict with one another, Colin does a very good job of telling an interesting story with the lyrics, while still maintaining a high level of musical interest.

While the second track 'Tilting At Windmills' follows up on the high level of quality that the first track set, I was originally a bit unsettled hearing it, because I realized here that this was going to be a mostly instrumental journey. While singing is certainly not a necessarily trait in order for music to be 'enjoyable' at all, there was still a resounding impression and enjoyment from Colin's witty storytelling ability and penchant for rich vocal harmonies, so it was a dissapointment at first. After a few listens however, the instrumental work of Colin Masson quickly warmed up on me, and this track now stands as being one of my most enjoyed on the album. Beginning softly, 'Windmills' slowly builds up tension until breaking into full out rock instrumental fury. This track of the album also showcases Colin's great skill with guitar; the track is filled with rapidfire riffage and tasteful lead work.

After such a dynamic track, the listener is greeted with the most serene and beautiful piece on the album, 'The Ends Of The Earth.' Instead of Colin singing here however, his associate Cathy Alexander sings here. In what can easily be considered the 'ballad' of the album, Cathy's soothing and folk-like vocals soar over a very celtic soundscape. Although the song has less dynamic and inherent energy than the others, it is possibly the strongest track on the album, and is also the part of the album where I realized that I had a masterpiece on my hands here.

Flowing perfectly into the next track, the album presents it's title track; another instrumental. With a very fitting introduction to the title of the song (very ethereal and almost oriental in it's style), the song breaks into a more typical rock instrumental format. The song very deliberately develops in intensity over time; the fantastic bass guitar work here is undeniable. The track doesn't quite capture the glory of 'Tilting At Windmills,' there are some great moments here, and plenty of great rocking moments.

To cap off the album, the last two tracks keep the high level of quality going, and make for a consistent achievement. 'Caradon's Surprise' is certainly the most forgettable track on the album, but it is pleasant enough. It is a classical guitar piece, meant to be a segue between the two longer songs. 'The House On The Rock' on the other hand, is a stunning piece of work, opening up. The first few minutes are based in orchestration. While the orchestral instruments aren't genuine, the feeling of 'epicness' is conveyed in great amounts. This track is certainly the most dynamic; ranging from the typical rock instrumentation, to traditional folksong, to celtic-styled prog. While the track is as powerful as any other on 'The Mad Monk & The Mountain,' there are very few musical ideas that are instantly catchy and endearing; this 'epic' is a grower, undoubtedly.

'The Mad Monk & The Mountain' is certainly one of the greatest modern symphonic progressive albums I've heard to date, and it has put Colin Masson on my radar as a talented artist to look out for. Being no stranger to the music scene, Colin has put his experience to great use here, and has crafted a real gem here. Suffice to say, despite some minor flaws in terms of occasionally over-indulgent instrumentation, 'The Mad Monk & The Mountain' is a charming masterpiece.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
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

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Colin Masson's work remains no mystery to me, as I deeply enjoyed his previous solo effort "Isle of Eight" , a heady work loaded with assorted Oldfieldisms that I have reviewed in the past as well as his The Morrigan career (The amazing Hidden Agenda album in particular). The Mad Monk and the Mountain offers up some spirited vocals/narration both from the multi-instrumentalist and Cathy Alexander, a talented recorder/keyboardist with The Morrigan as well as spots with US prog legend Lands End.

As with his debut, this is an epic, highly personal offering that exudes immense charm, crafty compositions and nimble playing (his picking is very inspired by the tubular Mike) both on acoustic , 12 string and electric guitars while remaining quite adroit on bass and assorted keyboards. After a brief, highly evocatively narrated opener, the show really starts heating up with the exuberant and quixotic "Tilting at Windmills", a tremendous slice of Celtic-inspired folk-prog of the very highest caliber. Technical fiends will marvel at his skill set, the man can play a mean axe. The mandate here is to demonstrate compositional talent through expert playing. I must agree with my colleague Conor Fynes on the haunting qualities evoked on "The Ends of The Earth", a harrowingly gorgeous, almost hypnotic musical gauze, where Alexander displays her unusual voice, an extremely precious tone and delivery, easily vying with Iona's tremendous Joanna Hogg for the loftiest Celtic microphone honors. When Colin's frets enter the fray towards the end, the sublime meets the heavenly. A definite crest on the ocean's horizon. The title track has an insistent tone that is highlighted by some growling rhythm guitar washes, massive cascades of mellotron blowing in the background, sharp lead guitar squalls pierce the rain soaked waves. Just like with his previous solo album, there is a strong aquatic feel that permeates the grooves, perhaps Colin has some mariner blood in him somewhere. The succinct "Caradon's Surprise" is an acoustic guitar interlude that would rival Jan Akkerman or Steve Hackett's acoustic work, fascinating picking with a melodic purpose. Colin ends the disc with the colossal "The House on the Rock" a 16 minute + encapsulation of his merits as a prog artist, composer and instrumentalist of the highest order, creating a piece that defines soundtrack music, a symphonic palette of orchestrated splendor laced with rousing guitar sorties. Stunning in so many ways, elegant, refined and crafty, at once intricate yet approachable, moody yet talented. The powerful Irish/Scot/Welsh tendencies are masterfully delivered. Sincere applause, where's the rum, matey?

Amazing music from another underrated and underappreciated talents out there in progland. 4.5 Mirrored lights

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Mad Monk and the Mountain is a majesic triumphant slice of prog.

Colin Masson's The Mad Monk and the Mountain is an ambient journey along a coastline of howling winds, moonscapes, Atlantic horizons and lighthouses watching over precipices of mountain peaks. There are conceptual faith leaps into fantasy and horror and these are juxtaposed with thoughts of death and ghostly apparitions. The opening track 'Two Lighthouskeepers' spells it out from the outset as the protagonist lapses into a morbid insane frame of mind where the isolation and desolate loneliness envelop his conscious being; "prancing figures in the howling screaming night, casting monstrous shadows in the ever spinning light, waving to the passing ships the sailors see, two lighthousekeepers dancing."

Masson's vocals are subdued, sinister at times, but overall clean and reflective, not unlike Peter Hammill though he does not use the baritone of Hammill. The musical style is perhaps akin to the work of Mike Oldfield especially the guitar tones. The acoustics that begin 'Tilting at Windmills' draws one in with a compelling rhythm, and very nice keyboard orchestrations. The lengthy guitar solo is restrained and melodic, reminiscent of Andy Latimer in some respects. The layered guitars and keys make a wonderful soundscape of easy listening music. The time sig locks in eventually to a rhythmic cadence. There is a well executed lead guitar flourish over an ominous, even portentous, ascending chord figure. The instrumental is masterfully delivered and delightfully innovative shifting into many moods, textures of dark and light pervade the Symphonic atmosphere.

'The Ends of the Earth' continues the high class musicianship beginning with minimalist 12 string acoustic picking. Cathy Alexander is mesmirising on vocals, recorders and keyboards on the album. She is given a chance to shine and her gorgeous vocals are lilting and haunting with a peaceful beauty; "is this a dream, am I walking still, do I spread my wings or the wings of illusion, will I fall to the earth like a stone, or reach for the sky, one day I will fly where the waters run clear, one day I will fly to the ends of the earth." I am reminded of the high octaves of Mostly Autumn with Heather Findlay or Annie Haslam, and Alexander provides a Celtic atmosphere with these dreamy angelic vocals. The recorder work is well accomplished and enhances the ethereal atmosphere. I was delighted that Masson included her on the album as it lends a genuine ambience when a melodic crystalline soprano vocal is heard over ambient music. Simply a beautiful masterful song, featuring a fantastic symphonic ending.

'The Mad Monk and The Mountain' features an intro with Alexander's vocals and a chiming musical piece. The trumpet sounds augment the musicscape, and the bass sounds excellent on this track. There is a progressive time sig that drives it, and lead guitar dominates with a clean sound and elongated notes struck. The sustain is wonderful and then the track breaks into a fast tempo rock section, with some distorted riffs cranking along. Suddenly the album has turned the tide into hard rock territory. The piece continues with many varied melodies and is very easy to listen to, quite relaxing towards the end, with ambience created from warm monochrome lead guitar sounds and sweeping keyboard strokes.

'Caradon's Surprise' is a short instrumental track that acts as an interlude between two long tracks, the last being an epic. In true prog tradition it is a transition point that prepares the listener for the longer piece to end the album. On its own the short piece is quite good in itself, sounding medieval with 12 string acoustics. The tranquillity is akin to Hackett's work prior to the Genesis epic on "Foxtrot" that needs no introduction here among the prog community.

The epic is an instrumental called 'The House on the Rock' following the conceptual line of thought of craggy rocks and dilapidated mansions as a metaphor for the struggles of a broken down life. Well, that's my interpretation anyway. The keyboard motifs that begin the piece draw in the listener and then the golden sounds of lead guitars wash over gently. Mike Oldfield springs to mind again here and I especially love the way it builds with orchestrated keys that have a majestic quality. The piece sounds royal due to the regal trumpet sounds, but the phased lead guitar consistently overtakes the music with delightful sustained string bends. At 5 minutes in the medieval flavour is prominent with flute sounds and a quirky jig tempo. The melody sounds familiar for some reason, and one can imagine some beautiful dresses flowing out as beatific dancers jig arm on arm with joyful smiles. The percussion crunches in soon and there is a very powerful lead riff that builds to a crescendo, keeping the melody but augmenting it with a stronger display of musical excellence. A new time sig at 8:50 breaks out and then it settles into an acoustic rhythm and some Oldfieldish lead guitar work with a high airy nature. The music becomes organic with a moderate cadence and the twin guitar harmonies at 11:25 are wondrous.

In conclusion the album tends to peak early with some amazing vocal tracks and soon the entire thing is an instrumental album. This seems to work on subsequent listens but I found myself waiting for the vocals to come in. The vocals of Alexander are especially a part of the journey lending a calmness and tranquillity to the music. Masson is a very good vocalist too and the lyrics are powerful and necessary in the early tracks. When those vocals are absent the instrumentals have the tendency to become a little laborious or repetitious for my ears. In any case, this album is a remarkable artistic achievement for a virtual solo artist and Masson is a virtuoso musician who knows how to inject just the right amount of light and dark to the musicscape. I was delighted to experience such a beautiful emotive album. After many listens I finally came to the conclusion that it is definitely a 4 star triumph.

Review by Andy Webb
4 stars Vocal Oldfield -- and great stuff too

Colin Masson is the guitarist for the prog-folk band The Morrigan. He took his style and influence with that band to his own solo project, and his most recent album, The Mad Monk and the Mountain, has that same folky feel with a fantastic spice of atmospheric and sweeping grandeur. With obvious heavy influence from Mike Oldfield, Masson is able to fuse a delicious blend of his own folk background with a more rocking feel. Overall, the album is great, with some beautiful melodies and guitar work accenting the overall atmosphere and ambient sampling and keyboards added in. Each of the 6 tracks of quite lengthy, which keeps me happy, not only because of my affection for long songs but also because each track has been filled with numerous trinkets and themes to please just about any prog lover. From rocking guitar lines to dramatic and mellow vocal passages, the whole album is a blast and a really unprecedented underground gem.

The album is a concept album, which is made obvious by the story-like introduction 'Two Lighthouse,' about isolation. The music is quite descriptive of such a bleak theme, with minimalist atmospheres gracing folky and often rather melancholy harmonies and melodies. The compositions have no shortage of might, soaring into the upper echelons of sound with sublime harmonies between the powerful yet extremely serene vocal harmonies and the mellow atmospheres backing them. The quiet music is extremely sobering; although the music does not have the punch a heavy metal song might have, the atmospheres crafted by this musical master are no doubt powerful. He has, effortlessly, harnessed the true power of music and used it to his ultimate advantage. The diverse nature of many of the tracks keeps the listener tuned in and interested, and overall the entire album is a real blast to listen to. Although some of the keyboard voices may seem a bit 'over-synthesized' and at times extremely new-agey, the music is still superb, giving forth a radiant aura of pure bliss.

The mostly-instrumental album has no shortage of pep either, with Masson at times riffing away and at other plucking away at his guitar in a supreme manner (especially with the impressive finger picking track 'Caradon's Surprise'). All throughout the album you can see he has no shortage of skill behind every instrument he brings to the album. The Oldfield- esque instrumental aura emitted by much of his guitar lines is another great additive to this album, accenting some of the atmospheric sampling fantastically. Overall, this album is a truly great display of such a minimal cast of musicians. Masson and his companion singer Cathy Alexander make up this band, and the two have truly crafted one of the best albums you've never heard. This album truly earns a solid 4 stars.

Review by VanVanVan
5 stars It's truly amazing the kind of things you can find when you're not really looking. As with a lot of music I listen to, I pretty much bought this on a whim after seeing it mentioned (and highly regarded) on the forums. Well, I think it's safe to say that this is one of the better impulse buys I've ever made.

I mentioned in an earlier review that I thought it was rare to find an "under the radar" album that could be compared with the big name groups in PA's top 100. After all, the famous bands are famous for a reason, right? Well, the more I listen to albums like this one the more I think that I was really off the mark with that opinion. This album presents a dynamic blend of progressive rock that I think definitely compares favorably with the big names we all know and love.

The album begins with "Two Lighthousekeepers," and what an opening it is. Beginning with some spacey sounding textures, the song quickly launches into a musically and lyrically compelling narrative about (you guessed it) Two Lighthousekeepers. The lyrics are interesting and the vocals fit absolutely perfectly. From what I understand Mr. Masson's main band is a folk-prog band, and that scene's strong history of vocal melody comes through very clearly here.

Interestingly, after this incredible lyrical introduction, the album takes a turn towards the instrumental. "Tilting at Windmills" starts off a fairly laid back, electric-folk sounding section, but the intensity of this track only rises. By the end of the track we've moved from some fairly chilled-out guitar licks to a frenzied, uptempo cacophony, chaotic and yet at the same time perfectly arranged.

"The Ends of the Earth" is markedly more sedate, featuring some excellent woodwind work and female vocals. Where "Tilting at Windmills" was knotty and technical, this track feels open and breathy. Parts of it almost feel like a lullaby. It's a perfect contrast to the track that precedes it, and again it really highlights Masson's excellent ear for melody.

The title track is another largely instrumental affair, though there are some wordless vocals. To my ears this one has a decidedly eastern feel to it, which I find interesting given the generally celtic feel of most of the other tracks. Another track that perfectly melds melody and technical complexity, "The Mad Monk and the Mountain" I think more than lives up to its expectations as the title track.

"Caradon's Surprise" is pretty much a short acoustic guitar interlude, and it gives the listener a nice break to breathe before the final track of the album kicks off. This track combines elements of classical guitar with the folk sound so prevalent on this album, and it's a great change of pace, though it's probably a good thing it's not any longer than it is. As it stands it's a perfect addition to the album.

The album closes with another instrumental, and coming it at almost 17 minutes it's the longest track on the album by a good margin. In my listening experience it's often difficult to keep a prog instrumental interesting for that long, but of course Mr. Masson is up to the task. Featuring some excellent horn sound near the beginning and one of the best guitar melodies on the album towards the middle, "The House on the Rock" is everything a prog- rock epic should be: grandiose, dynamic, exciting, and perhaps most importantly, fun. You can really feel a kind of excited energy flowing throughout this whole track, and perhaps that's why it's so easy to listen to. You really get the feeling that the players are having a blast, and so it's no surprise that these 17 minutes feel like half that.

Overall, a stellar prog outing from Mr. Masson. If I have one complaint it's that we don't get to hear more of his excellent vocals and lyrics, but the instrumental arrangement and proficiency we get instead is a more than worthy replacement. A masterpiece.


Latest members reviews

3 stars This is a very good and enjoyable album and surely Colin Masson is a skillful and talented musician (although not very prolific). It would definitely deserve four stars if not for its lack of originality; in fact the sounds and the atmospheres resemble way too closely those of Mike Oldfield (y ... (read more)

Report this review (#531916) | Posted by Avtokrat | Sunday, September 25, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The Mad Monk and the Mountain ' Colin Masson The Mad Monk and the Mountain is a worthy album filled with enough variation to keep the listener attentive and engrossed to its wonderful sound. Filled with epic compositions, lush sounds and plenty of creative lyrical designs, The Mad Monk and ... (read more)

Report this review (#438688) | Posted by The Monodrone | Sunday, April 24, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Colin MASSON is a founder member of the English group The MORRIGAN' S, (1985-2002) and multi-instrumentalist of his state. "The Mad Monk and the Mountain" is her second solo album, the first "Isle of Eight" is appeared in 2001. To make a short history, "The Mad Monk and the Mountain" is a pear ... (read more)

Report this review (#380127) | Posted by spacefolk | Friday, January 14, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I am no regular reviewer here, but just couldnt help writing up something after listening to this pleasing album. I discovered this album a couple of months back in this archives, reading some promising review. Then I sampled this one out (sorry Mr Masson), and after a couple of spin i am conv ... (read more)

Report this review (#379200) | Posted by terryl | Thursday, January 13, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Another good concept'ish album from England. The lyrics on the opening track Two Lighthousekeepers gives immediate associations to Van Der Graaf Generator's excellent opus A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers from the Pawn Hearts album. I am not sure if Colin Masson knows this song though. Anyway, ... (read more)

Report this review (#305731) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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