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Conspiracy The Unknown album cover
3.16 | 41 ratings | 8 reviews | 5% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2003

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Conspiracy (5:05)
2. Confess (4:37)
3. New World (7:22)
4. 1/2 A World Away (5:47)
5. There Is No End (5:14)
6. The Wheel (5:26)
7. Premonitions (4:10)
8. The Unknown (11:30)
9. I Could (4:21)

Total Time: 53:32

Line-up / Musicians

- Billy Sherwood / vocals, guitars, keyboards, mixing
- Chris Squire / vocals, bass

- Jordan Berliant / guitar (4)
- Jimi Haun / guitar (8)
- Michael Sherwood / keyboards (3,8)
- Jay Schellen / drums, percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Bob Cesca

CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMCD 128 (2003, Germany)

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and to Quinino for the last updates
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CONSPIRACY The Unknown ratings distribution

(41 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(5%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
Good, but non-essential (39%)
Collectors/fans only (17%)
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)

CONSPIRACY The Unknown reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Gone fishing

The wait for Chris Squire to follow up his excellent "Fish out of water" solo album goes on, but this comes pretty close.

Conspiracy are Squire with former Yes member Billy Sherwood, who together write and produce this their first album under that name. While the unmistakable voice of Squire is immediately apparent, the sound is not really anything like that of traditional Yes. "Big generator" or "Open your eyes" are probably more appropriate reference points.

Sherwood performs most of the lead instrumental work on both guitar and keyboards, with Squire sticking to bass and vocals. While there are a handful of guest musicians, none of the other past or present Yes members are involved.

At over 11 minutes, the title track is the most adventurous, with Squire slipping in a bass solo among a diversity of sounds and music more reminiscent of "Fish out of water" than the other tracks. There's plenty of reasonably strong melodies throughout, and a general good feel to the album.

Had Sherwood remained with Yes, many of the tracks here would undoubtedly have gone on to be recorded by the band. The "bonus" track (what's the point in that?), "I could" especially is pure "Open your eyes".

Worth hearing, but not essential.

Review by Muzikman
4 stars I find it ironic that the title of this album ended up being "The Unknown". Everything about this music has to do with a "known" commodity by the name of Chris Squire, bass player extraordinaire for YES. He is the only Yes member that has remained with the group through its various incarnations, and that is a tribute to his magnitude and constancy over the years as the model band member and musician. His partner in crime is guitarist Billy Sherwood (WORLD TRADE, YES). Together they make one implausible album. Although all the credit goes to the dynamic duo, a wink and a nod must go to drummer Jay Schellen for holding down the backbeat of this band. The bass and drummer is the spine of the musical body, so I think giving credit where it is due is very important.

Squire sounds like that other lead singer in the other band he usually gigs with in some ways, and the music itself is more than just an "offshoot," as they call it, of Yes, it is in close proximity to what Yes music has sounded like in the past. For me that was not a disappointment, but a welcome mat for my ears to wrap around. Oh yeah, by the way . I love YES.

I may sound like a rhyming fool here, but there is a story that falls together as the album progresses, so here it goes . The very first song sets the pace as the boys put together their "Conspiracy" to start a "New World." "There Is No End" to their creativity in each of these tracks, as Squire is in good voice and his bass powerfully sweeps and thumps its way through each piece as Sherwood's guitar answers the call of the veteran Squire's melodic persistence and clear hook filled vocals. Their tour de force prog-rocker is the title track, it clocks in at 11:21, and it is quite a showstopper. It is a most proper way to wrap up this session for all of the diehard prog-rock enthusiast (and YES faithful). On this advance copy, I was lucky enough to receive the one with the bonus track; it usually does not work that way so I was happy.

Those of you that have enjoyed the artsy prog-pop rock of ASIA, John Wetton, and sometimes YES (I emphasize the word "sometimes"), will be very appreciative of this CD, others may look upon this disdainfully as a Yes rip off. I loved this album without exception and could not stop listening to it. Whatever your viewpoint is, you are entitled to it, just remember one thing . these gents are two world-class musicians making some of the best rock music that you will find today. There now, I have told what you will get and now it is up to you to decide whether or not if you want it.

Review by Epignosis
4 stars Billy Sherwood and Chris Squire team up again to deliver something fresh and interesting. Admittedly, the music contained on this album is tame and at times pop-oriented, but the vocals are strong and the compositions tight. It's a great album with some exceptional musicianship on the part of the duo, and it remains almost consistent throughout.

"Conspiracy" The record does begin with one of the weaker tracks, however. It's full of energy and impressive vocal work, but it is a far cry from the rest of what's here. While not bad, it sounds too much like something off of Yes's Open Your Eyes. The "rapped" chorus gets old fast, and the guitar soloing is uninspired and unnecessarily long.

"Confess" Relying on acoustic guitar and rapid drumming, this song has a good melody and a strong chorus. Strangely enough, this song makes think of Collective Soul, as it's easy to imagine Ed Roland singing lead vocals.

"New World" Chris Squire delivers powerful bass work on this uplifting track. The vocal arrangements are likewise good, since the listener can hear both Squire and Sherwood individually even though they sing together. The chorus lingers a tad too long, but doesn't overstay its welcome. The final part of the song, which reminds me of "Leave It" from Yes's 90125, doesn't quite fit the rest of the song and should have been cut.

"1/2 A World Away" One of the few Squire sings lead vocals on, it ventures from lovely sentimentality to adventurous rock. Sherwood does an excellent job singing his part also, and the effects used on various parts of the refrain add more variety. The short guitar solo is a perfect fit, and moves back into the verse. This song actually has a special place in my mind since before we were married, my wife and I lived hundreds of miles away (even though the context of the song is likely much different given the bridge).

"There is No End" Kicking off with a funky, Country & Western-like guitar lick and some slide work, here we have a song that's all right. The lyrics aren't bad, but are a trifle campy.

"The Wheel" Decidedly the most solid song here, "The Wheel" is full of intriguing layers and musical textures. For once, the band is not playing as though they must get through the piece as soon as possible. The song has atmospheric keyboards and a warbling synthesizer in the introduction. The lyrics and vocal melody are excellent, and Squire does an outstanding job harmonizing. Furthermore, his bass really fills out the sound, making it thick and rich (instead of serving as more of a lead instrument). Sherwood's guitar work is prime stuff (with a striking tone), particularly that leading up to the end, which comes down to galactic sounds and some clean guitar.

"Premonitions" An above-average track, this one has a funky acoustic guitar riff and some springy clean electric guitar. The vocals throughout the verse are rich and lovely, but the chorus is what makes this song a bit cringe-inducing; quite frankly, it's goofy sounding, as is much of the instrumentation throughout.

"The Unknown" The longest track by far begins with strange vocal work and a little mandolin played over some guitar in the background. Initially, the singing is over acoustic guitar, drums, and various sounds. Joining the mandolin is a sitar, adding to the musical tapestry. Yes, the song is over eleven minutes long, but it's loaded with lyrics, lyrics about the September 11th, 2001 US terrorist attacks: "Towers of life and dreams brought down." The words undeniably show a strong feeling of vengeance, one perhaps even espousing the 2003 declaration of war in the Middle East ("Waking giant cannot be denied," "You can run away, but now we've got you dead in our sights," and "We're bringing our toys, coming over to play"). The song is also above-average, but does run on much longer than it should.

"I Could" This song is an edgier and altogether different version of "Finally" from Yes's The Ladder, which Sherwood and Squire both collaborated on. It starts off with a heavily distorted guitar, and like most of what came before, is played at an upbeat tempo. Sherwood uses another countrified guitar tone for his solos between verses. Not as good as or as colorful as "Finally," but not at all bad either.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Open your eyes!

While the first Conspiracy album contained a couple of re-recordings of songs that Chris Squire and Billy Sherwood had written together for Yes, this second release by the duo consists wholly of new material. Sherwood had left Yes in 2000, the same year as the release of the first Conspiracy CD, but he had kept in contact with Squire and written the material for The Unknown which saw the light in 2003. In the same year Sherwood released his second solo album No Comment.

The Unknown has a modern sound and production. The bass guitar and voice of the amazing Chris Squire are unmistakeable and him and Billy have very similar voices that blend perfectly. Billy plays most of the other instruments with the exception of drums which are handled by Jay Schellen with whom Billy had worked previously in World Trade. The songs are melodic and catchy. Crossover Prog is indeed a fitting category for this music. A stand out track is the ten minute plus title track.

People familiar with late 80's and 90's Yes, as well as with Billy's earlier band World Trade, will have a reasonable idea of what they will find in Conspiracy. Personally I like all the eras of Yes, and if you feel likewise then you should not miss out on Conspiracy. However, even though both Conspiracy albums are good, they fall far behind such excellent albums as Yes' The Ladder and Sherwood's superb solo discography.

Review by kev rowland
3 stars Conspiracy is the project of Chris Squire and Billy Sherwood, with the addition of drummer Jay Schellen. Chris provides bass/vocals and Billy guitar/vocals, and somewhat not surprising the result is an album that sounds suspiciously like Yes in many places, although without so many keyboards. It is only on listening to this that it becomes clear as to just how important Chris's vocals are to Yes, as while the music is interesting melodic rock it is the vocals that really drive this album home. It is not possible to play this without comparing it to Eighties Yes, although the music itself is quite different, it is just that all of the time the sound seems quite familiar.

Is it an album that is worth purchasing on its' own merit? Having been a Yes fan for more years than I would really care to remember I would probably want to hear this album just to see what it was about, and I am not sure how I would approach this if I wasn't so interested in knowing what the offshoot sounded like. But, this is an album that does keep the listener involved throughout. It is a bit laid back in places although the result is an album that does sound more like a band than a project. Melodic rock with just a hint of progressive tendencies which never falls into the trap of typical AOR, it will probably appeal more still to fans of Yes than of the genre as a whole.

Originally appeared in Feedback #78, April 2004

Review by patrickq
1 stars Chris Squire is my favorite member of Yes - - my favorite band. And Billy Sherwood, the other half of Conspiracy, is a wonderful person and another key part of Yes over the past thirty years. But their second and final collaboration, The Unknown, is among the worst Yes-related albums I own. It's comprised of two decent tunes, one epically bad song, and half an hour of cheese.

Let's start with the good news: the bonus track, "I Could," isn't bad. I assume it's listed as bonus content because it's an alternate version of "Finally," released on Yes's 1999 album The Ladder. "I Could" is a little silly, but it's catchy and fun, and it's considerably better than the Yes version. I'll also cite "New World," a song which would've been acceptable filler on a latter-day Yes album. I should be careful not to overpraise "New World;" it's about twice as long as necessary (7:22), and its lyrics are a hokey rehash of "People Get Ready," "Peace Train," and "Love Train:" "all aboard now / rolling across the nation / station to station / ... it's the new world train on a one way track." Some of the bass parts are pretty OK, though.

The bad news begins with the fact that the mediocre "New World" is the only quality song on The Unknown other than the bonus track. The really bad news is the album's title track, the only "epic" this duo ever recorded. In terms of compositional quality, "The Unknown" is as uninspired as the majority of the album, and if that's strike one, so to speak, then strike two is the unsuccessful attempt to make this into a modern epic. Conspiracy was a crossover project, so it made sense that no song on the debut album exceeded seven minutes, with most in the five-minute range. In short, a meaningful eleven-and-a-half-minute rock song requires much different material - - in quality and quantity - - than what's present here.

The worst of it - - strike three, if you will - - are the lyrics. I wish I could report that they're silly or empty or something like that. Unfortunately, they're juvenile and short-sighted, shallow and glib.* The first lines set the stage: "Towers of life and dreams brought down" and "Like any other morning people walking to the sun..." Yes, it's about 9/11, by far the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of humanity, which had occurred less than two years before the release of The Unknown in the summer of 2003. It was the most horrible and horrifying national event ever for Americans like Sherwood, and in the immediate aftermath, vengeance was on the minds of many, including some who were otherwise relatively pacifistic. Sherwood (who I'm assuming wrote most of the album, including these lyrics) was not immune to jingoism: "'ll get it, all right / You'll never get away / For all the lives you've taken in spite / You're gonna have to pay / Only one true justice can apply." He was, perhaps, blind to the irony that such absolutist reasoning exactly mirrored the Islamic-extremist propaganda which inspired the terrorists in the first place. Amazingly, he goes on to characterize the retaliatory War on Terror thusly: "we're bringing our toys / coming' over to play," espousing a might-makes-right ideology and perhaps agreeing with the terrorists that power implies morality. I agree that the 9/11 attacks were beastly and sickening, and it makes sense that artists would write many, many heartfelt songs about that dark day - - I just think that Sherwood's and Squire's approach is amateurish at best, falling far below my expectations of these veteran artists.

But even if the words were replaced with the average Sherwood-Squire lyrics, the song fails to meet its own clear aspirations - - which is fair to say about The Unknown as a whole: most of the album isn't substantively better than the title song. If, like me, you're a fan of Sherwood and/or Squire, or of late-1990s Yes, try this pair's Conspiracy (2000). If you like that, you might want to download "New World" and "I Could" from The Unknown. Unfortunately, I can't recommend anything on this album beyond that.


*Yes, I totally used a thesaurus here.

Latest members reviews

4 stars I think that this is an excellent body of music. I would recommend it to anyone who prefers progressive rock to all of the dross that passes for music these days. I often listen to this in the car. The songs are well written, arranged and recorded. I agree with others who commended the efforts ... (read more)

Report this review (#72430) | Posted by | Monday, March 20, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Over the last few years Chris Squire (Bass and Vocals), Billy Sherwood (Guitars, Keyboards and Vocals) and Jay Shellen (Drums and Percussion) have built up the 'Conspiracy Project' and, with the contribution of J.Haun, J.Berliant and M.Sherwood, in 2003, in the Californian Studios 'The Office' ... (read more)

Report this review (#45643) | Posted by | Monday, September 5, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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