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Colin Masson

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Colin Masson Isle of Eight album cover
3.62 | 39 ratings | 7 reviews | 18% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 2001

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Isle of Eight (25:32)
2. Total Eclipse (27:06)
3. Return to the Northern Wasteland (12:56)

Total Time 65:34

Line-up / Musicians

- Colin Masson / electric, acoustic, classical & 12-string guitars, bass, recorders, keyboards, percussion, trombone, drum programming

- Cathy Alexander / vocals, keyboards
- Ryan Masson / random noises

Releases information

CD Headline (HDL 505) UK 2001

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COLIN MASSON Isle of Eight ratings distribution

(39 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(18%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(56%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (5%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

COLIN MASSON Isle of Eight reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by erik neuteboom
3 stars To my surprise this is the first review of this wonderful album. The long titletrack (at about 25 minutes) is scouting the borders between folk (acoustic guitar, tin whistle, flute), pop (mid-section of this composition) and symphonic (orchestral keyboards, church-organ like sound). The climates are frequently changing and features some very strong, Mike Oldfield inspired guitarwork (howling and fiery soli). The second song is even longer with a running time from more than 27 minutes, it delivers a beautiful intro with twanging acoustic guitar and classical guitar runs (overdubs), soon joined by flute and electric guitar. Again the fiery electric guitar evokes Mike Oldfield, accompanied by bombastic keyboards. The rest of this songs alternates between mellow (flute, twanging acoustic guitars, solo piece on classical guitar) and more bombastic and compelling with organ and great electric guitar (from sensitive to biting). The final track is 'only' 12 minutes, it starts with a mellow climate and modern keyboards, followed by a catchy rhythm and a heavy guitar sound. This slowly culminates in a sumptuous grand finale with howling guitar. A PLEASANT ALBUM THAT BLENDS FOLK, POP AND SYMPHONIC!
Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I finally hunted down this intriguing and elusive release from The Morrigan's lead guitarist , perplexed by the positive comments from my fellow reviewers Erik and Paco that had annointed this work with some hefty praise. Something in my prog gut told me to follow my detective musical instincts and corner this felon. I am happy to announce that, while I do occasionally land on a dud (which I promptly return to my Prog-store and exchange), I was on the right track- no pun intended. Yes, there are some overt Oldfieldian influences , more akin to his earlier years than his recent techno-drenched stuff, with all the usual suspects: long tracks, a 95% one man show on an extensive arsenal of instruments , a strong British Isles Celtic aroma, upstaged here with a galleon-naval voyage theme. Fellow Morrigan Cathy Alexander adds her disctinctive vocals and odd keyboards, sounding less Haslam and more Jon Anderson. Let's state right away that Colin's guitar style is way more energetic and rockier on the electric axe & the arrangements are less overproduced , keeping things grittier. From the opening crashing waves of salty sea water against the planks, the acoustic guitars meshing nicely with recorders , you settle back with your bottle of port and expect a momentous musical trip. Being a sucker for medieval music , the Sir Francis Drake era snippets are most alluring , especially when alternating with the more bombastic fiery moments. 10 minutes in, the opening piece's main melody is boldly highlighted by a lusty lead guitar , just before the vocals kick in majestically. What a ride, matey! "Total Eclipse" is another extended piece, starting off with a Tull-like acoustic intro , loaded with melancholy in a very medieval setting, sliced open by a lead guitar more Barre than Oldfield, with a little trombone interlude to keep you guessing , slowly building into another colourful explosion , beaconed by some elegant piano. The final ten minutes are a pure delight , contrasting the gentle acoustic themes with more "howling" (Erik's favourite term) lead guitar tempests , an electric gale ripping through the sails. The final track serves up more of the same, bringing this record into harbour, safe, sound and weatherbeaten. Fans of Five Miles Out and QE2 era Oldfield will enjoy this immensely and while by no means an out and out classic, it will offer countless pleasant returns. 4 seagulls
Review by kenethlevine
3 stars One of the measures of artists' success could be their influence on others, and their legions of fawning imitators or even just those who have spliced some of their heroes' DNA onto their own cellular structure. Using such a yardstick, MIKE OLDFIELD has been remarkably successful, and his followers have been able to pick and choose their favourite phases of their hero's career

COLIN MASSON has fixated primarily the first 10 years of Oldfield's output, with an emphasis on his Celtic interests, not surprisingly given Masson's involvement in the MORRIGAN, but some much heavier moments confute his background. The general moodiness of the disk can be viewed as both a strength and a weakness, but his ADD battles with mine for supremacy, which makes my listening experience less than optimal.

Three long tracks, almost entirely instrumental, with virtually all sounds emanating from this multitalented fellow, do present a daunting prospect, but this is generally quite a pleasant if fragmented listen, and I find myself wandering its passages befuddled. What can one make of the reggae tune sung by Cathy Alexander about halfway through the title cut? It is so out of place as to be laughable, but instead I just sing along happily. The ability to juxtapose the absurd with the reverent is a gift that Masson would do well to cultivate.

This might not be more than an esoteric reference point, but English guitarist PAUL BRETT comes to mind at times, with initial portions of "Total Eclipse" recalling Brett's 1978 tour de force, "Interlife", particularly in the somewhat jazzy acoustic guitar work. New age styles are in evidence everywhere, but contrasted by Masson's lead guitars which could easily be body doubles for those of Oldfield. Some of the beats conjure the more electronic world music achievements of AFRO CELT SOUND SYSTEM or MARTYN BENNETT, except that Masson does this without inundating the listener with electronica, which is to his credit.

It is unfortunate that "Isle of Eight" has been Masson's only release, because it is a prog meets Celtic hybrid replete with snippets of the man's potential, even if you might not choose it for your desert isle.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Riding alone

It is probably impossible to review this first solo album by The Morrigan's Colin Masson without mentioning one Mike Oldfield. Oldfield's influence on both Masson's guitar sound and his style of composition is undeniable. The Oldfield work that comes most to mind is probably Incantations - the 1978 double album consisting of only four long tracks. Isle Of Eight similarly features very long compositions, the merely three tracks are 13, 25 and 27 minutes long respectively! It is equally impossible not to mention The Morrigan, which is the very good Prog Folk band of which Masson and his partner Cathy Alexander have been the leading figures since the mid 80's. Alexander is also present here providing some occasional vocals parts, but this music is, like much of Oldfield's works, almost entirely instrumental.

Isle Of Eight was released in 2001 in between the two Morrigan releases Masque from 1998 and Hidden Agenda from 2002. Some of the folky and Celtic influences from The Morrigan can definitely be detected in Masson's solo music, but overall this is an entirely different beast. It was thus very appropriate to release this under Masson's own name rather than as another Morrigan album. At present The Morrigan sadly seems to be dormant but at least not defunct, and Masson wouldn't release another solo work until 2009's The Mad Monk And The Mountain.

Masson himself here plays not only various electric and acoustic guitars (with great skill!) but also bass, recorders, keyboards, percussions and trombone as well as doing the drum programming. It is fair to say that the guitar is the dominant instrument. If I am correctly informed, the lovely cover artwork is also by Masson himself. We thus have not only a multi-instrumentalist, but a genuine multi-artist on our hands. The only other people involved here at all is the aforementioned Cathy Alexander on occasional vocals and keyboards and Ryan Masson (which I presume is Colin's and Cathy's son?) credited for providing "random noises". If I'm right then, this album is something of a family affair but with a very strong paternal leadership!

The style of composition is, as previously mentioned, similar to that of Mike Oldfield. What I mean by this is that a theme is developed, and then it moves on to another and then to another, etc., without returning again to earlier themes. It is thus a question more of musical journeys than compositions in the traditional sense. But it is nowhere near as chaotic and disjointed as, say, Oldfield's Amarok. You might perhaps say that the music "revolves" rather than evolves? Overall, this music is quite peaceful in nature, but there are also some quite intense and even some quite heavy, rocking passages. Masson sometimes sounds like Brian May of Queen with echoed, bombastic guitar-scapes!

Isle Of Eight is indeed a thoroughly pleasant and enjoyable work, but I cannot really praise it beyond that. It is undeniably a work of a very competent and versatile artist and skilful instrumentalist, but it fails to leave any strong and enduring impressions on me. Even if the comparison is not wholly apt, I must say that I generally prefer the works of The Morrigan.

Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Isle Of Eight' - Colin Masson (8/10)

Arguably better known for his work with prog-folk band The Morrigan, multi-instrumentalist and composer Colin Masson has seen fit to ride alone, and create some work he can safely call his own. As the debut of his solo career, 'Isle Of Eight' is a surprisingly challenging piece of work. With track lengths easily nearing the half-hour mark, Masson has crafted a piece of work that demands attention from the listener, and one might expect from such an ambitious album, 'Isle Of Eight's true beauty is in the fact that with each listen, appreciation grows, and a new shade of the music reveals itself.

'Isle Of Eight' reminds me of the colossal work 'Tales Of Topographic Oceans' by progressive giants Yes, in the sense that the work is comprised not of many shorter tracks, but only a handful of extended, detailed compositions. Masson fashions a very pleasant style for himself, finding his sound somewhere between Celtic traditional music and the symphonic prog style of bands like Genesis and Yes. A predominantly instrumental venture, 'Isle Of Eight' is mainly driven by Masson's brooding guitar work, which is incredibly diverse in it's mood and tone. Throughout the course of one song, the music may go from that of utter chaos and technical skill, to some subtle and soothing acoustic work. In terms of the performance Colin has given here, everything is surprisingly consistent and strong, be it the lush keyboard backings, or his tasteful lead guitar work, or brilliant acoustic interludes. Personally, I find the most enjoyment in the acoustic work Colin plays here, managing to be emotionally sound yet very technically accomplished as well.

While there are only three tracks that make up the whole of 'Isle Of Eight,' the album is vast. After quite a few listens under my belt, it appears to me that it might be just that, that is both the album's greatest strength, the cause of it's greatest weakness. The wealth of musical ideas here are great both in their quantity and quality. The musical sections never feel undercooked, and almost always have something really interesting and engaging going on. Where the album starts showing it's ugly head is actually brought on possibly by the fact that there are too many ideas to contend with... or at the very least, the tracks aren't structured well-enough to give a feeling of cohesion. With the possible exception of the last track 'Return To The Northern Wasteland' which uses a recurring theme throughout, the music constantly flows, but rarely returns to an idea once it's left behind. Therefore, without anything for a listener to latch onto, the music can feel too expansive and all over the place.

While the music on 'Isle Of Eight' is mostly instrumental, there is some sparse vocal work from fellow Morrigan bandmate Cathy Alexander that is very effective for the short times it is used. The two first tracks on the album are quite similar to each other in both sound and structure, although the opening title track is a tad stronger and more memorable. As has been said, the music here rarely focuses on any single musical idea for too long, instead preferring to jump over the map, and bring as many different ideas in as possible. While arguably the least powerful song here, 'Return To The Northern Wasteland' does distinguish itself from the other two tracks in terms of it's unique sound. Starting out as a very electronic piece of music, the piece gently builds into a spacy, upbeat and interesting Celtic groove.

While the album does get robbed of being called a 'masterpiece' for it's structural flaws and lack of cohesion (an issue that would be corrected somewhat with his second album), 'Isle Of Eight' is a very exciting piece of progressive rock, and a beautiful piece of music from this talented artist.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars British multi-instrumentalist Colin Masson was born in late-50's in Germany to Anglo German parents and returned to the UK during the 60's.He studied fine art and graphic design in Bristol in early-80's.While being a member of various small metal and rock bands during this period, he is mostly known for his work as a guitarist with the Celtic Folk/Rock band The Morrigan.With The Morrigan he produced four full-length albums until 1998, when he focused on recording material for his first solo work.This came out in 2001 entitled ''Isle of Eight'' on the Headline label, a re-issue followed in 2006 on Russian label MALS.

The album contains three fascinating long cuts, clocking at 25, 27 and 13 minutes respectively.Even more impressive, Masson handles all guitars, bass, keyboards and drums on the album with only some help by his wife and long time collaborator on The Morrigan Cathy Alexander on keyboards and vocals.''Isle of Eight'' presents all this compressed energy The Morrigan did not really blow out during their career in an incredible mix of Symphonic Rock, New Age and Celtic Folk, creating dreamy fantasy pictures of untold beauty for the listener.Moreover Masson showcases his incredible skills not only as an extraordinary and special guitarist but also as a gifted composer in this album.Orchestral keyboards, heart-melt solos in a MIKE OLDFIELD vein, symphonically arrangenged passages, grandiose folk soundscapes and mostly some of the most tight compositions this overlooked artist ever wrote.The shifting acoustic and electric tunes are simply georgeous and while you will find yourself in a calm bucolic mood at some point, the next moment the music takes off due to Masson's unique talent of producing dreamy electric atmospheres under an orchestral mood.All three epics follow the same vein and the final feeling is to spin this album again and again.

Definitely the most complete work of Mason's overall discography so far. Grandiose and highly emotional orchestral Progressive Rock with massive inspired folk and New Age overtones to satisfy all listeners of deeply atmospheric music journeys.Highly recommended.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Colin Masson is the leader of folk-proggers The Morrigan, which are some kind of darker and much more complex version of Steeleye Span. This is his first solo record, in which he deals not only with most of the instruments, but also the production and even the cover artwork. There are three t ... (read more)

Report this review (#61248) | Posted by Paco Fox | Thursday, December 22, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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