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THE OWL WATCHES

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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The Owl Watches biography
This project had its beginnings while I was playing in another band, the eccelctic Tony Island based out of Boston MA. While we were working on a Tony Island CD in 2000, I started to do The OWL WATCHES simultaneously. Inspired by working with a multi-faceted artist like Tony gave me tons of impetus to try something of my own, which he wholeheartedly supported and encouraged. I gradually constructed it at my home studio in Boston MA where I lived at the time and finally unleashed it in May of 2002.

I have one release so far, "Tales From The Inflatable Forest" that came out in 2002. It was me (Phil McKenna) playing ALL instruments (guitars, bass, keyboards/fake Mellotron, drum programs) and wrote the whole thing. I self-produced it and sold/marketed it through Big Balloon Music ( www.bigballoonmusic.com ). Even though doing everything on it, I am primarily a guitarist who doubles on bass.

My biggest influences would definitely be KING CRIMSON, GABRIEL-period GENESIS, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, guitarist Bill Connors, Ravel, Stravinsky, HENDRIX, CREAM and the Canterbury Prog thing in general.

: : : Phil McKenna, USA : : :

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Buy THE OWL WATCHES Music


Ghost of a TrainGhost of a Train
CD Baby 2006
Audio CD$4.00
$65.94 (used)
Guaranteed to Be 100% Free of Hit SinglesGuaranteed to Be 100% Free of Hit Singles
CD Baby 2007
Audio CD$4.00
$58.94 (used)
Tales From the Inflatable ForestTales From the Inflatable Forest
CD Baby 2006
Audio CD$11.47
$150.64 (used)

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THE OWL WATCHES discography


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THE OWL WATCHES top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.71 | 3 ratings
Tales From The Inflatable Forest
2002
3.00 | 1 ratings
Ghost Of A Train
2006
3.95 | 3 ratings
Guaranteed To Be 100% Free Of Hit Singles
2007
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Complete Radio Free Antarctica Tapes
2010

THE OWL WATCHES Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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THE OWL WATCHES Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Tales From The Inflatable Forest by OWL WATCHES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2002
2.71 | 3 ratings

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Tales From The Inflatable Forest
The Owl Watches Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

2 stars The Owl Watches begun in 2000 as a project of Tony Island's bassist Phil McKenna.Coming from Atlanta, Georgia, he took care of all instruments, recording his project's debut, including guitars, bass, synthesizers, Mellotron and drum programming.The album saw the light in 2000 as a private release, entitled ''Tales from the inflatable forest''.

This work sounds a bit messed up with monotonous and minimalistic textures followed by richer and more elaborate arrangements in the process, all alternating between dreamy and darker atmospheres.Most tracks are long but with really ovestretched ideas, although there is some competitive music included as well.The Owl Watches apparently sound a bit like a US version of ANEKDOTEN, though with a stronger modern edge and less references to the 70's, which however contain also KING CRIMSON as an obvious influence.One negative factor is the dull drum programmed sounds, but the album has a decent diversity from dark Psychedelic Prog to more symphonic themes and a light Fusion touch in the guitar section.However the sum of McKenna's compositions sound too jammy and abstract with little cohesion.Unrelated sections seem to be connected in order to form long and sinister compositions, which only partly work well.The best moments are definitely the interesting Mellotron-drenched passages with a fair, old-fashioned aura, the sweet, jazzy guitar solos and some cool, dynamic grooves of an otherwise quite laid-back delivery.

''Tales from the inflatable forest'' ends up as an incosistent album, that needed to be worked more properly to offer really interesting material.It's the fans of the darker side of Prog though that propably will appreaciate some of the album's moments and McKenna's evident but poorly developed composing talents...2.5 stars.

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 Tales From The Inflatable Forest by OWL WATCHES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2002
2.71 | 3 ratings

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Tales From The Inflatable Forest
The Owl Watches Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by progadicto

4 stars Amazing debut of this "one-man band".

The Owl Watches is the name of the project leaded by Phil McKenna who shows all his talent on different instruments in this surprising debut album where the music is definetively aligned with the most classical jazz-rock sound but with delicate avant garde influences.

The opening suite, "Tales From The Inflatable Forest" are a great example of the mixture of genres that runs through the album. Some of the sections reminds me the work of Isildurs Bane and Ezra Winston, with all the complexities and strange atmospheres that this kind of musical experiment generates.

Second song, "There Ain't No Such Things As Spooks" keeps the same style of the opener but includes a stronger rhythmical base which reminds some Goblin mid-70's works turning this track into a mini-epical. "Perfect Picture In Reverse" is another great piece, with some sections that reminds the jazzy age of Colosseum and full of suprising changes and twists. The last two tracks, "Healing of A Heart" and "That's All He Wrote" stays in the same line of the previous songs, with an incredible work on guitar solos and rhythmical sections.

Anyway, a very interesting album specially recommended for fans of the bands that I mentioned before. A great and attractive project (with three albums by now) but it's necessary to discover it since this first production. 4*...

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 Guaranteed To Be 100% Free Of Hit Singles by OWL WATCHES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2007
3.95 | 3 ratings

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Guaranteed To Be 100% Free Of Hit Singles
The Owl Watches Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Dan Bobrowski
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Phil McKenna swoops out of the Georgia woods with another prog-fusion manifesto gripped tightly in his nimble talons and his tongue firmly planted in his beak. The song titles are both self-depreciating and a vicious clawed swipe at the music industry.

Guaranteed to Be 100% Free of Hit Singles is protected from legal action by including a hilarious disclaimer at the intro. The music can be a quirky animal, sometimes bizarre and slightly freakish, but then morph into a swinging jazzed-out beast. "Did They Even Sing?" sounds like Allan Holdsworth was abducted by Caravan and forced to play very slowly. Minor chord piano sets a drowsy mood with mellotron adding some color. Charlie Brown's grown-ups make a showing as squawking horn effects and re-appear throughout the CD. A great bass-line enhances the outro.

I had to do a little research to get the jist of the title for "A Brew for Elliot Spitzer and the Minutemen." Dr. Phil takes a poke at the recording industry and the legal battles between the two mentioned. Musically, dark and brooding until the finally two minutes when Phil's guitar solo soars above the evergreens. The tones are very violin-like. This last bit may be my favorite moments on this record.

One has to wonder what kind of rodents this predator has been ingesting, because there are some wicked dreams being explored on this disc. WARDROBE!!!! is one such surreal experience. Slinky bass with guttural snaps, slurred guitar lines that sometimes seem slither before and after the beat, mellotron and soft percussion keep it all grooving like a bowlegged beagle walking a dirt road on a hot sultry day.

"Hydrogen & Stupidity" is an ambient piece beginning with a tasteful classical guitar, soon to be accompanied by mellotron. At first listen the two seem to sonically repel each other, but after a few listens they become more compatible. "Don't Do the Mime." is another tune featuring acoustic guitar and keyboards.

Miles Davis' fusion period gets a nod with "And Your Point is." The squawking horn makes another Charlie Brown's teacher moment, but what is really striking is the tasteful guitar solo which evokes Holdsworth's more languid leads with a Tony Williams styled drum undercurrent. Very niiice (spoken in the Borrat voice).

A bit of ol' Fripp plays surf guitar comes out on "Just What Did My Royalties Pay For," for the first half of the tune, segueing into a sweetly distorted solo over a keyboard bed and finally bursts forth with a reprise of the surf suite ala KC.

"It Takes a Village to Raise an Idiot" is more surreal than Jefferson's Pillow. A honking intro that breaks into a nice fusion run with guitar and keyboards, which turn again into a bass happy jazz number and turns back on itself again. Imagine a carnival mad-house ride where something strange and different lurks around each corner. Phil never settles on a theme, which may be my only complaint regarding this project. Many very interesting ideas begin to develop, but quickly jump to another. Just as you get into the piece it morphs into some other creature, some not as appealing as others.

All in all, a 100% great addition to the collection of any, fusion leaning, prog fan.

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 Ghost Of A Train by OWL WATCHES, THE album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.00 | 1 ratings

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Ghost Of A Train
The Owl Watches Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Dan Bobrowski
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

— First review of this album —
3 stars Phil McKenna takes a twisted journey through a ghostly, mellotron drenched, railway station, by way of King Crimson's Robert Fripp and Djam Karet. "Ghosts" being the operative word here, spine-chilling interludes of synths and mellotrons carry the mood. At slightly under 40 minutes, Ghost of a Train is a quick joyride.

Coal and Dust Prelude opens the disc with a pulsing steam-engine throb, offset by synth and some mean Frippian hyper-distorted single notes.

Ghost of a Train will scare the bejesus out of you. At first you are lulled with piano tinkles and then the film noir mellotron adds tension before the Crimsonesque power displays sets the crime scene into washes of color and mayhem. A heavy distort bass lays down a thick bottom and the frippian guitar re-emerges. Very tasty Djam Karet styled heavy rock. Powerful.

Distant Wolves & a Brakeman's Song is a spooky lullaby. The perfect song to frighten your children with at bedtime. The sound effects add the woodland night shadows in the corners of your mind.

Requiem for an Engineer features a fretless bass-line, hand percussions, mellotron and stinging guitar. This may be my favorite track. In Three Days is a solo electric guitar piece. Great ear candy, but much too short. I am reminded of Bucketheads Electric Dreams.

The Mysterious old Roundhouse is another mellotron drenched nightmare. Choppy electric piano chords, crashing percussives and reverb soaked guitar abound. More Frippian licks and hammond. More scary moments from Mr. M.

The Hammond on Dust Remembers is a creepy carousel before the Frippian guitar attack. Some nice electric piano jangles bounce along with a touch of Holdsworth- styled runs followed by some eerie owl noises make a dark room shrink. The castenets remind me of chattering teeth, overlaid by more organ washes. A well placed gong strike nearly made me jump, only to cower at the mellotron entrance.

The final track, Waiting for the Last Express, is a simple solo guitar piece. A nice melody that slowly builds. I would have liked this track to carry on a bit longer.

Worthy of exploration and igniting more than a few smiles of wicked delight as the music paints ethereal soundscapes that are sometimes very frightening.

All in all, 3.5 stars solid. I was edging towards 4, but I need to see if this release has legs. I'd recommend this album to King Crimson and Djam Karet fans or anyone who loves mellotron, be scared [&*!#]less, or Fripp fanatics. Great work, Phil!

Hoo Hoo!

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