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MONARCH TRAIL

Neo-Prog • Canada


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Monarch Trail biography
Founded in Dundas, Ontario, Canada in 2014

Mostly known for his works as a solo artist, Canadian keyboardist and composer Ken BAIRD would expand his activities after no less than five solo albums and come up with the trio of Monarch Trail, a project formed out of the need of Baird to produce music in a more teamwork status.Bassist Dino Verginella and drummer Chris Lamont, who completed the line-up, were both featured in Baird's previous albums. As guitars were also part of Monarch Trail's compositions, they were helped during the sessions of their debut by John Mamone, Kelly Kereliuk and Steve Cochrane.The first work of the band ''Skye'' was partly inspired by the drawings of Annette Roche, so naturally some of them became part of the album's artwork, a record eventually released in April 2014 and based on the principles of the Neo Prog/Symphonic Rock genres.

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MONARCH TRAIL discography


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MONARCH TRAIL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.98 | 149 ratings
Skye
2014
3.94 | 168 ratings
Sand
2017
3.86 | 48 ratings
Wither Down
2021

MONARCH TRAIL Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

MONARCH TRAIL Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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MONARCH TRAIL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Wither Down by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.86 | 48 ratings

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Wither Down
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

4 stars Keyboardist Ken Baird's band project alter-ego Monarch Trail is a Canadian group enhanced by superior session players, with 2021's `Wither Down' being their third release to date. The trio, completed by bassist Dino Verginella and drummer Chris Lamont bridge the gaps between the defining symphonic prog masters of the Seventies, the sleekness of the Eighties acts that came to be aligned with the `Neo-Prog' tag and the modern retro revival. This means that at any time, they call to mind anything from classic period Genesis (just without the theatrical vocals), Pendragon, the earlier Glass Hammer discs and even the colours of the numerous Karfagen works.

Most of the pieces found on `Wither Down' are framed with vocal bookends that give way to lengthy and dramatic instrumental flights of power peppered with a gentle elegance. Ken has an earnest and wistful voice, whose lyrics are vague and cryptic yet rife with surreal imagery, but it's in the constant keyboard-dominated instrumental runs where the album sails to its greatest heights. Baird can turn atmospheres between light and dark so effortlessly, and the combined musicians here cram the disc with endless memorable and melodic themes.

The eleven-minute album titled opener offers lengthy instrumental passages of light prettiness with darker flourishes laced with unease, all carefully balanced despite unpredictable jumps in tempo back and forth. Ken's sparkling piano is a constantly joyful highlight throughout (almost channelling the grand pomp of Renaissance, both here and really throughout the entire disc), Dino's darkly murmuring bass purrs invitingly and Chris' drums stride purposefully. Pay close attention to the blissful sighing outro too!

The Jadis flavoured `Echo' delivers several fleeting heroic synth themes, darting between slowly unfolding drama and sprinting bursts of energy. `Canyon Song's vocal driven beginnings are introspective and softly melancholic, but the second instrumental half of dreamy keyboard soloing lifts the piece into glorious symphonic skies.

`Waves of Sound' reveals subtle drama and careful restraint with a fleeting New-Age gentleness (there's almost a fairytale- like quality in parts), as well as some of the most elegant and serene Mellotron caresses heard in years. While there's teases of folk and jazz touches sprinkled throughout the dreamy Moog runs of symphonic epic `Megalopolitana', it's Kelly Kereliuk's electric guitar soloing that ripples with tension and spectacle. Final instrumental `All Kinds of Futures' is then a classy closer, a Rick Wakeman-esque fanfare of fuzzy danger from looming organ and sparklingly pretty piano.

Careful listens reveal each piece on `Wither Down' to be so carefully jammed full of a dizzying variety of fancy instrumental touches from highly skilled musicians, and the constantly uplifting qualities that emerge from all the compositions are hugely appealing. The disc may be a little meek for some, but lovers of unashamedly romantic and symphonic progressive rock of the vintage variety will adore so much of this winning third release from Monarch Trail.

Four stars.

 Wither Down by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.86 | 48 ratings

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Wither Down
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Canadian Ken Baird making his third attempt to broadcast to the world his reverence for all-things Tony Banks.

1. "Wither Down" (10:53) like something from Tony Banks' first solo album (though perhaps a bit better). The vocals are near-unlistenable--reminding me of Chris Squire's pitchy, strained, solo attempts. (15.5/20)

2. "Echo" (5:59) a little more complexity here. (8/10)

3. "Canyon Song" (6:32) Not seeing any above-average quality or creativity here. (7.75/10)

4. "Waves of Sound" (11:00) pretty but seems to exist solely for the purpose of placing the listener into a Mellotron coma (which can be a very pleasant place to be). Love the treated vocal, French lyrics, and free-walking bass. (16.75/20)

5. "Megalopolitana" (15:18) Kudos for Ken's sidemen for doing their best to breathe some life into this one. Some of the instrumental activity is rather interesting. The vocals (and lyrics) weigh it down (again). (24.25/30)

6. "All Kinds of Futures" (6:47) To give Ken some credit: He is one of the more gifted Tony Banks imitators--as well as one of the more spot-on Genesis re-creators. (12.25/15)

Total Time 56:29

A collection of very pretty music that sounds exactly like most of the TONY BNAKS/GENESIS-worshipping Neo Prog coming out in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Competent, rich in full keyboard sound, and pleasantly melodic but, ultimately, too derivative/imitative--and poor sound quality.

C/three stars; a nice collection of pretty exhibitions of Tony Banks worship that could be relegated to the "collectors only" pile were it not for their competency in Genesis recreation.

 Wither Down by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.86 | 48 ratings

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Wither Down
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by The Jester

4 stars Review # 115

MONARCH TRAIL: Wither Down (2021)

I discovered Monarch Trail with the release of their 2nd album, Sand. It was a good album, but in my opinion not as good as Wither Down, their latest one. (Still I haven't heard their debut one though, in order to be able to compare all 3 of them).

Wither Down is a well-made, keyboard-driven album, which I'm sure it will please the fans of modern Progressive Rock, especially if they are fond of keyboards. Ken Baird who - as far as I know - is the band's leader, singer and main composer, created some very beautiful soundscapes, and melodies that can be found throughout the album, as songs or parts of songs.

Furthermore, I like the tone of Ken's voice which I believe it matches the sound and style perfectly, so all good here. If I had to mention a couple of bands that the music of Monarch Trail reminds me of, I would say that to my ears they sound like a combination of early Genesis and Supertramp.

My only complaint is that I would like the guitar to be more involved in the songs, by playing solos or riffs. But further than that, I like the album in general with its ups and downs.

The album's absolute highlight for me is the 10-minute-long title track, followed by Echo, Grand Canyon and the 11-minute-long, Waves of Sound. Concluding this, I would like to say that Wither Down is a very good and well made album, and an excellent addition to any Prog Rock collection. Give it a chance, it definitely deserves it!

 Wither Down by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.86 | 48 ratings

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Wither Down
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by alainPP

4 stars MONARCH TRAIL is releasing this 3rd album at the end of the year, a Canadian neo-prog group that had passed through the cracks of my musical net, good returns thanks to the networks and I immerse myself in their discography, thinking of IQ for the synths, MARILLION for the atmosphere, the rest I find a singular sound apart.

"Wither Down" for an orchestral instrumental, a crystal clear piano and it goes well. "Echo" and "Canyon Song" follow on melodic neo-prog, very beautiful and quite monolithic. "Waves Of Sound" with a Mellotron and a few notes phrased in French give a reverberating title of ample notes, with a soaring sound level and leading to reverie. Megalopolitana "then arrives for the river title of 15 minutes in the jazz-rock instrumental variation; reminiscences of Banks from GENESIS emerge for a while then an acoustics of divine Steve COCHRANE; the final will be a succession of more or less rapid notes leaving the meditative and introspective side to the highest. "All Kinds Of Future" ends the album on another neo-classical instrumental with easily identifiable piano and horn; neo musical allowing to settle down, breaks worked to help to leave far, the final returns by the starting piano.

MONARCH TRAIL is therefore releasing an album of excellent quality, very symphonic and in a classic neo-prog vein. It's very beautiful, the keyboards are well forward, the atmosphere leads to travel through large sound spaces, bringing warmth and reverie.

 Wither Down by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.86 | 48 ratings

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Wither Down
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This is the third studio album from MONARCH TRAIL and the best so far in my opinion. And how about that striking cover art and I'm guessing that's Lake Ontario. Ken Baird is the leader, composer, lyricist, vocalist and keyboardist of this trio which includes bass(Dino Verginella) and drums(Chris Lamont). Most of the guitar parts are done by Steve Cochrane and Kelly Kereliuk like on the first two albums. My first spin was a really good experience as it seems like it's been a while since I've heard some good Symphonic music with a lot of synths. This doesn't always work for me but I enjoyed this whole album from start to finish, it's very consistent. The opener "Wither Down" certainly stood out for me from that first listen along with "Waves Of Sound" and they continue to be the top two tracks for me personally. There's something about Ken's voice that I have liked from back in his solo days. The singing along with those GENESIS flavours that pop up once in a while from either the synths or vocals just make me feel that all is well on planet Earth at least for the 56 1/2 minutes of listening to this album.

"Wither Down" opens with piano melodies only but soon bass, drums and synths roll in as the piano fades out. Very uplifting stuff and GENESIS comes to mind with those synths when it settles back. Piano only once again and this happens again later. Man that piano is inspiring. Vocals don't arrive until after 3 minutes setup by the solo piano. Worth the wait. I like that slight change before 5 minutes as it slows down but becomes more determined including the vocals. Back to previous themes then waves of synths end it. Great track! "Echo" is surprisingly uptempo early and when it settles it really reminds me of GENESIS even Ken's vocals. Contrasts will continue. "Canyon Song" is a highlight. Melancholic with piano, atmosphere and reserved vocals early on. I like the guitar solo after 3 minutes as the vocals step aside. A spacey calm arrives before it kicks back in.

"Waves Of Sound" is 11 minutes of bliss. Synths come in waves as distant vocals join in with beats and bass. Just love the sound of this one! How majestic and beautiful does this sound after 4 minutes as the piano plays over top with drums and bass creating the base. So good! "Megalopolitana" is the longest track at over 15 minutes. Spacey to start with flute-like sounds and piano. Drums will eventually join in with bass around a minute but vocals don't arrive until after 2 minutes. I like this. Synths lead when the vocals step aside then we get an interesting guitar led section 5 minutes in. Love that heavy sound after 7 minutes. Vocals aren't back until after 9 1/2 minutes. Guitar will replace the vocals but Ken is back singing in a calm 12 minutes in. Synths then lead to the end.

"All Kinds Of Futures" is a very strong closer. Opening with keyboards tinkling away before synths join in then a full sound just before a minute. It settles back quickly though with bass, drums and synths. The tempo will continue to change. Is that organ? Yes it is followed by drums then more organ as the piano continues throughout this section at a torrid pace. First time I thought Neo was when it changes before 3 1/2 minutes. Piano only ends it.

In my opinion this is the best MONARCH TRAIL album I have heard. Getting darn close to 4.5 stars. So many highlights.

 Wither Down by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.86 | 48 ratings

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Wither Down
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

3 stars Monarch Trail is a musical project by Canadian multi-instrumentalist/singer Ken Baird. This third album Wither Down, after Skye (2014) and Sand (2017), is my first musical encounter with this the trio (also featuring drummer Chris Lamont and bass player Dino Verginella), completed with guest guitar players Kelly Kereliuk and Steve Cochrane. Listening to the new album Wither Down I notice that the sound alternates between symphonic rock and Neo-Prog, the emphasis in the six simply structured compositions is on Ken his wonderful work on keyboards. To me Ken's slightly high-pitched voice sounds a bit thin in comparison with the lush keyboard sound, but not really disturbing.

From sparkling piano to sumptuous Mellotron and cascades of synthesizer flights, fuelled by a fluent rhythm-section, in the strong title track, at some moments Swedish Anekdoten come to my mind, at other moments 76-77 Genesis.

Flashy synthesizer runs in Echo, also reminding me of 76-77 Genesis.

A spacey synthesizer solo in Canyon Song, alongside a sensitive guitar solo with howling runs.

Soaring Mellotron violins and an electronic music climate in the second part in Waves Of Sound.

Varied piano play and fiery guitar in the epic Megalopolitana.

And sparkling piano, a majestic church organ sound and wonderful interplay between keyboards and guitar (strongly evoking Pendragon) in All Kinds Of Futures.

Wither Down is a fine album that will please the keyboard aficionados.

My rating: 3,5 star.

This review was previously published at the website of Background Magazine, the oldest Dutch progrock source.

 Wither Down by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.86 | 48 ratings

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Wither Down
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by Second Endeavour

5 stars MONARCH TRAIL is probably the finest Canadian exponent of retro-sounding progressive rock music. For the unaware, their new album 'Wither Down' is recently out. And what an impressive offer it is! In fact, this particular item should evoke memories of the days most people have thought were long gone and never to return. Yet the music here is also fresh enough to be unique with abundance of ebbs and flows, intriguing changes. Something that will bring lasting appeal to any fan of the older, epic style. Indeed, CD 'Wither Down' features a majestic progressive rock aesthetics with symphonic pretentions, characterised by gorgeous textures, exquisite melodies full of subtlty and elegance. Rest assured, there are spellbinding keyboards, nice guitar meanderings, close-knit rhythm backdrop, soft and emotive vocals. While you might assume a nostalgic 70's flavor only or just another attempt to copy the familiar trends, this new disk features a special build-up. A sign that this band can stand on its own feet. Sure, credit goes to Ken Baird for the creative songwriting and for guiding the new material to fruition in the studio with so admirable results. The use of vintage keys and piano passages are top-notch by any standards. Moreover, his fine singing complements the instrumental performance. The neat, clever rhythmic job of Chris Lamont and Dino Verginella contributes to lay out the whole canvas for the display of art. This album is a true teamwork in a collaborative sense. Aided by guest guitarists (Kelly Kereliuk and Steve Cochrane), Monarch Trail are providing the musical feast. Now I'd like to name the certain influences. Think of early Genesis along with Barclay James Harvest, and you won't be too far off the mark. Some other allusions do pop up once in a while, but they are much more vague. The sound is very well balanced, never straying away from the attraction. As result, an utterly absorbing delight in the 70-s spirit. Believe me, from the moment I got this amazing album, I can not bring myself to listen to anything else.. Unreservedly recommended!
 Wither Down by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.86 | 48 ratings

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Wither Down
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Four years have gone by since the Monarch last left a Trail in the world of Prog, slowly emerging from the pandemic lockdown, fully stretching its wings, and taking liberating flight once again. Funny how stressful situations can inspire some (not all) artists to go deeper, further, and farther than ever before in the Olympic struggle to stimulate their muse and come up with some quality art. I cannot help noticing that besides clean and sterile hands, the lockdown has given inspiration a whole new dimension, a lot of soul searching with little to no (outside) distraction that may induce complacency or routine.

Ken Baird has awoken from the long hiatus and has worked on a follow-up third Monarch Trail album, the previous two having been very well received in Progland. I am sure that the surrounding beauty of Dundas, Ontario is most influential in massaging the muse, as this third opus clearly deviates from the Neo-prog labelling, as it is deliberately more symphonic in scope and texture. Ken has elevated his piano playing to glorious heights, using this most classical of keyboard instruments to set the melodic foundation of this compositions. Yes, it is very much ivory centric, but his faithful crew still supply the needed dynamics on guitars, bass, and drums, in order to flesh out the arrangements. Hello Dino, Chris, Kelly and Steve!

The opening title track has a running time of nearly 11 minutes (a bit beyond the neo time frame), setting the tone right from the opening notes, no holds barred. The piece just blooms brightly, led by that limpid and vivacious piano, picking up pace and delivering some lovely performances (Dino' s reptilian bass especially) along the way. Ken's vocal differs from the norm, strangely fragile and pained, as per the sorrowful lyrical foresight of the pandemic era but Ken informs me of the following: . "For sure, people will interpret it any way they want no matter what I say and of course that's kind of the whole point with songs, but I also like to say what happened, that it was all done just before covid. I mean JUST before too, I finished the lyrics and vocals off in Jan/Feb of 2020 and then covid hit in March. It was kind of weird!"

Two 6-minute pieces are up next, a more guitar dominated orientation as Kelly Kereliuk's axe sets the mood, with swerving motifs of varying contrasts, whistling synths and complex twists and turns. The lyrics hint at the 'condition' : " Trials of our lives , Laughing up our woes Sounds far away Of Engines and horns, Echo will still remain if we try And keep us still here if only time could be alive" Nice? "Canyon Song" is a plaintive lament at the start, offering an almost Genisisian feel, with Ken' brittle vocals until Kelly lets the guitar rip. After the fury, the serenity of a sweeping solitary and extended synth line, with partners bass and drums in tow, keeps the intensity palpable and dramatic.

Another 2 epic tracks follow, as the powerful mellotron introduces the forlorn "Waves of Sound" as well as tossing in a few French lyrics into the mix (real Canadian, eh?), a brooding melancholia that takes its sweet time in developing, blossoming slowly into a long carpet of moods and echoes, the piano solo rising over the mellotron waves is a thing of utter splendour. Very tasty indeed.

"Megalopolitana" is not only the leviathan piece here clocking in just over 15 minutes, but also the signature piece from this release, as it clearly hits all the pleasure nodes. Opening jazzy notes, breezy voices that evolve into a rather elongated foray into all kinds of areas of sonic delight, highlighted by a lovely parping and bombastic synth motif, straight out of the Tony Banks school of how to play a lead synthesizer, using emotion, grandeur, atmosphere, and passion. Kelly goes on an extended guitar rant of the finest vintage, expressively insistent yet highly expressive. Throw in a vocal section, a tremendous acoustic guitar showcase from Steve Cochrane and a final moody flourish, voila! This could have been a fine Anthony Phillips style epic! Easily one of Ken's finest compositions!

A sweet 6 minute + finale puts this one to bed, "All Kinds of Futures" (please notice the double plural) and seals the deal for me, as the liquid piano glides majestically across from one speaker to another, a faultless instrumental that also features French Horn, and Penny Whistle, loads of 'tron, bass, guitar and drums. Love it!

So very happy to see you back on the grid, easily one of the finest Canadian prog artists around. I urge you all to take the Monarch Trail, and if you stay in small groups, you won't even need a mask!

4.5 shrivelled behinds (not what you think , you lewd people)

 Wither Down by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.86 | 48 ratings

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Wither Down
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by loserboy
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The third installment from Canada's Monarch Trail marks perhaps their strongest album todate. With music as majestic as the cover art , this band really pull out a beauty here on Wither Down! Ken Baird (vocals and keyboards) has always had the symphonic tendencies in his music and you can hear his touch throughout this album....piano..synths and even recorder. Dino and Chris lay down some solid prog chops along the journey and adding in a few guest guitarists too (Steve Cochrane and Kelly Kereliuk). Musically this album has some of Monarch Trails strongest songs with MEGALOPOLITANA landing as my favourite song ! If you are a fan of IQ, Marillion. Mike Oldfield and in general symphonic rock, then Wither Down may just be your next album to purchase !.
 Sand by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.94 | 168 ratings

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Sand
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Eeeeh, call it sophomore slump. Monarch Trail's Sand finds the Canadian trio back on the same beat as their debut - charming 1980s-style neo-prog, lousy cover art. Seriously, gang, I get it that commissioning art can be expensive but it's not *that* expensive. Once is twee; twice suggests a lack of pride in your own work.

And though it would be too harsh to say you should just this one by the cover, I do detect a certain complacency creeping into Monarch Trail's schtick here. We're still in the land of solid IQ/Quasar/Pendragon-ish neo-prog here, but the overall package feels hollow somehow. This shows up the most in the title track, a 24 minute epic which seems to be that long solely to tickle the prog community's well-known fetish for long tracks - it's not that it's bad, but it's way overlong for what it is and some of the sections (especially those with vocals) could have been cut to the improvement of the track.

Decent, but not as good as the debut.

Thanks to apps79 for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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