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Corvus Stone - Corvus Stone II CD (album) cover


Corvus Stone


Crossover Prog

4.03 | 332 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars When Corvus Stone appeared in 2012 I summed up their first album as "an impeccable demo package", promising good things to come. The challenge here, in the band's second studio collection, was to meet those expectations and overcome the sophomore jinx, which usually requires twice the effort and typically yields half the results.

First the good news: the new album easily surpasses the achievement of the band's debut. Even better, it somehow does so with a surprising economy of apparent effort, totally at odds with the albums epic 79-minute length. "Keep it simple, keep it fun / keep it good for everyone" is the key lyric here, from the opening "Early Morning Call": a clear statement of purpose. But it's the next line ("keep it going on...") that sums up the generous cup-runneth-over creativity of Corvus Stone.

It couldn't have been as easy as it they make it sound, with collaborators scattered over four continents, all working without the benefit of any shared studio time. The primary quartet includes an Englishman, an American, and two Finns; the small army of guest players hails from Northern Europe, Latin America, New and Old England, and my own backyard on the Niagara Frontier. Even the attention-grabbing CD cover art is imported, from a southern African artist (Sonia Mota, no stranger to these Archives) whose eye for gaudy Prog overkill rivals the early MARILLION LP illustrations of Mark Wilkinson.

The downside to being spread so thin around the globe (and employing a half-dozen very different lead vocalists, singing in two languages) is a certain post-modern lack of genuine group identity. Can a set of musicians from at least three of the world's four corners still be called a band if they don't actually perform together in the same room? The jury is out, but on their second album Corvus Stone makes a convincing case for this brave new paradigm. And it's the music itself providing the winning argument.

What I appreciate most about the Stone is their ability to absorb so many influences without sounding at all derivative. In other words: their music will remind you of more than one classic Prog role model, without sounding like any of them. The song "Boots for Hire" recalls the 1975 HAWKWIND rocker "Magnu", played at a more austere 16 rpm (that's turntable vernacular, for all you non-analog tykes). The mini-epic "Moaning Lisa" (note the tongue-in-cheek Da Vinci code in the title) combines the delicacy of early GENESIS with a not incompatible gypsy flamenco vibe, complete with castanets.

And the band's own web site, while describing the lively instrumental "Scandinavians in Mexico", admits (with an obvious smile) that ace guitarist Colin Tench "can't do a Santana impression, but he can do an impression of someone who CAN do a Santana impression". What they don't mention is the musical DNA he also shares with a fraternity of kindred guitar luminaries, from JEFF BECK to ROINE STOLT.

Discerning ears will be able to spot the isolated track-by-track assembly of each song, in "Purple Stone" and elsewhere somewhat resembling a Picasso collage of slightly mismatched elements...not an unpleasant experience, to fans of FRANK ZAPPA (another Corvus Stone antecedent). Thankfully the otherwise seamless editing was aided by a truly democratic approach to composition, allowing no room for showboat solos or limelight hogging, and (finally!) with a full-time, flesh-and-blood drummer holding the far-flung project together.

Skeptical Progheads might also blink twice at the abundance of immediate five-star raves for the album here, a courtesy usually reserved for time-honored classics with a little historical perspective behind them. The Stone might get there yet, but I prefer to regard their second effort as another confident step upward on a weird but well-balanced career ladder, with even higher rungs to someday reach for ( a live performance? We can only hope).

Of course a marketing expert would say you can't build career momentum by releasing consecutive 80-minute albums of totally original music in an age of low attention spans and disposable entertainment. It was a risky move, but what would Progressive Rock be without risk? Keep in mind the movement in its early '70s infancy began as an ideal, not a fashion. Times have obviously changed, but Corvus Stone insists on maintaining that same home-grown, handmade, seat-of-the-pants spirit of musical adventure, with humor and enthusiasm.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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