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Conspiracy - The Unknown CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.15 | 43 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Review Nš 447

Conspiracy was a progressive rock project founded by Chris Squire, then the bassist of Yes (R.I.P. Chris, we'll never forget you) and Billy Sherwood, formerly and subsequently a member of Yes in the end of the 90's. The band released two studio albums, "Conspiracy" in 2000 and "The Unknown" in 2003, and a live album "Conspiracy Live" in 2007.

So, Conspiracy is one more project released by Yes' family members. Steve Howe was the first one with Steve Hackett in the 80's with GTR project and Chris Squire and Billy Sherwood were the next with this one. However, Squire would still participate in another project, Squackett, this time with Hackett, as happened before with his bandmate, Howe.

Chris Squire and Billy Sherwood had a long lasting musical relationship that began somewhere at the end of the 80's when Yes were trying to go on without Jon Anderson, who was doing the Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, and Howe project, at the time. Sherwood had released the debut album with his band, the World Trade, which got the attention of the Yes line up, I mean of Squire. Eventually Sherwood became an official member of Yes years later, but left in 2001.

So, three years after their first joint musical adventure Squire and Sherwood, personal friends for long more than 10 years, released the second album. "The Unknown" is the successor of their debut album "Conspiracy", and from which the title has now become the handle of their partnership. From what I know, "The Unknown" isn't so different from that album. It has pleasant sounding accessible rock songs on the edge of symphonic rock, thanks to adequate keyboard contributions, mostly in the form of organ and orchestral sounds. Very good vocal harmonies, most lead vocals are sung in unison. Interesting acoustic and electric guitar play from Sherwood. It's very much like the guitar play of Yes guitarist Steve Howe. In fact Conspiracy sounds very much like Yes especially from their "Open Your Eyes" period.

So, "The Unknown" is the second studio album of Conspiracy and was released in 2003. The line up on the album is Chris Squire (lead and backing vocals and bass) and Billy Sherwood (lead and backing vocals, guitars, keyboards and mixing). The album had also the collaboration of Jordan Berliant (guitar), Jimi Haun (guitar), Michael Sherwood (keyboards) and Jay Schellen (drums and percussion).

Conspiracy creates a mix of modern progressive rock and AOR, with the emphasis on the "modern" parts. The keyboards and guitars all have an underlying electronic and metallic edge, no Hammond organs or "retro" guitar sounds are here. Sherwood's distinctive production style makes the most of current technology, with electronic effects, synthesized vocal treatments, and stereo panning, all used in clever ways. The vocals are also pretty impressive. I've always liked Sherwood's high breathy voice. It's also great to hear Squire given more lead vocal time here, while also blending nicely with Sherwood on some multi tracked harmonies, as I mentioned above. Actually, this is probably the best vocal showcase that Squire has had on any album since his solo album "Fish Out Of Water" in the mid of the 70's.

About the tracks, don't expect explicit instrumental outbreaks, even not from Chris Squire, although in songs like "New World" is driving bass surely takes the lead and the title track "The Unknown" offers a short bass solo. This long composition, the lengthiest track on the album, is unfortunately and somehow, one of the letdowns of the album. Sincerely, I expected much more of a track like this. The album opens with fine tracks like "Conspiracy", "Confess", the aforementioned "New World" and "1/2 A Word Away". "Conspiracy" is one of the strongest tracks on the album, is full of energy and has a true impressive vocal work. "Confess" is a track with a great melody and a very strong chorus. The creative juices between Squire and Sherwood have great consistency. "New World" is an uplifting track with a very powerful bass work and where the vocal arrangements are pretty good. "1/2 A Word Away" represents one of the few sings lead vocals of Squire. Here Squire can show his choirboy past track that starts calmly, but then evolves into a great power rock ballad. But, when listening to the rest of the album I can get a little bored. It seems to me less creative.

Conclusion: Is this a very good album? I really don't know. Sure, with Squire and Sherwood on board you will find some good playing but, in my humble opinion, to the album lacks a kind of feeling. Obviously, other reviews can show that the opinions are just what they are. It's all subjective when we are talking about music. I own almost all Yes' albums and a handful of solo albums. "Fish Out Of Water" is simply wonderful. Anderson's "Olias Of Sunhillow" is simply beautiful. But, to this album just lacks to it some creativity, I think. I feel bad giving this a poor review but I'm trying to be honest. I sincerely hesitated with the rating to give to this album. My conclusion is that this album probably appeals most to people who appreciate the more accessible music of Yes, like they presented on albums like "90152", "Big Generator" and "Open Your Eyes". Overall, "The Unknown" is a good listen, and worth checking out for those who are into some new sounds that don't totally alienate the structure of pop music. So, I think it's good but not essential.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 3/5 |


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