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Colin Masson - The Mad Monk And The Mountain CD (album) cover


Colin Masson


Crossover Prog

3.98 | 61 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars It's truly amazing the kind of things you can find when you're not really looking. As with a lot of music I listen to, I pretty much bought this on a whim after seeing it mentioned (and highly regarded) on the forums. Well, I think it's safe to say that this is one of the better impulse buys I've ever made.

I mentioned in an earlier review that I thought it was rare to find an "under the radar" album that could be compared with the big name groups in PA's top 100. After all, the famous bands are famous for a reason, right? Well, the more I listen to albums like this one the more I think that I was really off the mark with that opinion. This album presents a dynamic blend of progressive rock that I think definitely compares favorably with the big names we all know and love.

The album begins with "Two Lighthousekeepers," and what an opening it is. Beginning with some spacey sounding textures, the song quickly launches into a musically and lyrically compelling narrative about (you guessed it) Two Lighthousekeepers. The lyrics are interesting and the vocals fit absolutely perfectly. From what I understand Mr. Masson's main band is a folk-prog band, and that scene's strong history of vocal melody comes through very clearly here.

Interestingly, after this incredible lyrical introduction, the album takes a turn towards the instrumental. "Tilting at Windmills" starts off a fairly laid back, electric-folk sounding section, but the intensity of this track only rises. By the end of the track we've moved from some fairly chilled-out guitar licks to a frenzied, uptempo cacophony, chaotic and yet at the same time perfectly arranged.

"The Ends of the Earth" is markedly more sedate, featuring some excellent woodwind work and female vocals. Where "Tilting at Windmills" was knotty and technical, this track feels open and breathy. Parts of it almost feel like a lullaby. It's a perfect contrast to the track that precedes it, and again it really highlights Masson's excellent ear for melody.

The title track is another largely instrumental affair, though there are some wordless vocals. To my ears this one has a decidedly eastern feel to it, which I find interesting given the generally celtic feel of most of the other tracks. Another track that perfectly melds melody and technical complexity, "The Mad Monk and the Mountain" I think more than lives up to its expectations as the title track.

"Caradon's Surprise" is pretty much a short acoustic guitar interlude, and it gives the listener a nice break to breathe before the final track of the album kicks off. This track combines elements of classical guitar with the folk sound so prevalent on this album, and it's a great change of pace, though it's probably a good thing it's not any longer than it is. As it stands it's a perfect addition to the album.

The album closes with another instrumental, and coming it at almost 17 minutes it's the longest track on the album by a good margin. In my listening experience it's often difficult to keep a prog instrumental interesting for that long, but of course Mr. Masson is up to the task. Featuring some excellent horn sound near the beginning and one of the best guitar melodies on the album towards the middle, "The House on the Rock" is everything a prog- rock epic should be: grandiose, dynamic, exciting, and perhaps most importantly, fun. You can really feel a kind of excited energy flowing throughout this whole track, and perhaps that's why it's so easy to listen to. You really get the feeling that the players are having a blast, and so it's no surprise that these 17 minutes feel like half that.

Overall, a stellar prog outing from Mr. Masson. If I have one complaint it's that we don't get to hear more of his excellent vocals and lyrics, but the instrumental arrangement and proficiency we get instead is a more than worthy replacement. A masterpiece.


VanVanVan | 5/5 |


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