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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)

3.97 | 133 ratings
Skye
2014
3.98 | 147 ratings
Sand
2017

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MONARCH TRAIL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Sand by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 147 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.

 Skye by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.97 | 133 ratings

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Skye
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Monarch Trail is keyboardist and composer Ken Baird teaming up with the rhythm section of Dino Verginella on bass and Chris Lamont on drums, both of whom had previously worked with Baird on his solo albums. Teaming up with a range of guest guitarists, they offer up a brand of romantic, emotive neo-prog that's not so far away from the likes of early IQ. This and the cover art - which manages to be quite evocative despite its somewhat simple style - makes it sound credibly like some lost album from the early days of the neo-prog scene, when in fact it's a tasty dose of pastoral symphonic rock from present-day Canada. If you're keen on this style of music, it won't disappoint.
 Sand by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 147 ratings

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Sand
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by memowakeman
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars A delightful symphonic journey!

I would like to thank the amazing Ken Baird for introducing me to his music, first with solo albums and then with Monarch Trail, I have enjoyed both projects and this new album is not the exception, the 'power trio' here provide once again a blast of lush symphonic keyboards reminiscent of some 70s prog acts but with a bran new fresh sound that both the old school fans and the avid for new sounds would surely enjoy. In this album, Monarch Trail offers 7 compositions and a total time of 55 minutes. 6 out of them are the short ones, while the last one is a wonderful 24-minute epic.

Since the first moments of 'Station Theme' we notice that keyboards take the leadership, which is wonderfully supported by Verginella's bass and Lamont's drums, the three of them are great musicians and make a balance importance. However, to our ears the first we will notice are those lush symphonic keyboards that also have some spacey nuances and a clear reminiscence of the 70s. The piano parts are also sweet here. 'First Thoughts' starts with vocals (the opener was purely instrumental) and the sound here is much softer, even with a ballad-like feeling, but it is actually an introspective theme, with a soft acoustic guitar after half the track.

'Back to the Start' has that spacey feeling made by keys and bass but then it totally takes us to a journey to the 70s, it is impossible (at least to me) not to think of some Genesis and Camel resemblances here; but it is also a wonderful new element here: the guitar, provided by a guest musician who adds a soft but deep atmosphere at the same time. The song flows wonderfully, giving the prog rock fan a feast of the music we truly love. 'Missing' has a beautiful start, classical piano and a flute sound made by keys, creating a bright atmosphere that later changes a little bit when vocals enter. Although there are some kind of neo-proggy passages, the bombastic keyboards let us know that Monarch Trail clearly belong to the symphonic side of prog.

'Charlie's Kitchen' continues with that symphonic sound but it also adds a jazzy feeling here and there. In moments, it even reminds me a bit of some Wakeman passages. After a couple of minutes the mellotron appears for a while, creating some goosebumps by the way. There are so many textures created by keyboards, however, the bass notes and the rhythm made by drums produces together a true solid and bright prog sound. 'Another Silent World' is the shortest track here but it is beautiful, symphonic but spacey keyboard driven, something like Bowie's Crystal Japan, to mention an example, but it could work also as a short Tangerine Dream track.

The last song is the longest, quite long, by the way. 'Sand' with 24 minutes of lush symphonic prog with so many changes and a wonderful blend of atmospheres. It starts with a pastoral sound, soft and delicate, but later it turns a bit darker but still soft until minute five when keyboards make a bombastic appearance. Guitar is also present here with a nice solo, while bass and drums maintain that symphonic structure in which keyboards are in charge of the countless atmospheres the song blasts. What I love here is that there are not repetitive moments; the minutes pass and the musicians dare to share a nice diversity of sounds that tear away any chance of feeling bored. So once you are immersing, you will not escape from this amazing journey. After 14 minutes there is a passage where things become calmer, with acoustic guitar and with new lyrics, so a new structure is being built up here so in this second part of the song we will find different nuances and passages. Wonderful!

A solid, amazing album by Monarch Trail that I would like to suggest to any prog fan since I believe it has arguments to be considered as one of the best 2017 releases.

Enjoy it!

 Sand by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 147 ratings

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Sand
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

4 stars Monarch Trail have followed up their 2014 debut release 'Skye' with a strong, dynamic Neo Prog Symphonic journey for 2017, 'Sand'. Ken Baird is the visionary keyboardist augmenting his solo career with this collaboration. Ken has been a prolific artist in his solo career; 'August' (1996), 'Fields' (1998), 'Orion' (2000),' 'Martin Road' (2003) and 'Further Out' (2009). 'He is played keyboardist for Jacob Moon and Art Griffin. He is joined by guitarist John Mamone, previously from Dragonfly and Volume Water. He and Kelly Kereliuk have formed Prismind and both play guitar on 'Sand'. Steve Cochrane is another guitarist that features on the title track and the rhythm is down to drummer Chris Lamont and bassist Dino Verginella, who has worked with artists such as Chantal Kreviazuk, Holly MacNarland and Jim Witter. They are a formidable group of musicians that have a chemistry that pays off on this latest release.

The masterful cover art by Annette Roche again depicts a wistful girl with a haunted gaze but this time she is on a Derelict spaceship. She may be Cassandra who is mentioned on the album. On the cover she stares out the window at the stars but on the beautiful inside cover we see her relaxing contentedly gazing at an Earth encapsulated in a globe. Is it a hologram or has she captured our planet? Her isolation is mirrored by the ethereal music that glistens and glows with every track. Mellotron sounds merge with Blade Runner style strings and those floating bass lines. The vocals are dreamily executed with lucid flow by Ken Baird. The sound is like IQ, Yes or Neal Morse.

There are many beautiful lyrics to savour but as a sample these from the epic Sand are thought provoking and resonate with me; 'Calmly waiting locked in place I check again before I say goodbye, Bright and clear there's every reason, Soon to be so many miles away, And all that I've learned could be forgotten, In a moment I'd still act and honour is intact, A picture appears in my mind it fears, All of this may come to dust, A flame to break all bonds, The hope of everyone, And soaring above, And suddenly, Staring up through floors of wires and glass, Metal constructs and the questions last, Variations, firing sequence set, In my pocket everyone I've met'. The epic track is over 24 minutes of Symphonic prog bliss. In a similar vein to the 20 minute epic in 'Skye', this is definitely worth the price of admission alone. It features glorious guitar solos and a soundscape of layered keyboards that have an ethereal quality. More on this later.

This is a spacey album with sheer beauty emanating from its heart. It opens with the synth soaked Station Theme, and then the majestic First Thoughts shines through. Back to the Start is a catchy tune but my favourite is Missing that opens with sparkling keyboards and builds to harmonies like The Byrds on Eight Miles High. There is a Rick Wakeman feel in the classical keyboard solos but the star of this for me are the sporadically timed drums, one of the key elements. Baird absolutely blazes on synth but it has to be said the ivory tinkling in this enhances the spacey atmosphere.

Charlie's Kitchen is a piano driven piece with some swirling synths and a classical baroque feel, similar to Wakeman's style. It is a meandering instrumental with some sweeping passages of keyboards and a driving rhythmic meter.

Another Silent World is a Ken Baird solo with a buzzing drone and retro synth that rises to a crescendo.

This short piece prepares the listener for the epic Sand. The lyrics as mentioned are provocative and they are accompanied by haunting musicianship. This is Monarch Trail at their best in full flight with guitar guests and a myriad of time switches and mood swings that capture my imagination. It is great to hear some electric guitar solos that soar along with the staccato synths. There are some fast fingering solos with a Dream Theater feel and the way this builds into a lengthy instrumental break is absolutely wonderful. The music swoops and dives like a bird in flight, then it builds into a wall of synths. At the 13 minute mark the sound transforms into acoustic vibrations and a flugelhorn sound with waves crashing. This atmosphere is penetrated with the introduction of a new time sig and a verse about the wind that almost throws the protagonist off side, 'Air fresh and burning sun, Waves to each other confide, Skirting across we run, Take the wheel, And pull around on my mark we're stopping here, And down we go, I wish I wish I were old enough to take a dive alone and give you all I'd find'.

The music breaks at 20 minutes with cathedral like keys and spacey textures of synths. The drums and bass join for one last verse with reverberated vocals echoing with good effect. The finale is a blast of lead guitar and synth over key pad strings and a steady rhythm. Sand is definitely a treasure on this album.

Overall this latest album is a stirring journey driven by layers of synth and exceptional guitar and rhythms. It is an innovative album that is well worth a listen. I look forward to more Monarch Trail in the near future.

 Sand by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 147 ratings

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Sand
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars I'm sorry, but all I hear here is cheap, rudimentary rehashing and imitation of old songs and bands--especially the first Neo Prog bands: late 70s Genesis, Marillion, IQ, Pendragon, and Spock's Beard. The sound production is poor (especially the drums! Awful!), the melodies and solos all feel stolen and soul-less. And I've been going back to this album over and over since I first saw it last summer on Progstreaming!

1. "Station Theme" (3:52) I'm listening to old IQ, right? Flashy keyboard work. (8.5/10)

2. "First Thoughts" (3:22) two minutes of voice and synth wash chords before a nylon string guitar solos. Really? Is this a joke? Are we doing a demo for the band here? Or proving our IQ chops? (7/10)

3. Back To The Start (7:11) a bad Tony Banks or Steve Hackett song from one of their solo albums. Or a demo version of a Genesis song or Genesis cover. Bass and drums are fairly solid here. But such poor sound! Even the only existing BABYLON album from 1979 is way better than this! (7/10)

4. "Missing" (6:29) I'm listening to 1990s Spock's Beard, right? Absolutely nothing new here; everything sounds old and used up. (8/10)

5. Charlie's Kitchen (7:43) a Vince Guaraldi jazz lounge song twisted and turned proggish with a horrible sounding non-acoustic piano. How...?! The synth soli are all stolen! Can one sue for such blatant plagiarism? (Just kidding: I know you can't.) (6/10)

6. Another Silent World (2:10) a decent synth exercise but it's only two minutes long, so not much time to screw things up. (8/10)

7. Sand (24:31) The first song I heard from this album. I thought I was going to play it on my radio show on several occasions but every time I would re-listen to it before broadcast I would reject it with a feeling of embarrassment and revulsion: it's just not up to my standards of sound, creativity, and originality. (7.5/10)

The keyboard player is talented. He just needs better equipment. And way better recording/processing gear. I just cannot comprehend the praise that this album is earning!

 Sand by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 147 ratings

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Sand
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by The Jester

4 stars For those who are not familiar with the name Monarch Trail, I should inform you that they are from Canada, and their discography consists of 2 studio albums so far. The band is a trio, and it has been "built" around the Keyboardist and composer Ken Baird. (For the needs of the recordings they are using a few more musicians as guests). Their style and sound is a keyboard-driven melodic Neo-Prog, which it brings to my mind bands like The Alan Parson's Project and/or Barclay James Harvest on some occasions. Sand, includes 7 tracks, with 3 of them being instrumentals (Station theme, Charlie's kitchen, Another silent world), and only 4 include vocals. To be honest, I had no idea about this band, but because I read some really good reviews here in PA, I decided to give them a try. I added Sand in my music collection, and I am pleased with it. The album includes some beautiful "soundscapes", that fills your mind with beautiful images and travels you with its melodies. My only problem is that the use of keyboards at some points is too much, and that bothers me a bit. The album's closing song is the 24-minute-long epic Sand, which is a really interesting composition and definitely one of the album's highlights; together with Missing and First thoughts in my opinion. (But I believe that Sand should be including less long keyboard parts, and be a bit shorter). I will rate it with 3.5 (out of 5.0) stars, hoping that the band will continue in the same melodic direction, but with less keyboards maybe. (I will give 4.0 stars in order not to "destroy" the very good average rating they have so far).

 Sand by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 147 ratings

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Sand
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by Second Endeavour

5 stars Monarch Trail continue their forward momentum as they've just released a sophomore album 'Sand' which is quite tremendous in its effect. Combining the best elements of their debut release and using potion of inventive extract, MT seek to take us back to the Glory Days of the 1970's. Once again, the core personalities (Ken Baird - keyboards & lead vocals, Dino Verginella - bass, Chris Lamont - drums) enlisted the support from the guest guitarists (John Mamone, Kelly Kereliuk, Steve Cochrane) who append some hues and textures to the signature style. Here and there, the floating synth lines embrace the mode of Tony Banks with deliberate nods to Rick Wakeman. Whereas the flamboyant keyboards are accompanied by splendid guitar passages, skillful rhythmic changes and engaging soundscapes evoke a delectable retro feel, the general approach is sweetened by attractive singing from Ken Baird. To a certain extent, the vocal performance makes me think of Alan Parsons Project and Barclay James Harvest. As a whole, the second Monarch Trail offer is a superb mix of exciting instrumental pieces ('Station Theme', Charlie's Kitchen', 'Another Silent World') and gorgeous vocal tracks ('First Thoughts', 'Back To The Start', 'Missing', 'Sand'). The musical content is very rich with melodism that holds your attention all the way through. Entering gently into a magical venture, the anterior cut sets the stage for following material. Yes, it may be a cliche to say so, but the final composition, 24+ min. epic, sums up all the ingredients, showcasing how versatile this Canadian group can be within a symphonic prog rock multi-movement. Indeed, a great choice to complete the consistent album. The bottom line: buying a CD 'Sand' guarantees you're in for something special. RECOMMENDED!
 Sand by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 147 ratings

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Sand
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by CeeJayGee

4 stars I gave this album a couple of listens when I first became aware of it, liked it and thought I might return to it at some stage in the future. Within a few days the album was topping the PA 2017 album chart. Its sudden appearance at the top of the chart appears to have been due to its receiving no fewer than four reviews by PA Collaborators. I studied these reviews and am glad that I did as one of them drew my attention to the album creator, Ken Baird, and his solo work which I have now checked out and enjoyed (particularly Martin Road).

As for Monarch Trail, I was aware of and enjoyed their debut release Skye. Sand is certainly a stronger album and given the attention that it has received from ProgArchives I have listened to it many more times. It is a lovely album from beginning to end and deserves a rating of between four and four and a half stars.

 Sand by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 147 ratings

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Sand
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

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

5 stars Three years ago, Canadian trio Monarch Trail delivered a strong and well-received debut `Skye', a rich and quietly dynamic keyboard-dominated symphonic work that called to mind the early works of Glass Hammer and Pendragon, the vocal-focused melodicism of Izz and even the romantic longings of Camel. It was a top-notch first effort, but to say that the band has stepped up in a big way here would be an understatement! 2017's sci-fi concept tale `Sand', which sees the trio backed up by contributions from three different guitarists, offers a larger canvass of symphonic grandness and stronger instrumental themes, as well as delivering a more polished production, smoother vocals and more naturally flowing harmonies that instantly improve on those from the debut, and it quickly reveals itself to be one of the finest Symph-prog works of the year.

The album launches reliably with `Station Theme', an overture-like introductory instrumental full of Ken Baird's whirring synth themes and rousing piano by way of Rick Wakeman-like pomp as well as some eerier little fleeting gothic touches, as Dino Verginella's chunky bass grumbles through the background alongside Chris Lamont's bustling drumwork. `First Thoughts' is the first gentle vocal piece, Ken's placid voice sweetly sighing alongside soft symphonic keyboard caresses and sparse acoustic guitar, and it reminds of both the last few Comedy of Errors discs or the unashamedly romantic classic period Pendragon albums. `Back To The Start' instantly calls to mind I.Q's mysterious and melodic approach with the snaking bass over crystalline synth washes, and the touch of heavier guitars will excite fans of Arena and the earlier male-fronted version of Flamborough head. Loaded with crisp electric guitar themes and slow-burn soloing piercing through rambunctious drumming (listen to Dino's tantrum-like burst at about the 3:20 mark!), the second half in particular lifts to the highest of instrumental symphonic-prog heavens and is sheer prog bliss wrapped up in a mere seven minutes!

A nice change in direction, the lyrically reflective `Missing' might deliver a sparkling piano and cascading Mellotron introduction, but at heart it's a strong and tasteful pop tune, not unlike some of those simpler moments that show up on most Glass Hammer albums, and it holds a catchy joyful chorus that would make E.L.O green with envy - but don't worry, prog-snobs, you get to overdose on the frantic keyboard delirium solo in the middle!

But then Monarch Trail drop `Charlie's Kitchen' on us, a sumptuous instrumental feast of keyboard-slathered symphonic rapture in the tradition of bands like Trion, Willowglass and classic-era Genesis. Offering the most infectious of twinkling jazzy piano, assisted by some majestic Mellotron flutes, sweetly murmuring bass, peppy drumming and Steve Hackett-esque ringing guitars, it's a frequently whimsical slice of romantic prog that symphonic fans will adore. The group then spoil us that little bit more with `Another Silent World', a tasty final standalone spacey instrumental interlude.

And then, as every symphonic-prog album should have, we reach the `side-long' epic, the near twenty-five minute closing title- track `Sand'. While it similarly holds all the same wistful vocal passages with lengthy instrumental bursts fuelled by colourful whirring keyboards and welcome acoustic guitar breaks, it also refreshingly incorporates plenty of heavier drama and darker segments from moodier cinematic synths that shimmer with danger. The climax has guitars and keyboards reaching in unison to the heavens to end on as grandiose a note as possible, but extra special is the instrumental passage that runs from about the 4:45 mark for a full ten minutes, a truly exceptional all-out prog moment.

If bands like Comedy of Errors, Druckfarben and Barock Project have all moved up over the last few years in status with their most recent efforts in a symphonic prog style, then Monarch Trail have done exactly the same thing here with `Sand'. The first album was a great success, but here the arrangements, playing and production are all far superior than that initial effort, meaning we can only wait and see the amazing places the band head to from here! Also, here listeners will be witness to one of the most outstanding currently active keyboard players in action in Ken Baird, hopefully one to eventually be thought of in the same league as Clive Nolan, Fred Schendel, Andy Tillison, Neal Morse and Robert Reed of the modern prog era.

Chances are we're looking at potentially the greatest pure symphonic prog album of 2017 right here with Monarch Trail's `Sand', but we've definitely been handed one of the standout progressive rock releases of the year overall.

Four and a half stars.

 Sand by MONARCH TRAIL album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.98 | 147 ratings

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Sand
Monarch Trail Neo-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This is album number two for MONARCH TRAIL the project of keyboardist/ vocalist Ken Baird who's out of Dundas, Ontario. I became aware of Ken through his solo albums which were recommended by James Unger or loserboy on this site. Ken is one of many bands and solo artists that I have discovered through James' web-site back in the day. MONARCH TRAIL seems to appeal to the Prog fan more than his solo stuff maybe because this is more challenging instrumentally and the synths really dominate the sound overall. I do prefer Ken's solo music, especially "Martin Road" which I highly recommend to every one who's into timeless, meaningful music with an emphasis on vocals and exceptional lyrics. My two cents.

Like the last album we have a trio here of keys, bass and drums with three guests helping out on guitars. The very same lineup as was on the debut. I swear the girl on the cover art of the first album "Skye" is the same one depicted in the art work on "Sand". The piano is exceptional on "Sand" but Ken offers a variety of keyboards here, and of course his vocals really resonate with me. I was really surprised to see an over 24 minute track as well. Some of these tracks blend into each other as we have this cosmic theme. It's all so well done.

"Station Theme" opens with bass, piano and drums which are joined quickly by synths. A calm 1 1/2 minutes in with piano melodies and atmosphere. I like this. Synths are back then bass and drums. it kicks back in after 2 1/2 minutes with synths leading the way. "First Thoughts" might be my favourite track on here. Atmosphere and finally Ken's vocals before we get some tasteful guitar around 2 minutes as the vocals step aside. I love how the atmosphere starts to build after 2 1/2 minutes until it dominates to the end. So good! It blends into the next song.

"Back To The Start" features bass and atmosphere as the synths roll in. It kicks in with guitar, drums and more. This is really good as the vocals join in as it settles back. I also enjoy the guitar on this one. Kicking butt 3 1/2 minutes in without vocals followed by a calm with synths and bass then the drums return along with guitar. Nice. Great sound as well before 6 1/2 minutes.

"Missing" has what sounds like mellotron-flute as piano then bass helps out. The atmosphere starts to rise then the vocals and a beat take over. Love the vocal harmonies after 2 minutes then the synths start to dominate as the tempo picks up. The vocals are back after 4 minutes as the synths step aside then they trade off again. "Charlie's Kitchen" opens with bass, drums and piano before the atmosphere arrives around 2 minutes. Synths to the fore a minute later. There's that mellotron-flute sound again after 5 1/2 minutes. Guitar later from Ken. Nice.

"Another Silent World" is a short piece with synths and atmosphere throughout. "Sand" is the ambitious title track to close the album. Vocals, bass and keyboards to start as that mellotron-flute sound joins in. It turns majestic before 1 1/2 minutes as the vocals continue. A calm follows after 2 minutes. The mood becomes serious a minute later with concerned vocals. Nice bass lines 4 1/2 minutes in then it picks up with synths over top as the vocals stop. Guitar before 6 minutes as the synths bow out for now. They are back then we get a calm with atmosphere before 8 1/2 minutes.The synths and guitar will trade off. A calm with piano before 13 1/2 minutes. Some nasty synths before 17 minutes as the vocals step aside but not for long as the synths and vocals continue to trade off. The guitar starts to solo before 22 minutes then the synths return as they both solo over top.

Another solid 4 star album from MONARCH TRAIL. Please check this band out along with Ken Baird's solo albums. You will find quality and meaningful music if you do.

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

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