I first heard Nad Sylvan's voice on Agents Of Mercy's debut album The Fading Ghosts Of Twilight (2009, see review) and I really was not that impressed or excited. However, when Sylvan sang on Steve Hackett's Genesis Revisited 2 (2012, see review) I liked his performance a lot better and when I heard him sing on Genesis Revisited: Live At Hammersmith (2013, see review) he utterly amazed me.
Now Sylvan releases a new solo album Courting The Willow, his first one since 2003, and I have to say that it is a beautiful symphonic rock gem. Of course Sylvan's voice has rather obvious similarities to good old Peter Gabriel, but that is also the beauty in his vocal performance. Therefore a lot of tracks on Courting The Willow really sound like classic Genesis. The album opens with the amazing Carry Me Home, a song featuring a fabulous melody that sounds like old school Genesis; think of albums like Selling England By The Pound (1973) or A Trick Of The Tail (1976). Carry Me Home is an upbeat song with Hackett on guitar and the guitar solo in the middle is simply breath-taking. Follow up is the title track and this one is the oldest track of the album as Sylvan wrote it in 2009, just before his mother died. Courting The Widow is a dark song as it deals with a father killing his son in order to get his son's wife. It is a ballad-like “lullaby” and this is symphonic rock at its best, top notch! Echoes Of Ekwabet is another spectacular highlight of this album as it features an utterly stunning melodic guitar solo played by Sylvan himself. The lyrics are about a statue near Chicago in remembrance of the Potawatomi Indians who originally lived there. The longest song (maybe a bit too long....) is the epic To Turn The Other Side which clocks at 22 minutes and 6 seconds! This track recalls the Genesis classic Supper's Ready and it is really worth listening too, even for the whole 22 minutes! Long Slow Crash Landing ends this grand album in a fantastic manner; especially the guitar duel between Sylvan and Hackett is worth a mention. The only odd track for me is Ship's Cat, a kind of weird musical poem which does not reach the high musical level of the other songs.
Sylvan has released a truly astonishing album and that is not only due to the impressive list of guest musicians like: Steve Hackett, Roine Stolt, Jonas Reingold, Rob Townsend and Nick D'Virgillo, but mainly because of Sylvan's singing and his excellent guitar playing, keyboard playing and composing great songs.
Courting The Widow is probably one of the best symphonic rock albums I have heard in a long time and it has been working overtime in my CD player. Highly recommended for fans of Genesis and Co and do NOT forget to play it very loud!!
****+ Martien Koolen (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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