Monarch Trail - Skye

(CD 2014, 46:01, MT001)

The tracks:
  1- Luminescence(11:15)
  2- Silent World(8:21)
  3- East of Fifty(6:11)
  4- Sky Above the Sun(20:15)

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Ken Baird is a Canadian keyboardist and composer who recorded five solo albums since 1996. Lately he wrote some music which was more suitable to be performed by a band. Therefore he decided to start Monarch Trail, an outfit in which he could cooperate with other musicians like bassist Dino Verginella and drummer Chris Lamont, who both assisted Baird on his solo albums. However, he also wrote strong guitar parts for his compositions and so far he didn't include a guitarist to the band yet. Why not use a number of guitar players to add some strong guitar parts to the recordings, he must have thought. And so he asked John Mamone, Kelly Kereliuk and Steve Cochrane to help the band during the recording sessions of the debut album Skye.

Since I got a copy of Skye to review, I had serious problems to take it out of my CD player. More CDs were waiting to be listened and to be reviewed, but somehow I refused to change Skye for another disc and I kept listening to this fine album again and again. This is the kind of music that grabs me by the throat right from the start. I enjoy the four compositions on this record a lot. I couldn't notice any weak tracks or even weak fragments since the four compositions can be regarded as real progressive rock gems. Perhaps people who have read this review so far are curious to know what this music sounds like. Well, the best thing to find out is to listen to it yourself of course, but that's not always possible. In general the music can be filed under neo-progressive rock and symphonic prog.

While listening to the first long track Luminescence, the album Wind And Wuthering (1976) by Genesis came to mind thanks to Baird's fantastic keyboard playing which reminded me of Tony Banks. Also the amazing electric guitar parts performed by John Mamone, has some elements of Steve Hackett's way of playing. These influences can be heard throughout the album. Luminescence also contains hints from bands like Pendragon, IQ and Jadis. However, during the remainder of the album Glass Hammer continuously crossed my mind, especially such brilliant albums like Lex Rex (2002), Shadowlands (2004) and The Inconsolable Secret (2005). I heard the same kind of strong compositions, brilliant keyboard parts, great guitar solos and strong vocal passages on Skye. People who read my reviews on a regular base know that I like Glass Hammer a lot. That may be one of the reasons why I loved this album instantly.

I would like to spend a few words on the fine artwork done by Annette Rochel; she was above all an inspiration to write such amazing music for this awesome album. You might think that Skye is a keyboard orientated album since Ken Baird wrote all of the compositions, but this isn't the case at all. All tracks contain excellent guitar solos and fine guitar parts. So hats off to all musicians involved. In my mind's eye Skye is a masterpiece containing only great compositions performed by outstanding musicians. For that reason only the highest rating of five stars will do! For me Skye belongs to the finest albums of 2014! If you're a fan of great prog rock you can't afford to skip this one!

***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)

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