Monarch Trail is a musical project by Canadian multi-instrumentalist/singer Ken Baird. This third album Wither Down, after Skye (2014, see review) and Sand (2017, see review), is my first musical encounter with this the trio (also featuring drummer Chris Lamont and bass player Dino Verginella), completed with guest guitar players Kelly Kereliuk and Steve Cochrane.
Listening to the new album Wither Down I notice that the sound alternates between symphonic rock and Neo-Prog, the emphasis in the six simply structured compositions is on Ken with his wonderful work on keyboards. To me Ken's slightly high-pitched voice sounds a bit thin in comparison with the lush keyboard sound, but not really disturbing.
From sparkling piano to sumptuous Mellotron and cascades of synthesizer flights, fuelled by a fluent rhythm-section, in the strong title track, at some moments Swedish Anekdoten come to my mind, at other moments 76-77 Genesis.
Flashy synthesizer runs in Echo (also reminding me of 76-77 Genesis), a spacey synthesizer solo in Canyon Song (alongside a sensitive guitar solo with howling runs), soaring Mellotron violins and an electronic music climate in the second part in Waves Of Sound, varied piano play in the epic Megalopolitana (also fiery guitar) and sparkling piano, a majestic church organ sound and wonderful interplay between keyboards and guitar (strongly evoking Pendragon) in All Kinds Of Futures.
Wither Down is a fine album that will please the keyboard aficionados.
***+ Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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