Best known as a member of progressive folk act The Morrigan, Colin Masson has also established himself as an excellent solo artist in recent years. The Southern Cross is his third and most recent solo effort, following up 2009's spectacular The Mad Monk and the Mountain. Though this is his most recently released musical expedition, the majority of The Southern Cross actually consists of re-workings of material composed by Masson over twenty years ago. A loose conceptual story about two ships separated by a thousand years in time ties these nine progressive rock tunes together, and the end result is an album that is both epic in its scope and enjoyable from a listener's perspective. This ambitious concept album is another highly successful observation from Colin Masson, and while I do think it falls short of The Mad Monk and the Mountain, it should prove to be another worthwhile experience for fans and newcomers alike.
Those familiar with previous Masson outings should expect a similar musical approach on The Southern Cross. If you're unacquainted with his music, many of the songs rely on a symphonic progressive rock foundation with lots of extraneous influences from genres like folk, new age, and electronica - this sound is distinctly Colin's own, and this matched by his developed songwriting skills show that he has no intentions of imitating any other progressive rock acts. I have a tough time imagining any fan of epic and theatrical progressive rock not having an excellent time with songs like "The Wreckers" or "Ocean of Storms", and all of the album is extremely consistent in terms of quality. At over an hour in length, The Southern Cross is surprisingly free of any weak tracks, and though I don't get the same emotional highs that I got from The Mad Monk and the Mountain, this is still an excellent album from start to finish.
Aside from some help from Cathy Alexander and Ryan Masson, The Southern Cross is very much a solo effort from Colin Masson. Everything from the songwriting and instrumental performances to the artwork and the production is done by Colin, and his adept abilities in all aspects of the music recording process are admirable. His guitar talents especially jump out at me, and there are enough tasty solos throughout The Southern Cross to satisfy any enthusiast of the instrument. While the drum programming and somewhat thin production may be a turn-off for some listeners, neither of them have a major impact on my listening experience. One thing is remarkably clear after hearing The Southern Cross - Colin Masson is a capable musician with an original approach to progressive rock music that few others can claim nowadays.
Following up an album as outstanding as The Mad Monk and the Mountain is a difficult task, but The Southern Cross proves that Colin Masson has enough endurance to consistently pump out impressive works of art. Those who enjoy modern symphonic progressive rock on the more eclectic and epic side should find plenty to love on The Southern Cross, and while I don't get enough emotional highs for me to consider it a truly great album, this is a concise and enjoyable observation from one of the UK's most impressive recent exports. Fans of Colin Masson's music will definitely want to hear this one, and 3.5 stars are well-deserved. Though it's a slight step down from The Mad Monk and the Mountain, there's no doubt that The Southern Cross is a mature and highly worthwhile listen.
1. Never Come Back (3:52)
2. Sails Of Silver (7:16)
3. South Australia (8:20)
4. The Wreckers (6:34)
5. Compass Rose (3:55)
6. Intermission With Moon Cycles (0:49)
7. The heart Of The Machine (4:55)
8. Ocean Of Storms (12:41)
9. The Southern Cross (14:24)
Total Time (60:46)