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Lonely Robot: The Big Dream

Guitarist/vocalist/composer/producer John Mitchell has had a very storied career in progressive rock, appearing and recording with the likes of Arena, Kino, It Bites, and Frost* among many others, but lately he's been giving plenty of attention to his other project, Lonely Robot. The Big Dream is the follow-up to 2015's Please Come Home, and features Mitchell on the bulk of the instruments along with Craig Blundell on drums, Nick Beggs & Steve Vantsis on occasional bass, and backing vocals on a few tracks courtesy of Kim Seviour. As with the debut, The Big Dream is chock full of shimmering hooks, flashy keyboard orchestrations, beefy guitar work, and a blending of prog rock & pop embellishments.

Though perhaps not going to break any records as far as originality goes, The Big Dream is a highly enjoyable album that at times will remind of Marillion, Genesis, It Bites, Peter Gabriel, and Saga, with bright, colorful arrangements and well crafted vocal passages helping the songs lean more towards the pop camp than pure prog, but it's all fun nonetheless. "Awakenings" and "Sigma" both rock fairly hard, Mitchell's guitar chops still in fine form as well as his underrated vocal prowess, the latter of which is best represented on the lovely "In Floral Green", a memorable little pop ballad with gentle keyboards and alluring vocals. The catchy "Everglow" again features soaring vocal hooks over a boatload of crunchy riffs and bubbling synths, while "Symbolic"again shows Mitchell's ability for crafting irresistible pop melodies and housing within accessible arrangements that contain just enough prog elements to keep things on the adventurous side. The big epic here if course is the 8-minute title track, complete with spooky keys and menacing guitar work, Mitchell deciding to leave out the vocals and let the music do the talking, save for some spoken word narratives.

Though for some traditional proggers, The Big Dream will have a few too many pop ballads and sound a tad slick, those who don't mind their prog with some sheen and plenty of memorable melodies will find lots to enjoy here. Once again, John Mitchell shows why he is one of the most underrated talents in the genre.


Track Listing
1. Prologue (Deep Sleep)
2. Awakenings
3. Sigma
4. In Floral Green
5. Everglow
6. False Lights
7. Symbolic
8. The Divine Art Of Being
9. The Big Dream
10. Hello World Goodbye
11. Epilogue (Sea Beams)

Added: April 16th 2017
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 1766
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Lonely Robot: The Big Dream
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2017-04-15 18:36:30
My Score:

The second album from the John Mitchell (Arena, It Bites, Frost*, etc) solo project Lonely Robot, The Big Dream pretty much picks up where the self titled debut left off. Still loosely based round 'The Astronaut' and his lone journey, The Big Dream takes him out of space and plops him in a leafy green land where humans have animal heads… the question would appear to be, are we awake or asleep, alive or not? So yes this is a strange concept (it's not a concept at all actually…) and one perfect for Mitchell to hang his musical hat on. As before, the man himself handles nearly everything on his lonesome (is he The Astronaut??), only Craig Blundell (Steven Wilson, Frost*) adding drums and Kim Seviour (ex-Touchtone) vocals on one track. As before, the basis is modern, melodic prog with a hint of something more traditional and a neo-prog sprinkle.

All of which will satisfy anyone who has closely followed Mitchell's more recent career, the obvious and possibly intended links with the debut Lonely Robot effort and, probably less intended but possibly unavoidable, reformation era It Bites brought to mind. Mitchell's excellent and full of character vocals are one of the strong elements in that recognisable lineage, although the song structures and bright, bursting, memorable choruses have long been a theme too. All aspects are huge plus points, The Big Dream a deep, complex and in places evolving set of songs that manage to have a series of dig in deep hooks and sing along sections, while somehow retaining the shifting time signatures and musicianship that sit at the heart of most straight ahead prog – if that isn't a double negative?

As ever Mitchell also manages to alter the approach across the album while staying within a reasonably tight structure, "Symbolic" punchy and full of melodic attitude, "The Divine Art Of Being" one of those slower but minimalistically anthemic pieces that shone brightly on recent It Bites releases. With "Sigma" possessing the album's big boisterous chorus, you're assured of walking away with its refrain stuck in your mind, while "Hello World Goodbye", where Seviour guests, brings another Mitchell calling card into play, the slow, almost Peter Gabriel like heart tugger, full of lyrical and guitar led jeopardy. For some, the thin edged line this album walks between following Mitchell's well established themes or signatures and sounding maybe just a little too similar to what it follows, may just be a slight negative. Yet as someone who has seen any Mitchell related release from Arena via Frost* and on to Lonely Robot as reason for celebration, there's more than enough here to keep me thoroughly hooked in and already looking forward to further instalments.

Strangely The Big Dream isn't an album that's knocked my socks off in the same way the first Lonely Robot album did, even if it is a good release from start to finish. However, there's no denying that it has already received a lot of air time in my pleasingly packed listening schedule and that's something I can see continuing for a long period to come. So however it stacks up, it must be doing more than a few things right.



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