"The biggest super group of Progressive Rock players ever assembled!"
Well, considering that it's safe to say that probably very few of the musicians appearing on Epilogue were in the studio together at the same time, and there's almost no hope of ever seeing this stuff performed live on stage, it's kind of hard to call The Prog Collective a 'super group', but that's a debate for another day. The Prog Collective is a progressive rock all-star project started up by Circa/ex-Yes multi-instrumentalist Billy Sherwood in 2012, and this is their sophomore release for Cleopatra/Purple Pyramid Records. All the songs were written by Sherwood, and he plays most of the backing instrumental tracks, with key solo spots and lead vocals by a wide list of guest stars from the progressive rock world, including; John Wetton (Asia), Geoff Downes (Yes/Asia), Alan Parsons (Alan Parsons Project), Chris Squire (Yes), Rick Wakeman (Yes), Gary Green (Gentle Giant), Steve Hillage (Gong), John Wesley (Porcupine Tree, Fish), Steve Stevens (Billy Idol), Tony Kaye (Yes, Circa), Colin Moulding (XTC), Nik Turner (Hawkwind), Mel Collins (King Crimson), Derek Sherinian (Black Country Communion), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs), Fee Waybill (The Tubes), Roye Albrighton (Nektar), Larry Fast (Synergy), the late Peter Banks (Flash, Yes), Sonya Kristina (Curved Air), Patrick Moraz (Moody Blues), and, are you ready...William Shatner!
Despite the presence of star talent, the results are somewhat of a mixed bag. Though most of the songs are lengthy and packed with all these legends adding in hot solo spots and lead vocals, the performances at times feel dialed in and just kind of edited in for the sake of having someone appear on each track. It also doesn't help matters that Sherwood wrote all the songs (with help from Green & Stevens on two cuts)-he's a very talented writer and musician for sure, but he's not exactly known for delivering tremendous progressive rock music. Sure, some of the Circa material has been solid, but Sherwood has more of an ear for the poppy, melodic side of the prog spectrum, and that seems to have taken over this solid but otherwise slightly bland affair. All too often I'm reminded of the ill-fated Yes albums from the 1990's that Sherwood appeared on and had a major influence on, something that most fans who really wanted the band to get their 'prog' on had issues with. A tune like "Tomorrow Becomes Today", despite a solid vocal from Kristina, just never seems to get out of first gear, and "What Can Be Done?" features a competent vocal from Wetton, but he sounds a bit tired as do the arrangements. However, "Are We to Believe?" is an excellent song, with fiery lead work from Wakeman, Hillage, and Collins, and an outstanding vocal courtesy of Moulding. It's easily one of the best songs here.
"Shining Diamonds" is another hot piece, with Parsons, Sherwood, & Squire's lush vocals soaring over some nimble Stevens & Moraz interplay. Waybill impresses on the rocker "Adding Fuel to the Fire", with Morse and Rudess contributing some scorching solos, while the Circa sounding "In Our Time" sees Sherwood taking the lead vocal slot on what is a quirky, symphonic pop/prog number that also features sax & flute lines from Turner and an airy Hammond solo delivered by Downes. "Memory Tracks" is a spacey atmospheric piece with some pop hooks that otherwise doesn't really offer much else despite an emotional vocal from Albrighton. Leave it to Green however to help Sherwood write one of the CDs more complex tracks, the adventurous "Just Another Day", a tune that shifts and morphs from bouncy prog, to atmospheric folk, and back to upbeat, classic styled progressive rock yet again. Sherwood's vocals are spot on here, and Green adds in his wonderful acoustic guitar textures & stinging electric lead lines, with Kaye filling in the arrangement with tasty Hammond & synths. Gentle Giant fans will surely like this one! As for Shatner, well, he adds his spoken word narration to what is otherwise the fun, brief, and very proggy symphonic title track. I can't understand what the point of having him appear here was, but hey, he's got star power.
A few really good songs, and some that just qualify as middle of the road, Epilogue is a fairly solid release that should appeal to those prog fans that like their music more on the melodic side and tend to gravitate towards all these all-star collaborations that Sherwood has been putting together in recent years. However, the more serious fan who tends to go for the more obscure, underground, and certainly vintage prog-rock probably won't get much mileage out of this one.
1. Are We to Believe? 7:19
2. What Can Be Done? 7:48
3. Adding Fuel to the Fire 7:30
4. Tomorrow Becomes Today 7:34
5. Shining Diamonds 7:53
6. In Our Time 7:22
7. Memory Tracks 7:58
8. Just Another Day 9:01
9. Epilogue 2:28