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Mabel Greer’s Toyshop: The Secret

Although it gained acclaim elsewhere, the return of Mabel Greer’s Toyshop in 2015 left me colder than a frozen haddock. The band, who can lay claim to being part of the early history of Yes, teaming up with more recent Yes alumni in the shape of Tony Kaye and Billy Sherwood to create an album that was more interested in confirming its vintage status than it was offering any real entertainment. For the follow up, The Secret, Sherwood moves from bass to production, while Kaye is nowhere to be found. Founder members Clive Bayley (guitars and vocals) and drummer Bob Hagger now being joined by bassist Hugo Barré and keyboard player Max Hunt. Although there are retrospective contributions to the album’s title track from the late Peter Banks, the guitarist part of Mabel’s ranks prior to the formation of Yes.

Thankfully, when compared to 2015’s New Way Of Life, this second visit to the Toyshop proves considerably more fun than the first. Yes, MGT are still pedalling gentle 60s pre-prog psychedelic sounds, and like before simplicity is the name of the game. However on this occasion Sherwood has given things a much more solid and contemporary base and while, in terms of sound, you won’t ever confuse this for the latest Steven Wilson masterwork, at least The Secret isn’t quite so scuppered before it begins. Don’t, however, expect anything with a link to Yes beyond the belated involvement of Banks. Instead this album is much more interested in gentle sweeps of sound interjected with a sense of melody. Unfortunately the Native American focused “Big Brother, Little Brother” is an underwhelming opener, Bayley’s vocals just a little too smooth to truly drive this story home, as quite stereotypical tropes are played out to try and match the music to the lyrical message. Thankfully not everything is quite so safe, “Angel Sent” willing to test its own fragility to the limit, as a caress of guitar possesses just the right amount of force to keep you tuned in.

Moving more into spacey territory “Swan” is every bit as graceful as its name suggests, while “You” dances on a rather lively piano-guitar melody, infusing a little more life into proceedings than can often be found elsewhere. However, in truth, this album remains just too uneventful to truly turn your head and while everyone carries out their role without any issues, there isn’t a deeply inspired instrumental moment or exciting hook in evidence. Leaving The Secret perilously close to teetering off the cliff and into the abyss of background music. So while this album is a considerable step up from the debut Mabel Greer's Toyshop album, in my eyes, there’s still work to be done to turn this pleasant and well intentioned outfit into one of real interest.

Track Listing
1. Big Brother, Little Brother
2. Love's Fire
3. Turning To The Light
4. Angel Sent
5. More And More
6. Swan
7. Image Of Existence
8. You
9. The Secret

Added: May 3rd 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Mabel Greer's Toyshop at bandcamp
Hits: 1117
Language: english

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