Magellan's first album since 1997's Test of Wills is an emotional roller-coaster ride, a prog opus that tells the story of the death of Trent and Wayne Gardner's older brother Jack in the Vietnam War back in 1966 at the young age of 21. The fact that Trent was only four at the time of his brothers passing makes this story all the more poignant and intriguing.
While some may say that Vietnam tales have been done to death in music, it is refreshing to hear a progressive rock take on this tragic war. Trent Gardner conjures up all the necessary emotions in the lyrics of "The Great Goodnight", especially the feeling of loss, of questions of a little boy who never knew his brother, and the adult Trent who little by little over the years pieced the whole tragic occurance together after his family refused to revisit Jack's death. Usually on a Magellan recording, one will talk more of the brilliant musical exploits, but here the instrumentation takes a backseat to the powerful, heart-wrenching story. That's not to say that there is a lack of red-hot playing mind you. Trent's ELP influenced keyboards are all over the place here, as is Wayne's heavy rhythm guitar work. Guest guitarist George Bellas handles the lead work, Robert Berry contributes some guitar and bass, as does Tony Levin. Ian Anderson throws in some masterful flute work on the short instrumental "Family Jewels", which serves as a precursor to Trent's raging synthesizer work.
"Brothers Keeper" finishes off the CD with a Kansas-type flair, featuring passages of heavy guitar and wild solos which are complemented by some pleasant acoustic guitar and percussion. Yes, there is a real drummer on the album, that being NYC session man Joe Franco.
This is a landmark release for Magellan, and is worth the price for the 34-minute "The Great Goodnight" alone. Perhaps this CD is less heavy, and maybe a little bit less complex than previous works, but there is no doubt that it is the most mature and inspirational release yet from this band.