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Sherwood, Billy: At the Speed of Life...

"Where would we be without each other?
Could we make it through to see another day?
Are we nearing the end?
Can we pull back from the edge?
We must come together once again
Life is for living my friends"
(excerpt from "Seeing Through Walls")

Billy Sherwood's third, excellent solo album is a kind of mid-life reflection about the whys and wherefores of life - something that has occupied many of our minds I'm sure, and a common topic for musicians of a "certain age"! At the Speed of Life is a real solo effort: Billy plays all of the instruments himself, as well as having handled the production and mixing. Impressive!

Life - the 7 ages of man....7 tracks on Billy's album: I'll let you work out whether that's just a coincidence but you could certainly interpret the lyrics in that way. Irrespective of the subject matter of the lyrics, what really makes this album shine is the music, the lyrics contributing in that Billy regularly uses often-repeated phrases and sometimes verses in such a way as to create waves of rhythm, another very life-like quality, within most of these songs.

Musically, the album is very rich melodically, these are songs that, whilst they have rich arrangements as performed on the album, could be stripped down to acoustic guitar and still sound good. "Forward" is perhaps the exception, relying more on its rhythmic elements and very powerful bass for its effect, developing into a virtual jazz-fusion arrangement. Elsewhere, the rock is more straightforward, based primarily on strong melody but never losing its rhythmic qualities, coming both from the playing itself and, more subtly, from the lyrical concept I've already mentioned.

The tempo is slow to medium throughout but make no mistake - this is music with balls! Billy's production prowess is well known and he uses it to full effect, creating a cleanness and clarity of sound that is an absolute joy to listen to. The musicianship is extraordinary but a special mention goes to the in-your-face bass playing, which is an absolute delight: and often played as a melody line (and lead guitar-like rather than the more customary style). Turn the bass up to maximum on this album and the shock waves may well knock you through the wall!

The vocals are almost always vocoderized and rarely clean of effects; it's not a technique that I'm a huge fan of, but the strength of the music overall compensates for this and after listening to the album a few times you cease to notice the effect, it becomes part of the "music".

"At the Speed of Life" in particular has such a strong melodic and rhythmical hook that it has wormed its way into my head and just keeps replaying itself 24/7. I woke up in the middle of the night yesterday and it was there, chugging away. I can avoid listening to it in my mind if I put on some other music but the moment that stops then I have the hook and the bass-line back again, over and over and over, It's actually quite difficult to be objective about how good a song is when that is happening, so the way to defeat it is to pick out another as the favorite! Ha! I'm going for "Alive and Wondering"....which is in effect a gorgeous, melodic and long lead guitar solo in a sandwich of Peter Gabriel-ish sounding verses (I know that it sounds ironic that an ex-Yes man should end up sounding a bit like Peter Gabriel, but there you have it, that's what he sounds like to me, in particular at the beginning of this song.)

Finally, a word of warning if you're interested in buying this fine album - it is only available from the artist's website, so don't spend hours looking for it in the shops!

"Universal time clocking all our lives
Moments multiply at the speed of life
Universal time forward or rewind
Geo-synchronized at the speed of life
The speed of life"......

...oh, there it is again...aaarrghhhh.....

Track Listing
1) Forward (6:27)
2) In the Maze of the Garden (8:35)
3) In Memory Of... (2:36)
4) Face the Dawn (6:30)
5) Alive and Wondering (5:51)
6) At the Speed of Life (10:04)
7) Seeing Through the Walls (10:57)

Added: September 12th 2008
Reviewer: Alex Torres
Related Link: Artists MySpace Page
Hits: 2883
Language: english

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