This second release from Chris Squire and Billy Sherwood sounds more like a band than their debut release of several years ago. That CD began as a Squire solo project, and contained several early versions of tunes that would eventually develop into Yes songs.
Stylistically somewhere between Yes' 1997 Open Your Eyes and Sherwood's own World Trade projects, The Unknown is solid pop with some oddball arrangements, including the 11 minute plus title track. Clearly Sherwood evolved during his 5-year stint in Yes, producing, writing, and playing back up guitar to both Trevor Rabin and Steve Howe (check out what he learned from Howe on "There Is No End").
Sherwood, to me, has always been somewhat of a secondary Rabin, in that he is a multi-instrumentalist/ writer/singer/producer. His compositions are decidedly pop, but like Rabin's, his arrangements are somewhere in left field. Thus, like the strongly Rabin-dominated late 80's Yes, his songs satisfy the "prog" market while sneaking into mainstream. The difference between Sherwood and Rabin is Rabin's proven capability of thoroughly redefining an established band's faltering career in the 80's (90125, Big Generator) and damn near pulling it off again in the 90's (Talk was a near miss). Sherwood's performance in Yes saw him mostly in a supporting role, though the disjointed Open Your Eyes was an example of Sherwood and Squire at their most dominant over the Yes sound. The gap between many producer/writer/musicians and Rabin is usually pretty vast, and it's a testament to Sherwood that he even qualifies for comparison.
What The Unknown drives home is that Chris Squire has an excellent singing voice, something Yes fans have known forever, and in harmonizing with Sherwod, the pair create some exotic choral tones. Always exquisite on the bottom end, Squire works within the frame of the songs and never pushes the bass in the mix or plays Billy Sheehan on you. What you get are some truly good pop songs ("Conspiracy," "I Would"), some experimentation ("New World," "The Unknown"), along with a moody, almost "The More We Live" (from Union) style track ("The Wheel").
The lyrics are...somewhat less than profound. ("the sun will rise, the sun will fall/no ending to it all"). So as long as you don't pay them too much mind, they're certainly not bad. Overall, it's a good listen, and worth checking out for those who are into some new sounds that don't totally alienate the structure of Western pop music.