A Truly Impressive Unknown Gem
Colin Masson is a really talented guy. Between his impressive body of work with The Morrigan, and now two solo albums available, it's safe to say that Colin Masson is one of the best prog musicians you've never heard. Thus, I challenge any fan of adventurous and dramatic progressive rock to check out Colin's newest CD, The Mad Monk and the Mounain. Colin's masterful talents on various instruments never cease to amaze me, and the breathtaking compositions help to enhance the quality of this album even more. Though the production isn't the best in the world, the charm and beauty of this album makes up for any budget-related shortcomings in the end.
Colin Masson plays an interesting and eclectic progressive rock style. There are especially lots of folk influences in Colin's music, but there are also some ambient and new-age influences in there as well. Colin Masson clearly has a distinct sound that's easy to pick out from a crowd of Genesis and ELP clones. This highly original approach is partially what makes the album so enjoyable, but the high level of compositional quality helps as well. Every song is great. Sure, they may take some time to sink in, but once they do, this is a captivating, highly addictive album worth many more spins. Although much of the album is instrumental, the vocal sections help to add in some good variation, which is already very present. On The Mad Monk and the Mountain, I especially like "The Ends of the Earth", which features beautiful vocals amongst atmospheric instrumentation, and features a climatic build at the end. The title track and the closing epic, "The House on the Rock", are also tremendously notable, but every individual track is worth hearing.
As I've mentioned earlier, Colin Masson is an exceedingly talented musician. He does an incredible job on the guitars, bass, and keyboards, and he is actually quite a unique vocalist. His vocals are used sparingly, but when they do appear they really enhance the music. Cathy Alexander also helps out on vocals, keyboards, and recorders, and she does a great job as well. I especially have to applaud her vocal talents - she really is a beautiful singer!
With all that praise, I do have two small complaints - the drum machine and the production. First of all, I'd like to state that neither of these things is extremely crippling to the music, but they do detract from my listening experience a little bit. The drum machine, while it keeps up with the music, is still not the same as having a human body behind the kit. The programmed drums sound okay, if a bit synthetic. The production isn't a huge issue, but it sounds a bit low-budget and amateurish. It's a bit of an acquired taste, though, and I've grown to like it more over time.
The Mad Monk and the Mountain is a terrific album by Colin Masson that's essential for any prog fan looking for a truly unique adventure. This is a moody, dynamic, and highly impressive roller-coaster ride of an album. Because of the unique approach, great compositions, and talented musicianship, It'd be a crime for me to give The Mad Monk and the Mountain any less than four stars. Highly recommended to all fans of eclectic symphonic prog!
1. Two Lighthousekeepers (5:28)
2. Tilting at Windmills (9:34)
3. The Ends of the Earth (8:43)
4. The Mad Monk and the Mountain (9:28)
5. Caradon's Surprise (2:32)
6. The House on the Rock (16:52)
Total time 52:37