Whispers is a remarkable collaboration between Clive Bayley, original member of Mabel Greer's Toyshop, the band which became Yes in 1968 and Max Hunt the classically trained keyboard player and, for the last 20 years member of Fragile the highly accomplished Yes tribute band whose first original collection of original, Yes-inspired music, Golden Fragments (see review) also features Bayley's vocals on two tracks. The pair have also collaborated in the reformed Mabel Greer's Toyshop since 2015. Now we're all caught up - there'll be a quiz later.
This is a hugely entertaining collection of ambitious pop infused rock, drawing, in their own words, on influences from Classical and World music, Rock & Pop, Progressive Rock, Psychedelic and New Age music. It features driving rock, African and Latin inspired poly-rhythms, gentle atmospheric ballads and transcendental sections of music suitable for gentle meditation. This is a luscious sonic wash of an album; despite the strength and experience of Bayley's vocal, he still manages to inflect his singing with a touching vulnerability and wistful melancholy which is perfect for the extended introspective of songs such as Love Or Emotion? There is nothing taken for granted in the arrangements from classical piano, prog rock keyboards to jangling psychedelic guitar washes and even the church organ gets a look in. Yet unlike other bands who have tried this level of ambition the listener is never left feeling like they are having the proverbial musical kitchen sink thrown at them. I particularly enjoyed the way the hypnotic West African guitar themes were infused into Can You Feel It? for example. A looping mesmerising theme, drawing the listener into the music in the way that minimalism draws the audience in to the experience of the resounding note. Bayley & Hunt even manage the feat of including a Christmas Song which isn't terrible and I can think of no better compliment than that. Actually, if you think I'm being unkind, I'm not, it's really quite good.
The title track is saved for the last, an 8 minute slab of melancholic, retrospective shoegazing, emotionally deep cinematic gloriousness in 3 acts, spoiled only by the hilarious 90s throwback of 10 minutes of silence and backwards playing tapes on the end. It's never been funny and still isn't.
That apart this is a sonic treat of an album which is well deserving of attention by devotees of strong artistic pop as well as prog fans, psychedelics and anyone with an interest in music which is both ambitious and entertaining.
**** Andrew Cottrell
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