For all of the intrigue surrounding Billy Sherwood’s recombining with members of Yes on a pair of new Cleopatra projects, his collaborations with XTC’s Colin Moulding have emerged as perhaps the most interesting moments.
That includes their take on “It’s Raining Again” from Songs of the Century: An All-Star Tribute to Supertramp, as well as “Check Point Karma,” the closing track from another guest-packed effort called The Prog Collective,, due on August 14, 2012 from Cleopatra subsidiary Purple Pyramid.
Take nothing away from the tempestuous, cumulus-style contributions here by keyboard Rick Wakeman, who worked with Sherwood during his 1990s stint in Yes, as well. But Moulding, retired from XTC and largely unheard from now since 2006, seems to bring a hook-focused pop grandeur to Sherwood’s work, giving “Check Point Karma” a sound that’s cleaner, more emotive — heck, just peppier, than anything else on either of these recordings.
All of the traditional prog markers are there on “Check Point Karma,” from Wakeman himself to this track’s muscular 7-plus minute length. Yet at the same time, there are these flavor-crystal bursts of power-pop majesty all around. “Check Point Karma,” like his work with Moulding on “It’s Raining Again,” boasts a sense of Xxxx-filled triumph that the rest of this album rarely matches.
You could, if you listen closely, hear a world of other inspirational touchstones within Sherwood’s music — as a solo artist, in particular — beyond the obvious Yes-isms, from Weather Report to Genesis to UK to Jeff Beck. XTC, however, was never one that immediately bobbed to the surface. (Beach Boys, maybe; but not the far more idiosyncratic, somewhat psychedelic stirrings of XTC.)
Still, when Sherwood somehow coaxed Moulding back into the studio, he did more than provide a treat for fans of XTC who had been longing to hear more from this curiously reclusive early retiree. Sherwood seems to have meshed with him in a way that makes a strong argument for more of this kind of quirky pop in the future.
Elsewhere on the forthcoming Prog Collective, Sherwood is joined violinist Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra, Dixie Dregs), bassist Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, John Lennon) and vocalist John Wetton (King Crimson, UK, Asia) on the terrific “The Laws Of Nature”; by vocalist Richard Page (Mr. Mister) on “Over Again”; by bassist Chris Squire (Yes, Conspiracy), guitarist Gary Green (Gentle Giant), vocalist Alan Parsons (of Project fame) and keyboardist David Sancious (E Street Band, Stanley Clarke, Peter Gabriel) on “The Technical Divide”; by vocalist Annie Haslam (Renaissance) and guitarist Peter Banks (Yes) on “Social Circles”; by keyboardist Larry Fast (Peter Gabriel, Foreigner, Hall and Oates) and guitarist Steve Hillage on “Buried Beneath”; and by keyboardist Tony Kaye (Yes, Circa) and guitarist John Wesley (Porcupine Tree) on “Follow The Signs.”