Billy Sherwood – The Art of Survival (2012)

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Billy Sherwood again sounds a futureshock alarm on The Art of Survival, resuming an on-going exploration into the way technology is forever changing our lives.

An important message, no doubt, but it’s not enough to simply explore a doomy sense of fin de siècle; the heart cries out for some sense of how to make our way through this gadgety maze, some way to deal with the still-emerging horrors of our modern, oddly detached practice of war and policing.

Sherwood, the former member of 1990s-era Yes who now co-leads Circa with Tony Kaye, does just that in what quickly emerges as his most complete solo effort yet.

“Military Industrial Complex” (an undulating, vocally layered rumination on the sweeping powers that unseen generals have slowly acquired) and “Drone Deciphers” (a menacing, twilit warning on the loss of privacy) eventually give way to “Whose Side are You On?” — an episodic, very Yes-influenced indictment of those who ignore these slowly enveloping issues. “Someone will win, someone will lose,” Sherwood warns, with a whispery confidentiality that belies its dark message. “Someone will conquer and divide.”

[ONE TRACK MIND: Billy Sherwood explores key moments from his varied career, including songs from Toto, Paul Rodgers, Toto and — of course — Yes.]

The first rays of light begin seeping into The Art of Survival during “Faith That We Belong,” an anthematic, heartfelt paean to a life’s passion. Elsewhere, there are pair of tunes that thump and soar with an Echoes-era Pink Floyd-inspired brawn, “Humanity” and then “Pathfinders of Tomorrow.”

Along the way, there is a return to Sherwood’s initial theme on “Chosen by Divinity,” which explores what happens in the next world for those who kill in the name of some higher purpose. “Humming Along,” in an oddly appropriate moment, is perhaps the most hummable moment on The Art of Survival — despite focusing on hidden spy devices.

Sherwood then finishes with the orchestral, deeply effective “I Must Begin Again,” the album’s must unquestionably hopeful tune — and, in its own way, his own response to every thing that’s come before: “I got lost inside my own world; I must begin again.”

For all of his worries, for everything that troubles him about this world, Sherwood smartly balances his new project with these unguardedly optimistic moments. After all, believing in something is part of the art of survival, too.

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Billy Sherwood’s newest solo release ‘The Art of Survival’ is available:

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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