In the Hinduism grand scheme of things, Mahavishnu is an aspect of Vishnu, the Absolute which is beyond human comprehension and is beyond all attributes. The Hindu term of Mahavishnu is the “Supersoul” of all living beings in all material universes, so then, a jolly good starting point for a musical journey initiated by Billy Sherwood entitled “The Prog Collective.”
The collective fields some of the greatest names in progressive rock history all in one album with guest artists from Yes, King Crimson, Asia, Gong, Alan Parsons Project, Gentle Giant, Porcupine Tree and XTC. There is also a neat vocal by Annie Haslam (Renaissance) who duets with Peter Banks, the original Yes guitarist. Interestingly the bar code sticker on the CD when it arrived stated simply “File under Yes”, but a Yes album this is not, far from it!
On first hearing, not having seen any CD notes and working with the MP3 file only, I was convinced it was Eddie Jobson playing violin alongside John Wetton on the opening track “Laws of Nature”, conjuring up memories of UK’s “Caesars Palace Blues”. Incredibly, it turns out that the killer electric violin is actually played by the legendary, Jerry Goodman, he of Mahavishnu Orchestra fame.
It is great to hear Goodman has not lost any of his superfast playing skills, laying down a pace which only a master class bassist, of the calibre of Tony Levin, could handle. The drums are actually played by Billy Sherwood, who is responsible for the “Prog Collective” producing, recording and mixing all the tracks at his Circa Studios in Los Angeles.
Strangely enough I would never have listed XTC as “prog” band but on “Check Point Karma” Sherwood has cleverly landed the talents of Colin Moulding, the bass player of XTC, to take the lead vocal on a cool journey into the unknown. An acoustic introduction leads into “All aboard, take Your Seats” on a crazy train ride as Rick Wakeman provides two easily recognizable Hammond solos, the only critic being they are simply just too short.
Sherwood’s production skills are well renowned within the music industry and on “Buried Beneath”, he utilises the soaring guitar playing of Steve Hillage to build up a sheer wall of sound with keyboards and xylophone contributed by Larry Fast, who was very instrumental with the early works of Peter Gabriel.
Sherwood deploys the latest technology available to great effect in order to create music via MP3 file transfer across the globe which, for cost and time reasons, would not normally be possible. However, nothing beats a band of players in the same room sharing ideas and bouncing off each other and there is a clear “Technical Divide” as to which tracks have had personal studio session visits and those which have been subjected to the almost Star Trek world of the “beam-me-up-Billy” technology which is now seemingly part of our everyday lives.
On “Technical Divide” Billy Sherwood managed to secure the services of his old Yes compatriot, Chris Squire, thus ensuring a thumping bass , supporting a lead vocal by Alan Parsons with strutting and soaring guitar work by Gary Green, he of Gentle Giant fame. Both Squire and Green visited the LA studio to play with Sherwood resulting in a tight musical combination, which would actually go down well as an interesting live line up.
Billy Sherwood has pulled together some of the greatest names in prog history, all of whom joined with great enthusiasm for this unique idea. It would truly be a “Supersoul” moment if he could take it the next aspect of Vishnu and create a live performance, but then I guess the problem would be finding a theatre spacey enough to fit them all in at exactly the same point in time!
Reviewed by Tim Price for Rockshot UK
The Prog Collective: Released on August 14th 2012 by Purple Pyramid Records
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