The Music Of Cirrus Bay: A Trick Of The Wind, A Wuthering Tail

Cirrus Bay are a U.S. based band with its musical heart firmly rooted in 1970s progressive rock. One of the great things about this band is that they do not sound retro. They may be playing 1970’s styled progressive rock, but their sound is throughly modern.

The band’s predominant influence is 1970’s Genesis, with a huge emphasis on the keyboard stylings of Tony Banks. The overall sound of Cirrus Bay is a laid back, slightly folksy, take on the sounds of the classic Genesis albums A Trick Of The Tail and Wind And Wuthering. The big point of difference with Cirrus Bay is the band’s use of female vocalists. While the music heavily draws on the sounds of Genesis the female vocals help to give the band a different sound. The influence of Genesis looms largely on all of Cirrus Bay’s albums. The band utilizes that influence to create a progressive rock sound that is their own.

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To date Cirrus Bay have released five albums. With each new release the band continues to hone their craft. The first album, The Slipping Of The Day (2008), is a mixed bag. It features a male and a female vocalist. I am sorry to say that the male vocalist is not a very good singer. As a result about half of the album is good. On subsequent albums female singers have handled the vocals quite effectively. The band’s second album, A Step Into Elsewhere (2009), firmly establishes the Cirrus Bay sound. The band delivers melodic, keyboard driven prog accented by acoustic and electric guitars. Overall the music may not be as flashy as other prog bands. That said, there are plenty of long, well played instrumental passages present. Whimsical Weather (2012) and The Search For Joy (2014) continue the band’s evolution and subtle refinements. With their latest album, Places Unseen (2016), the band delivers their best album.

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Bill Gillham is the band’s main songwriter and he handles multiple instruments on the albums. It is quite obvious that he is heavily influenced by Tony Banks. Whether playing keyboards or piano he proves to be quite a skilled disciple of the unique keyboard styling of Tony Banks.

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Gillham also handles most of the guitar playing on the albums. He is quite adept at acoustic and electric guitar. Strummed acoustic guitars feature prominently throughout the music of Cirrus Bay. On the electric guitar Gillham does, at times, produce some Steve Hackett-like guitar sounds and riffs.  Keyboards may be the primary instrument on Cirrus Bay’s albums, but there is plenty of tasteful guitar throughout.

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For the bulk of the albums Sharra Acle and Anisha Gillham handle the lead vocals. On the band’s most recent album, Places Unseen, the lead vocals are handled by Tai Shan. All three singers have similar sounding voices that would not be out of place singing folk songs or ballads.

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Mark Blasco handles the drums and bass. Cirrus Bay’s intention is not to showcase over the top virtuosity. This is reflected in Blasco’s handling of the drums and bass. A skilled player, he lays down the song’s foundation, playing what each song requires. When he needs to step it up for the more involved instrumental breaks he does so quite well. There are plenty of opportunities for the band to showcase their instrumental prowess.  Over the course of their albums some songs routinely extend pass the ten minute mark.

Although the main influence is A Trick Of The Tail and Wind And Wuthering the sounds of other Genesis album do crop up as well. Listening to Cirrus Bay’s catalog one can hear small musical traces of the Genesis albums Foxtrot, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, And Then There Were Three and Selling England By The Pound.

Another great aspect of Cirrus Bay are their beautiful album covers. There is a running theme of painterly landscapes on the band’s album covers. Some of these pictures are so good you want to hang them on your wall. Of the five albums The Search For Joy contains my favorite album cover.

With four solid albums under their collective belts Cirrus Bay has a lot going for them. I am really enjoying their modern take on 1970’s progressive rock. Their future appears to be very bright. If you like well written, melodic progressive rock with long instrumentals this might be a band for you. I highly recommend Cirrus Bay to fans of Genesis and 1970’s progressive rock.

Troy T.

Mike And The Mechanics, Don’t Know What Came Over Me

It is always a good time when one of your favorite bands is about to release a new album. I count Mike And The Mechanics as one of my favorites. Being a huge Genesis fan it was an easy transition becoming a Mechanics fan back in 1985.


Their latest album, Let Me Fly, has a release date of April 07, 2017. This is the follow up to The Road (2011), which was the first Mechanics album to feature the new post Paul Carrack lineup. The Road is a very solid album. It may not be the band’s best work, but it is a worthwhile addition to their discography. The two new singers, Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar, did a fantastic job on vocals. The songs were really good. Overall some of the music was a bit too low key at times, but The Road is an enjoyable album.


The newest Mechanics song, Don’t Know What Came Over Me, has just been released.  After the first listen I was hooked, I love it!  It is a catchy pop rock song with a hint of R&B. I am quite excited to hear the rest of the album. I do hold out a slim hope that The Mechanics will tour in America. I have never seen the band live. Based on viewings of online videos it looks like a fun show.

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I applaud Mike Rutherford for keeping the Mechanics alive.  The band’s popularity really fizzled in America after their highly successful second album  The Living Years (1988).  Mechanics fans know what happened in the ensuing years.  Paul Young passed away far too soon.  Eventually Paul Carrack moved on to focus more time on his own music. It would have been very easy for Mike to pack up his guitar and bass and retire quite comfortably.  I am thankful that he opted to recruit new singers and revive The Mechanics.  Mike really appears to be enjoying himself on stage with The Mechanics.  The fact that he still wants to create new music is a bonus.

Troy T.

Is It Time For Steve Hackett To Stop Revisiting Genesis?

I love the music of Genesis immensely, they have been one of my favorite bands since the early 1980’s. Their music was my introduction to progressive rock. To this day they remain my favorite progressive rock band.

I also love the music of former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. He has established himself as a forward thinking solo artist since leaving Genesis in 1977. During his career he has put together  a discography that is quite impressive. He has explored various genres including progressive rock, classical guitar, world music, blues, pop, hard rock and classical music.

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As a solo artist he has always been one to be in touch with his past. Genesis music has always had a presence in his live shows. For many years Horizons, and sections of Firth Of Fifth, Los Endos and In That Quiet Earth have been pretty constant in his live set lists. Over various tours other Genesis songs have been included as well. Songs such as I Know What I Like, Hairless Heart, Carpet Crawlers, Watcher of the Skies, Fly On A Windshield and Blood On The Rooftops. The latter song was a treat because it was never performed live by Genesis. Steve Hackett’s touring drummer Gary O’Toole does a fantastic job putting his own spin on the lead vocals. From tour to tour there was a nice balance of Genesis songs intermingled with his solo material.

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In 2013 Steve Hackett began his highly successful Genesis Revisited tour. This was a tour that featured a set list that was 99% – 100% Genesis songs. Some shows featured the Steve Hackett song Shadow Of The Hierophant. I believe that the popularity of this tour surprised all involved. What was initially intended to be a one off tour has spilled over two tours later. I understand the reason for the show and I understand it’s popularity. However, I now feel that the music of Genesis Is taking up far too much room in his setlist.

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His last tour was titled Acolyte to Wolflight With Genesis Revisited. It was a tour meant to celebrate the forty year anniversary of his first solo album, Voyage Of The Acolyte. He also had an incredible new album out to promote, Wolflight. He played about five songs from each album and a few highlights from the earlier part of his career. This tour could have been an incredible retrospective of his solo career. Unfortunately the Genesis Revisited section of the show ate up half the set list. Do not misunderstand me, the Genesis Revisited set was absolutely great. The opportunity to hear his incredible band expertly play songs like Get ‘Em Out By Friday, The Cinema Show and Can-Utility And The Coastliners was quite an experience. But as great as it was part of me was imaging a two and a half hour set list spanning Steve Hackett’s solo career.

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His recent tour just started and the timing seems a little odd. He has a new album set for release in March, so I am curious as to why the tour started now. That said, I had the great privilege of seeing one the early shows of the new tour. Steve Hackett and his touring band were incredible as always. But I must say that I left the show slightly disappointed. This was a first for me. I have seen Steve Hackett live several times over the years. I know what a full live set of his solo material sounds like. This most recent show featured too much Genesis! Once again please do not misunderstand me, I love the music of Genesis a great deal. But I also love Steve Hackett’s solo music and I wanted to hear more of it.

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At this point it may be time to leave some of the Genesis songs in the past. This new tour is billed as celebrating the forty year anniversary of the Genesis album Wind And Wuthering. So I was aware of that going in. Hearing a few songs from that classic album was great, along with the song Inside And Out. Inside And Out was recorded during the Wind And Wuthering sessions but it was not released on the album. It was later released on the Spot The Pigeon EP in 1977. I was pleased with the Wind and Wuthering set list, especially Inside And Out. When that portion of the show was over I thought for sure that he would return to playing his solo material. To my surprise the set continued with Dance On A Volcano, The Musical Box, Firth Of Fifth, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight and Los Endos. The band did play sections of Steve Hackett’s songs Myopia and Slogans during Los Endos, but that was it.

I know that there are many fans who will strongly disagree with me. I feel that it is time for Steve Hackett to leave Genesis Revisited in the rearview mirror. This Steve Hackett fan wants to hear more Steve Hackett songs on the next Steve Hackett tour. He left Genesis in 1977 and he has not looked back musically. He has proven himself to be a vital artist who continually pushes himself and his music forward. He proves that with each new album that he releases.  I do not have an issue with Genesis songs in his set list, just the amount. Going forward I would love less Genesis and more Steve Hackett.

Troy T.

Tony Banks And Marillion’s Fish

What a classic pairing of two progressive rock greats. Over the course of two albums Tony Banks collaborated with one time Marillion singer Fish on three songs. Those albums were Tony Banks’ solo albums Soundtracks (1986) and Still (1991). It is said that Fish auditioned for Genesis after Phil Collins departed in 1996. True or not, these three songs give a little insight into what a Fish led Genesis may have sounded like.

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On the surface Fish leading Genesis sounds like a very intriguing idea.  It is quite apparent that the music of Genesis was a huge influence on Marillion.  As a big fan of both bands I am sure that I would have enjoyed this pairing a great deal. At the time Fish possessed a unique voice that sounded like an amalgam of Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel. Realistically I do not believe that it would have worked. New material by this pairing would most likely have been fantastic. But could Fish have handled singing Genesis’ back catalog? I really can not imagine Fish effectively singing songs like Mama or Tonight, Tonight, Tonight. Over time would he really want to?

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Personally I would have loved to have seen Wang Chung singer Jack Hues front post Collins Genesis. Hues recorded an exceptional album with Tony Banks in 1995, Strictly Inc. And I do believe that he had a voice that could tackle the band’s back catalog successfully. In hindsight the best solution may have been to go the route that Mike and the Mechanics went down. Utilizing two different singers may have been the best solution.

Let’s get back to Fish and Tony Banks. Their first collaboration was the song Shortcut To Somewhere, written by Tony Banks and Fish. Of the three songs this is the only one  to be recorded while Fish was still a member of Marillion. It is an upbeat synth rocker that would have fit right in on the Genesis album Abacab. Overall it is a good song, but far from either party’s best work.

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The next two songs appear on Tony Bank’s album Still.  Angel Face is a slow, moody song written solely by Tony Banks. Vocally it shows Fish in a slightly different light since he did not write the lyrics.  This is an excellent track

Written by Tony Banks and Fish, Another Murder Of A Day clocks in at just over nine minutes.  It is a dramatic, piano driven rock track. The song features a passionate vocal from Fish, one of Tony Banks’ flashier keyboard solos and some great guitar from Daryl Stuermer.

Tony Banks and Fish worked quite well together, more collaborations would have been welcome. Based on these songs would Fish have worked out fronting Genesis? Perhaps, but only if they focused on new material and select Genesis tracks in a concert setting. Listening to the song Something In The Air, from Fish’s second solo album Internal Exile (1991), may give further insight. It is a cover song, but Fish’s rendition sure sounds a lot like it could have been a mid to late 80’s Genesis song. Maybe it could have worked out well. We’ll never know, but it is fun to imagine the possibilities.

Troy T.

Steve Hackett, A Birthday Appreciation

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I want to acknowledge the 67th birthday of one of my biggest musical heroes, Steve Hackett. His music has been such a huge part of my life for over thirty five years. I first became aware of him in 1981 after hearing the Genesis album A Trick Of The Tail. After fully exploring the music of Genesis it was only logical to look into the solo albums of the band members. Highly Strung was the first Steve Hackett solo album that I purchased. 1981 started a musical journey with the music of Genesis and it’s members that has continued to present day.

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Steve Hackett’s unique approach to the guitar and to songwriting have had a profound impact on me. I would consider myself to be an amateur musician and songwriter. His work with Genesis, and more so his long solo career, have influenced me a great deal. I absolutely love his musical contributions with Genesis, but it was as a solo musician that he truly blossomed as an artist. Over the years he has established a musician vision that is uniquely his own.

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I applaud Steve Hackett for truly being a progressive artist. He has not been content to repeat the past or rest on his laurels. Four decades into his solo career and he continues to take risks as he pushes himself as a singer, songwriter and musician. It is astonishing how much music is inside of this one man. With each new album he continues to delight me. Just when you think that you have heard it all from Steve Hackett he puts out an album like his last one, Wolflight. Released in 2015 Wolflight features Steve Hackett taking his songwriting and guitar playing to new levels.

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His newest album, The Night Siren, is slated to be released in March of 2017. I am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to plunge into  his newest collection of songs. For some time Steve Hackett has been one of the few music artists that I trust. Whatever musical journey that he opts to go on I am right there along for the ride. Over the course of this long journey I can honestly say that he has disappointed me only twice. I was extremely underwhelmed by the albums Tribute (2008) and Beyond The Shrouded Horizon (2012). The albums are not  bad, they are just not up to his usual standards. I would definitely rank them as my least favorite albums in his catalog.  On the flip side his 1993 release Guitar Noir is my favorite of his solo albums.  I would also rank it as my favorite album by any artist.

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I will now proceed to wrap this up by listing my favorite songs by Steve Hackett. With over twenty studio albums to his credit picking favorites could be a difficult task. After some very deep thought, here are my top twelve favorite songs by Steve Hackett.  Of course this list is subject to change over time.

Walking Away From Rainbows
Spectral Mornings
The Steppes
Overnight Sleeper
Little America
Valley Of The Kings
The Virgin And The Gypsy
Hoping Love Will Last
Icarus Ascending
Take These Pearls
This World
Every Day

Troy T.

John Wetton, My Humble Tribute

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As a fan of progressive rock I am well aware of the importance of John Wetton.  However, outside of his work with Steve Hackett I do not own any of his music.  Of course I have heard some of his work with King Crimson and  U.K. in the 1970’s and Asia in the 1980’s.

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It’s his work with Steve Hackett, when Wetton  toured as part of his band in the late 1990’s, that I am most familiar with.  The set list was mostly Steve Hackett and Genesis songs.  But also included were songs from Wetton’s past, including The Court Of The Crimson King, Battle Lines and Heat Of The Moment.  One of the things that impressed me about Wetton was how dignified he looked on stage singing and playing the bass.  He also brought a different feel to some of the classic Genesis songs that was rather refreshing.  In 2012 Wetton lent his vocals to Steve Hackett’s reworking of the Genesis classic Afterglow.  This live rendition seems like an appropriate song to end this tribute.

Troy T.

 

Phil Collins, A Birthday Appreciation

1339I just wanted to acknowledge the sixty sixth birthday of one of my musical heroes, Phil Collins. His music has been a large part of the soundtrack of my life for a long time. His work as a singer, drummer, songwriter, pianist and producer have brought a great deal of joy to my life.

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My introduction to Phil Collins came in 1981, thanks to MTV and the music video for the Genesis song Abacab. I was immediately hooked and soon discovered other Genesis music videos for the songs No Reply At All, Man On The Corner, Keep It Dark, Misunderstanding and Follow You Follow Me. Also in heavy rotation on MTV were music videos for the songs I Missed Again and In The Air Tonight, from his solo debut Face Value. I have been a huge lover of the music of Genesis and Phil Collins ever since.

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His Birthday is a great opportunity for me to reflect on his music and his career. 2017 promises more live performances from Phil Collins. He has hinted at the possibility of new music in the future. If he never records another note of music in his lifetime I will be satisfied. As a fan I feel that I can not ask for more from this man. He has given up so much for his love of music. He has spent a lifetime creating an impressive back catalog of music. But that work came at a heavy cost to him emotionally and physically. If he does one day decide to create new music I will be ecstatic. If not I will continue to enjoy his lifetime labor of love, his wonderful music. With that, here are my top ten favorite Phil Collins solo songs.

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We Fly So Close
Survivors
I Don’t Care Anymore
If Leaving Me Is Easy
You Know What I Mean
Can’t Find My Way
Against All Odds
In The Air Tonight
Come With Me
The Same Moon