|Brian McDonald Voyage||Atenzia Records|
Brian McDonald doesn't make records in a hurry. It's been 3 years since Wind It Up and a decade or two since his cult debut. Voyage is a departure from the more Def Leppard themed pop/rock of Wind It Up.|
This is a far stronger, more diverse and ultimately satisfying record. Without hesitation I regard it as Brian's best work to date and more or less a masterpiece for lovers of all things pompous and bombastic!
Voyage finds McDonald in the company of pomp legends Kansas, Styx, ELO and Queen, not to mention the best elements of 80's Chicago.
Naturally there is still a heavy dose of Def Leppard in the mix, especially with the layered vocals and general production techniques.
One listen will not satisfy listeners. It's only after half a dozen spins that the full brilliance of the album emerges and some of the many layers within the songs reveal themselves. Indeed, many more listens on, there are still elements within each track that are coming to light.
This is a thoroughly over the top pomp rock record, with huge hooks, massive melodies and more layers than most other records currently on the market.
Reb Beach guests on guitar on several tracks, but for the most part, this is Brian's own baby. Better even still when all things considered, this does not sound like a one-man-band record.
I mentioned diverse - well amongst the layers of keyboards and guitars and pomp harmonies, there are strings on two tracks, bagpipes on another and brass on three tracks.
A review of each track is the only way to do the album as a whole justice.
Track By Track:
Opening Brain's account on Voyage is the track Intimate, a song that builds quickly into a smooth pop rocker not unsimilar to what you would have expected. Take a hard listen to what's going on in the background and you will hear more than just the vocals and guitar. A chorus explodes with a keyboard flurry and several layers of vocals and changing harmonies quickly demonstrates that this album is going to be something different.
Funnily enough, the opening track is not one of the album's strongest, nor one of my favourites.
Where Are You Where Am I however, is! This ELO/Beatles/Chicago inspired pomp rocker is everything you could hope for from this album, with a soft verse that leads into a cracking chorus with a great hook. Pomp heaven - and listen for the strings!
In The Shadows Of Angels is another big anthem pop/rocker with a tempo that changes at least 3 times within the song. Features some strong piano paying, a great lead vocal and a heavier rocking chorus that is possibly one of the album's best. A mid-song instrumental interlude brings back fond memories of classic Styx and Kansas.
Phoenix Rising features a long intro that sounds like Peter Cetera joining Styx. Another strong chorus and some tempo changes make this another highly memorable track. The verse doesn't seem to have much to do with the chorus, but together the song really works. Listen for the brass section.
The Night You Said Goodbye is the album's big commercial rock ballad. FM radio circa 1986 would have eaten this track alive. This is a big ballad that could have been lifted from any 80's Chicago album and featured on any movie soundtrack you could pick! A great chorus and lots of layers in the verse.
The title track Voyage is more of the same highly infectious pomp that occupies the whole album. Verse, bridge, chorus, break, same again....it's all very complex stuff! Great keyboard break mid-song.
Patriot Dreams is another album highlight. I love the sentiment of this song and the way it's delivered, with Brian's vocal taking the lead. The song tells a story, with the melodies in Brian's vocals guiding the listener. The song tempo changes from slow to mid to fast and back again through the course of the track. Very cool and features a strong guitar presence.
Out Of Time is a classic 70's pomp rocker and one of the more straight forward tracks of the album - if there is such a thing!
Between Heaven And Heart is the album's other big anthem ballad. Reprise my comments from The Night You Said Goodbye and add a string arrangement, brass and a big chorus and even bigger song climax. Great stuff.
Normandy features a long and dramatic intro befitting a song of such a serious subject matter. The song details the place of a major WWII battle and is the darkest and heaviest track of the album. It's a little harder to get through than some other tracks, but offers a great mood change and finishes up with a complex mix of musical layers.
Legend is a well placed softer track, with a more relaxed vibe, although the chorus is still quite dramatic. Not as strong as earlier tracks.
In A World Made For You picks the tempo up a little and reverts a little back to the style of the first half of the album, but like the last few tracks retains a darker and more dramatic core.
Unfinished Business a short Celtic intro soon gives way to an acoustic guitar/vocal intro that runs for several minutes before building into a dramatic musical burst that returns to the Celtic roots of the songs intro. Once again, not as catchy as earlier tracks, but darker and more melodramatic.
The last 4 tracks are darker, longer, heavier and suitable more dramatic in their arrangements, which somewhat contrasts the first set of songs. But repeat listening brings out new aspects of every song and you will find that your tastes shift between the changing moods of the album.
An amazing piece of work that will not suit every listener, but is genuinely a perfectly crafted record for any fan of complex melodic rock and especially those already tuned into the world of pomp as offered by the classic bands of the genre such as Kansas, Styx and ELO.
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