The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories), by Steven Wilson
Do you remember way back in April of 1974, when members of Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Funkadelic and Rush got together and wrote and released an album, complete with the venerable Alan Parsons on production duties?
No, neither do I, because it didn’t happen, but if it did this would be that album. The Raven That Refused To Sing is the brainchild of one man, Steven Wilson, and a whole handful of brilliant musicians. And let’s get this out of the way right now: this is a progressive rock album, in the truest and most classic sense. It’s almost 55 minutes long and only contains 6 songs (three over the 10 minute mark, two over 7 minutes and the baby of the bunch clocking in at a slim 5:03!). Mellotron is present, as is the flute and, yes; Alan Parsons actually did produce this thing. However, there is none of the pretension, none of the fantasy warblings, and more than a smidgeon of the funky bass! This makes sense when you delve into Wilson’s past/still going band, No-Man, whose songs have often been described as “lush, modern disco/techno classics in the making.” But don’t get me wrong, this may be a party but it sure ain’t no disco.
It’s bloody brilliant, too! Say what you will about Parsons output with his “Project”, his production credentials are beyond criticism. His spotless and clean production on this album reminded me what’s missing in a lot of today’s muddy, made-for-earbud LP’s: separation of sounds. I mean, wow! You can hear the bass, the flute, the drums are crystal, the voice, the synthesizer, everything has its own moment in the spotlight, and it’s damn refreshing. This is an album lovers album. If it’s concise tune-smithing you’re after, best to move along.
Other than the production and the stellar musicianship, I have to say the songs are pretty top notch as they stand too. As allmusic states: “The result is a collection of six new songs — three over ten minutes in length — that reflect the very best of what classic prog rock aspired to: skillfully written music with expertly arranged compositions of color, nuance, texture, dynamics, narrative, and artfulness played by a group of stellar musicians.”
Great songs, great production, great musicianship, great cover, great booklet…album of the year, so far.
Mr. Coyne, Mr. Bowie, Mr. Donahue, Mr. Hitchcock and you boys in OMD: the ball’s in your court, now.