Conspiracy - The Unknown

Year of Release: 2003
Label: InsideOut
Catalog Number: IOMCD 128
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:36:00

It's a well-known fact that aside from Yes, Chris Squire likes the collaboration with his American friend Billy Sherwood. The ex-World Trade icon has always been a fanatic Yes fan and became a member of the band for a short stint, putting forward his distinctive musical mark. Firmly rooted in AOR tradition, yet with a right amount of Yes influences, the Squire/Sherwood collaboration known as Conspiracy delivers its second album entitled The Unknown. Released in time for the European Yes tour, the music is more modern, more commercial, more predictable, if you like, than any other material Yes has ever released. You might think that Squire's bass playing would be less dominant in the mix, but then you haven't heard "New World," which once again drives on some of the best Rickenbacker to be heard in years! Especially the drumming of Jay Schellan tends to give the music a more straightforward approach rather than injecting yet another fair dose of progressive highlights. Of course Sherwood adds a decent amount of detail, illustrating what a great set of ears this guy has. The strange thing is that after the release of the Squire/Sherwood debut Conspiracy in 2000, Billy confided that he was working on a new project with Jonathan Elias, Jimi Haun, Michael Sherwood, Jay Schellan and a host of others. The project would be called "The Unknown' and would have been like Mahavishnu Orchestra meets Yes. Three years down the line and the second Conspiracy album hits the shelves called The Unknown, so let's keep our ears peeled for the smallest Mahavishnu hint!

I don't think I'll offend Chris Squire by saying he's not the world's most fantastic singer. He does what is needed, but is not the ideal lead vocalist, which is why his voice blends rather well with other singers. Therefore Conspiracy is ideal for him, as it lifts Billy's singing and at certain times takes you right back to certain Yes highlights. "1/2 A World Away" even includes some real Howe-like playing by Billy, whilst Jay Schellan's playing here goes more towards the pure energy and diversity associated with progressive rock. Of course Billy's knowledge of studio trickery comes very handy here. With "The Wheel" some more ace guitar work is introduced, whilst calm acoustic guitar sets the pace for "Premonitions," which once again contains some Eastern elements. The song to look out for on this album simply has to be the 11:21 long title track "The Unknown," which starts with acoustic guitar and some neatly tucked away dashes of mellotron. About halfway through Billy delivers kind of a bluesy electric guitar solo backed by the symphonic fringes we all love so well. In fact, I don't think a real orchestra has been used here, but the total sound would benefit so much from having a real orchestra, as authentic violins would certainly lift this song to even higher regions. As it is now, the symphonic pattern bubbles under, even giving way to a Morricone-like harmonica. Initially this track would have been called "Don't Fear The Unknown" as planned to be executed by Billy's side project together with his brother Michael. The second Conspiracy album ends with the bonustrack "I Could," which is nothing more than the same recipe repeated. Mainly the vocal overdubs are to be found throughout this album containing some Trevor Rabin period Yes references.

This certainly is not a bad album, and the more you listen to it, the more you tend to like certain things, but it still is not a Yes album, nor is it a follow-up to Squire's Fish Out Of Water solo album. Instead it's the perfect marriage between AOR and prog, resulting in something which is closer to "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" than "Close To The Edge." However, if there's one genre of prog that finally might get some airplay, then this might be it. It certainly is an album which might do better in the States than in Europe.

Released in North America by the now defunct InsideOut Music America (IOMA 2060-2)

Conspiracy (5:05) / Confess (4:37) / New World (7:22) / ? A World Away (5:48) / There Is No End (5:15) / The Wheel (5:27) / Premonitions (4:10) / The Unknown (11:21) / Bonus Track: I Could (4:22)

Chris Squire - bass, vocals
Billy Sherwood - vocals, guitar
Jay Schellen ? drums

Conspiracy (2000)
The Unknown (2003)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin VA

Added: June 23rd 2003
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

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Language: english


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