Prog meets classic and beyond – a voyage worth taking...
Land of Oz Music
Time: 14 tracks / 56:03
Attempting to create an album based on the planets and moons of our solar system - in the progressive rock genre, no less – is a daunting and ambitious task. Add to this the fact that you'll be featuring your own compositions alongside selections from Gustav Holst's "The Planets" suite, and the task becomes that much harder. Now let's throw into the mix the fact that you'll be playing all of the guitars, bass and keyboards on all tracks, and even synths, drums and percussion on a few. Okay, so who wants to give this a try? Hands....?
Cailyn (Cailyn Lloyd) bravely steps up to the plate on Voyager and creates fine, powerful, often moody and atmospheric interpretations of the Holst material ("Jupiter," "Saturn," "Uranus," and "Neptune") and does the same with her own 'tone poems.' The original material is inspired by various moons as well as the Voyager Space Program (hence, the album's title).
Starting with the bluesy, spacy opening track, "Voyager," and journeying to the final haunting epic, "Heliopause," Cailyn performs musical impressions based on various moons and even our own Earth itself (as seen from space) on "Pale Blue Dot" - a powerful yet pastoral study including fine cello work by Deryn Cullen.
The heliopause, by the way, is the "theoretical boundary between the solar system and interstellar space." I could lie and tell you that I already knew that, but the truth is that it's just one of the fascinating tidbits that you'll read in the full color booklet that's included in the striking tri-fold digipak that the CD is housed in.
The Holst pieces are excellent jump-off points for the hard rock/metal/prog treatments that Cailyn creates (and they actually stays pretty faithful to their inspirations). On "Saturn," for instance: you can hear the elements of the Holst piece – the ominous pulse of the opening, the steady build-up of the chords, the advancing, minimalist melody and the peaceful resolution two-thirds of the way through – all are reflected in the guitarist's version here, with more of a staccato march rhythm and more dramatic contrasts in tone, allowing for some displays of impressive fretwork from Cailyn and furious drum breaks from Neil Holloman.
The quirky themes from "Jupiter" show Cailyn to be an agile keyboard player, putting the Holst elements to creative use under some fiery guitar work. Especially interesting to this Frank Zappa fan is how Cailyn handled the Holst phrases that Frank used in "Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin," from The Mothers of Invention's Absolutely Free album, but in a much different way. The transition from that section into the majestic, almost Celtic melody that follows is handled nicely and leads comfortably into a funky return to the earlier short melody before ending in grand prog style. Thanks to the internet you can always find "The Planets" on YouTube, pop in Voyager and have some fun comparing songs.
The original compositions on the album are an excellent fit, sharing space with the Holst pieces and standing up as very listenable studies on their own. While the word 'progressive rock' is used in the liner notes it should be noted that Cailyn's compositions share stylistic elements with prog but are economically arranged to avoid the excessive soloing that tends to inflate songs belonging to the genre. With tracks coming in generally somewhere between two to five minutes long ("Jupiter," the longest, is five minutes and forty seconds long), your pretentiousness meter will not go into the red zone.
"Miranda," a multi-tempoed piece that showcases Cailyn's piano skills as well as her rock/prog guitar chops (sounding here somewhat similar to Kerry Livgren), is based on a moon that "appears to have been pieced together from parts that didn't quite mesh properly." On Voyager, Cailyn Lloyd proves that she's able to put divergent parts together so that they do 'mesh properly.' Very much a studio project, it would certainly be fun to hear what a full band, fronted by Cailyn, would sound like in a more visceral live-in-studio (or on stage) setting.
Voyager is a voyage worth taking.
- Bert Saraco