Worlds on Hold is a familiar, enjoyable musical journey, with tour-guides who have been there, and done that...
Worlds on Hold
The Prog Collective
13 tracks / 65:01
The Prog Collective is a project spearheaded by Billy Sherwood, former keyboardist, guitarist, bassist of the legendary prog rock group, Yes. With a little help from his friends on Worlds on Hold, Sherwood offers six self-penned new songs ‘backed (if this had something we used to call a ‘B’ side) by a set of covers of well-known songs by icons of the pop-prog/classic rock/arena rock genres. This half-and-half approach somehow results in a homogenous musical project, mostly thanks to one constant in each and every track – the phenomenal talents of Billy Sherwood, who is nothing less than stellar on guitars, keyboards, and (especially) bass and drums.
Those aforementioned friends of Sherwood are an impressive lot, including Todd Rundgren, Roine Stolt (Flower Kings, Transatlantic), L. Shankar, Jan Akkerman (Focus), a pair of familiar Steves (Hackett and Hillage), Patrick Moraz, Jon Davison (Glass Hammer, Yes), David Johansen, David Clayton-Thomas, and more!
A collection of iconic figures doesn’t always result in a cohesive hour of good music – but in this case, Sherwood’s performances, clean production, and stylish arrangements on all tracks makes the album a good listen – an hour and five minutes of some of the best artists in the prog genre relieved of the pressure of projects that bear their names: becoming, this time, side-men in someone else’s project. A collective? Well, yes – but, in truth it’s very much on Billy Sherwood’s shoulders that the album either stands or falls. Thankfully, the guest artists on Worlds on Hold all come through in fine form, making Sherwood’s compositions shine.
So what about that B side I mentioned? Have you ever imagined David Johansen singing “People Are Strange” or, say, “Nights in White Satin” being sung by former Blood, Sweat, and Tears front-man, David Clayton-Thomas? Well, neither have I – but you get both of them here, and they’re pretty interesting, to say the least. Not every choice will be your cup of tea – especially, I imagine, if the source material is special to you. In most cases, your level of enjoyment will be purely subjective. I, for one, was not overly thrilled with the cover of “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” but I’ll freely admit to being a fan-boy when it comes to Gary Brooker’s vocals. On the other hand, the airy, very sparsely-acoustic version of “Penny Lane” (featuring John Wetton) was a fresh revelation of the quality of the song itself, and just how perfectly-written a composition it is. The remaining covers, “Solsbury Hill,” “Eye in the Sky,” and “More Than a Feeling,” are a delightful short tour through the world of radio friendly pop-prog and art-rock. It’s a familiar and enjoyable musical journey, and your tour-guides have been there, and done that, as the saying goes.
Not tied to any overriding concept, Worlds on Hold (which, by the way, is also referred to on the album art as the singular World on Hold) is an entertaining listen, not demanding much from you except to enjoy the performances for what they are: good songs played by great players.
4 ½ TOCKS.