How many of you have been waiting for Genesis to come out with another album? No, not the 80’s, Phil Collins-led poppy Genesis, but the Peter Gabriel proggy kind? Well, that might not happen anytime soon, but there are several musicians currently reimagining and borrowing from Chapter 1 of Progressive Rock Music History. Take Nad Sylvan’s latest album “Courting the Widow,” released last Friday. I know, Nad is quite an interesting moniker (not to mention his attire), but it is arguable that he has released the closest thing to a new Genesis album in decades. His affiliation to the remarkable band is apparent, considering his vocal role in many of Steve Hackett’s reinterpretations of Genesis songs in his latest album/tour “Genesis Revisited.” This time, Nad takes center stage in “Courting the Widow,” an album filled with amazing supporting musicians, and a nod-of-the-hat to that classic prog sound.
Having never heard of Mr. Nad before Inside Out Music gifted me an exclusive copy (thanks guys!), I did some basic research to understand who the man is. Having been the lead vocalist for band Agents of Mercy, and having worked closely with notable progressive rock musicians, Nad has been around for quite a while. Twelve years after his previous solo album “Sylvanite,” Nad has enlisted the help of bassist Nick Beggs (Steven Wilson), Rob Townsend, and even Steve Hackett himself on his latest album. Lasting over an hour long, “Courting the Widow” is an ambitious album, filled with hooks and sounds that transport me back to the 70’s. To some this may be a nostalgic welcoming, while others may regard this as merely a duplication.
The album starts with “Carry Me Home,” right away introducing soundscapes of the sea and an upbeat rhythm that belongs a part of “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.” Even the vocals Nad performs is reminiscent of Peter Gabriel, albeit a more nasally version. But the entire album contains more than just Genesis references, as his sound drifts into the jazzy soloing of Jethro Tull, the effect-driven synthesizers and guitars of Yes, and the spaciness of Pink Floyd. One could even say that the album is split into two halves: the first half sounding like a culmination of Genesis’ best, and a second half entirely of his own. Which leads to one of my complaints of this album: the first half might be a little too much like Genesis. I’d argue that if I really wanted to listen to Genesis, then I would listen to Genesis.
This doesn’t mean that there are no songs on the first half worth listening, since “Echoes of Ekwabet” is easily my favorite track on the entire album. With its darker synth and bass guitar intro, to the passionate vocals in the song’s chorus, and finally to the guitar solo to close off the song, “Echoes…” should be listened to by any progressive rock fan. This song leads into the 22 minute epic “To Turn The Other Side,” which in my opinion lasts far too long. My second complaint of the first half (and the album in general): it is far too long. If I’m already starting to lose interest and divert my attention by the fourth track of eight, then some changes need to be made. It’s sad because as elegant of a listen as “Courting the Widow” is, I feel most listeners will not fully absorb the album due to its size. As the album is slower overall, deemed by some as “elevator prog,” it’s easy to remember an important task like taking out the garbage or feeding the dog while listening to this album. One may attempt to play this album in the background while getting things done, but by the end of the day, one will not remember a single moment.
The second half of “Courting the Widow” separates itself from the Genesis-heavy first half. With no song lasting over eight minutes long in the second half, each song is more direct and precise. For an album lacking an overall concept or theme, I still feel a connection with the songs, whether through their gentle, melodic rhythms, the floating vocals of Nad, or the signature styles of the guest musicians. All this is heightened in the closing track “Long Slow Crash Landing.” The horn and military-style snare drumming introduction, the slow building of the song’s structure thanks to Steve Hackett’s brilliant guitar work, the soft vocals throughout the song; Despite its slower nature, it is a powerful closer that leaves the listener wanting more.
To those that are looking to relive their 70’s progressive days, then look no further than Nad Sylvan’s “Courting the Widow.” Sure, there are moments that sound eerily close to Genesis and Peter Gabriel, but that does not prevent this album from being independent. Just leave yourself a good hour to listen through it all, or else you’ll forget it all. Please support Nad Sylvan by checking out his website, and by following him on Facebook and Twitter pages for band updates.