Melding progressive rock with audience grabbing popcraft is one of those things that mostly went out of style twenty some years ago: the stuff of daddies and mommies heading into middle age such as The Alan Parsons Project, Asia, It Bites, Marillion and God knows how many other talented acts. Buzz and fuzz prevailed over synth-laden complicatives and layered harmonizing, and for better or for worse the world moved on.
Thankfully, the Noughties are and continue to be an extremely fractured era in music, the kind of world where anyone can reach anyone they please, a glorious landscape where progressive rock stalwarts like Steve Hackett and Chris Squire (of Genesis [guitarist] and Yes [bassist] respectively) can work together for 4+ years on mindblowing little albums like this one without giving two shits about the market.
These two masters have been doing session work together off and on since Hackett's brief stint with GTR back in the mid 80's, with this record being something of a culmination of their friendship and uncanny synergy. It's one hell of a potent combination, with a couple of tracks in particular like the single-worthy 'Sea Of Smiles' and acoustically alchemical 'Aliens' being earworms on par with anything done back in the late 70's-80's by any of the best of those bands who dared tread that elusive border between the commercial and convoluted. Squire and Hackett's voices rise like a mist above lush audio jungles, awash in thudding guitars, keyboards and the usual instrumentation, but the songwriting is top-notch and coalesce these familiar elements into vibrant sonic fantasies, grand enough to satiate even the pickiest of euphonic connoisseurs.
Needless to say, progressive rock has a long shelf life ahead of it if electrifying records like this continue to propagate throughout the fringes and into the lucky souls of those blessed few who hold their antennas high. Magnificent.