I have mixed feelings about the new Magellan CD “Innocent God”, as I do most albums with the Trent Gardner stamp on it – including Explorer’s Club and his multitude of Magna Carta projects. Yet that having been said – I do own everything by Magellan and Explorer’s Club. Even though they seldom get much time on the player after the first few listens.
It’s not the musical compositions or Trent ’s impressive keyboard chops that has me shying away from the music, but the vocals. And it’s not the sound or timbre of his voice – he does have great rock and roll pipes. But it’s the jammed packed lyrics he rams into every bar of music that tends to grate on my nerves. I hate to be blunt, but he just won’t step away from the mike and shut up.
Give the listeners a break and let the instruments speak for a few measures. A six minute song need not require six minutes of vocals. Or in the case of Gardner ’s compositions, ten minutes of vocals squeezed into a six minute song. Take a tip from Steve Wilson and Porcupine Tree – great lyrics augmented by powerful instrumental breaks.
I kept praying for him to at least stop and take a breath – then to my horror discovered he was also overlapping vocals. It got to the point where I was no longer listening to the music, but found myself focused on the endless string of vocals. It was maddening. Gardner is a brilliant storyteller, which is why the majority of his musical projects are concept albums. But if I could make a suggestion, “ Trent , write a novel”.
Use your God given talent of putting pen to paper and coming up with an engaging tale – but not within the context of a five or six minute song. Use the expanded pallet of a novel to weave your incredibly historic epics. But if you choose to continue in this medium, please take this into consideration for your next project.
I was delighted to see that Robert Berry is now a member of Magellan, but his vocal presence on this particular album is minimal. His voice was a driving force in the Keith Emerson lead power trio “3” – but within the context of Magellan it is completely lost in the mix, and indistinguishable from Gardner.
I guess it goes without saying that my favorite track on the album is the instrumental composition “ Sea Of Details ”. The collective band really shines on that track. It left me wanting more. As Magellan albums go this is one of their best. Fans familiar with the work of Magellan – and have no problem with the vocals - should enjoy this. The musical compositions are tight, powerful, and ambitious as always – and “Innocent God” is laced with surprising experimental tones and textures I wouldn’t normally associate with the band.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on Novemeber 17th, 2007