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Colin Masson - The Southern Cross CD (album) cover


Colin Masson


Crossover Prog

3.58 | 33 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'The Southern Cross' - Colin Masson (6/10)

Although UK composer Colin Masson may have had an existing following of dedicated fans after an intermittent tenure with progressive folk rockers The Morrigan, it was not until his solo career where people started to really take notice. 'Isle Of Eight' demonstrated the man's intelligent grasp of composition and epic take on Celtic prog rock, but it was not until the second album, 'The Mad Monk And The Mountain', in which his talents were fully realized. It is not common for artists to finally hit their break after being in the music business for so long, but Colin Masson has become something of an underground favourite within Prog Archives and elsewhere on the web. Given this precedent, there were high expectations for a follow-up, both from myself and anyone else who had recognized the same brilliance that I did in 'Mad Monk'. Although I am sure that the man is far from ever exhausting his creative flame, Colin avoided writing new material for the highly anticipated record, instead taking a number of old songs from his repertoire, rerecording them, and binding them together with a loose concept. 'The Southern Cross' has strength where it counts, but alas, I think I can speak for a lot of listeners when I say that I was expecting more from it.

With a fascinating concept, a strong precedent, and one of the most enchanting album covers I have seen in a while, the table was set for me to give 'The Southern Cross' plenty of love. When I found out that this album would be compiled with rerecorded versions of older songs, I still had high hopes; after all, much of this material would be fresh to my ears, even after having explored The Morrigan's career thoroughly. Although I may have feared that 'The Southern Cross' was going to feel like a hodge-podge compilation, the conceptual binding practically assured that the album would feel cohesive and together, despite the source material being derived from a range of many years. In simplest terms, my high expectations have led to a rather sour disappointment, although Colin Masson's work here is far from weak. An apt way to voice my feelings for it would be to imagine an older brother and younger brother. The older brother shows plenty of promise, and does great things. Although the younger brother is quite well off in his own way, he pales in comparison to his older sibling, and is therefore judged more harshly. I'm afraid this is the case with 'The Southern Cross'.

The style follows Colin Masson's penchant for the 'Celtic' sound, although traditional instruments are not used. Masson is actually able to channel the Celtic spirit through his use of a heavily reverb-laden electric guitar, an instrument he uses profusely both here and on earlier albums. As will not come as a surprise to anyone who has heard the man perform before, Masson's guitar work is fantastic, and it's definitely where the hearth of his talent lays. Setting 'The Southern Cross' apart from its predecessors is the use of a conceptual storyline. This is not a full-blown narrative, but instead uses a loose concept to tie songs together that would otherwise feel completely out of place next to each other. The plot is simple, but poetic; two vessels both named 'The Southern Cross', separated by the space of one thousand years. Each album 'side' depicts the story either of the past or future ship, and how it meets its ultimate fate. The seafaring theme is given due respect in regards to the music, as Masson inducts sea shanties into the stirring pot. There is also 'space' electronic compositionship, acoustic plucking, and a manner of things in between. Although the concept gives a greater sense of being a single work, the wide variety can often make 'The Southern Cross' like exactly what it is; a compilation of unused material. It is executed with all of the tact and skill of a Colin Masson opus, but lacks the singular direction and chilling beauty that had me love 'The Mad Monk And The Mountain'.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |


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