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Monarch Trail


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Monarch Trail Sand album cover
4.11 | 115 ratings | 7 reviews | 31% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2017

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Station Theme (3:52)
2. First Thoughts (3:22)
3. Back To The Start (7:11)
4. Missing (6:29)
5. Charlie's Kitchen (7:43)
6. Another Silent World (2:10)
7. Sand (24:31)

Total Time 55:18


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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Chris Lamont / Drums
- Dino Verginella / Bass
- Ken Baird / Keyboards, Vocals
- John Mamone / Guitar
- Kelly Kereliuk / Guitar
- Steve Cochrane / Guitar

Releases information

Label: Perpetual Tree Music
Format: CD, Digital
June 30, 2017

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
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MONARCH TRAIL Sand ratings distribution

(115 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(31%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(36%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

MONARCH TRAIL Sand reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by tszirmay
5 stars Canadian stalwart prog artist Ken Baird returns with a second Monarch Trail album, on the heels of 'Skye', a much vaunted debut that signaled a new route for the up-to-then solo multi-instrumentalist. It must be stated once again that there are musicians out there who have a level of musical education and a personal style that aims at artistic purity (aka lack of commercialism), charming the unsuspecting listener to be wooed and charmed by the proceedings. Throughout Ken Baird's solo career from 1996 to 2009, the confirmation of a special and unique sound encompassed 5 great albums that still enjoy great appeal to me as a prog collector. Also quite interestingly, Ken does the opposite of the accepted norm by starting with a solo career and then morphing into a band format. Cool, no? 'Skye' was pretty much a well-received and critically praised inauguration that garnered quite a reputation back in 2014. Three years have passed in silence and, out of the blue, Ken has returned with a new release 'Sand' that rekindles the progressive blaze and keeps the exact same crew in place: Dino Verginella on bass, Chris Lamont on drums as well as three guitarists in Kelly Kereliuk, Steve Cochrane and John Mamone. Ken sings and handles a slew of keyboards that are unafraid to solo in massive doses. For those of you new to Ken Baird, he will astound you with his musical prowess.

Swirling and twirling synths infuse 'Station Theme' with some very unflappable retro space music, sounding like a jingle for a sci-fi program on the History Channel. The rippling piano showcases a Wakemanesque dexterity that defies logic, booming bass and propulsive drums adding to the loopy instrumental orbit. Ken has one of the most humble and expressive voices, a gentle wail that has huge emotional appeal, though certainly NOT a leather-lunged, air-raid siren howler. 'First Thoughts' is a brief lullaby, washed in cascades of stringed synths and a devilish acoustic guitar foray that simply enchants. Brilliantly simple and perfect.

Full orbital liftoff occurs with 'Back to the Start', a 7 minute rambler that uncoils its symphonic drive with near ritualistic splendor, colossal keyboards led by a gripping bass guitar assault. Ken unveils his craft on the various ivories at his disposal, shifting from delicate to bombastic, from unassuming to complex, with undeniable affluence. Guitarist John Mamone spits off a few slick licks to keep the urge going, another cinematographic piece that would fit nicely in some silver screen epic.

'Missing' weaves a harrowing path through vocal ebbs and instrumental flows, all of Ken's keyboards smoldering furiously, the synths in particular on fire through a multitude of solos that defy logic. There is a slight IQ feel in the melodies and the vocal delivery (though nowhere near the same timbre of voice than Peter Nicholls), perhaps that incisive determination that illustrates a band that has a style and likes to stick to it.

Throwing me for a loop after my preceding comment, 'Charlie's Kitchen' is a bar-room jazz piano ditty that adds slicing guitar (Ken) and a shifting rhythm section that eschews cool and crazy. It slowly morphs into a rather upbeat symphonic promenade, full of pomp and circumstance, garnished with flowery synthesizer plumes on one hand and metrical beat intricacies on the other. Dino peels off quite a four string ride on his bass guitar, showing that the rest of the crew are no slouches either. Tubular bells put this one to rest. Fascinating!

The short and otherwise spectral 'Another Silent World' serves as a clever synth-heavy intro for the lavish title track epic 'Sand', a 24 minute masterstroke that perfectly defines the artist's muse. Beginning with nearly Anthony Phillips-like fragility, all charming voice and flute-patch keyboard accompaniment, there is a bucolic /pastoral ambiance that evolves into a more symphonic coloratura, laden with menacing fright, delicate fear and unsuspecting solitude, verging on theater at times. The mood is an ever-colliding conundrum between the promise of the future and the relative comfort of the past, certainly an apt definition of modern day progressive music as it has clearly become. Arid dunes and lush oasis music. The playing grows in spirit with a sizzling guitar solo from Kelly Kereliuk, constantly challenged by the shrilling synths and the persuasive piano motifs underneath it all. I daresay this may quite well be Ken's finest moment, a thrilling voyage of sound and style that cannot fail to impress even the most casual listener. There are little hints of the classics (snippets of 'Delirium', mosaic Gregorian mellotron tiles and pulsating bridges) that only seek to elevate the pleasure, boldly go beyond the norm as if taken on a magic carpet ride into and towards the stars.

Monarch Trail is back, and fitting for a Canadian band, 'Sand' was unveiled to the public on July 1st, Canada Day. May the 150 years of celebration begin with such musical fireworks! There are many many artists that are worthy of support , but Ken Baird is one that deserves much consideration, true to himself and true to the fans that have stood along, beside him all these years.

5 papillon paths

Review by loserboy
4 stars "Sand " is the sophomore album released by Canadian progressive keyboardist Ken Baird and his band. Billed under the name Monarch Trail, "Sand" is a strong follow up album to 2014's superb "Skye" debut release.

"Sand" pretty much picks up where "Skye" ended , offering another clever suite of seven symphonic progressive tracks with a few new twists. Musically Baird takes Monarch Trail here into the Cosmos delivering an album with a strong alignment to the stars and the vastness of space.

Track 5, "Charlie's Kitchen" (the biggest departure musically on the album) shows Bairds' continued journey of creative song with this angular lounge -jazz infused song that busts wide open with the back half in full symphonic mode. "Sand" feels fresh and creative while once again showcasing the talents of his band complimented by his signature arsenal of keyboards and ivory samples. Watermark songs include "Missing" (Track 4) and title Track (Track 7)

A wonderful symphonic rock album that carries its own originality.....not to be missed

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is album number two for MONARCH TRAIL the project of keyboardist/ vocalist Ken Baird who's out of Dundas, Ontario. I became aware of Ken through his solo albums which were recommended by James Unger or loserboy on this site. Ken is one of many bands and solo artists that I have discovered through James' web-site back in the day. MONARCH TRAIL seems to appeal to the Prog fan more than his solo stuff maybe because this is more challenging instrumentally and the synths really dominate the sound overall. I do prefer Ken's solo music, especially "Martin Road" which I highly recommend to every one who's into timeless, meaningful music with an emphasis on vocals and exceptional lyrics. My two cents.

Like the last album we have a trio here of keys, bass and drums with three guests helping out on guitars. The very same lineup as was on the debut. I swear the girl on the cover art of the first album "Skye" is the same one depicted in the art work on "Sand". The piano is exceptional on "Sand" but Ken offers a variety of keyboards here, and of course his vocals really resonate with me. I was really surprised to see an over 24 minute track as well. Some of these tracks blend into each other as we have this cosmic theme. It's all so well done.

"Station Theme" opens with bass, piano and drums which are joined quickly by synths. A calm 1 1/2 minutes in with piano melodies and atmosphere. I like this. Synths are back then bass and drums. it kicks back in after 2 1/2 minutes with synths leading the way. "First Thoughts" might be my favourite track on here. Atmosphere and finally Ken's vocals before we get some tasteful guitar around 2 minutes as the vocals step aside. I love how the atmosphere starts to build after 2 1/2 minutes until it dominates to the end. So good! It blends into the next song.

"Back To The Start" features bass and atmosphere as the synths roll in. It kicks in with guitar, drums and more. This is really good as the vocals join in as it settles back. I also enjoy the guitar on this one. Kicking butt 3 1/2 minutes in without vocals followed by a calm with synths and bass then the drums return along with guitar. Nice. Great sound as well before 6 1/2 minutes.

"Missing" has what sounds like mellotron-flute as piano then bass helps out. The atmosphere starts to rise then the vocals and a beat take over. Love the vocal harmonies after 2 minutes then the synths start to dominate as the tempo picks up. The vocals are back after 4 minutes as the synths step aside then they trade off again. "Charlie's Kitchen" opens with bass, drums and piano before the atmosphere arrives around 2 minutes. Synths to the fore a minute later. There's that mellotron-flute sound again after 5 1/2 minutes. Guitar later from Ken. Nice.

"Another Silent World" is a short piece with synths and atmosphere throughout. "Sand" is the ambitious title track to close the album. Vocals, bass and keyboards to start as that mellotron-flute sound joins in. It turns majestic before 1 1/2 minutes as the vocals continue. A calm follows after 2 minutes. The mood becomes serious a minute later with concerned vocals. Nice bass lines 4 1/2 minutes in then it picks up with synths over top as the vocals stop. Guitar before 6 minutes as the synths bow out for now. They are back then we get a calm with atmosphere before 8 1/2 minutes.The synths and guitar will trade off. A calm with piano before 13 1/2 minutes. Some nasty synths before 17 minutes as the vocals step aside but not for long as the synths and vocals continue to trade off. The guitar starts to solo before 22 minutes then the synths return as they both solo over top.

Another solid 4 star album from MONARCH TRAIL. Please check this band out along with Ken Baird's solo albums. You will find quality and meaningful music if you do.

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
5 stars Three years ago, Canadian trio Monarch Trail delivered a strong and well-received debut `Skye', a rich and quietly dynamic keyboard-dominated symphonic work that called to mind the early works of Glass Hammer and Pendragon, the vocal-focused melodicism of Izz and even the romantic longings of Camel. It was a top-notch first effort, but to say that the band has stepped up in a big way here would be an understatement! 2017's sci-fi concept tale `Sand', which sees the trio backed up by contributions from three different guitarists, offers a larger canvass of symphonic grandness and stronger instrumental themes, as well as delivering a more polished production, smoother vocals and more naturally flowing harmonies that instantly improve on those from the debut, and it quickly reveals itself to be one of the finest Symph-prog works of the year.

The album launches reliably with `Station Theme', an overture-like introductory instrumental full of Ken Baird's whirring synth themes and rousing piano by way of Rick Wakeman-like pomp as well as some eerier little fleeting gothic touches, as Dino Verginella's chunky bass grumbles through the background alongside Chris Lamont's bustling drumwork. `First Thoughts' is the first gentle vocal piece, Ken's placid voice sweetly sighing alongside soft symphonic keyboard caresses and sparse acoustic guitar, and it reminds of both the last few Comedy of Errors discs or the unashamedly romantic classic period Pendragon albums. `Back To The Start' instantly calls to mind I.Q's mysterious and melodic approach with the snaking bass over crystalline synth washes, and the touch of heavier guitars will excite fans of Arena and the earlier male-fronted version of Flamborough head. Loaded with crisp electric guitar themes and slow-burn soloing piercing through rambunctious drumming (listen to Dino's tantrum-like burst at about the 3:20 mark!), the second half in particular lifts to the highest of instrumental symphonic-prog heavens and is sheer prog bliss wrapped up in a mere seven minutes!

A nice change in direction, the lyrically reflective `Missing' might deliver a sparkling piano and cascading Mellotron introduction, but at heart it's a strong and tasteful pop tune, not unlike some of those simpler moments that show up on most Glass Hammer albums, and it holds a catchy joyful chorus that would make E.L.O green with envy - but don't worry, prog-snobs, you get to overdose on the frantic keyboard delirium solo in the middle!

But then Monarch Trail drop `Charlie's Kitchen' on us, a sumptuous instrumental feast of keyboard-slathered symphonic rapture in the tradition of bands like Trion, Willowglass and classic-era Genesis. Offering the most infectious of twinkling jazzy piano, assisted by some majestic Mellotron flutes, sweetly murmuring bass, peppy drumming and Steve Hackett-esque ringing guitars, it's a frequently whimsical slice of romantic prog that symphonic fans will adore. The group then spoil us that little bit more with `Another Silent World', a tasty final standalone spacey instrumental interlude.

And then, as every symphonic-prog album should have, we reach the `side-long' epic, the near twenty-five minute closing title- track `Sand'. While it similarly holds all the same wistful vocal passages with lengthy instrumental bursts fuelled by colourful whirring keyboards and welcome acoustic guitar breaks, it also refreshingly incorporates plenty of heavier drama and darker segments from moodier cinematic synths that shimmer with danger. The climax has guitars and keyboards reaching in unison to the heavens to end on as grandiose a note as possible, but extra special is the instrumental passage that runs from about the 4:45 mark for a full ten minutes, a truly exceptional all-out prog moment.

If bands like Comedy of Errors, Druckfarben and Barock Project have all moved up over the last few years in status with their most recent efforts in a symphonic prog style, then Monarch Trail have done exactly the same thing here with `Sand'. The first album was a great success, but here the arrangements, playing and production are all far superior than that initial effort, meaning we can only wait and see the amazing places the band head to from here! Also, here listeners will be witness to one of the most outstanding currently active keyboard players in action in Ken Baird, hopefully one to eventually be thought of in the same league as Clive Nolan, Fred Schendel, Andy Tillison, Neal Morse and Robert Reed of the modern prog era.

Chances are we're looking at potentially the greatest pure symphonic prog album of 2017 right here with Monarch Trail's `Sand', but we've definitely been handed one of the standout progressive rock releases of the year overall.

Four and a half stars.

Latest members reviews

4 stars For those who are not familiar with the name Monarch Trail, I should inform you that they are from Canada, and their discography consists of 2 studio albums so far. The band is a trio, and it has been "built" around the Keyboardist and composer Ken Baird. (For the needs of the recordings they a ... (read more)

Report this review (#1815994) | Posted by The Jester | Tuesday, October 24, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Monarch Trail continue their forward momentum as they've just released a sophomore album 'Sand' which is quite tremendous in its effect. Combining the best elements of their debut release and using potion of inventive extract, MT seek to take us back to the Glory Days of the 1970's. Once again, ... (read more)

Report this review (#1772866) | Posted by Second Endeavour | Saturday, August 19, 2017 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I gave this album a couple of listens when I first became aware of it, liked it and thought I might return to it at some stage in the future. Within a few days the album was topping the PA 2017 album chart. Its sudden appearance at the top of the chart appears to have been due to its receiving no fe ... (read more)

Report this review (#1771626) | Posted by CeeJayGee | Tuesday, August 15, 2017 | Review Permanlink

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