on 6 October 2006
Back in the mid nineteen seventies I was an avid follower of all things Genesis, and it was this obsession that brought me to Brand X. I bought Unorthodox Behaviour because Phil Collins drummed on it. The first time I played it, I hated it. I persevered. Eventually I fell in love with it. I bought Moroccan Roll. I bought Livestock, even though Phil didn't appear on all the tracks. Then came Masques. No Phil at all? I bought it anyway, and it has been one of my favourite albums ever since.
The album begins with 'The Poke', upbeat, lots of clever riffing, synchronised guitar bass and drum runs, with Chuck Bergi proving to be an adequate replacement for Phil. Some intricate piano and synthesizer completes the picture. The track ends with the band really rocking as it fades to nothing.
Second track, 'Masques' changes the tempo (and mood), completely. This track demonstrates just how good a Bass player Percy Jones is. A slow, moody piece where all instruments have their own space, the track builds gradually, then recedes to allow Percy's bass to come to the fore. Lightning quick bass runs interspersed with clever use of harmonics completes the track.
Track three, 'Black Moon' is gorgeous. Slow, leisurely, with a swing to it that makes you smile, the keyboards and guitar work together to produce a delightful melody that lodges itself in your head. The musicianship displayed by all band members is top class, yet the piece is coherent rather than self-indulgent. Wonderful.
The fourth track, 'Deadly Nightshade' begins with what sounds like piano and tuned percussion in harmony; the guitar takes over then the track becomes quite funky, building to some classic Jazz Rock, with a synthesizer lead line over crisp rythm guitar. Interspersed are quieter sections that have an oriental flavour. The track climaxes with some tremendous lead guitar work from John Goodsall, followed by a slow fade of disparate sounds from bass and keyboards.
The oriental feel emerges again at the beginning of track five, 'Earth Dance', soon to be replaced by complex, south American-style rythms, followed by a guitar-led, upbeat, jolly melody that makes the corners of your mouth twitch. The middle of the track is dominated by more synchronised guitar/bass/drum runs, concluding with a funky rhythm that fades to nothing.
Track six, 'Access to Data', is a powerful demonstration of the art of lead guitar. I love what the official reviewer wrote; "The fireworks really erupt throughout "Access to Data", where Goodsall lets loose a fusillade of sparkling guitar riffs, while quacking keyboards react to the amplified overload". I just can't improve on that.
Following the adrenalin rush of 'Access to Data', the final track, 'The Ghost of Mayfield Lodge', starts with more of that oriental feel, over some rock-solid rhythm, building progressively, led by the guitar, until the track stops and changes direction abruptly. The middle section features meandering bass underpinned by random percussion, merging into a coherent rhythm picked up by the rest of the band. This then fades to be replaced by the oriental feel from the beginning of the track, which is then developed and expanded on by the band. The improvisation continues as the track fades to nothing.
If you like musicianship of the highest order, by musicians that don't let egos get in the way of the music, playing complex yet accessible music influenced by Jazz, Rock, Latin, Classical, Oriental music then give this a try.