RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Billy Sherwood – Citizen
Frontiers Records


Rating: B+

Billy Sherwood has made quite a few headlines lately as the man tasked with the unenviable job of replacing the legendary and recently departed Chris Squire as the bass player for Yes on their recent tour. What may not be as well known is that Sherwood is also releasing a new solo album, Citizen. Hopefully it will receive the same press because it’s a stunningly good and very deep album.

As Sherwood explains, “[Citizen] is a concept album about a lost soul reincarnated in various historical settings”. Each song places him in a different period of human history where he is describing the events taking place around him and how he is responding to them. The album tackles events as diverse as a Roman legionnaire experiencing the decline of the Roman Empire, a World War One soldier struggling to come to grips with the horrors that confronted him during the war, and an astronaut describing what it’s like to be on the front line of the cold war space race. Now there’s an album storyline you don’t hear about every day! It’s a big bite, definitely not lightweight stuff, and Sherwood handles it extremely well.

The album opens with the title track, “The Citizen”, where the listener is introduced to the main character, known only as The Citizen, and his experiences through time. This song features Chris Squire, which on its own makes it worth a listen. It is a powerful song made even stronger with the knowledge that this will be Squire’s last recorded studio performance. It’s one of those wonderful pieces where a musician can instantly be identified simply by hearing the part they are playing. That’s Squire on that bass, and if you know anything about the man you recognize it immediately.

It is difficult to come up with one song that I would say is my favorite on this album. They are all very well written and produced. But if I were to choose one, it would be “Just Galileo and Me”. It is a lush, beautiful piece that features vocals by Colin Moulding (XTC). In this piece The Citizen is uncomfortably sitting with the famous Italian astronomer while he commits religious heresy by publicly making statements like, “The Earth is not flat, it’s as simple as that, it’s a fact.” It is an excellent example of the storytelling nature of this album.

One thing is certain, Sherwood has a lot of very cool friends! The list of musicians on this album reads like a progressive music lover’s dream. Everyone from Steve Hackett to Alan Parsons to Steve Morse to a huge roster of Yes members past and present, including the great Patrick Moraz, grace this album. And that’s just a sample! Their contributions make this a very powerful album.

To wrap it up, if you like progressive music and are fascinated by storytelling through lyrics you will like Citizen. Sherwood is both a passionate songwriter and gifted instrumentalist, playing most of the instruments on this on album. Each song is strong on its own but also brilliantly integrates with the others to produce an intriguing storyline. I thoroughly enjoyed this album; I think you will as well.

Track Listing:
The Citizen
Man And The Machine
Just Galileo And Me
No Mans Land
The Great Depression
Age Of The Atom
Trail Of Tears
Escape Velocity
A Theory All Its Own
Written In The Centuries

By Roy Rahl