Over recent months Billy Sherwood has been catapulted unwittingly into the spotlight with his acceptance of the (impossible) role of replacing the late Chris Squire in Yes. Yet his own reputation has already been well established, through his prior work with that band, his pivotal role in the underrated World Trade, plus an array of solo releases and producer/ mixer credits.
In spite of such achievements, there’s a seemingly infinite line of faceless keyboard warriors on countless online forums, all constantly ready to dismiss his credibility, deeming him unworthy of even associating with Yes. With the release of the admittedly rather unimaginatively titled Collection, Sherwood has selected what he considers to be some of his finer solo moments, and it provides a neat, concentrated introduction into the musical mindset of the multi-instrumentalist that proves many of the naysayers wrong.
There can be no denying Sherwood’s musical ability.
Strikingly, there’s a consistency to the tracks on Collection that has led some to dismiss his work as stylistically boring. Yet that would be grossly missing the point. With Sherwood performing all the instruments on his solo albums, he has managed to remain true to his personal musical leanings, never crassly wandering into unsuitable musical genres merely to appease those clamouring for change. Drone Deciphers demonstrates that approach, with a slick bass and layered keyboards providing an almost cinematic backdrop for the harmony vocals, and it’s this pattern that’s continued on the likes of The Recurring Dream and Seeing Through The Walls. The latter has a similarity with 80s-era Yes, with the closing section reminiscent of Cinema from 90125.
That’s not to suggest Sherwood lacks ambition. Dying Breed is an intriguing song, influenced as much by reggae as Peter Gabriel, and on Call, a striking lead guitar adds grit. His cover of Sting’s I Hung My Head is solid and well-meaning, but ultimately leaves you scurrying off to find the original.
Although only released last year in download form, Divided By One has received a welcome reissue on CD, and it’s an album that fits securely into Sherwood’s solo mould. Crucial to the recording is his knack of succeeding in forming tracks that are instantly catchy but retain complexity and musical intrigue. Both No Stone Unturned and *Divided By One *exemplify this, although there are fleeting moments when you feel someone from outside of his solitary musical bunker could have added collaborative sparkle.
There can be no denying Sherwood’s musical ability, as both of these recordings admirably demonstrate. Whether that’s enough to win over his detractors remains to be seen.