Three years after their first joint musical adventure famous Yes bass player Chris Squire and former temporarily Yes member Billy Sherwood, personal friends for long more then 10 years, release their second album. “The Unknown” is the successor of their debut album “Conspiracy”, released in 2000 and from which the title has now become the handle of their partnership.
As he did in Yes and still does in his own band World Trade Billy Sherwood plays guitars and keyboards and guest musician Jay Schellen plays drums.
From what I have heard of their first album the music on “The Unknown” is not different from this album. Pleasant sounding accessible rock songs on the edge of symphonic rock, thanks to adequate keyboard contributions, mostly in the form of organ and orchestral sounds. Very good harmonic vocals; most lead vocals are sung in unison. Interesting acoustic and electric guitar play from Billy Sherwood, which, both in style and sound, is very much like the guitar play of Yes guitarist Steve Howe. In fact Conspiracy sounds very much like Yes, especially their “Open your Eyes” period. When comparing this album with “The Unknown”, it becomes clear to me that Billy Sherwood and probably also Chris Squire definitely placed their hallmark on this Yes album. Connoisseurs of the music of Yes don’t regard this as one of the zeniths of this band, so this will give you a clue of the quality of this second Conspiracy production.
Don’t expect explicit instrumental outbreaks, even not from Chris Squire, although in songs like “New world” (7:22) his driving bass surely takes the lead and the title track “The Unknown” (11:30) offers a short bass solo. This long composition is unfortunately one of the letdowns of the album. The album opens with fine tracks like “Conspiracy” (5:05), “Confess” (4:37), the aforementioned “New world” (7:22) and “1/2 a word away” (5:48), but when listening to the rest of the album I get a little bored.
Despite the skilful musicianship, arrangements and production, compositions like “There is no end” (5:15), the ballad “The Wheel” (5:27) and the aforementioned title track miss originality and highpoints. The more adventurous “Premonitions” (4:10) is perhaps an exception, but bonus track “I could” (4:22, only available on the initial pressing) also complies with this observation.
My conclusion is that this album probably appeals most to people who appreciate the more accessible music of Yes, like they presented on albums like “90152”, “Big generator” and “Open your Eyes”, where the last one resembles most to “The Unknown”.