Words: Craig Hartranft
It took a few moments of recollection. Nad Sylvan? Scratching my head, then searching my web site. Oh yeah, the vocalist for melodic prog rock act Agents Of Mercy. I like that band, with Roine Stolt. Then I remembered, when reviewing The Black Forest album, how unusual I thought Nad Sylvan's name was. How did he come to the stage name "Nad"? Like short for gonad, and did he name himself after the his left or right testicle. It seems in the evolution of his name and musical presence, Sylvan tried getting in touch with his feminine side choosing "Nadine" for his first name. You know something akin to Alice Cooper. I didn't work out. The Nadine part that is. Now just "Nad". Enough humor.
So. Mr. Sylvan returns with his latest solo album, Courting The Widow, twelve years removed from his first Sylvanite. With this adventure he has an abundance of help including Nick Beggs, Steve Hackett, Roine Stolt, Lars Drugge, Rob Townsend, and Jonas Reingold, among many others, a shitload of talent. And I'm going to cut to the chase, basically sum things up.
Upon several listens, Courting The Widow is a time trip, a forty year time trip back in time. Nad Sylvan's sound is very similar to early English prog, Genesis and such. It's melodic, symphonic, atmospheric, even balmy and ethereal. Toss in the input from Hackett, Stolt, and Reingold and Nad's style sounds like Hackett inspired Genesis making out with Flower Kings. It's not a bad combination realizing the latter was informed by the former as well. Of course, then there's Nad's vocal style sounding much like every man's prog vocalist from the same era. He's not all that original, but I get that. To me, he often sounds nasal or a nasal version of a young Peter Gabriel. Imitation is the sincerist form of flattery.
So, generally, what you have here is some largely light melodic progressive rock, nearly easy listening, elevator prog. Actually listening to the gentleness of Courting The Widow, Ship's Cat, and The Killing of the Calm, I'd venture to call Sylvan's prog, sleepy prog. That seems to be the theme, if not the vocal theme, across the album. It definitely comes out in the title track and music of Long Slow Crash Landing. (Is that possible? It seems so.) Alternatively, what would be a gathering prog music luminaries without some long epic piece for the album? The answer would be, a disappointment. You get it with the 22 minute To Turn The Other Side, and more of Sylvan's melancholy musical drama.
Basically, while listening to Courting The Widow, if you're not paying attention or you're otherwise preoccupied with something else, like working on your stamp collection or defrosting your fridge, this album will just blow by you like a soft afternoon wind. You probably won't notice it all.
Generally, what you have here is some largely light melodic progressive rock, nearly easy listening, elevator prog. Actually listening to the gentleness inherent in every song, I'd venture to call Nad Sylvan's prog, sleepy prog.
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