Sunday, March 03, 2013

Steven Wilson: The Raven that Refused to Sing (and Other Stories)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Steven Wilson's third solo album, The Raven that Refused to Sing (and Other Stories), was released by Kscope last Monday.

And it's incredible.


I've been listening to it all week, and it just keeps growing on me. It's Wilson without Porcupine Tree, but it features the incredible band he put together to tour with his second album, Grace for Drowning, and it's actually not so much a proper solo album as a musically, lyrically, and narratively complex and challenging album written specifically for the band as a whole, and with parts written specifically for, and with further elaboration by, the individual members of the band.

Indeed, what stands out to me is not just the remarkable maturity of Wilson's songwriting and the high level of musicianship but just how organic it all feels, each of the parts fitting together perfectly for the single purpose of making this record (and taking it on tour), from the writing to the performing to the producing to the engineering (by none other than engineering legend Alan Parsons).

In the end, I still prefer the post-prog sounds of Porcupine Tree to the more traditionally progressive, '70s-oriented sounds here, but at the same time I prefer not to compare the two. Steven Wilson "solo" is different than Steven Wilson with Porcupine Tree, and than Steven Wilson any of his various "side" projects. That's what makes him Steven Wilson.

And there is a great deal to like here, far too much to mention in a short review. I would, however, single out the concluding title track, one of the most beautiful and poignant songs he's ever written, as well as the shorter "Drive Home," with an astounding guitar solo from Guthrie Govan, as well as the opener, "Luminol," a bass- and drum-driven piece that Wilson performed on the Grace tour, and the epic "The Holy Drinker," the one song that hits me harder and harder the more I listen to it.

Like I said, it's an incredible album. I barely even skim the surface with this few comments. Go out and listen to it. More than once.

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted the video for "The Raven that Refused to Sing." You can watch it here.

Here's a clip of Wilson and the band recording "The Holy Drinker" in L.A. last year (the deluxe version of the album comes with a short film of the recording sessions by Wilson collaborator Lasse Hoile).

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