Lonely Robot is the 'nom de plume' of John Mitchell, stalwart of the current prog scene and member of It Bites, Frost, Kino and Arena. The incredibly versatile Mitchell plays guitar, bass and keyboards, as well as singing, on ‘The Big Dream’, with Craig Blundell providing the metronomic drum beat throughout. The live band is supplemented by bassist Steve Vantsis and Liam Holmes on keys.
‘The Big Dream’ is the second release of a possible trilogy and is the follow up to 2015's successful ‘Please Come Home’. The theme of outer space is carried over from the first release but this time the main protagonist, The Astronaut, finds himself awakening from a cryogenic sleep and on earth, allowing a release from the “dark atmosphere”, to quote Mitchell, of the first release.
The album begins with a brief, almost Holst-like, intro with a narration about the difference between sleep and death, perhaps alluding to the fact that suspended animation is a hybrid of both, before the second track, 'Awakenings', kicks in, which is up tempo and atmospheric and features excellent performances from both Mitchell and Blundell.
Next up is 'Sigma' which encapsulates both a big chorus and a huge riff and which is followed by 'Floral Green' which, lyrically, illustrates that The Astronaut is back on earth or, perhaps, some other planet. The song itself features more words from the unknown narrator (at least, he’s uncredited in press blurb that accompanies this promo), and is slower-paced than its predecessor, with piano and female backing vocals prominent.
'Everglow' is the next track, featuring another enormous riff and some more superb guitar work courtesy of Mitchell, before the pace again slows on 'False Lights', an atmospheric cut with yet another colossal riff and more exemplary playing from Mitchell and Blundell. 'Symbolic' follows a similar path, stylistically, to 'Everglow' before giving way to 'The Divine Art of Being', another relatively slower track with a sublime guitar solo to bring it to a close.
Next up is the title track, and the longest piece on the album at a shade over 8 minutes, and is essentially an instrumental with just some brief spoken words; first from the mysterious narrator and then from Mitchell, who pays homage to the first album with a reprise of the "Please come home Lonely Robot" phrase. It begins with a heavy, menacing tone before yet more exceptional guitar is heard. The track then slows down into a more atmospheric, piano-led phase, complete with the sound of rocket engines blasting off - is this The Astronaut returning to space?
The title of the next track, 'Hello World, Goodbye', another slower, keyboard dominated song with more female backing vocals, would certainly seem to indicate that this is the case. The album closer, 'Sea Beams', is another instrumental, this time a hauntingly beautiful composition with a Celtic theme.
All in all, this is an exceptional release, as you would expect from someone with John Mitchell's pedigree. I feel it is a more cohesive release than its predecessor, possibly because there are only two musicians involved in its creation, rather than the host of guest vocalists and musicians that featured previously. The instrumentation, particularly the outstanding guitar work, is first rate and enhances the lyrical thread that runs through the album. I can't wait for the next release in the trilogy!
THE BIG DREAM
Review by Dave Uphill
28th April 2017
1) Prologue (Deep Sleep)
4) In Floral Green
6) False Lights
8) The Divine Art of Being
9) The Big Dream
10) Hello World Goodbye
11) Epilogue (Sea Beams)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...an exceptional release, as you would expect from someone with John Mitchell's pedigree."