Image © Mr So & So 2009
More as Sleeping Giant:
interview and reviews (2003)
(fronted by Charlotte Evans)
the band :: Mr So & So
Image © Mr So & So 2009
Charlotte Evans (female vocalist)
Image © Mr So & So 2009
(31 May 2009) With Sleeping Giant taking a rest, Sugarstealer (Mr So & So (UK), 2009) marks the return of Mr So & So. Ten years after calling it a day, the band reformed with a new keyboard player and a new drummer. Mr So & So were thought by many to be on the verge of bigger and better things before its demise in 1999 mainly due to the tensions created from the protracted release of the band's third album, The Overlap, which was released months after the band supported Marillion on the Strange Engine tour in the same year. The band's previous albums are Paraphernalia (1992) and Compendium (1994). A stroke of luck brought Shaun McGowan and Dave Foster back together resulting in the reformation of the band.
Mr So & So are currently: Shaun McGowan (vocals, bass), Dave Foster (guitar), Charlotte Evans (vocals), Anthony Hindley (keyboards, vocals) and Stuart Browne. The stunning eighteen track new album is currently available digitally and may be pressed onto CD in the future, depending on interest, and finances of course. The album was recorded mainly in Wigan and Oswestry. The artwork is by Neal Moran. The music is certain to appeal to progressive rock enthusiasts, and will draw fans of Tool, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, The Police, Faith No More, The Jam, Dream Theatre, Peter Gabriel, Frank Zappa and Jellyfish, all of whose allusions are evident throughout this album.
Despite allusions that others may hear in Mr So & So's music, we hear a lot of Yes in the vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar solos and instrumental arrangements. It is evident from the rich harmonies in Sugarstealer's opening track "Flying Triangles." The band's new album has eighteen tracks and runs eight minutes over an hour. None of the individual tracks are too long, and they all work well together pulling the album into a cohesive whole. Kudos to the band for their choice of "Flying Triangles" as the opener. It is impossible to put the album down after hearing it.
While the vocals are dominated by Shaun and Anthony, Charlotte Evans breaks through with harmonies, leads and backing vocals during the album. She first appears in "New Years Day" with a gently delivered contrasting duet. While we know she has the power and range to do more than this part would otherwise indicate, the producers were wise to introduce her into the mix here. Album standout "Thursdays Are Blue" is an upbeat rocker. Verses are well delivered but the choruses are outstanding and complete, especially following the instrumental bridge and guitar solos, with memorable melodies and lush multi-layered harmonies. The song's theme returns later in the album.
The brief piano interlude "Dandelion Amongst The Violets" precedes the upbeat rhythmic track "Honey Jar" with Charlotte's voice this time clearly contrasting Shaun's in the mix. The short acoustic ballad is Charlotte Evans' first solo performance on the album and reminscent of her vocal work with Sleeping Giant. "Bleak Hill" is a standup rocker with lovely Yes-style vocal harmonies working well with the instrumental arrangements.
Dave Foster told us that Steve Rothery (Marillion) makes a guest appearance playing the solo on "Oh Look! A Rainbow!!" The track, an atmospherically enhanced ballad, develops nicely from acoustic guitar into the full band splendor before Rothery's stunning guitar solo. The 18 second lullaby interlude "Evening Star in the Indigo Sky" precedes the powerful, almost metal-edged rocker "Bi-Polar." A tremendous track in all regards, it must be something to behold in a live venue.
Beginning atop a piano accompaniment, the stunning ballad "Photograph" clearly showcases Charlotte Evans tremendous vocal prowess and emotional delivery especially as the band blooms into a more rich instrumental arrangement. Dave Foster's guitar solo perfectly echoes Charlotte's tremendous vocal delivery. "Falling," likely about a near death experience, is a powerful and progressive rock track, complete with expertly performace dramatic tempo and mood changes. The percussive "Broken Crown" is an imaginative instrumental track built with synth loops that provides an extended bridge to "Green Ward 13," a lovely duet with Charlotte Evans.
In another album standout, "White Sun," the full splendor of the band is revealed. Beautifully sung by Shaun McGowan and supported by lovely harmonies, the guitar, keyboard and rhythm section provide a powerful arrangement. Dave Foster's guitar solos glisten and perfectly work within the tune. Listen for a theme from "Thursday's Are Blue" within the arrangement.
Sugarstealer concludes with the extended track "(Return Of) The Gold." In addition to themes that have developed earlier in the album, listen for Charlotte Evans' harmony vocals and Dave Foster's tremendous guitar solos in the arrangement. One of three outstanding progressive
rock albums released in the first half of 2009, Mr So & So's Sugarstealer stands upright alongside The Opium Cartel's Night Bloom and the self-titled IOEarth album.