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Cailyn - Voyager

Cailyn – CD Review




CD Info
Land Of Oz Music
Neo-Classical Symphonic Progressive Rock
14 Tracks

The Bringer of Jollity hasn’t sounded this good since Gustav Holst wrote him a hundred years ago. Cailyn has given the Bringer a regal make-over and ushered him majestically into the 21st century. She has done the same thing, and just as magnificently, for his giant companions.

Holst composed his famous suite The Planets between 1914 and 1916. Cailyn’s Voyager pays homage to four movements in Holst’s suite, those named for the gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Her album is also a tribute to the Voyager space program from which she has taken the album title. Right now, a century after The Planets, the two Voyager spacecraft are drifting starwards on the fringe of the Heliopause, the region of space where the radiation from our Sun ceases to dominate the radiation from neighboring stars.

Cailyn (last name Lloyd) has loved Holst’s music since she was a child. She has also had a life-long fascination with space exploration. Voyager marries these two influences in a perfect union.

Holst wrote music for seven of the planets in our Solar System. He interpreted each one according to its astrological character. This gave us Mars, “The Bringer of War”; Venus, “The Bringer of Peace”; Mercury, “The Winged Messenger”; Jupiter, “The Bringer of Jollity” (and also, because it’s the largest, the King of the Planets); Saturn, “The Bringer of Old Age”; Uranus, “The Magician”; and Neptune, “The Mystic”.

Cailyn has left Mars, Venus and Mercury out of her compositions. She says this was partly because Holst’s interpretation of Mars is rather ferocious for adaptation into symphonic prog. I’d agree. “The Bringer of War” has been covered, at least in part, by some hard and heavy bands. I’d love to hear it adapted by a good progressive death metal band. Similarly, Holst’s Venus and Mercury may be too ethereal or capricious, respectively, to sit comfortably alongside Cailyn’s other treatments. She has approached her entire album as a set of prog rock tone poems. Cailyn, I’m so glad you did.

The inner three planets were also excluded from the Voyager program. Its aim was to swoop close by the gas giants in their outer orbits around the Sun. The two Voyager vehicles achieved this feat so brilliantly that their mission must be recognized as one of the greatest accomplishments of all time.

Like Voyager I and II, Cailyn has explored more of the surroundings of the giant planets than Holst did. She has visited seven of the moons orbiting those planets and endowed each with its own characteristics. Her enormous skill as a composer is manifest from the way the tracks on the album play into each other. I believe Holst would have wanted to hug Cailyn for the way she has honored and expanded on his work.

There are three very special tracks on Voyager, also all composed by Cailyn. The first track, which is the title track, embraces the spirit and triumphs of the Voyager program. The last two tracks salute grand milestones. “Pale Blue Dot”, a phrase made famous by Carl Sagan, refers to the photograph of our Earth taken by Voyager I in 1990 from such a vast distance away that our world is no more than two pixels in the picture at maximum resolution. One dot is white, the other, blue. That’s all that any extraterrestrial would see of us from 6 billion kilometers away, if our planet was even noticed at all against the background of stars. Cailyn captures that amazing image in a poignant and moving composition. Then she takes us into “Heliopause” and musically reflects on the possibly endless journey that lies ahead.

Just by the way, Voyager I is now nearly 20 billion miles away. It is drifting into interstellar space at a speed of about 450 million kilometers a year. Since it is barely being slowed down by the Sun’s gravity now, it could reach one of our nearest neighboring stars in a less than 201,000 years. That is quite a length of time to condense into one track on an album. Cailyn does it because her music leaps through space and time at the speed of imagination.

What makes Voyager even more remarkable is that Cailyn not only composed all but four of the tracks, she played just about all of the instruments too. She is a virtuoso on electric and acoustic guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, drums, and synthesizer programming. Her mastery and control at least equal those of other prog multi-instrumentalists such as Mike Oldfield.

The additional contributions by masterful prog musicians come from Neil Holloman, who played drums on 11 of the 14 tracks; Deryn Cullen, cellist on “Pale Blue Dot” and “Europa”; Ian East, saxophonist on “Europa”; Nancy Rumbel, whose English horn embellishes “Pale Blue Dot”; and Shelby, who delivers the haunting, non-verbal vocals on “Neptune”.

To begin my journey with Voyager I first played it in its entirety and soaked it up. Then I listened to all of The Planets, which I hadn’t heard for a while. After that, I alternately played the Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune tracks by Cailyn and Holst. This well and truly demonstrated how sincere and accomplished Cailyn’s work is.

I don’t think Cailyn will mind if I add that my iTunes version of The Planets is the best one, in my immodest opinion – it’s the digitally remastered recording of the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by my king of conductors, Herbert Von Karajan. Only the best would do for comparison with Voyager.

Many prog fans – like many metal fans, too – enjoy classical music because it is closer to prog or metal than most pop music is. Holst may not be as accessible, however, as the more frequently covered Baroque and Romantic era composers. His modern classical music verges on classical jazz at times, much as the serious music of George Gershwin, one of Holst’s contemporaries, flirted with blues and jazz.

If you can’t get into Holst, don’t worry. Listen to Cailyn and you’ll be sharing the mind of Holst as well. Here’s where you can listen to the original and the Cailyn versions of “Jupiter”. For the Holst composition, listen on YouTube [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ay-irGLvTJo]. For Cailyn’s adaptation, go to Bandcamp [http://cailynmusic.bandcamp.com/album/voyager].

My criticisms of Voyager amount to a total of… zero. It’s flawless. I’d go so far as to say it’s an indispensable addition to the library of any ardent prog rock fan.

Rating: 10/10

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