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The Owl Watches — Tales from the Inflatable Forest
(OWL CD 0001, 2002, CD)

by Jeff Melton, Published 2005-09-01

Tales from the Inflatable Forest Cover artMulti-instrumentalist Phil McKenna is The Owl Watches. This is his first sometimes meandering solo endeavor by a composer who has proactively adopted the "do it yourself at home" option to recording. He is also is a clever drum programmer too, as his percussive approaches to heavier sections of his pieces are more assertive and inspired than other demo projects I’m familiar with. McKenna relies on pastoral tones within delicate arrangements that reflect traditional progressive rock instrumentation spaced with piano jazz interludes (as heard in the midsection of the opening title cut). The “fake” Mellotron is quite successful too, especially during the heavier King Crimson/Hackett closing part of the piece. Overall the guitarist’s songwriting structure appears uneven at the outset although many of his ideas are well played. “There Ain’t No Such Thing as Spooks” is another representative piece and it begins in a lurking mode which is surprisingly quite good. The lumbering bass line reminds me of John Wetton’s old fuzz bass lines in particular. Track three, “Perfect Picture in Reverse,” is nearly a high-speed chase with the composer’s organ and spirited drumming laying a good foundation for a convincing lead guitar break. The uncertain middle piano section forms a needed tempo drop from the beginning part of the song too. The closing piece, “And That’s All He Wrote,” is a grand final statement from the composer that could have been condensed a bit before the final theme is introduced. In summary I’d say that McKenna is a composer in search of a band and/or collaborators to flesh out his well above average concepts and ideas.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 32, 2002 releases

Related artist(s): The Owl Watches

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