Corvus Stone II – A Belated Review

Corvus Stone, Corvus Stone II (Melodic Revolution Records)

Tracks: 1. The Simple Life (2:00), 2. Early Morning Call (3:52), 3. Boots For Hire (8:59), 4. Sneaky Entrance in to Lisa (0:30), 5. Purple Stone (3:22), 6. A Stoned Crow Meets the Rusty Wolff Rat (7:38), 7. Lisa Has a Cigar (0:47), 8. Mr. Cha Cha (4:50), 9. Dark Tower (1:49), 10. Scandinavians in Mexico (5:06), 11. Mystery Man (6:37), 12. Camelus Bactrianus (Tuolla Tuonnempana) (8:42), 13. Uncle Schunkle (4:38), 14. Eternal Universe (3:53), 15. Moaning Lisa (14:08), 16. Campfire (Tulen Luona) (2:17)

On the dawn of the release of Corvus Stone’s upcoming third album, I bring you an overdue review of their last album, “Corvus Stone II.” The band has 4 permanent members, but they are beautifully complemented by a variety of guest artists. The four permanent members:

Colin Tench – guitars

Pasi Koivu – keyboards

Petri Lemmy Lindström – bass

Robert Wolff – drums

Rather than list all of the amazing guests on this album, check out this handy page on Corvus Stone’s website. They add a lot of fantastic talent to the album, and most have collaborated with Colin Tench and other members of Corvus Stone in the past, most notably in Andy John Bradford’s Oceans 5.  Oceans 5 was actually how I first heard of Colin Tench and Corvus Stone, and I must say, the people involved with the creation of all of this music have been incredibly friendly, as well as extremely talented. (Check out my review of Oceans 5’s “Return to Mingulay.“) For me, it always makes a difference when I know that the musicians aren’t… well, jerks. It probably shouldn’t make a difference, but I appreciate it when artists are approachable and appreciate their fans. Corvus Stone and their related musicians understand that well.

The scandalous, yet marvelous cover art by Sonia Mota. Nothing was Photoshopped. It was created using Windows Paint, and she is also an excellent artist with real paint as well.
The scandalous, yet marvelous cover art by Sonia Mota. Nothing was Photoshopped. It was created using Windows Paint, and she is an excellent artist with real paint as well.

In an email to Colin from last fall, I told him that I loved Corvus Stone’s combination of prog, jazz, rock, and “whateverthehellallofthismixedtogetheris.” I firmly stand by that description. While mainly instrumental, the 80 minute “Corvus Stone II” covers all that and more. The music is incredibly layered, with exquisite guitar work (very similar to Colin’s guitars with Oceans 5), multi-layered keyboards, driving bass, and guiding drums. The added guest vocalists act as another instrument, with their particular vocals fitting in nicely with the theme of their respective songs. Initially, I didn’t like the gruff vocals on “Boots for Hire,” but after repeated listens, I think it fits quite well with the theme of the song, and the heavy bass matches perfectly with the voice.

Overall, the music has a very bright, uplifting tone, with Colin’s amazing guitars featured front and center. The guitars are clear, undistorted, and arranged beautifully. Fans of guitar driven rock will certainly find Corvus Stone of interest. (I’m not just saying that because I know Colin will be reading this. I honestly think his guitar work is outstanding!) Pasi Koivu’s layered synths compliment the guitars nicely. Sonically, the album flows very well, through all 80 minutes of it. One of my favorite songs from the album is the short “Purple Stone,” which would be perfect to play while cruising down the highway in a convertible (too bad I can’t test that theory, since it has rained here in Chicago basically every day for the past 2 weeks). The song even begins with a car starting and zooming off down the road. The singer reminds me of Damon Fox from Bigelf.

Throughout the album, Corvus Stone demonstrate their collective sense of humor, which can be seen in the cover artwork and is shining through in what I suspect is the sexual innuendo in the names of some of the songs. Interestingly, the lyrics never really seem to go in that direction. Despite what the album cover might imply, the music is safe for the kiddies. The band also gets a bit weird with the song “Camelus Bactrianus (Tuolla Tuonnempana),” which I think is being sung in Hawaiian, but I really have no idea. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this song is about Bactrian camels, but again, I have no clue. It is weird, but it is fun. In fact, that would be a good description for the band: weird, but fun.

Although there are several songs with vocals, it is important to remember that Corvus Stone are primarily an instrumental band. Indeed, their strengths lie in their musicianship. At times it sounds like jazz, other times like classic progressive rock, and others a blend of Lord knows what. However, it is always interesting and never boring. I can’t really compare it to anything else, because I’ve never heard anything quite like Corvus Stone. They are an independent bunch, and it is clear that they play music that makes them happy. That happiness is evident in the music.

An interesting facet of Corvus Stone is the integration of Sonia Mota’s artwork. From her work with Oceans 5 to the art I have seen her create with Corvus Stone, she has a talent of developing beautiful pieces that add depth and humor to the music. Without her work, the band would be completely different. The band utilizes her art to the fullest extent, with it also decorating their website.

Corvus Stone’s music cannot really be pigeonholed to any one genre, and I think that is exactly what the band wants. Their musical influences are likely too numerous to number, and yet the listener can still find elements of some of their favorite music throughout “Corvus Stone II.” Plus, at 80 minutes long, Corvus Stone really give the listener a lot for their money. With the release of another album this year, within the next few days/weeks, the band surprised their fans with an unexpected treasure trove of more Corvus Stone sonic adventures.