I’m a little late to the party, but John Mitchell’s solo project, Lonely Robot: Please Come Home has taken over my sound system the past couple of weeks, and I have to spread the good word about this extraordinary album.
John Mitchell is getting close to Neal Morse and Mike Portnoy for earning the award for participating in the most groups: he is a guitarist for Arena, he’s played in Frost*, he’s been in It Bites for almost a decade, and he put together the prog supergroup, Kino (hat tip to Progarchist Frank Urbaniak for that info). However, according to Mr. Mitchell in an interview in Prog Magazine (Issue #54, March, 2015), Lonely Robot has been “the most refreshing thing I’ve ever done.” Freed from any preconceived expectations based on a particular group’s history, Mitchell has crafted an album that excels on multiple levels.
While not a full-blown concept album, Mitchell has stated in his series of video blogs that Please Come Home has a unifying theme: how can life on earth in all of its glorious diversity have sprung from nothing? Whether we are the result of primordial alien seeding or a divine architect is left to the listener to decide, but Mitchell’s musings are fascinating. “God vs. Man” is a neat little history of the human race, from building a fire, to building a city, to building armies, to building rockets:
So then you build a rocket, and you point towards the sky
No end to the ambition and no cause to wonder why
You start the search celestial to find the one who made
For reckoning the architect will stand across your way
Of course, as far as I’m concerned, the lyrics could be Shakespearean and the album would be worthless without the music to support them. In this department, Mitchell delivers – in spades. From the cinematic opening track, “Airlock”, to the delicate and emotional closer, “The Red Balloon”, Please Come Home is a collection of songs that will satisfy the most discriminating connoisseur of prog. In addition to having phenomenal chops on guitar, Mitchell’s vocals are outstanding – soulful with a little Peter Gabriel rasp to them. There are also a couple of duets that are heartbreakingly beautiful: “Why Do We Stay?” with Heather Findley, and “Oubliette” with Kim Seviour. “Oubliette” is my nomination for song of the year, with its catchy chorus and snaking lead guitar line. “Are We Copies?” is the current single, (video below), which laments the failure of humanity to live up to its enormous potential. The next track, “Humans Being”, is a comforting response:
Oh don’t be so hard on yourself, so hard on yourself
All we have done, and all of the people we’ve been
Take this flag and wave it again, just wave it again
All we have done, and all of the things we have seen
We’re only humans being
Mitchell has gathered a stellar group of supporting artists for Please Come Home: the aforementioned vocalists, as well as Jem Godfrey, Peter Cox, Steve Hogarth, Nik Kershaw, Nick Beggs, and Craig Blundell. I hope this album is the first of many from Lonely Robot; American prog fans should embrace the music of John Mitchell – he is a top-tier talent who deserves to explode worldwide.