Born in the UK but more known by the proggers as being part of the Norwegian scene, Rhys Marsh has garnered much respect as a singer songwriter, one whose tunes, while pop oriented on one level, maintain a sense of gravity, mood, and tension that even many of us prog snobs can appreciate. Throw in the fact that he has consistently collaborated with many of our favorites (Anglagard, Wobbler, Anekdoten, etc.) and lends towards instruments that speak to us (MELLOTRON), there’s certainly more than enough for us to like about Rhys Marsh. While I still haven’t had a chance to hear the latest studio album, Trio, the recent EP of cover songs, “Suspended in a Weightless Wind,” came across as a pleasing collection of covers; in fact, it’s one of the strongest cover albums I’ve heard.
If I had to describe “Suspended in a Weightless Wind,” I would say it’s sort of like a great collection of covers arranged in the style of In the Court of the Crimson King. Everything on it sounds cloaked in mystery, magic, and Mellotron, the use and production of which mirrors what we love so much about King Crimson’s debut record. In this sense, Rhys Marsh’s cover of “Moonchild” is extremely fitting, but don’t expect a copycat of the original; it’s funny though, Rhys Marsh managed to make it sound almost more trademark Crimson than the original. This rendition of “Moonchild,” I would have to say, is even darker and more brutal than its predecessor, focusing on a descending pattern of tron cello, loads of reverb, and haunting vocals, like a funereal version of the classic track. Arriving at the chorus, Rhys’ clear vocals are powerful as can be, flanked by the mighty swelling of instruments. Following this, the tron 3 violins double the cello pattern for an interlude, overladen by piano, and the second verse picks it up with a light approach to singing which is brilliantly haunting, followed by a spooky high voice effect. At this point we get a feast of Mellotron choirs that carry us into the final, dramatic chorus. Rhys, I think you done Mr. Fripp proud on this one.
For me, the other highlights of the record were Nick Drake’s “Things Behind the Sun” and Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Helpless Hoping,” both very distinct from their originals and both offering a sort of Crimson touch. While Drake’s arrangement is quite folky and rhythmic, Rhys’ makes it moody a melancholy, entering with a gorgeous tron intro (strings and cello), then moving into some sort of electric piano behind clear vocals with just a touch of vibrato. The drums weren’t expected, but they did manage to add a touch of catchiness. Arriving at the chorus it gets all nice and wide with the 3 violins making a return and providing us a feast of gorgeous swells and majestic reverb. On “Helpless Hoping,” Rhys abandons the country flavor and goes incredibly dark as he changes the rhythmic feel. The low vocals and echo give it a phantasmal touch, and the light Mellotron and ambient guitar behind the plucking of the acoustic makes for a solid rendition of a classic song.
A cover album is a cover album. It’s not usually going to end up as an absolutely essential addition to a prog collection; that said, Rhys Marsh puts out as good a cover album here as it gets, full of feeling, classic sounds, and influences from great bands that we love, all while being authentic. Well done indeed.