Is this the conclusion? The end of the journey both for Stargazer and for the human race? How many chances to get it wrong do we need? Join The Steve Bonino Project on the journey with Stargazer 2 to find out . . . .
The opening album in this tail found the human race teetering on the brink, but not for the first time. Planet ravaged, technology thought of as the answer and another journey deep into the stars undertaken to begin again . . . again . . . . Known for his service with Bomber Goggles, multi-instrumentalist and singer Steve Bonino is the curator of this story, where the amazing advances humans have made both create the problem and solution as they burn through resources and home planets. It's a harrowingly believably tale, albeit one set in a distant future and where we seem to have options that we don't currently possess to up sticks into space and repopulate. To say that it doesn't all go to plan would be both right and wrong. However, the more pertinent concern is whether we learn the lessons, or heed the warnings. We in reality have time to do just that but then so did the people in the Stargazer future. Can we choose wisely? Did they . . . ?
As ever with these types of albums, the crux of the journey comes from the music carrying the message, because if that isn't up to snuff, then no one is going to hear it often enough to unravel the insightful, compassionate 'fable' it contains. Thankfully, as with the first Steve Bonino Project blast into space, the answer is most definitely, affirmative captain.
Not too surprisingly given the subject matter, the key to that success comes form the atmospheres created and right from the off it's clear that the melodies on this shimmering technical, sixties-pop infused progressive journey are the perfect craft to embark on such a complex journey. With pinging keys and confident guitars creating a base for hook laden vocals, that this set of songs comes replete with choruses that quickly become sing-along is an unexpected bonus. There's a loose feel of Spock's Beard without the obvious musical workouts - not that the musicianship isn't top notch mind - as the symphonic prog of "Under The Dome" weaves from Steve Howe like guitar chimes to sumptuous layers of Genesis. However, it's the joining pieces where more muted musical landscapes highlight the vocals - or even some spoken word parts - that the story fully unfolds and vitally, here too the nuances in "So Familiar", "Codex" and "The Ancient Sumerian", which even has a Beatles like trumpet motif, keep you tuned in. Although it doesn't hurt that Bonino himself has an enigmatic, storytelling lilt to his vocal delivery that pulls you into the concept being built, while the arrangements really do allow the songs to shimmer and pop in all the right places.
The first part of The Steve Bonino Project's Stargazer tale undoubtedly hit all the heights that it set out to. If anything part 2 might be even better, making it, so far, one of those undiscovered gems where you really should strap in and set your course for the stars . . . and beyond.
Added: February 25, 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score: Four Stars