I felt somewhat guarded about reviewing this new Moon Halo album. The first album had some amazing songs, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the classic rock and blues vibe, not with the vocals and lyrical content, anyways. Well, Moon Halo has returned with Together Again, and I like it far better.
Moon Halo is a UK-based band that includes Marc Atkinson (Riversea) on vocals and Iain Jennings (Mostly Autumn) on keys and programming, primarily. The lineup also includes David Clements on bass, Alex Cromarty on drums, Martin Ledger on guitars, and Anne-Marie Helder (Panic Room) on vocals. I wouldn’t call it a super group, but it is close.
As I mentioned, the first album was definitely an attempt at a progressive classic rock and blues album. It had elements of funk and soul music, as well. At the time, I felt like Marc’s fantastically gracious vocals weren’t a match for the energy and rock vibe of the album. With Together Again, I feel like a better balance has been achieved. It has less in the way of classic rock, and more in the way of the melodic and moving music that Mark and Iain are already known to produce. There is less energy overall, but more musicality and heart, I feel.
That doesn’t mean this is a copy of Riversea or Mostly Autumn, however. No, this music still has its own identity. You’ll still hear plenty of classic rock-inspired guitar solos, but they aren’t the main attraction this time. There are still little elements here and there that sound like the first album, but they add to the sound, instead of detracting from it. A good example of this is “About You and Me”, which reminds me of various 70s artists with its funky bass lines, group singing, and groovy vocal lines. The style doesn’t swallow the song whole, though, or render it merely as a gimmick.
Marc’s vocals and lyrics are definitely unchanged. Instead, the rest of the music seems to be more in harmony with him. His voice is still as lush as can be, and he stretches himself here and there. Lyrically, this is another lockdown album, this one celebrating the end of lockdown and the feelings therein. I think the album is well-written in that regard, never getting too cheesy or gimmicky in the words chosen.
Like the debut, Together Again has 13 tracks and over an hour of music. It can honestly feel daunting, but the music is so welcoming and assuaging. I like every track on the record to some degree. There are great songs like “Light in the World” and “Together Again”, both gentle and classy songs with memorable moments, such as the keyboard solo on the former. Other great tracks include “We’ve Still Got Time” with its wonderful instrumental near the end, “Reconnected” with its pleasant and harmonious feelings, and “Back to Normality” with its striking chorus and beautiful strings.
My favorites, though, are “Embrace This Life”, “If This Is All There Is”, “It Was You”, and “The Sandman Is Waiting”. “Embrace This Life” is where the album really hits its stride, in my opinion, as it builds a slow burn into a catchy, engaging second half. “If This Is All There Is” is my favorite on the album with its churning beat, thoughtful lyrics, and stream of consciousness effect. I love it. “It Was You” is one of those songs that is pleasant and beautiful, but it slowly grows into a shining light with subtle vocal melodies and feelings all over the place. It feels like it could build forever. Finally, “The Sandman Is Waiting” is a rip-roaring song with cinematic strings and a genuinely heavy second half that is simply and completely different than everything else on the record.
I have to mention the album closer “Life Goes On”, as well. This song is a great example of the balance this album achieves. It is, for the most part, a rocking and bluesy track with American folk tendencies and ZZ Top style, but it fades into an electronic abstraction near the end that feels very different. I love the contrast here.
Moon Halo, without a question, is full of skilled and quality musicians. The writing on Together Again feels more balanced and coordinated, and I think the results are gorgeous. It seems like every track has its own little spark of something remarkable or attractive, and so it is a fun listen, and it only gets stronger as I continue to listen. Fans of melodic prog rock should definitely take a look.
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