Now here is an unfamiliar band formed by well-known musicians. SiX by SiX is comprised of three familiar accomplished musicians from diverse corners of the globe and each with considerable pedigree. They are guitarist Ian Crichton from the notable Canadian prog rockers Saga, considered one of the top rock players in North America, along with powerhouse drummer Nigel Glockler, known for being a member of English heavy metal masters Saxon, and USA based Robert Berry, a multi-instrumentalist perhaps best known for his collaboration with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer in their group 3, and his continuation of it 3.2, on bass, keyboards and vocals. The roots of SiX by SiX though can be traced back a number of decades to a time when Nigel and Robert were together as part of Yes guitarist Steve Howe’s continuation and ultimate collapse of the band GTR after Steve Hackett left. There is also an Asia connection, as Ian and Nigel contributed to sessions and recordings, while Robert was the link for his guitarist friend Pat Thrall joining that band. Time moved on, paths were re-crossed and the three musicians got together, born out of a conversation with an industry insider in the UK who connected Ian Crichton in the Toronto area with Robert Berry outside San Francisco, who in turn reached Glockler at his home on the south coast of England. All quite simple really.
The resulting music is a real mixture of styles. It is probably more at the straight forward rock end of progressive rock, but much as the likes of Asia does, this has a decidedly poppy edge to it. It is a funky, lively, catchy, slightly cocky sound that struts and grooves as necessary. What also catches the ear is that the keyboards, by and large, are used in a back ground supportive role allowing Ian’s guitars considerable breathing space and room to glow. He plays rhythm, creates riffs or solos without being crowded with keyboards, allowing him some considerable freedom. This does not lapse into looseness though, what he does is perfectly suited to the songs. Indeed, one of his roles is being supportive of Robert’s voice with his guitar, which he does admirably. He seems a little energised by an excursion away from the restrictions that inevitably come from a band such as Saga. Nigel puts in a tellingly muscular powerhouse performance, giving the songs much of their oomph and direction. Robert sounds very much at home in this environment. He plays some great melodic bass parts; his restrained keyboards add textures and flavour to the songs with an occasional lead role for them such as the churchy-type organ opening to The Last Words On Earth. His voice is very assured and shows great range in different settings.
The songs meanings take in quite a few differing topics. The opening song Yearning To Fly considers the burning desire to achieve something. China considers the desperate plight of the Uighur Moslems. The Upside Of Down is all existential and considers leading one’s life in the best way you can and leaving as telling a positive legacy as you can. Although the tracks deal with issues of some gravity they are positive, optimistic statements or comments, rather than anything bleak. The songs were written by Ian and Robert.
The tracks are of varied moods and tempos, but there is little in the line of rapid time progressions within each song. They are very well arranged and the playing is impeccable. The arrangements are very good and it is very polished production. The soloing is succinct rather than expansive and there are no attempts at epics. Most of the songs are around the four-minute mark with one reaching eight minutes and one of a minute and half.
This is not an album that strays far from a fairly straight-ahead rock stance, albeit with a good dose of pop administered. It is energetic and has plenty of movement with shifts in mood. It is loaded with hooks and melodies, being emotive and moody, but in a warm decidedly optimistic manner. It draws deeply on the participants pasts but moves beyond that to a buoyant new unanimity. It is a great portrayal of the trio’s individual talents, and surprisingly it sounds like they have been playing together for years.
1. Yearning to Fly
3. Reason to Feel Calm Again
4. The Upside of Down
6. Live Forever
7. The Last Words on Earth
9. Battle of a Lifetime
10. Save the Night
Robert Berry – vocals, bass, keyboards
Ian Crichton – guitars
Nigel Glockler – drums
Release date: 19th August, 2022
Label: InsideOut Music
Formats: Ltd. CD Digipak, Gatefold LP+CD and digital album