Band Website: www.canvasproductions.net
Label: Independent Release
Release Date: 2013
It has been all of five years since the last Canvas album, so Long Way to Mars has been a long time coming. Canvas as some of you will know is the musically creative side of Canvas Productions making it kind of a studio project. This is music created by member’s in-between the work that pays the bills. The core duo here is Matt Sweitzer (guitars, bass, keyboards) and Chris Cobel (keyboards, trumpets) and like on previous endeavors they enlist the musical assistance of others to flesh out the sound. Time has injected some new influences to the band’s music as here they’ve focused on the smoother soft-rock aspect of their music with just a hint of soft-jazzy flair all of which has produced an excellent melodic prog.
It seems the band get tighter with each release. This is also combined with a more focused musical direction. The 10 tracks on Long Way to Mars will remind you of the music of bands like Steely Dan: the playing is detailed and the arrangements a few notches above the regular mainstream fare as heard in the title track “Long Way to Mars” [4:17]. Sprinkled throughout is a soft-jazz sensibility, where instrumental virtuosity is celebrated, that is they’re not afraid to inject short instrumental solos here and there. The other musical influence heard this time is a leaning to a more soulful sound sometimes taking over the whole composition as in “Brightest Star” [4:51]. At other times their music continues to project a familiar Alan Parsons-like melodic art-rock vibe as heard on “Valkyrie Days” [6:53]. There is also a subtlety running through these compositions: on one hand they seem obviously simple lacking complexity and yet the more I listen to them the more I hear new and different things, especially in the musical structure. It seems they’ve save the crunchier guitar work for the later tracks. The mix of male and female vocal leads adds a nice dimension as well.
This is probably the most musically varied of all the Canvas releases so far. It’s also the most well-crafted and played I think. And in some ways it’s also their most detailed work with plenty of proggy embellishments to hold your interest along the way, getting more and more proggy and heavier as you work your way through to the end. With each release Canvas has taken their game up a notch and Long Way to Mars is certainly yet another step forward.