Must-Own Billy Sherwood projects: Gimme Five
Producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Billy Sherwood has had a lasting and significant impact on progressive rock. After contributing to a series of Yes projects in the 1990s, Sherwood issued excellent solo albums from 1999’s The Big Peace to his current release Divided by One. Work with stand-alone bands like Circa (featuring fellow ex-Yes Tony Kaye) and World Trade is also often overlooked but stellar. So, where to start? Here are five essential Billy Sherwood projects not to be missed …
CONSPIRACY – LIVE (2007): Each song deftly combines pop rock elements and progressive rock on this underrated concert collaboration between Yes bassist Chris Squire and Billy Sherwood on guitar, vocals and keyboards. Along the way, they touch on many of the high points from their 2003 album Conspiracy, which also included Jay Schellen on drums. Beyond those tracks, the live project incorporated Yes’s “Universal Garden” and “The More We Live,” as well.
VARIOUS ARTISTS – A CLASSIC ROCK SALUTE TO THE DOORS (2014): This overlooked release has it all — great songs by the Doors, rock giants like Todd Rungren and Jeff Baxter, and arrangements and production by Billy Sherwood. Indeed, Sherwood has established a niche of doing solutes to great rock bands. (Check out the Supertramp salute he did a few years back.) On Light My Fire, Sherwood handled guitar, bass and some keyboard duties but also employs several rhythm sections. The results are not faithful copies of the original doors songs, but more an homage to them. Stand out tracks include “Touch Me” with Jordan Rudess on keyboards and Steve Morse on guitar — and “Riders On the Storm” featuring Rainbow’s Joe Lynn Turner on vocals, Steve Cropper on guitar and Tony Kaye on keyboards.
WILLIAM SHATNER – PONDER THE MYSTERY (2013): Sherwood’s collaboration with actor, writer and former Star Fleet Captain William Shatner is quite good. Billy Sherwood acts as producer, chief writer of the music, and all but a one-man band. Best of all is the title track, in which Shatner provides lyrics which meet cosmic expectations, and could easily fit on any Yes album. Shatner knows his strengths and talks rather than sing his lyrics, while Sherwood provides a basic and strong drum track, a Squire like bass track and synth flourishes which would make Tony Kaye proud. Add in a lead guitar appearance by guest Steve Vai and the listener is stunned and mystified.
YES – OPEN YOUR EYES (1997): The first of two Yes studio albums featuring Sherwood — who’d been working in a variety of capacities with the group since 1991 — as a full member. Open Your Eyes began as a duet album with Yes’ Chris Squire, and emerged with additional contributions for the rest of Yes. The results, overlooked by a lot of Yes fans to this day, combine strong pop-rock elements courtesy of Sherwood’s production, guitar and keyboard savvy. Check out the title track, as well as “New State of Mind,” which combine the best rock elements in a streamlined progressive rock setting. It’s a must have for a Yes fan.
PAUL RODGERS – MUDDY WATERS BLUES: A TRIBUTE TO MUDDY WATERS (1993): The second solo album by Paul Rodgers of Bad Company fame finds him at his bluesy best. Originally to be solely produced by Rodgers, he was so impressed with Sherwood’s arranging ideas and technical savvy that he handed over the reins. Muddy Waters Blues was well served. Sherwood retained Pino Palladino on bass and Jason Bonham on drums, then employed a workshop process to the lead guitar by bringing the likes of Neil Schon, David Gilmour, Brian Setzer, Gary Moore and Steve Miller among others. Stand out tracks include “Louisiana Blues” featuring fellow Yes alum Trevor Rabin and the acoustic version of “Muddy Water Blues” with Buddy Guy.