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This album requires some explanation.  It is at the same time brand new,  and yet the material is mostly from 20 years ago.  Famous rock musicians, especially of advancing years, very often get accused of recycling and rehashing their old material.  I however am in the fortunate position of being relatively unknown, and so is my back catalogue.  When I originally recorded this, it was on to a four track  cassette portastudio, which in the mid 1980s  was the best that an amateur musician could aspire to. Recording studios were by and large beyond what I could afford.  Therefore I made do with what I had.  It was a great way of getting down ideas very quickly, but unfortunately the quality of the recordings  generally did not live up to what was required for a professional release. These days, everybody can have a multi track in their bedroom courtesy of the humble computer,  and as  I have a back catalogue going back many years, some of which I think still stands the test of time material wise,  I am now in a position to release some of this old stuff. So here for your  delectation and enlightenment is a rundown of what this album is about. The Morrigan (which is the band that I play in), was formed in the second half of 1984.  I was not the original guitarist, being a replacement for Tom Foad.  This was the time when I first met Cathy Alexander (the singer and multi instrumentalist) who became my long-term partner.  At the time we were both living in Basingstoke and I had never been further west than Burton Bradstock in Dorset.  Cathy suggested on one of our early holidays, that we should go and visit the North coast of Cornwall.  I was completely blown away by the rugged Cornish coast and having recently joined the Morrigan, was having my first real encounter with folk music at the same time as finding my feet as a guitarist.  I was also very keen to incorporate all the things that were happening around me into my music.  This is the background to the songs on this album. The Concept I think the Southern Cross is guilty of being a concept album, the concept quite typical of someone in the first flush of youth.  I had the rather melancholy idea of two ships separated by a thousand years in time, both of which came to a sticky end.  Side one would be taken up with the adventures of the original Southern Cross, some time in the 18th century  (Perhaps a little like the journeys of Captain Cook, but in a strange alternative universe).  The second ship was a starship that had an unfortunate encounter with a black hole. This idea rattled around in my head about a year and during this time most of the material here was written.  It has to be said that I do have an unfortunate habit of straying off the original subject and so by the end of it the concept is only fairly loosely adhered to.  But this is how it all began. The Tracks Here is a list of the tracks and some interesting information about each. Never Come Back This began life as an attempt at a traditional song. I was in very much into the guitar playing of Martin Carthy at this time, and so you find detuned acoustic guitars and a somewhat Humpty Dumpty style of playing, along with a call and response vocal style reminiscent of sea shanties.  The four track version is a bit cringeworthy these days, but the track had a considerable re-work when I recorded it this time, including a much more sinister chorus, which seems to have brought it back from the brink. Sails of Silver This remains largely unchanged from the four track version. The two electric guitar breaks were originally played on a keyboard, with the tape turned down to half speed which enabled me to do a fair imitation of Rick Wakeman (which of course was cheating horrendously). In the intervening years  my playing on the keyboard has improved somewhat (though I am not a good keyboard player). However for the new version I thought it would be interesting to see if I could reproduce the keyboard lines on the guitar note for note, and that is what I have managed to achieve.  The bulk of the track is an acoustic instrumental, in which I am happy to admit I was considerably influenced by the playing of Gordon Giltrap.  I still perform this as a party piece at folk clubs on occasion. South Australia This track is named after a sea shanty which was later recorded by the Morrigan on the Hidden Agenda album.  It is not however the same song, it uses a fraction of the traditional lyrics but unlike the Morrigan version is entirely original in the composition of the tune and the arrangement  (In fact it predates the Morrigan version by some years).  It was one of my earliest attempts at an orchestral arrangement.  At the time the only keyboard to which I had access was Cathy's  Juno 6 synthesiser, which I believe was one of the earliest polyphonic synthesisers on the market.  There were no sequencers in those days, other than the primitive step sequencers used by the likes of Tangerine Dream, so it all had to be laboriously multitracked.  By the time I used the Juno it had been through the wars a bit, but although some of the woodwork was missing it worked perfectly.  As there was no multitimbrality in those days, I had to lay up the tracks on the four track, three tracks at a time, then bounce them onto the fourth track, then start again with two tracks at a time, bouncing them onto the third track, and so on.  Musically the track came out really well but from a technical point of view it sounded like it was recorded in porridge.  On the current version It got up to 46 tracks in Cubase,  also these days the keyboard I use is a Triton Extreme (things have moved on a bit). The Wreckers Those of you who know the Morrigan's back catalogue will recognize this track, as it first appeared on the Wreckers album.  In fact it was originally written for the Southern Cross.  So please forgive me for doing it again.  The Morrigan version was done in a recording studio but the whole episode was  really rushed and the end result did not see the song at it's best (it was a long time favourite in the Morrigan's live set).  As a result I do'nt feel too bad about doing it again, and this version finally does the track some justice.  I must say a heartfelt thank you to Cathy for singing it again after all these years.  Initially she was quite reluctant but in the end I persuaded her; she completely rearranged the vocals and I think she is also happy with the final result.  We won't be doing this one again! Compass Rose A short guitar instrumental. The original inspiration to this was a combination of listening to Jeff Beck and getting a Boss distortion pedal and feedbacker as a birthday present.  In the original version, the feedback came out of a little box.  Now I have a Roland GT5 multi effects unit, which I couldn't have dreamt of affording in those days  but which I picked up three years ago on eBay for £150 and which I adore.  It also has a feedbacker, but this time I went into a padded room and turned the guitar up, which was much more fun.  (Many thanks to my employers at the school where I work). Interlude with Moon Cycles This is simply a reminder to those people too young to remember glorious vinyl, that this is in fact  the start of side 2 of the record, and the story of the second ship.  Moon cycles is the name of the patch on the Triton. Cathy played that while I grumbled. It is mercifully short. The Heart of the Machine The idea behind the lyrics of the song come from the fact that a lot of exploration was carried out by people escaping from oppressive regimes. At the time of the recording we were living not very far from Stonehenge, and the year before had seen the 'Battle of the Beanfield'.  It is generally considered that the police used excessive force on this occasion.  And it did indeed feel very strange and intimidating to be walking through the countryside and finding policemen everywhere.  On a technical note, I cordially dislike the kind of drum sounds used during the 80's but I remember that we had recently bought our first digital reverb around about this time and of course, with any new piece of kit you end up mucking about with it.  On the opening section there is the typical 80's snare drum sound.  But this time it was produced by climbing up a chimney (quite large) and hitting a TDK cassette box (empty) with a spoon.  Afterwards putting the whole thing through said reverb.  Now the original four track tape is still with me, and I was able to isolate one of those drum hits and so it appears here 20 years later sounding as horrible as ever, but I had to put it in for old time's sake.  The original version of this track made much more use of the original funk line, but somehow this time it ended up sounding like ZZ Top, (such is life). Ocean of storms This is the only track that is completely new, largely because the original version was utter rubbish.  The only similarities between the two is the title, and that they both attempt a Berlin school type of electronic sound (I'm a big fan of Tangerine Dream's early work).  I also have Cathy to thank for some excellent vocals on this track.  They were done on the same day as we finished the Wreckers vocals, but where on the previous track we had spent many hours honing everything to perfection, this time we went down the pub and then when we came back she sat and did the whole thing in a single take.  I then did a bit of editing, and it was finished in about two hours.  (Mind you I did spend a while doing the sequences in the first place).  Another note of interest is that the Triton has a vast library of sounds (over 4000) and when I recorded this track I was able to stick to using patches of instruments exclusively from the 70's, including electric piano, mellotron, Solina string machine, clavinet, and some sawtooth waveforms that would have not been out of place on a Moog synthesiser.  In fact pretty much the same as German bands of that era would have used. The Southern Cross This is the most interesting track from a technical standpoint. The original echoplex guitar part that opens the piece is something  I wrote as far back as my days in the Gestalt, a band I played in many many years ago.  The four track recording that I did of this has remained in good condition and I used it as a technical exercise in learning how to clean up material from tape on a computer.  As a result large parts of the original recording still remain here. This includes almost all the bass, the first keyboard solo (once more done at half speed on the four track tape machine), the short piece of vocal, and several of the guitar solos.  By a combination of careful editing and timestretch, I was able to fit the old parts to new accompaniments.  It was an interesting technical exercise.  I rerecorded this track originally about two years ago, so it was already done at the time that I did the rest of this album. So there it is, the story of the Southern Cross.  If anybody mentions Pirates of the Caribbean I would like to point out that I did it first!
About The Southern Cross
“….Two Lighthousekeepers starts off the album on a very powerful note…. ….the last track is the most successful of them all, ending with such intensity that one cannot help but be impressed. The ending is built up masterfully - when the 9 note guitar scale first appears, it sounds like it could be hopeful or pensive, waiting for something on the horizon to become known- but by the time the song ends, it is downright electric. The Gazzardian “…. 'The House on the Rock' is actually a very beautiful piece of work. Complex, more complex than the rest of this album & starts in a style that "The Enid" or some South American Symphonic Prog band (Quaterna Requiem) could use…… I think it's a fine album and I can give it heart-warming rating.” Marty McFly “….It's safe to say that Colin Masson is one of the best prog musicians you've never heard. Thus, I challenge any fan of adventurous and dramatic progressive rock  to check out Colin's newest CD……This is a moody, dynamic, and highly impressive roller-coaster ride of an album. Highly recommended to all fans of eclectic symphonic prog!...” J-Man “……haunting symphonic prog with a lot of references to Irish/Celtic folk music.….the quality is great throughout…. the haunting 'Ends of the Earth' with Cathy (Alexander) on the vocals is just brilliant.” Torodd Fuglesteg                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
 “......the first time I listened to this album I was caught by its beauty….'The House on the Rock' [is] a sixteen-minute track that gathers all the elements that Colin offers: creativity, high quality composition, complex music, and emotion….. ” Memowakeman – Italian prog specialist
 "...'The Mad Monk & The Mountain' is certainly one of the greatest modern symphonic progressive albums I've heard to date, and it has put Colin Masson on my radar as a talented artist to look out for…… an hour of vibrant and intelligent music, as well as an underground gem of the progressive scene. ….'The Ends Of The Earth….. is possibly the strongest track on the album, and is also the part of the album where I realized that I had a masterpiece on my hands here.”  Conor Fynes  
Progarchives reviewers say: About “The Mad  Monk And The Mountain”
What the Progarchive reviewers had to say about The Southern Cross The album is a truly wonderful ride.......  Overall, Masson has produced a very good record, with plenty of memorable melodies and a very beautiful atmosphere. Again he has shown he is no stranger to well-made music, and I will certainly look forward to more material from Mr. Masson. Andyman1125 The Wreckers with Mrs Masson, make that Cathy Alexander, is superb. A very evocative, haunting melody driven by Cathy Alexander's excellent vocals........ Toroddfuglesteg The story is easy to follow and a very compelling journey takes place told in Colin's lyrics.........The flute tones and the way it is orchestrated feels very much like being on a Clipper ship setting sail for a treacherous journey. The minimalist acoustic at the end is delightful along with the exquisite strings, and I am already hooked into the atmosphere......After a few listens this track(the Wreckers) wrapped its tentacles around me until I was completely held captive..........This is an album that I took an instant liking to, and on repeated listens it did not fail to cast a spell Atomic Crimson Rush