Just when you thought 1995's Euphoria would be the last we would hear from AOR/prog act World Trade, along comes Unify, the brand new release from Billy Sherwood (lead vocals, bass), Bruce Gowdy (guitars), Guy Allison (keyboards), and Mark T. Williams (drums). No surprise that Unify finds the reunited World Trade on Frontiers Records, also home to Sherwood's other two acts, Yes and Circa, but the real shock is how Billy was able to find time to put this all together with his recording & touring commitments with those two bands as well as Asia. Considering his reputation as one of prog's most prolific & hard working artists the last two decades (he also produces), the re-emergence of World Trade should surprise no one at this point.
On to Unify, all the elements from both World Trade and Euphoria are present, the bands penchant for soaring vocal harmonies, hard rock guitars, and proggy keyboards ringing loud and clear across these ten new tracks. "On Target On Time" is an engaging rocker with a memorable hook and tight instrumentation, and "Gone All the Way" as well as "Where Were Going" contain more than a hint of Yes styled vocal harmonies that Sherwood has obviously picked up over the years. In fact, the upbeat title track will more than remind folks of 91025 era Yes, complete with multi-layered vocals, crisp guitar work, and bright keyboard arrangements. "Same Old Song" might just be the hardest rocking song here, with fat Gowdy riffs and blazing keyboards from Allison, not to mention Yes/Gentle Giant styled vocals courtesy of Sherwood, with some majestic acoustic guitars thrown in for good measure. And, who wouldn't like the bright "The New Norm", complete with alluring vocal harmonies, bouncing rhythms, and tasty guitar lines? Catchy and memorable to say the least.
Ultimately, Unify is a pleasant listen, which basically sums up all three albums in their discography. One of my main gripes with this band over the years has been their seeming reluctance to take many chances with their music, which they do on the energetic closer "Again", complete with sizzling guitar solos, booming bass, and layers of keyboards (reminding of Saga at times), but we just don't get enough of it here. That being said, Unify is by no means a weak album, containing some great melodies and tight instrumentation, but most of the songs seem to follow a similar pattern and tone. If you are expecting a wild prog-fest, you've come to the wrong place, but the reunited World Trade have surely put together a fun, highly listenable album of pop melodies and the occasional prog flourish that is a welcome return.
01_The New Norm
02_Where Were Going
04_On Target On Time
05_Gone All The Way
07_For The Fallen
09_Same Old Song