Patrick Ballantyne / SKY
Release Date: May 31, 2019
Label: Northwood Records
Genre: Alt-Pop / Singer-Songwriter
All songs by Patrick Ballantyne (MAPL/SOCAN)
The sky may be the limit (as the saying goes), but it’s nowhere near the limit when it comes to Patrick Ballantyne’s latest album. SKY is the veteran Toronto singer/songwriter’s fourth collection and finds him venturing off into new sonic territory unlike anything he’s done before.
Taking an auteur approach in handling nearly all instrumentation and singing, while utilizing the full capabilities of his home studio, Ballantyne built on his established hit-making credentials to craft a record that pays homage to some of rock’s greatest boundary pushers. “My favourite albums over the years are often those where the artist stretches out and allows their muse to take over,” he says. “For example, I prefer Tusk to Rumours, and The White Album to Sgt. Pepper. When artists follow their solitary path and trust their instincts, they can discover wonderful things.”
Indeed, fans of classic AOR will surely feel a familiar rush that comes with embarking on a new journey when they click play—or more appropriately drop the needle—on SKY. As the Pink Floyd-ian opening track “Beneath Your Skin” flows into the Mellotron-drenched “Practicing” (co-written with his Northwood Records label mate Ambre McLean), and the McCartney-esque focus track “Dominos,” it’s clear that Ballantyne has melded all of the elements at his fingertips into a clear, defined sound.
Although Ballantyne admits that he did find some inspiration in ‘70s prog rock (hence the prominence of the Mellotron), excess never overshadowed his sharp songwriting instincts, which over the years have made him a close collaborator with the likes of The Trews’ Colin MacDonald and Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson. Still, Ballantyne says that making Sky was a much more free-flowing process, especially compared to his previous album, 2017’s Calendar, for which he stuck to a strict regimen of writing and recording a song from scratch each month for an entire year.
Amid all the ear candy on SKY, the album’s most poignant moment is the ballad “A Bit Of Make Believe,” which echoes Warren Zevon, another of Ballantyne’s strongest influences. Like the late, great Zevon, Ballantyne has developed a reputation as a “songwriter’s songwriter,” delving into the complexities of adult relationships. And as his personal understanding of that topic continues to develop with age, it’s only helped shape the direction of his music.