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Echolyn - Echolyn CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.73 | 152 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars The deeper you go into any genre, the more one shot wonders you find--bands who emerged fully formed and put out an energetic debut, only to follow it up with one or more mediocre efforts.

Say: Jadis.

(Indie rock, with its inherent hype machine is especially full of these guys: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah springs to mind.)

Prog has become a bit of an isolated cottage industry. Bands still grow up in public: look how Big Big Train took a full decade plus to get any attention whatsoever. Sometimes I think that there is a bit of an echo-chamber thing going. (I worry that more budding proggers are listening to Tony Banks ape Vivaldi than Vivaldi. I think its telling that when a lot of neo prog bands try to rock out they sound a bit like Asia).

Anywho--where was I? Oh yes, Echolyn's first record.

It's pretty damn good, if naive and inconsistent. But hey--its a debut record.

You could say that Echolyn was a 90s update on Gentle Giant. Many people do, in fact. But Echolyn is much better than Gentle Giant, unless you are big into renaissance fairs, in which case you will probably prefer the Brothers Shulman and their band of merrie troubadours.

Two more than competent lead vocalists. Real live vocal harmonies so delicate and well arranged they make Yes' harmonies sound like Def Leppard.

Cutting edge/awful synth patches.

Lyrics that are about actual things instead of goblins, even if the lyrics aren't great yet. (and Echolyn's lyrics will get great)

Jazz influences (hey, is that a fretless bass?)

It starts off with a clip from some movie based on a Rand novel (you were 19 too, once) and needless to say it goes uphill from there.

"The Great Men" is early Echolyn put in a test tube and lengthened by 60%. Great sections. They still don't know quite how to connect them, but that's quite all right.

"On Any Given Night" showcases the pipes of Raymond Weston, one of the best vocalists you've never heard of. This is when they still let him sing the delicate parts and its gorgeous.

"Carpe Diem" is the song on the album you'll like best on first listen. It is probably the 2nd or 3rd best song on the record and was a live mainstay until the band became embarrassed at its optimism and switched to RAWKIN DEATH METAL. Not really, but they did seem to be embarrassed at it enough where they rerecorded it to make it a bit tougher and eliminated a couple of the fey hooks, because hooks are for nancyboys or something.

Now the epic. "Shades" is 14 minutes of gorgeousness about a failed marriage. The story is told that the band won a battle-of-the-bands contest and the prize was free studio time to record one song. They brought this monstrosity in. People were shocked, etc, etc. The last four minutes are among the most beautiful pieces of music in their discography. When they go melodic their peers aren't Marillion and Yes. They are more along the lines of classic pop, except with Steely Dan chords and guitar hero theatrics.

The band must have known that they would achieve an audience and that at least a dozen of their fans would be completists, because they recorded "Clumps of Dirt" even though its not very good. Imagine a combination of "Frankenstein", "YYZ" and "Benny the Bouncer". I'm sure it served its purpose playing in front of a bunch of Yinzers in some stabby bar in western Pennsylvania.

"Peace in Time" is a bit of a dead end in the band's discography: a beautiful path they could've traveled but didn't. It's a languid jazz-rock ballad with very sensitive vocals and great bass. Tom Hyatt, their once and future bass player, joined the band during the recording of the record and this is one of the songs he shreds the frets on.

"Meaning and the Moment" is what Spock's Beard songs would sound like if they were more awesome. Echolyn was and is allergic to fadeouts and it pays off here with a goofy, made-for-the-stage rockin' socks off kind of ending. There is a superior acoustic version on the odds and sods record that got released after they broke up in the mid-90s

"Breath of Fresh Air" is another jazz-rock ballad. I'd like to know what this song would sound like acoustic, without the echoed vocals in the chorus and the trashy electric piano sound.

"Until it Rains" features guitar both backwards and frontwards and some tasty licks throughout. I'm listening to this now as I write the review and it is much better than I thought it was.

"The Velveteen Rabbit" is very, very twee. Brett Kull gives it his all on the vocals. Imagine an electric version of Anthony Phillips' "Which Way the Wind Blows", except not as good, which is understandable because Which Way the Wind Blows is awe inspiring.

So: It's the worst album by one of the best prog bands ever. And I don't bandy that about. Vocally, they are better than any prog band I can think of. They are on the level of Simon and the Garfunkel and the Beach Boys at times. Musically they are songwriter's songwriters and they can play their instruments well, I'm told.

Getting the album in its original format is nearly impossible. It's availible in full on the "A Little Nonsense" box set. I have heard competing reports vis-a-vis whether it has been remixed or not. I bet it wasn't.

bigjohnwayne | 4/5 |


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