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California Guitar Trio - Echoes CD (album) cover

ECHOES

California Guitar Trio

 

Crossover Prog

3.15 | 8 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Meddling with the classics

Released in 2008, "Echoes" is the California Guitar Trio's seventh studio album (including a Christmas collection in 2001), the multi-national line up remaining yet again as Bert Lams, Hideyo Moriya and Paul Richards. A good number of guests are brought in to support these King Crimson prodigies on a track by track basis, filling out the sound; the most notable is probably Tony Levin on bass.

Unlike previous releases, this is not an album of original material, but of cover versions of a wide array of music from the rock world, plus the odd classical number. The sound is still very much in line with what has gone before, with dextrous playing of predominantly acoustic guitars being the sole item on the menu. Three brief pieces open the album, each featuring said acoustic guitars. "Music For a Found Harmonium" is the best of these, the frantic pace of the track being reminiscent of some of Fairport Convention's great jigs. "Unmei" mixes parts of Beethoven's 5th Symphony ("Roll over Beethoven") with a traditional gypsy type tune.

It is though when we get to the cover of Pink Floyd's "Echoes" that we get into the meat of the album. The familiar pings open the track, and the Gilmouresque lead guitar is present and correct too. The vocal melody though is played on acoustic guitar, the overall atmosphere being less heavy, more new age. The track runs to about half the length of the original, but this is through abbreviation of the various segments, rather than omission. The addition of theremin, played by Pamelia Kurstin, is as welcome as it is unexpected. All credit to CGT for taking on a piece which is one of Pink Floyd's signatures. Although the original remains the definitive statement, this version is well worth hearing.

No sooner has "Echoes" ended, but we are straight into the opening segment of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular bells". The rendition here is even more faithful to the original, perhaps because this time the instruments used are pretty much identical. This interpretation runs to around 8 minutes, drawing in several sections from Part 1.

We return to the classics for Beethoven's "Pastorale" a more orthodox CGT number which sounds good despite appearing between three far more familiar pieces. For me, the cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a disappointment. A predominantly vocal song such as this is simply reduced to muzak when covered instrumentally. This version reminds me of the classical rock versions recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra and that ilk which were popular about 20 years ago. There is no question that GCT perform the piece with great skill and craft, it just seems to be to be a bad choice of song.

"And I know" also breaches new territory, as it includes vocals by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy. At first, it sounds as if the song has been misnamed and is actually Neil Young's "Harvest moon", since the shuffling acoustic guitar melody is almost identical. The song, which was originally recorded by Swiss Krautrock band Krokodil on their 1972 album "Getting Up For The Morning", is a pleasantly relaxed affair, the vocals working reasonably well. The same cannot be said for those on the closing cover of Lynrrd Skynyrd's "Freebird". Here the light reggae arrangement(!) combines with a rather uninspired vocal to sound like a late night drunken indulgence. Thankfully, when we get to the legendary guitar solo, the gloves come off and we get a full blown, 100 miles an hour lead guitar work out, ending the album on a definite high.

"Echoes" is an album of contrasts. The covers of tracks such as "Echoes" are highly effective, while others such as "Bohemian rhapsody" should have been left alone. There is no question that these are three highly talented individuals, and that this is an album of great quality. Overall it is a worthwhile exercise, but I do retain some reservations along the way.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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