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Echolyn - Stars And Gardens - Volume 4 CD (album) cover

STARS AND GARDENS - VOLUME 4

Echolyn

 

Symphonic Prog

4.22 | 33 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Dan Bobrowski
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars That's right, 5 stars. Five stars for Stars and Gardens. One for each incredible member of the band. A masterpiece of modern prog. A band that simply melds so much of what is great about progressive rock, the torch bearers, the rock-solid musicians, the refusal to succumb to the mainstream, Echolyn. Keep your Flower Kings, your Beards and your Ayreons. This is the real deal. In a sense, that is exactly what the bands name means to me. Steadfast and professional.

Studio craft is one thing, but live is where the rubber meets the road. Echolyn rip up the musical freeway on this venture. Blistering! I found myself nearly cheering for them, unable to remain seated throughout this video. I was front and center. I toasted them with my own glass as Ray called out, "I don't hear any beer bottles out there." Yeah! The audience interaction is an enhancement. It adds to the "I was there" experience. Tom Hyatt is back with the band, alternating between bass and percussions. Weston and Kull have lost nothing on the vocal aspects of the band (A Little Nonsense is sooooo tight) and Chris Buzby's keyboards never sounded so fresh and powerful. Paul Ramsey is clockwork perfect behind the kit. Brett Kull, switching between a Gibson SG, Fender Strat and Lap Steel, just puts forth a guitarists clinic of live performance. They appear to be having the time of their lives. Maybe they are? Mei poured new life into a band torn apart by the business end of the music. Stars and Gardens is a kind of "Welcome back, My Friends..." concert to re-establish their presence and commitment to the genre. (A new disc is in the works!)

The bands rollicks through a veritable "Best Of" collection of compositions. Tunes are pulled from Mei and all the way back to 1992, Shades, the epic track from their debut. The obvious climax is the complete "Mei" with Hyatt adding his own skill to a tune he didn't play on originally. Weston can play bass, but Hyatt is in a different league. Check out the solo in "A Little Nonsense," the man burns up the strings.

The video alternates between live performance, artistic visuals that flesh out the stories behind the music. 1729 Broadway, a wonderful letter from a father to his children and wife is interspersed with candlelight, a letter and images of the writer. Never the Same features a tepia stained video of the band conveying the message.. .to family, to fans? Defintely one of their most heartfelt recordings. Very touching and well done. The Kull brothers pulled out the stops on production.Chris Buzby's intro to Brittney, a tribute to an uncle who died on those shores, cuts deep into my emotional center, both timely and timeless and begins one of my favorite tracks off Cowboys Poems Free. The track soars, powerful and oh-so-melodic. Echolyn at it's best. My Dear Wormwood splices the live footage with archive early nineties bits. As the World combines studio takes and todays prog warriors, a now and then contrast that is both entertaining and in a surreal way, rather heart rending.

Mei. It all comes down to Mei, doesn't it? This track, the single album, the rebirth of the Echolyn family, is really a modern symphony. Multi-segmented, peaks and valley, shadows and light. Mei, at nearly 50 minutes, is an epic whch rivals the greats of the past in vision and performance. The beauty of Brett Kulls angelic voice in the "cathedral glass" section, soothes and lulls your mind. We are all part of the play. Ray Weston's more aggressive delivery provokes violent images and the complex frustration of being a small man in a big world. The struggle for control of self against the mass power of government, the hate of war and the acceptance of what is is felt through the lyrics and passion of the vocals. Is it really "too late for everything?" The orchestral accompaniment is a great touch. The string add some much class and timelessness to the production.

Disc two: The extras, is a great background companion disc for any Echolyn fan. You get a history of the band, a behind the scenes look into the studio with the "As the World" CD is created, the crushing loss and disbanding after Sony pulled the plug. The Cowboy Poems Free second breath. The Mei rebirth and Stars and Gardens post production interviews.

I recommend this disc to any and all prog fans. Experience Echolyn.

Dan Bobrowski | 5/5 |

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