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Always Almost - God Pounds His Nails CD (album) cover


Always Almost

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Dan Bobrowski
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This band is a spin off of Echolyn. After the Sony debacle, Echolyn splintered into two bands; Finneus Gauge, captained by Chris Buzby and Always Almost / Still, with Ray Weston, Brett Kull and Paul Ramsey. Where Finneus Gauge went towards the fusionesque side of prog, Always Almost / Still firmly grasped it's rock roots. God Pounds His Nails is the better of the two releases from this group (see my Still review), neither have much prog and only a handful of tunes that are up to Echolyn standards.

The opener, Pretty Fine Day, sounds as if it were lifted from a George Harrison album. Kull plays some nice slide and throws in a few hamronica splashes for that bluesy touch. Tread On is a reverb drenched Weston vocal that spits shards of disgust at the music industry. I love the line, "Prog" me baby until I'm blue." Great!

Some beautiful soft moments occur on Silence and Rumor and While I Was Away. Wonderfully fingerpicked acoustics, lush harmonies with a seemless vocal transition that starts with Kull's softer melodic vocals and ends with Weston's angst filled power. You even get a little Jews Harp tossed in to add some spice to the mix. West Point has some fingerpicked Resonator, doubled by an acoustic guitar and backed by accordian for extra flavor.

Power chords, ala Led Zep, abound on React Me, In Need of Shaking and Five Doors. The bands gets some acoustic Zep nods on Greater Sea that starts with backward tracked guitar and some Bron-yr-Aur toned acoustic. Someone once told me that Ray Weston sounds like the Cure's Robert Smith and in the vocals of In Need of Shaking I hear that Shake Dog Shake quality. Too cool! Brett Kull uses guitar effects on nearly every tune. Watery flange, reverb and octavia. Bye Bye Dreary Kitty drips with added guitar treatments.

Now I'm a Stranger gives John Avarese a chance to put his Hammond B-3 front and center. Slow and fluxuating. Airs and Envy brings back that killer Fender Rhodes. Dear Old Pal of Mine is filler and, to me, a rather annoying victrola with it's needle carving it's way through a WWI era 78rpm. Grating.

Bitter is an interesting change as the bar crowd noise puts you into a crowded corner bar. The brushes swish the ride cymbal and a, clean tone, jazz guitar line break cuts through the cigarette smoke and stale beer smell. Westons voice carries overhead and the Fender Rhodes electric piano dominates the central wave length. Beatle harmonies filter through and the crowd sounds swallow the band as they finish their moment. The effect works well. Don't forget to raise your bottle and salute.

The highlight of GPHN is the cover of Gentle Giants "Aspirations," which would be a great vehicle for live improvisation in an Echolyn concert. At 9:30 it's twice as long as the original and the longest of the Always Almost / Still repertoire. Beginning with a slow Fender Rhodes intro the song slowly builds with Ray Weston's plaintive vocals about hopes and dreams. Guitar, bass and drum make their entrance a full minute into the tune. The 70's vibe is strong and pours forth thick and sultry for the speakers. The guitar solo by Brett Kull is emotive and tasteful, only to segue into a Fender Rhodes solo by Pat Strawser. A very fine moment, indeed. Kull's guitar returns with wah-wah augmented strings and the improv rides the tune to it's climax. The disc is worth it's price for this song alone.

Fans of Echolyn must own this, but fans of rock and pure good music would be impressed.

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Posted Wednesday, April 6, 2005 | Review Permalink

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