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5 stars Without a question ECHOLYN are one of my personal all time favorite progressive rock units. Big meaty mood and rhythm changes blended with carefully orchestrated songs and themes. As always vocal harmonies are used throughout and are in clever ways. This first album has become hard to track down as it has been long since deleted with a cassette version being still readily available (minus 3 tracks and some 20 mins of recorded material). What immediately struck me here was the depth of the band in terms of song writing and musical competency. ECHOLYN's first album still has loads of their jazz-syncopation dashes and bring yet a slighly different feel out than later albums. Brilliant playing throughout and a super groovy band that demands your listening attention.
Report this review (#1804)
Posted Tuesday, March 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
Dan Bobrowski
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It's hard for me to rate any Echolyn lower than four stars and this is no exception. Most amazing is how mature this album is for a debut of extremely young musicians. The album Echolyn is not as Gentle Giant influenced as their sophomore release, but this disc is all over the map with styles and quotes. Ray Weston's voice is surprisingly developed and very controlled. Kull and Weston combine for some great harmonies. The tightness of Paul Ramsey with three different bassists (Weston, Hyatt and Jessy Reyes) throughout is a testament to his versatility as a drummer. Brett Kull flavors his playing like a grizzled veteran, many different tones, influences and touches. The standout, for me, is Chris Buzbys wonderful keyboarding throughout. The guy just has great chops. Going from Emersonion Hammond to Banks-like synth at the drop of a hat.

Clumps of Dirt, a wonderfully powerful jam, Hammond and Guitar battling over a powerhouse drumfest. The Velveteen Rabbit glides through the pleasures of childhood. Shades, a lost love in epic proportions. Carpe Diem is my personal fav off this disc. Meaning and the Moment bring forth the first taste of the Gentle Giant path taken more boldly in the future, another fav. Instrumental moments that send chills up my spine abound. At nearly 70 minutes, the time flashes by without dragging or boredom setting in. The lyrics fit the music, writing that is mature and poetic.

This disc is out of print (OOP), but can still be obtained by buying the "Little Nonsense" box set (3 CDs) and is well worth the bucks.

Report this review (#1807)
Posted Friday, February 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An excellent debut album!

Yes, this is a debut album. But. hang on a second. Take a look at the music produced by these gentlemen and you will agree with me that their music has already matured with this debut. It's an excellent album by any measures: composition (arrangement and songwriting), musicianship, performance and originality. Yes, there is a bit of similarity with early Genesis and even later generation of prog: Pallas. But, Echolyn music is truly Echolyn. However, this album is different with any of its successors as with this album I never found any style that is similar or close to the music of Finneus Gauge (Buzby's tranisition band). I never regret having this album in my collection.

The album opens with a sort of movie dialogue cuts in Fountainhead (3:48) that comprises three short parts; followed with a floating music colored with acoustic guitar fills and nice violin. I was really hit by the violin work - so cool. From the first track I can sense the sort of wonderful composition by the band. It's like watching a movie because the music is backed with an orchestra and people's dialogue. It moves to second track The Great Men (8:30) with a stunning guitar work accompanied with medium tempo music. Drums contribute its dynamic style augmented with inventive guitar and bass. When voice enters the line it reminds me to neo prog music like Pallas or Iq even though the arrangement is different. Inventive drumming and basslines are demonstrated in the middle of the track. The unique sound of keyboard has made this track enjoyable.

With similar style the next track On Any Given Nite (5:01) also starts off with a stunning guitar work followed with howling / sliding style. It reminds me, again, to Pallas music - at least its nuance. Judging from this opening only, I may conclude that this is a neo prog band. But the other tracks prove to be different. Carpe Diem (5:11) has some flavor of rock 'n' roll beats at least at its opening part, dominated with guitar work. The interlude part in the middle shows great drum sounds and powerful voice line. Shades (11:46) is another great song with excellent composition where in some segments I can sense Genesis style combining complex parts and nice parts beautifully.

Highly recommended! Overall rating is 4 ˝ out of 5 stars merely due to tight composition, strong songwriting, excellent performance and musicianship. Keep on proggin'..!

Progressively yours,

GW - Review #314

Report this review (#35845)
Posted Thursday, June 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I like this band very much cos they are one of the few ones in the Retro and Neo Prog field that don't sound like a cheap blueprint of the glorious 70s. I started to adore them especially by listening to their two most recent releases. Now after having a long rest on my shelf their (unfortunately OOP) debut found some place again in my player. And though I've to admit that it was really a remarkable one at least for those days I still have to cut back in my rating if I compare it to their sophomore releases like "As The World", "Mei" or their latest one. All songs are rather easily accessible ones with great songwriting and musicianship is flawless without any doubts. But since I prefer the more complex edge of Prog I've to say that this one is somehow overrated here compared to the subsequent ones.

Highlights are "The Great Man" and "Shades" but although being quite nice most of the songs are rather of the type to be forgotten soon after. Being certainly an excellent album in the year of its release it doesn't pass the test of time and sounds quite dated and derivative nowadays I've to say.

Would be good for 3,5 stars if half ones would be available. Not sure if I'd invest my bucks in buying the "A Little Nonsense Now And Then " box to get it.

Report this review (#77390)
Posted Sunday, May 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's a bit of a warmup for what echolyn would accomplish on their next two LPs, but the debut shows a lot of the band's promise from the start.

Compositionally, the band hadn't quite found its voice, as some of the songs seem a little bit too "generic" pop rock. Lyrically speaking, there is a great deal of youthful optimism/naivete. Although the vocals are occasionally not so strong, the band's instrumental chops are all there, and at times they create very beautiful moments, such as the (too) brief acoustic section with string accompaniment about 30 seconds into "The Fountainhead." That single passage made me want to buy the album.

Tracks like "The Great Men" and "Carpe Diem" showed hints of the band's emerging style. "Shades" is the standout piece, as it successfully conveys an arc of powerful emotion and drama over it's nearly 12 minutes.

I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point for most progressive rock fans, but it is still an overall enjoyable, if not always innovative, listen. I'd recommend it to someone who is just starting to delve more seriously into progressive rock, as I was when I first heard it.

Report this review (#87360)
Posted Wednesday, August 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Though I enjoy this album, I would strongly disagree with folks who claim that Echolyn had already matured when this album was written. Though the musicianship is great from the get-go, the songwriting on this album is far from perfect, and I think Echolyn had a lot of growing to do (which they of course did!). But then, so did I when I was listening to this album for the first time, and this album spoke to me then with the voice of thunder. Even today this album holds a special place in my heart.

The song that clinches it, of course, is the long, melodramatic, perhaps even histrionic ballad, "Shades." It is a howl of frustration at love lost, and manages to be raw, honest, and just a bit precocious all at the same time--much like the rest of the album! Emotion aside, it actually is a well-crafted multipart song in true prog rock style--the parts work very well together, and there's no wasted effort. If you, like I once was, are a teenage male, desperately in love with someone unattainable or desperately trying to get over love, wondering if romance will ever work out for you--um, yeah, well, this is definitely the song for you. I can't say it will make girls like you, but it does offer quite a catharsis.

I have always had difficulty comparing Echolyn's style on this or future albums to other prog rock bands. Sure, the extended song forms and lyrical themes invite comparison to many other bands, but Echolyn had a quite original musical style from their inception. Not as synth-heavy as the neo-proggers, not quite as fiddly-odd as Gentle Giant, without the epic scope of vintage Genesis, or the shredding hard rock of Rush. What they make is a particular brand of accessible, punchy, and moderately complex rock, with excellent and balanced instruments and vocals, that aims to inspire and connect honestly and emotionally with the listener. I can testify that this album does all of these things... and it is just the start.

Report this review (#226621)
Posted Tuesday, July 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This debut album holds some very diverse music. Just listen to the short and below average "Fountainhead" and compare it with the following "Great Men" which is full of fantasy and symphony in terms of prog. Wonderful passages (both vocals or instrumentals). One of my highlights here for sure.

This debut is just a résumé of their upcoming works. A good combination between symphonic and eclectic.

One of the weak point of this work is probably its length. Unfortunately, it won't be the unique example of "Echolyn" output. I am always wondering why bands desperately feel obliged to record some seventy minutes albums. As far as I'm concerned, I know the answer?

Of course, the lengthiest item from this album leads to one of the most complex and best song available. Great musicianship and performing vocals. Complexity is probably not the best adjective to depict this track but when you grab it as a whole: there is a definite great feel about it.

Several songs are quite average and substantially lead to a lower appreciation of the whole. The band will release better records later on. Still, there are some very good songs that can be linked with KC while tackled on the symphonic angle ("Meaning and the Moment").

I just feel ashamed that there aren't not much long pieces of music over here; but that's the way it is. "Until It Rains" sounds more as a "Roxy Mucic" tune than a true prog rock item. But the closing "Velveteen Rabbit" is quite an achievement and probably my fave of the whole.

Globally, this debut is quite a good album. Three stars.

Report this review (#267257)
Posted Saturday, February 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars. Getting to know this band has been a real journey for me. I'm just thankful I didn't give up after not really enjoying my first experience with them because now I have four albums from them that I enjoy very much. And yes this is one of the four.This one really surprised me though because most consider it to be one of their weaker albums and I couldn't disagree more. First of the song writing is fantastic and the instrumental work is tight and inventive. It's the emotion though that really makes this album a special one for me.

"Fountainhead" opens with samples from the movies which is kind of cool. It turns epic sounding 2 1/2 minutes in to the end. "The Great Men" is a top three track for sure. Nice intsrumental work early before it settles after 1 1/2 minutes and the vocals join in. So moving. The lyrics are so meaningful. Passionate vocals after 3 minutes. Check out the instrumental work after 5 minutes as well. Amazing tune ! "On Any Given Nite" settles quickly with keys and reserved vocals. It's fuller before 2 minutes. Emotion. Contrasts continue. Beautiful. It kicks in even fuller with guitar late. Nice. "Carpe Diem" is uptempo with vocals. The vocals give way to the guitar 2 minutes in but not for long. Aggressive guitar and drums late to end it. "Shades" is another top three tune for me. Acoustic guitar and reserved vocals to start. It kicks in at 1 1/2 minutes then settles back. Passionate vocals 3 1/2 minutes in. The song continues to contrast the laid back and powerful sections so well. "Clumps Of Dirt" is a nasty instrumental especially the organ work. Drum show 2 1/2 minutes in then a guitar solo a minute later.

"Peace In Time" is a pleasant and uplifting track. Vocals after a minute. Tasteful guitar 3 1/2 minutes in. I like this one a lot. "Meaning And The Moment" is the other top three. Acappela singing to start followed by music that builds. This one is too good for words. Again the lyrics are so meaningful. "Breath Of Fresh Air" is what this album must have been like to prog fans in 1991. Another feel good song. "Until It Rains" has some great sounding synths in it early on with growly bass. Vocals after a minute then it picks up. Sax 4 minutes in. "The Velveteen Rabbit" touches on childhood with the question "Remember when...?" coming often.This isn't the only track to talk about our childhood on this album. I just get lost in this song. There's so many tracks that could be my top three which is saying a lot.

I love this album and would list only "Cowboy Poems Free" as perhaps one I like more. An absolute pleasure. I have to thank Prog-Traveller (Mike) so much for the honour of hearing this album.

Report this review (#290477)
Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars After hearing several times this first disk of the band Echolyn, some things were very clear ; - 1° In my opinion this disk deserves 5 stars. - 2° - few times I heard a combination of symphonic/ecletic/heavy prog music so well done . - 3° didn't get to identify with so much evidences (at least in this 1st work) a strong influence of any band in matter, actually I found influences of several bands as for instance YES, GENESIS, GENTLE GIANT, RUSH, etc..., however, these influences show up in a such discreet way that the band gets to create his own identity . The disk, in spite of these several soft influences, is very homogeneous without weak points. The tracks insert lyrical passages as in the track 3 "On Any Given Night" (a very symphonic ballad and full of emotion, mainly due to Brett Kull's guitar) with other, with more"euphoria" as the track 4 "Carpe Diem", a type of heavy-prog full of "swinging", and instrumental "ecstasy" moments as in the track 6 " Clumps of Dirt" a type of jam-session with score (if it is that such thing exists). In spite of having mentioned these tracks as example to illustrate my opinion, I put the other tracks in the same level. Although all of the musicians are excellent, it would like to emphasize the work of the guitarist Brett Kull a mixture (Steve Howe , Alex Lifesson and Mark Knopfler) and the excellent drummer Paul Ramsey!!! My rate (like I said before) is 5 stars!!!
Report this review (#304948)
Posted Sunday, October 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#1450941)
Posted Sunday, August 9, 2015 | Review Permalink
3 stars The debut album by echolyn gets overlooked a lot, and perhaps part of that is down to the way it's tended to sit out of print, with the most recent reissue I am aware of being on the 3CD odds-and-sods compilation A Little Nonsense. That said, I think there's more to the story than that: the reason this echolyn album isn't quite as widely celebrated as their other two major albums of the 1990s is that it doesn't quite sound like we expect an echolyn album to sound.

Specifically, on this release echolyn practice a well-honed neo-prog style which shows little evidence of the Gentle Giant inspiration which would make Suffocating the Bloom such a characterful and unusual release. The complex interweaving vocal harmonies they worked in there, in particular, seem to be more or less missing - you get some, but they remind me more of Kansas's experiments on that front.

What you get instead, though, is a well-polished and accessible neo-prog album which is a pretty decent listen (though I could do without the occasional pandering to classic rock traditions that could perhaps be left to quietly die out, like the rather dull drum solo in Clumps of Dirt).

There is, in particular, a certain warmth to the album that sometimes feels like it gets a little lost on subsequent echolyn releases, which means that if you are fond of the band I honestly think it's worth your while to track it down in whatever form it's available in and give it a listen, because whilst this doesn't sound like the echolyn we know, it's still an echolyn which might be worth your attention. That said, I feel like there's a really solid 4-to-5 star album in here of about 40 minutes duration, obscured by about 20 minutes of cruft; songs like Until It Rains, which I think was the attempt at a vaguely radio-friendly number, don't do that much for me at all.

Report this review (#1637881)
Posted Tuesday, November 1, 2016 | Review Permalink

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