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Echolyn - Cowboy Poems Free CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.85 | 187 ratings

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4 stars I agree with prior reviewer Danbo that Echolyn's fifth album, COWBOY POEMS FREE (2000), is one of their best efforts. For me, it's almost as good as the superb AS THE WORLD (my overall favourite from this excellent contemporary American prog group), and it frequently finds its way to my CD player.

The band's sound had really solidified by this point, and the addition of Jordan Perlson on drums and percussion (complementing regular drummer Paul Ramsay) imparts a funkier, fuller sound to the mix. In fact, the drums and percussion are particularly good throughout, driving the session along in a powerful, even joyous fashion. Keyboard maestro Chris Buzby's generous use of organ (as well as electric piano, synth and acoustic piano) lends a frequently jazzy flavour, and Brett Kull is always busy, and terrific as usual on guitar and slide. Ray Weston, meanwhile, shows himself to be a workmanlike bassist, having taken over those duties from the departed Tom Hyatt. Weston and Kull share lead vocal duties, and work very well together, with Buzby chiming in to help the band to some of their most soaring harmonizing yet.

The writing is as strong as ever, with the song structures being somewhat more straightforward than on previous releases, and less obviously indebted to Gentle Giant for inspiration. The evocative, thoughtful lyrics deal with various periods in American history, from the dust bowl days, to the prohibition era, to WWII and the Vietnam War, and give the album a thematic unity. The "story songs" convincingly portray the indomitable American spirit, with the cost of collective freedom and prosperity borne by individual workers, soldiers and sailors through sacrifice, loneliness, deprivation and danger.

There are no weak tracks, though some are particular favourites: "High as Pride" features a sublime guitar and synth section near the close, and "American Vacation Tune" is great fun with its frantic, pounding drums and "crunchy" keys. "Swingin' the Ax" sounds a little like a wonderful Led Zeppelin and Gentle Giant hybrid, with bluesy slide and infectious electric piano. "67 Degrees" tells a sailor's tale of separation from loved ones, with a smoky, moody start, and powerfully impassioned vocals, while "Brittany" has more great singing, and an epic feel that begs a generous volume setting.

"CPF" is a shining example of an ever-engaging, latter-day progressive rock recording. Complex, but not dauntingly so, the album is never boring, with a different vista always waiting just around the next bend. Yes, there's life in the old genre yet, and Echolyn's COWBOY POEMS FREE is just the shot in the arm to help resuscitate and flesh out your aging prog collection!

Peter | 4/5 |


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