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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Echolyn

Cowboy Poems Free

Review by Gary Hill

With this album Echolyn have truly created a unique work that should stand the test of time. The true strength of this band is not in musical virtuosity, although there is plenty of that on display. The real gift that Echolyn possesses is the ability to take sounds from all walks of music and blend them into a mosaic that is truly their own. The fact that that mosaic has some wonderful musicianship showing and extremely strong lyrics and vocal hooks certainly doesn't hurt either. The lyrics of the album relate the tale of a young soldier during World War II, and music touches on the sounds of groups ranging from Genesis and Marillion to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. All in all, this is a very strong release.

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Track by Track Review
Texas Dust
Starting with a percussion segment that feels a bit like Santana, a great, almost funky guitar based mode enters. The cut turns into a fast paced jam that calls to mind mid era Genesis a bit. It drops to a killer jazzy ballad texture for the first verse. It gets back into that texture just before ending. The instrumental break/outro on this one alone is awesome.
Poem #1
Atmospheric tones make up this piece which feels a bit like Pink Floyd meets Hawkind. It is a brief instrumental intro to the next cut.
Human Lottery
A killer jam begins this one, and the actual track has a killer retro rock mode. That texture combined with wonderfully poignant lyrics and awesome vocal delivery make this an incredibly strong track. The track goes through a lot of musical changes and merges retro sounds with modern in an extraordinary way. The vocal interplay here is fabulous, as well. Really, all you can say about this one is "WOW!"
Gray Flannel Suits
Bouncy and fun, this one is fairly poppy and accessible.
Poem #2
Another brief instrumental intro, this one feels just a bit soulful.
High As Pride
Beginning with vocals and piano, this one really feels like Fish or Fish era Marillion throughout quite a bit of the cut. The lyrics on this one are especially strong, "At 18 our convictions are hills from which we look, At 45 they're caves into which we hide". This one is a very powerful composition that turns more Genesisish as it carries on and features a guitar solo that calls to mind Steve Howe.
American Vacation Tune
Coming in fast and nervous, this cut feels just a bit like vintage Starcastle throughout the intro. The verse has a more straightforward rock and roll texture, but with some quite quirky timing. It feels quite a bit like Gabriel era Genesis at times. A very interesting spoken vocal interlude calls to mind early Marillion. The tune includes a hard rocking riff driven segment with a killer retro sound.
Swingin' The Ax
This one begins a bit like Zeppelin's bluesy acoustic moments, and the whole cut is based in another great retro rock mode. For a time a jam that touches on both Genesis and Hawkwind takes the piece.
1729 Broadway
Beginning sedate and moody, this one quickly becomes a jazzy sort of balladic number. It is powerful and evocative, conveying its message of loneliness exceptionally well. It gets harder edged as it carries on and feels a bit like Pink Floyd at times. A faster paced prog jam jumps in later in the composition. A sedate segment ends this track and links it to the next number.
Poem #3
This jam is a great melodic jazz oriented instrumental that is quite entertaining.
67 Degrees
Atmospheric and mysterious sounds begin this one, and as the song proper enters it's in the form of a balladic prog style. The choruses get rather hard edged. It features an awesome break with an intriguing rhythmic texture. This is a very strong track with a lot of musical changes and a great vocal arrangement.
Brittany
Percussion serves as the start of this one. A jam with a down-home texture continues on making up the next part of the intro. Potent progressive rock jamming takes the number to its song proper. It is an extremely strong prog oriented rocker with an exceptionally strong chorus. The late segments of the song are especially strong with both the arrangement and retro stylings really standing out.
Poem #4
Starting in ethereal tones, this is the only of the poems to feature vocals. The cut is a slightly spooky textured one with processed vocals that feel a bit like Chris Squire's. It ends with a backwards section.
Too Late For Everything
Jazzy balladic stylings, a bit like Steely Dan make up the main theme of this one. It has a poignant message and powerful lyrical message of the hell that war can be and the longing for home that it produces.
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