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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra

Earth Lift

Review by Gary Hill

I have liked this band since the first time I heard them. Their blend of jazz, space music, prog and more is always compelling. So is their prominent use of violin. It really is a defining instrument in the sound of this band. This new album lives up to all my expectations. It’s another fine addition to the Galactic Cowboy Orchestra catalog. It’s mostly an instrumental set, but a few songs have vocals. It’s almost mostly original, but they do an interpretation of the old classic “When the Levee Breaks.”

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2016  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Forward Motion (Part 2)

Powering straight into being, this instrumental has a good chunk of space rock in the mix. I love the bass line on this thing. The violin brings so much to the table, though. As it expresses its forward motion, there is quite a bit of world music built into it. It gets into some serious rocking territory, too, though.

You Do That
A fast paced bass line that reminds me of Tony Levin starts this. Other instruments join to create a rather weird, but cool modern prog texture. The vocals come over the top of that. This is a fairly short piece, but it’s very tasty.
Fish of a Feather
This is a great jam. It has some mysterious elements. The violin brings both world music and hints of country music. It really drives a lot of the melody on this thing. Around the three minute mark the bass takes control for a time. The instrumental gets a re-invention at that point. It goes from the rather space rock styled stuff we’ve heard to a more jazzy groove. There are some cool processed bits as the jamming continues. They work out to more mysterious territory as the piece continues to evolve. That’s the tone that ends this.
When the Levee Breaks
I’m sure a lot of people think Led Zeppelin wrote this song. It’s actually much older than that. This version starts with a mysterious sounding movement that’s almost space rock. They move into more blues rock sounds for the chorus, though. Still, it has a space, jazz, prog twist throughout. It alternates between those more space rock oriented sections and the blues rock based ones.
Earth Lift
This instrumental is a very exploratory jam. All the instruments get a chance to shine. I particularly love the bass solo on this thing. Then again, I am a bass player first and foremost. There is a lot of fusion built into this title track. Still, it has space rock, mainstream prog and much more, too. The balance between mellower and more rocking is great.
Swara-Kakali
This diverse and dynamic instrumental is extensive and just plain cool. It has some of the tastiest jamming grooves of the whole disc. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of this one. It really is one of my favorites here. It has all the familiar players in terms of influences and elements. It’s just elevated to a killer level.
Pickerwaddle
This is a great acoustic guitar solo. It’s part jazz, part classical and all cool.
The Demented Waltz
They bring this one in hard edged and furious. It is a real screamer as it makes its way forward. This instrumental features some pretty impressive jamming. It’s probably more fusion than anything else, but the usual players still show up in the mix.
Poison
The combination of music and vocals at the start of this are quite folk music like. They work out into something a bit more jazzy as they continue. They work it out toward more spacey prog at the end.
The Galactic Minion (Part 2)
I love the bass jamming as this starts and moves forward. There is a cool drum solo mid-track. The bass really holds a lot of this piece together, though.
Honky Bumblebee
The main format isn’t altered here, but this is a dynamic and potent jam. It’s fairly extensive and does have some particularly powerful musical passages. There are some definite left turns, too. Things here make me think of Frank Zappa a bit. I can hear some elements that remind me of King Crimson, too.
 
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