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Progressive Rock DVD/Video Reviews


Stars and Gardens Volume 4 DVD

Review by Gary Hill

I have an enormous amount of respect for this band. They are a dedicated and creative group with a devotion to their art. They are creating a form of progressive rock that is truly inventive, carrying the torch of the genre by espousing the principles of creativity, experimentation and artistry, while looking forward far more than behind at their predecessors. I have never heard a piece of music from Echolyn that I didn't like. For all these reasons I wish I could say that this is the greatest live recording DVD I have ever seen. Unfortunately, that wouldn't be true. While there is plenty here that is of exceptional merit, it has its share of shortcomings.

Certainly the live performance itself is not one of the weak points of the release. Indeed, listening to this concert you quickly get the impression that this band is one of a few who are technically proficient and artistic in the studio, but even more vital in the live arena. Their performance is a very powerful and entertaining one. The inclusion of the entire Mei, complete with string section alone is worth the price of admission here. One thing that watching this video will do is leave you with an intense desire to see these guys in the live arena.

The extras DVD also is quite good. The coverage of behind the scenes recording studio footage, interviews and such really give an intimate look into what it is like to be in a band that is committed to creating quality music in a world that often doesn't appreciate it. Watching the segments of the group working on the album, I quickly lost all the sense of glamour and awe that seems to be associated with such a process, and realized that for the group this is a tedious task that really takes a high level of commitment to make it through. The commentary the group recorded over top of this footage is very good, and shows just what kind of a sense of humor they have. If the concert DVD shows the professional musician side of the band, this second disc presents the human side to that face. It makes you have a better understanding of who these people are.

So, with all that's been said so far, how does this set find itself lacking? Well, it's mostly in the technical department. First, I have to say that on some of the interview clips, the background music drowns out what is being said. I have had this problem with other DVD's, so I am guessing it has to do with my particular audio video setup, but my guess is I am not the only one who will experience this issue. I wish they had included an audio setup capability into the disc to allow you to shut off, or turn down the backing track. The next troubling issue is the film footage of the concert. I really have a lot of trouble watching it. While it is filmed quite well, using multiple cameras a lot of the footage could benefit from a steadycam outfit. Also some of the more artistic effects added to the video, along with that camera movement, produced a dizzying effect for me that wasn't pleasant. I found that there were segments where I just had to look away from the screen and listen to the concert audio. I did like the fact that they interspersed archival footage in with the new footage, making a seamless timeline of the performances, but so much of the rest of the video presentation caused me issues. I have to qualify that, though, by saying that I was one of the people who was unable to watch The Blair Witch Project in the theater due to the shaky camera approach. So, I am guessing that many people could view this without a similar problem. All in all, this is a very good production that could have been better. Still, for a first DVD, you always expect to have room for improvement.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at

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