Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Album of the Day

as the world, by echolyn (1995): There are few albums, by anybody, that made such an impact on me that I can remember first hearing it like it was yesterday.

During my junior year in college, I first got online and first discovered the nascent progressive rock underground. Back then, doing business online was a pipe dream, so the best I could do was to paw through racks of CDs in brick and mortar stores hoping to find a gem. I regularly did that at the Discount Den in downtown Morgantown between classes. One day I stumbled across this album - the band's first and only major label release. Recognizing the name, but not having any idea what the band sounded like, I bought it on impulse.

Home back then was a half hour walk away, in an apartment on the top floor of a three-story house in South Park (no kidding!) I shared with jedi jawa. I got home, went into my room, and put the disc in the CD player. While I flipped through the liner notes (a first listen habit I maintain to this day), the strings and vocal harmonies of "All Ways the Same" got my attention. Then, the rock of the title track grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I was hooked, on the album and on the band, for good.

Although it's common to look at echolyn's Sony dalliance as a missed opportunity, it's really quite remarkable. Here's music that's dauntingly complex, with stop/start instrumental bits and amazing instrumental playing. Tight three-part harmonies, ala Kansas or Gentle Giant. Hell, there's even a 5-part song cycle in the middle of the album (followed by an instrumental!). All on a big time label.

In fact, as the world was the bridge between the young echolyn and the band still kicking today. It has the frenetic energy of their debut and Suffocating the Bloom . . . but is much more polished in production. It's the start of the "mature" band, that fully broke through in Cowboy Poems Free and afterwards.

Mature or not, it all kicks ass.

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