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(46 min, 'AC Music')
TRACK LIST: 1. East Indian Sun 5:34 2. Shallow Disease 3:58 3. In the Bottle 3:53 4. Taipei 3:51 5. Timing Crucial 4:57 6. I Never Remember 3:47 7. The Heat 4:45 8. She Screams 4:08 9. Struggle Like I Do 6:24 10. You Know 4:50 LINEUP: Doug Busbee - guitars; lead vocals Eric Frampton - keyboards; vocals Sean Delson - basses Frank Fontsere - drums With: Forrest Robinson - drums Glenn Longmuir - basses
Prolusion. The website of America's AGENT COOPER is still under construction. The band didn't include any supporting material in the package that I got from them. All in all, I have no idea whether "Beginner's Mind" is their debut or not.
Analysis. With influences ranging from Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Saga to Kurgan's Bane, Event and Enchant, the music of Agent Cooper is steering somewhere between classic Hard Rock of the seventies at its most progressive and what can be called Neo Prog-Metal, although there are few manifestations of Metal as such here. Harsh and meaty, more or less distinctly growling guitar riffs, as well as large-scaled symphonic patterns and certain bluesy intonations, can be found only on East Indian Sun and Shallow Disease, taking the first two positions, and also on the next to last track, Struggle Like I Do. The album's opener begins with Sitar-like solos and overtones, which soon transform into a wall of sound with lush waves of string synthesizer surrounding edgy guitar textures, bright oriental colorings running through almost the entire song. There are several sections with different thematic and rhythmic patterns, but the associations with Led Zeppelin's Kashmir are inevitable in most cases, although Doug Busbee's vocals have nothing to do with those of Robert Plant and are extremely original in general. The other two songs mentioned are also symphonic Hard Rock bordering on the Cathedral Metal of Led Zeppelin's archetype, though the latter, Struggle Like I Do, is richer in more transparent structures and features a few episodes where the interactions between vocals, acoustic guitar and either organ or bass develop out of the context of massive arrangements. That said, the described three songs are my favorites, and I am sure they are also the best from a progressive viewpoint. The five songs following each other from track 3 to 7: In the Bottle, Taipei, Timing Crucial, I Never Remember and The Heat have much common ground between themselves, all being built around more traditional, typically Hard Rock riffs and movements with driving, intense and almost exclusively fast arrangements. The relative straightforwardness in the vocal sections is mostly well compensated by the musicians' virtuosity, while in the instrumental ones, the band's maneuvers are usually as intricate and unpredictable as those in Bubblemath or Echolyn, who are famed for their capability to squeeze relatively enormous amounts of different themes into a relatively brief space of time. There are certain symphonic patterns on each, but not many, the organ being practically the only bringer of such. All in all, the songs are full of inspiration, energy and fire, so their Hard Rock origin will hardly diminish their overall value even in the eyes of a lover of complicated music. The passages of piano and acoustic guitar play an important role in the construction of the remaining two tracks, She Screams and You Know, each featuring a light Classical-like interlude and postlude. Refined and pretty clever alike, these Art-Rock ballads, nevertheless, are too accessible in comparison with the other songs. They would have sounded much more appropriate if they were placed on the album's polar positions, and not in the vicinity of each other.
Conclusion. Agent Cooper's "Beginner's Mind" is a very decent progressive Hard Rock album, the stuff bearing more similarities to the vintage models of the genre than to its lightened modern manifestations. Proceeding from a generally adopted progressive standpoint, I should have probably rated it some lower, but I can't resist the expressiveness of the music. Recommended.
VM: December 6, 2005
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