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TRACK LIST: 1. Messenger of All's Right 6:23 2. Warjazz 5:16 3. Empyrean Views 9:18 4. Different Days 7:47 5. Carried Home 5:10 6. Once I Get Mine 5:40 7. Sound of Bees 6:57 8. All This Time We're Given 7:58 9. Vanishing Sun 7:34 LINEUP: Raymond Weston - vocals, bass Brett Kull - vocals, guitars Christopher Buzby - keyboards, vocals Thomas Hyatt - bass, guitars, vocals Paul Ramsey - drums, percussion, vocals With: Jacque Varsalona - vocals
Prolusion. US band ECHOLYN was formed back in 1989, and in the early part of the 1990's they became the brightest shining light in the US prog scene when they were signed by one of the major labels. While that label eventually lost faith in the band, that have never been an issue with their fans, and they are still one of the most highly regarded bands in the US progressive rock scene. "I Heard You Listening" is their most recent studio album, and was self-released by the band in 2015.
Analysis. There are many ways in which one may categorize and otherwise review a band or a production. For me, ratings is ultimately a matter of subjective taste, but I will easily acknowledge that while I may like a band or an album better than another, the one I perhaps didn't like quite as much is one I also see has a greater potential for being a production more people will have a stronger attachment to than what I have. This album is a case that fits into such a context. I do find it to be a strong album, but even more so I find it to be a production with a broad potential reach. Or to put it that way: Echolyn as of 2015 still sound like a major label band, and this is an album that would have profited extensively from the major label marketing machine. Such an opening description might have some people asking about the progressive rock credentials of the band, and they are firmly in place throughout. Whether or not the band actually finds that description to be important I cannot validate, but progressive rock fans will get their fill and then some. Some subtle and some not as subtle elements from jazz and jazzrock finds their way into many of the songs, occasional psychedelic details appear here and there, 70's style electric piano has the odd guest appearance, and while not a dominant aspect of the band as I experience them on this album there are compositions here that probably merits a description a symphonic progressive rock too. Occasional nods towards the likes of Genesis and Kansas are noted, although they may as well be accidental due to the nature of the material rather than planned. In terms of structure, alternating calmer and harder edged sections are paired off, contrasts are explored beautifully, and the lead and layered vocals that is a defining trait of the album alongside the almost constant presence of the piano in one form or another are both aspects explored in a manner that the greater majority of progressive rock fans would state to be satisfactory or more. But this album is about much more than merely progressive rock. Just about all the songs have what I'd describe as a radio friendly quality to them for instance. Smooth and easy on the ears even when complex and quirky underneath, instruments and vocals alike are tightly controlled without any highly dramatic outbursts of any kind, and the songs themselves would probably go down really well among a rock and hard rock interested audience as well, with occasional AOR details tucked into the songs here and there. An excellent mix and production enhance all of these qualities and more, which results in an album that has what I earlier described as a major label sound to it. A strong production on all levels, and one with a potentially wide and broad reach.
Conclusion. If awards and ratings were to be decided on the sheer potential commercial scope of an album, "I Heard You Listening" would be among the very rare albums I'd describe as just about perfect. For my particular taste in music it's merely a strong album. I will add to that that there's something of a timeless feel to this album that makes me suspect I'll say the same 20 years from now, which isn't always the case with an album that manage to draw my interest. Other than that, I'd say that by and large this is an album that should have a broad appeal in progressive rock circles: If you like this kind of music in general, this is a CD that merits an inspection.
Progmessor: August 18, 2017
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