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TRACK LIST: 1. Beneath the Tide 10:19 2. Lorelai 4:11 3. To See But Not Believe 8:42 4. The Reunion (live) 10:02 5. Beneath the Tide (live) 13:12 6. The Sixth Day (live) 9:57 LINEUP: James Byron Schoen – vocals; guitars Stefan Paolini – keyboards; vocals Anthony Waldman – drums; vocals TD Towers – basses; vocals Matthew Bauer – percussion Mike Lunapiena – cello Barry Seroff – flute With: Several additional musicians
Prolusion. The US outfit EDENSONG started out as a band back in 2002, but by 2006 it had become the creative vehicle for musician and composer James Byron Schoen. Following the release of Edensong's debut effort "The Fruit Fallen", the band was back in action, however, and while crafting a new album's worth of material, they decided to provide their fans with a tidbit in 2010. Cue "Echoes of Edensong", sporting 15 minutes of new material, an official release for the hidden bonus track on their first CD and three live recordings, clocking it at just under an hour in length.
Analysis. Edensong's initial effort was a nice surprise among the CDs issued in 2008 that I had the chance to check out. It's rather eclectic blend of progressive folk rock and heavy-hitting art rock proved to be an interesting mix, with chamber rock-oriented passages adding in a nice level of sophistication to the proceedings. But those who expect more of the same on this new album might be slightly disappointed. The main feature on this hybrid production is the rather ambitious epic length composition Beneath the Tide, with both a studio recording and a live performance of this song taking up just under 25 minutes of playtime. I'd describe this piece as a less sophisticated version of the music explored on the band's initial production, with the chamber rock-inspired motifs much less of a feature on this occasion, and the remainder slightly less original to boot, echoes of Jethro Tull hovering distinctly in the background in the folk-oriented passages, while parts closing in on metal territories have some rather distinct Iron Maiden tinges to them – riff patterns and solo guitar excursions in particular. In between the outer stylistic boundaries, a hard hitting variety of art rock is the name of the game, this latter matter a more noticeable aspect of the live version than the studio recording. Personally I find the concert version to be the better one, mostly due to the vocal performance. Schoen's take on vocals seems to be something of a balancing act, and while it worked rather well on the band's first release, this time around I found it more distracting. About a quarter note so, according to my wife, my main consultant in such matters due to the knowledge she gained whilst active in a national level choir. The second track Lorelai is arguably the strongest effort on this disc, a symphonic ballad in which the cello and flute conjure up some stunningly beautiful moods. And while not what one might call highly advanced or adventurous, it's an enthralling piece of music nonetheless. To See But Not Believe isn't convincing as a bonus track on "The Fruit Fallen" and hasn't grown on me since then either, while the live takes of The Reunion and The Sixth Day both are of decent quality. Not as entrancing as the studio versions, but well worth lending an ear to if not for any other reason than to hear for yourself that it is possible to take if not all then at least most of the magic of these creations onto the stage, giving ample proof that Edensong is more than merely a studio vehicle.
Conclusion. While I can't really see this hybrid album recruiting many new fans for Edensong, their existing fans will most likely find this production to be a nice acquisition while waiting for a sophomore effort. The live takes of their previous material are arguably the main points of interest, but ardent fans might want to get this due to the previously unreleased material anyhow.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: January 2, 2010
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