ScapeLand Wish - Reason

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Independent
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 57:50:00

On their Web site, the members of the Connecticut band ScapeLand Wish drop such names as Genesis, EL&P, and Yes. I don't hear too much of those bands (except as subtle influences) in this superb album. Rather, I hear artists like Queen, Kevin Gilbert, Mike Keneally, Echolyn, Boston, the proggier side of Toto, and especially Ambrosia. One thing's for sure: ScapeLand Wish knows how to take a great pop tune and turn it into something a whole lot more special. This album overflows with wonderful songs liberally decorated with all manner of sonic surprises. The vocal arrangements alone are guaranteed to tingle, and even astonish, the sensibilities.

The vocals, in fact, get the focus on this album. Lead singer Josh Ramirez is an intense singer, whose power, control, and expression remind me a lot of Ambrosia's David Pack and Joe Puerta. On top of the great lead vocals are layers of wondrous harmonies, as well as background parts that leap in and out of the arrangements at just the right moments. Yes, once in a while things get a little too sweet, such as the sugary "Arms Around You" (my least favorite track, to put it diplomatically), but those moments are rare and easily forgiven in consideration of the rest of the album.

Songs like the nearly eight-minute "As A Child" showcase this band's many strengths, as well as their near-prog direction. At the start, a softly phased, picked guitar provides a foundation for the drifting strings. Suddenly, an overdriven electric guitar offers an introductory melody, after which very Ambrosia-like vocals take over, washed with sumptuous harmonies. Vocal parts emerge and retreat behind the main vocal in the song's bridge. Finally, a Yes-like bass part drives the cranking rhythm section underneath a closing guitar solo, reminiscent of Rush.

Although this band's strong point is their vocals, they aren't afraid to provide a classy instrumental or two. The track "Snow In Sante Fe" is a guitar showcase that brings the lighter side of Wishbone Ash to mind before a torrid, lightning-fast riff opens the way for a short guitar solo, under which the picked, phased guitar chords provide a heavenly bed. "The Tonight Show" takes the band on a short jazzy side excursion, while the often funky "Chinese Spare Ribs" shows off guitarist Kevin Forsberg's many moods and textures.

As if having an album filled with great songs and inventive arrangements wasn't enough, this independent CD sounds anything but homebrewed. The production is pristine, professional in every way. All instruments and voices are recorded with a clarity and crispness that you hear only in the best commercial releases, and the production choices are nothing short of masterful. While there's no mention on the album's liner notes of where the tracks were recorded, band member Mike Stiskal gets credit for engineering and mixing. And I say bravo! People with this much talent ought to be outlawed so the rest of us get a chance.

If you're offended by a pop sensibility in music, or if you believe that progressive rock must always feature complex, symphonic arrangements, blistering solos, or raging dissonance, then this album is not for you. But if you like near-prog groups such as Ambrosia and Queen, and can make room in your collection for a CD of great melodies and sonic wonders, put ScapeLand Wish's debut CD on the top of your wish list. I bet it won't leave your CD player for a long time.

[In March 2005 the band shortened it's name to Scapeland -ed.]

Prelude to Reason (1:08) / Utopia (3:57) / As A Child (7:22) / Snow In Santa Fe (4:29) / Reason (4:18) / The Tonight Show (1:35) / Before the Absence (0:34) / Absence of God (4:05) / The Heart of the Andes (6:07) / A Brave New World (5:01) / Arms Around You (3:13) / Chinese Spare Ribs (5:13) / Silver Sleep (3:25) / Take The Lead (7:14)

Josh Ramirez - vocals, drums, percussion
Mike Stiskal - bass, keyboards, acoustic guitar, background vocals
Kevin Forsberg - electric and acoustic guitars

Reason (2000)
The Ghosts Of Autumn (2003)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: April 10th 2001
Reviewer: Clayton Walnum

Artist website:
Hits: 891
Language: english


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