Echolyn - Stars And Gardens

Year of Release: 2004
Label: MM3 Records
Catalog Number: Volume 4
Format: DVD
Total Time: 214:15:00

To get a label like Sony interested in you, for sure you must be talented. Sadly this collaboration became the band's biggest nightmare and meanwhile ended the hopes that bigger labels were getting back interested in progressive rock. Luckily the band picked itself off the floor, got rid of the dust and stuck their teeth in kind of a re-incarnation of Echolyn. As far as I remember, for these guys the word "art" has always been closer to mind than simply music. What Echolyn delivered was more than just a bunch of songs. Due to the fact that these guys never performed in Europe, of course I welcomed this double DVD package, as it's the closest I'll come to witnessing the band live for the time being. Echolyn has never been easy to describe as their music covers many facets ranging from Zappainsanity to Happy The Man genius and Gentle Giant complexity whilst flirting with cabaret and drama. Just watch the way Ray Weston approaches that microphone during "The Cheese Stands Alone." Looks rather lethal from where I'm standing!

One of the advantages for a band like Echolyn is the fact that they have many singers in their line-up. This offers them the chance to switch lead vocalists as well as create intricate vocal harmonies. "1729 Broadway" begins with the reciting of a letter as written by Ray's great-grandfather who left his family in order to find work in 1903. From a visual perspective, this is nicely illustrated, taking us right back towards the atmosphere of The Waltons. It's also great to see how they treated the favourite "My Dear Wormwood," which they interspersed with live footage from what looks like a previous century (and looking like long haired devils too)! During the introduction to "Brittany," Chris Buzby refers to the war in Iraq by means of someone buried in Normandy as if to say: we never learn, history keeps on repeating itself! The first part of this live recording finishes with the music video for "Never The Same." You would say a strange way to end a certain section but you will understand it's a logical placement as the next song lasts for nearly fifty minutes! Indeed all of the then brand new album Mei is played backed by a real string section, flute, extra percussion, the lot. A very ambitious project to say the least! Both the length of the piece as well as the complexity can be compared to authentic classical works with certain violin sections reminding us of Kansas whilst the Fender Rhodes injects Canterbury scene snippets. Brett Kull, who looks like a cross between CCR's Tom Fogerty and John Martyn, figures as kind of a conductor within this composition with electric and acoustic passages constantly alternating. It must be a great feeling for Chris Buzby to know he doesn't have to take care of string sections as these are performed live behind his back. Instead Chris can focus on piano, organ and occasional synth to give the music more depth. Although it concerns a fifty minute piece which is made up of various separate parts stitched together, it very much does sound as one big epic containing heavy outbursts (even including Ray's attempt at a real "grunt"!), as well as acoustic intimacy (with Brett evoking the best Andy Latimer at times).

The people at the Sellersville Theatre in Sellersville, Pensylvania are treated to one more song on that 25th May 2003. Taken from the band's debut album, it's "Shades" as a well deserved encore. Towards the end, Chris' piano almost plays the main tune from Steely Dan's "Ricky Don't Lose That Number." The only thing I regret throughout this entire live performance is that the band didn't make an extra effort what dress code is concerned. They simply look as if they are rehearsing in their basement all over again, not that they are performing and recording a DVD along the way. I'm not suggesting they needed to wear tuxedos, but a little effort wouldn't have gone amiss.

When you get your hands on this DVD package, I would suggest you start with the second disc first, as here you are given an in depth view on the band. From the very early days of the band Narcissus down to their contract with Sony and tons more: it's all there. It makes a very interesting insight into Echolyn and its members, so I really advise everyone to look at this DVD first before settling for the actual live concert. With footage filmed with your average amateur camera dating back as far as 1991 you really get a wonderful idea of how strong the bond is between the various members and how the many rejection letters from various record companies probably made that bond even stronger. The inclusion of the military drumming most certainly also illustrates the genious, humour and friendship contained within the band. The short piece on how the contract with Sony came to be is interesting, but it would be far more interesting to learn what happened in the end, as all went down the drain there and then.

There's a lengthy piece on the making of As The World with off screen commentary from all the band, resulting in some funny moments as they haven't seen this film for quite some time themselves. During the recording sessions, the band is informed about the death of Kurt Cobain on 5th April, 1994. Apparently Mark Knopfler was in the downstairs area of the studio complex so they got Echolyn to record their vocal parts upstairs. Small little world isn't it? It has to be said that the band most certainly uses the weirdest vocal harmonies ever! This DVD ends with a series of comments on the band's latest studio offering at that time, Mei, which of course they all rate as being Echolyn's very best. This DVD is well composed, containing every single aspect of the band and also covering the entire existence of Echolyn. You might not watch it as often as the actual live disc but it certainly complements this package very well. So in the end Stars And Gardens Volume 4 is a wonderful acquisition both for the Echolyn diehard as well as the general true prog fan.

DVD 1: Texas Dust (5:22) / Swingin' The Axe (5:38) / The Cheese Stands Alone (6:25) / A Little Nonsense (5:55) / 1729 Broadway (8:20) / My Dear Wormwood (4:23) / As The World (6:32) / Brittany (11:20) / Never The Same (music video) (5:49) / Mei (49:26) / Shades 2003 (18:04)

DVD 2: Interviews And Extras: Beginnings / Debut / Shades / Suff / Sentimental Chain / Nonsense / Memoirs / Cannon / Blossom / Sony / Making ATW / Break-Up / CPF / 1729 / Mei / Stars And Gardens Trailer

Brett Kull - guitar, lead and backing vocals
Christopher Buzby - keyboards, backing vocals
Ray Weston - bass, lead and backing vocals
Tom Hyatt - bass, congas, acoustic guitar
Paul Ramsey - percussion


Sarah Green - flute
Jian Shen - clarinet
Gloria Justin - viola
Elizabeth Kaderabek - violin
James Cooper - violincello
Jamie Dietz - mallets, orchestral cymbals

Echolyn (1991)
Suffocating The Bloom (1992)
...And Every Blossom (1993)
As The World (1995)
When The Sweet Turns Sour (1996)
Cowboy Poems Free (2000/2008*)
ProgFest '94: The Official Bootleg (2002)
mei (2002)
A Little Nonesense: Now And Then (2002)
Official Live Bootleg: Jersey Tomato (2003)
As The World (expanded reissue) (2005)
The End Is Beautiful (2005)
Echolyn (**) (2012)
I Heard You Listening (2015)
Home Brew Bootleg Stew 1994-95 (VHS) (1995, oop)
Stars And Gardens Vol 4. (DVD) (2004)

*remastered **not the same album as the debut

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: March 8th 2005
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 749
Language: english


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