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Stars and Gardens
Label: MM3 Records
2 DVD Set-1 Complete Concert, 1 Disc of Extras
Stars and Gardens is a solid 2-disc DVD that is a great way to catch up on this intense, literate band. Fans of intelligent (and often stirring, spiritual) lyrics and tight, rocking music with a progressive flair will find a treasure with Echolyn, and Stars and Gardens introduces the band in fine form by featuring some of the bands greatest work in their best setting-live!
Echolyn is a massively grooving five-piece band featuring Brett Kull on guitars (including some tasty slide), lead and backing vox; Ray Weston on bass, lead, and backing vocals; Christopher Buzby on keyboards and backing vox; Paul Ramsey on percussion; and Tom Hyatt on bass and congas. Echolyn’s live performance is top-notch and fun to watch, and the music features so much depth it is hard to stop watching once you press the play button! I especially enjoy the band’s multiple vocalists, the tasty guitar tones, the diverse, classic keyboard sounds, and the spot-on percussion. The songs are hook-laden and feature some breath-taking instrumental performances.
The video quality on Stars and Gardens is sterling; the cameras do a good job of catching the action, and the video editing (mostly by band leader Brett Kull) is inventive and eye-catching without detracting from the fine performance of the band. The setting for the performance (Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA) is intimate, and reminds me of some of the really good PBS concert performances I have seen. There are many memorable touches added to the live performance, including some archival footage of early band performances in “My Dear Wormwood,” and the (true) touching spoken word intro to “1729 Broadway” (featuring a man lighting a oil lamp and reading a letter he has written to the family he is separated from due to work).
Highlights of the performance include the opening songs “Texas Dust” and “Swinging the Axe” from the band's classic Cowboy Poems Free . The centerpiece of the concert is the stunning 40 plus minute epic “Mei” (a pilgrim’s journey…according to the band a mix of “The Inferno” and Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”) with the pleasant addition of a chamber orchestra.
The 2nd disc features a nice batch o’ interviews and extras that shed light on the history (including a breakup/reunion) and work of the band. A wealth of information on the songs of Echolyn, the writing and recording process, and footage of the band in the studio (and at play) are included. I loved the band’s often-humorous “commentary” footage of the recording of As the World... in Nashville from 1994. So in addition to enjoying a fine live performance the viewer can enjoy a buffet of band history, audio, and video.
I was a fan before watching Echolyn’s Stars and Gardens. After watching, I am a bigger fan. The kind of fan that is now purchasing all of their CD’s and checks the web site ( http://www.echolyn.com) frequently to see what is going on! Do yourself a favor, hop on the web and check out Echolyn. You can also visit the DVD web site @ http://www.starsandgardens.com. Echolyn is in the studio preparing their next album now, and you can be sure I’ll be reviewing it ASAP!
DJ Barry 1/5/2005