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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Agent Cooper
Label: Prog Rock Records
I must admit that what caught my attention to this band was their name Agent Cooper, what sold me on Agent Cooper was their new release, A Beginner’s Mind. A pleasant surprise to say the least, AG has been a frequent flyer in my car, mp3 player, home entertainment system, and laptop. I am very impressed with AG’s ability to produce high energy progressive rock without the pomp and pretension. In an interview with keyboardist Eric Frampton, he stated “We bring two things to the table, as far as I'm concerned: a song-oriented approach that is a bit more accessible than some other offerings out there and a sense of humor - we don't take ourselves too seriously.” And I think that is a perfect description for AG.
The CD begins with an aural festival of eastern sounds and atmosphere that explodes into “East Indian Sun” and most powerful and mighty tune with a wall of sound approach. Dissonant melody lines weave in and out of power chords and Hammond organ/strings pad while atop the heated air is vocalist/guitarist Doug Busbee clear-cut vocals belting out a vision of confusion. Being a big fan of the now defunct band “Course of Empire”, AG has replaced them in my library as tracks like “Shallow Disease” are like COE reincarnated. Heavy riffery and a pulsing chord crunch provide the base for a dynamic chorus that washes and splashes black angst on the shoreline. My favorite aspect of this piece is the discordant organ flourishes that accent the action of the story. “Timing Crucial” is enthusiastically all over the place with lighting fast passages broken up by adept and tasteful instrumental interaction. The main riff is by far one of the tastiest I have heard in a while. The bass playing in “The Heat” is out of this world! Sean Delson keeps a break-neck pace with the main theme of this tune and throws in a little “slap” to make it interesting. The instrumental in the middle is pure prog with unison patterns flying and a funky solo from Frampton to give it levity. My favorite tune has to be “She Screams” with an allusion to Styx with it’s mini-moog arpeggios. This is a beautiful tune with arsenal of instruments to make this tale of loss, rejection and juxtaposition that much more significant. The CD ends with a somber “You Know” a tune that highlights the talents of the band that my not be detected based on the style of the previous tracks.
I asked Frampton about touring and unfortunately his response was “You've got to have major regional followings built up to make the economics of touring worthwhile, and this is Prog we're talking about, so...” Progressive Music Festival developers invite these guys to your bill and have the joint buzzing with a new fresh energy that can’t be ignored or sloughed off as pap. Awesome stuff! By the way, Mr. Frampton chooses homogenized. More info: www.agentcooper.com
Jon Rice 2/8/2006