4 out of 5 Stars!
This short-lived California band eventually became, with some personnel changes, the excellent (and current) Progressive Rock/Metal group named Scarlet Hollow. Like the current band, Echoes Landing also featured Allison VonBülow as its lead vocalist and her partner in musical crime (and in life, as it happens), guitarist Gregg Olson, but instead of Progressive Rock/Metal, the band’s sole album is sort of like Scarlet Hollow Lite…acoustic-driven Rock, AOR oriented, with only the merest whispers of Progressive Rock on a few songs, and in many respects seems a combination between the groups Saraya and Heart with perhaps a modicum of both Alannah Myles and Lana Lane added to the blend.
Overall, 2006’s Closer To You contains some beautiful and catchy material, with Allison’s instantly recognizable voice always at the forefront. Additionally, the tracks are all relatively short and succinct, without the extra fluff or lengthy instrumental excursions, thus allowing the vocal melodies to reign supreme without major distractions.
Take, for instance, the tune “Reach Out II,” a mid-tempo rocker that acts as almost a “style template” for many of the other compositions on this release. Here, with a seemingly perfect blend of acoustic and electric guitars, and Allison belting out the lyrics on two separate tracks (both a lead and an “answer back” track) with an occasional emotional twang in her voice (one that wouldn’t be out of place on any album by Shania Twain or Faith Hill), the song could actually fall into what is being coined the “Heartland Rock” genre, where elements of Contemporary Rock, Folk, R&B, and Country blend with Pop Rock melodies in the style of various artists such as Melissa Etheridge, Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, Bob Seger, etc. And the album’s title track is certainly of a similar nature, only this time with a dynamic and gutsy guitar lead, piano touches, and light and swirling synths that add dreamy Prog-Rock atmospherics to the background (actually quite similar in nature to Scarlet Hollow’s future signature style).
The mellower and jazzy “Timing,” with the unexpected inclusion of trumpet, offers even more instrumental diversity, and is nothing short of a showcase for Allison’s terrific abilities, her vocals expertly weaving through the track in a serpentine fashion and setting her apart from other singers in the genre. Moreover, one of my favorite tunes, the beautiful “Echoes Landing,” (yes, the group had its very own theme song, it seems) is a heavily acoustic composition that features Allison performing multiple background harmonies, again drawing attention to her vocal gifts and almost making me fleetingly wonder if this is what the group America might have sounded like had it been comprised of females.
Anyway, with other catchy and periodically moody tracks such as “Shine My Way,” “Side by Side,” “Real Life,” and even a melodic little ditty entitled “I” (the lyrics comprised solely of that single word, believe it or not), Echoes Landing acted as a playful platform on which the VonBülow/Olson musical partnership could experiment, laying a solid groundwork for the duo’s next major venture, Scarlet Hollow.
Fans of the female-led groups or individual artists I mentioned at the top of the review will likely enjoy this release as much as I do.