Once & Future Band

Once & Future Band

Castle Face, 2017


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Bands who look to the ‘70s for inspiration tend to draw from the obvious sources: James Brown, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, disco, punk, Springsteen. Few bands look to progressive pop as an inspiration, though, which makes Once & Future Band’s debut album a fascinating, eclectic, and joyous affair.

At seven songs and 38 minutes, the album still manages to be dense and sprawling, with strong influences from ELO, the Alan Parsons Project, early Queen, a touch of Pink Floyd, Pet Sounds, and a strong whiff of middle-period Chicago (think “Song Of The Evergreens” from Chicago VII, the time when Terry Kath was still around but the band had streamlined its meandering tendencies). As is expected with those names, a lot of late Beatles sounds (and George’s All Things Must Pass) inform the songwriting as well.

Because it’s so easy to spot those sounds, as with many debuts, there’s automatically a certain lack of identity as the brain goes to “where have I heard this?” Jeopardy mode. “Hide & Seek,” for example, is a slow and lush bluesy crawl that comes alive in the last couple of minutes with some keyboard soloing, but it’s only clear that the band had been listening to Genesis and Rick Wakeman’s solo albums directly before recording. As a tribute, maybe, it’s successful. But the song just can’t stand on its own as a Once & Future Band song just yet, although it’s easy to get immersed in the Wilson-inspired vocal in the first half.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Much of the album is like that, but it’s so entertaining to hear these sounds recontextualized and modernized that you won’t care. “Rolando” is nominally smooth jazz-pop (again, strong hints of Chicago VII here), but with a jittery Raj Ojha drum pattern and some wah-wah keyboard solos that weave around Eli Eckert’s nimble bass. “How Does It Make You Feel” is the best of the bunch, distilling all of the above elements into a six-minute psychedelic rush of color and sound and with a vocal tic to boot that will get lodged in your head. The song was pulled for a single, which will sink upon impact in 2017 but would have been all over AM radio in 1974, methinks.

“I’ll Be Fine” is solid as well, packing several movements and solos into its six and a half minutes, moseying along nicely until the instrumental sections starts about halfway through. There’s even a harpsichord solo, because of course there is. “Magnetic Memory” is another fine entry, lush and deliberate, while the closing “Standing in the Wake of Violence” dials back on the swirl of tie-dye (mostly) and ramps up Eckert’s fantastic bass riff as the lead instrument as Joel Robinow’s voice reaches its highest octaves of the disc. The solo section also is quite restrained for these guys but that bassline doesn’t allow the listener to relax, leading to a Yes-like closing section before the piece ends with a hard stop.

The trio has experience in Bay Area psych-rock bands, so this is in their wheelhouse, and it’s part of the reason for the confidence in the songwriting and playing. These guys have it all; what they do with it to make them unique remains to be seen, but it’s well worth the time to get familiar with them. I’m already looking forward to the next album.

Rating: B+

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© 2017 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Castle Face, and is used for informational purposes only.