Once & Future Band

Once & Future Band

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Once & Future Band is the eponymous debut of a group founded by multi-role players Eli Eckert, Raj Ojha, and Joel Robinow, already known for their work in Bay Area psych-rock outfits such as Drunk Horse, Easy Bay Grease, and Howlin Rain. With Once & Future Band, they corral Pink Floyd-style psychedelia, virtuosic rock, and sparkling prog pop into dramatic fare that recalls certain icons of the eight-track-era -- and rarely just one of them at a time. Advanced study of Yes, Queen, the aforementioned Floyd, and later Beatles, just for starters, is revealed on "I'll Be Fine," with its mantra of "Love is in the air." Bold harmonies, trippy keyboards and vocal effects, drum and guitar solos, and melodic hooks mark the meandering six-and-a-half-minute master class. It pales in comparison, though -- by no fault or lack of its own -- to the lead track and single, "How Does It Make You Feel?" A surge of melody, color, rhythm, and flamboyance with no small debt to ELO, the song introduces Once & Future Band with enough fanfare to provoke the envy of many a peacock and statesman. Robinow's vocals move in and out of effects, vibrato, octaves, keys, and time signatures in the course of the song, yet are often overshadowed by elaborate drumming and downright rapturous keyboards and guitar. While remaining in a dynamic range, the album offers some variety, too. "Rolando," for instance, gets super jazz-funky with doses of brass and "wah-wah," to reference the George Harrison tune. There are only seven tracks on the album, but few listeners are likely to feel short-changed given 38 minutes of densely packed tunefulness, and the chops to pull it all off.

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