Critical acclaim never has been a guarantee of financial success, and Ecoteur's career was about as good an example as any of this phenomenon. The band came together in 1986 after guitarist Todd Rusch and drummer Kirk McFarlin left the disintegrating Wisconsin punk band Einstein's Riceboys. The name Ecoteur was a coinage by the mystically inclined Rusch, based on a misspelling of the French word for "eavesdropper." Rusch's oblique lyrics and soft, drawling vocal delivery meshed well with the acoustic-tinged pop sounds furnished by McFarlin and bassist Bob Crandall. The band cut Decorated Life for Dali Records in 1988 and got excellent reviews but miserable sales. The label was in some financial trouble at that time and had almost no promotional budget, but the main problem was probably that the album was out of the step with the times. Ecoteur's blend of world music and jazzy pop wouldn't hit the mainstream for years, and radio airplay was nonexistent despite the excellent music and visionary lyrics. Besides the splendid title cut and the excellent "Definite Maybe," the album boasted the acid, mocking anti-MTV song "Actors in the Corridors." It was a brilliant debut, but hardly anyone heard it. The band relocated from Wisconsin to California to tour and support the album, a move that made Crandall decide to quit the band. The other two members of the band continued undaunted, quickly finding new bassist Barrett Rogers and getting back on the road. They played gigs in clubs, restaurants, even a brewery, while working on their second album, Weekend Guru. The label changed the spelling of their name to Ecotour for this release without the band's approval, figuring that everyone misspelled the name anyway, so changing it would help with customer recognition. It is doubtful that any variation of the name would have helped at that point, since their record label was on the verge of collapse by the time the album was in stores. Early sales were excellent, but within weeks of the record's debut, the label folded. This was a shame, as this should have been a breakthrough album. Shel Talmy's production added a layer or two more studio gloss than was really needed to some songs that worked great when played live, but it was still a fine effort that could have found an audience. The band soldiered on for a while trying to get another label deal, but the low sales record of their previous work kept label interest at a minimum. They broke up in late 1991 and it looked like the band's story was over. In 1993, Rusch got a new band together to record 1994's Peacock Mantra, reverting to the Ecoteur spelling of the band's name. This album showed, in case any proof was necessary, that the band's sound was Rusch's creation. The distinctive interplay between jazz bass, ethnic drumming, and acoustic guitar was still there even though all players were different except Rusch. The fuller sound on this CD complemented Rusch's extended arsenal of guitar sounds and more elaborate and intricate instrumentation. Peacock Mantra showed early signs of success, but the label, Prana Records, shut down less than a month after it was released. Rusch bought the unreleased copies from the label and sold them at concerts, so fans of the band have been able to get them anyway. No new work has appeared under the Ecoteur name since its release. Rusch released a solo album, Signpost of Destiny, in 1999.
Share this page