Under Full Sail: It All Comes Together – ekoostik hookah
Theres a consistency to ekoostik hookah that can make those who arent among the most fervent of fans dismiss the Columbus, Ohio quintet as predictable, a certain something doesnt jump out at them. Which is a shame because when the players catch fire, theres a solidness and thrust that bears down like a locomotive racing down the tracks. The band rides over a musical landscape of rock, prog rock, country and blues. Sometimes separate, sometimes all morphing into one individualized shape. It makes hookahs music identifiable as a world in and of itself. That aspect of the band formed from the very beginning of its existence, where these select genres found their way into the Group Mind. What makes those influences potently significant here is that Under Full Sail: It All Comes Together, brings the past and present for ones pleasure over the span of two discs, one of which contains CD-ROM video from the recording sessions.
With original vocalist/guitarist John Mullins back in the fold, the concept finds the band revisiting the nine numbers of its debut album, Under Full Sail, and adding four additional tracks (Tumblin, Water Bear, When the Sun Goes Down and Carousel that were never recorded or are brand new). Not satisfied with how the original came out, the opportunity arose by the reunited line up to cover the numbers and give them the playing depth that more than a decade of live performances can generate.
Over four days — two with just the band members at Atlantas Tree Sound studio and two at The Cave, its nightclub-like area in front of an intimate crowd of 200 people the band members resuscitated the past with a passion and energy for playing together that can only bode well for the future. Whats immediately noticeable on the title track, which opens the album, is the pristine sound. Im not lucky enough to have a stereo system that would put any Bose dealers to shame, but the sparse riff, tinkling ivories and crack of the snare drum on its intro are really stunning.
But, of course what really matters are the songs, and there are the familiar patterns that distinguish hookah music from the rest of the jamband pack (the loping country groove on Lazy River, the country two-step action on When the Sun Goes Down, the complexity arena rock feel of Water Bear). And, as much as one may try to avoid it, certain tracks just seep into ones consciousness. Still, with his growl of a voice and grittier songwriting, Mullinss return brings a new dimension to the bands sound. And theres even a surprise or two in store when Water Bear gently falls apart before soaring off into the heavens, while Freedom Flying and Utopia build that same premise without nullifying its impact.
But, what gives the Studio Sessions and, not surprisingly, the Live Sessions their immense power is the bands ability to find an extra level to climb as the solo moves forward and the rhythm section kicks it into the next gear. Its something that so many other bands aim for in a studio recording but miss. Here, the material evokes the feeling of a hot summer night listening to a band at an outside concert venue. Theres that warmth and extra dimension thats derived from catching musical notes drift towards you as the stars hang above your head. And, on Under Full Sail: It All Comes Together ekoostik hookah sound as if theyre playing a large space for a major sized crowd.