COYOTE POETS OF THE UNIVERSE/ "Pandora's Box" (Square Shaped Records) 60:18 * * * 1/2
These nine musicians, offering all original tunes on their fifth album, might be graduates of Ken Kesey's Acid Tests of the mid-60's who have been transported across time to the present. Along the way , they picked up influences ranging from globalists Paul Horn and Oregon to adventurous rock bands It's a Beautiful Day and Joy of Cooking to Ken Nordine's word-jazz. Keeping listeners off guard, the Denver -based Coyote Poets loosely fit the contemporary jam-band mold even as "Blood & Bones" and "Quittin Time" rumbe with a blues heft unattainable to many conventional blues bands.
Frank-John Hadley (Downbeat Magazine)
Progression Magazine Review -
(Ratings - 1-4
Sound, Composition, Musicianship, Performance)
Sound - ****
Composition - ****
Musicianship - ****
Performance - ****
Coyote Poets of the Universe
World Fusion/Progressive/Roots Rock
A decade-plus collaboration among a dozen coyotes around Denver, Colorado, yields this fifth outing loaded with 11 tunes promising to build upon online/airplay/chart successes of the group's last two discs. Together, their trademark multi-voice harmonies and innovative acoustic appointments are effective and respectful of one another's space. Individually, each soloist's appearance is noteworthy, whether it's Melissa Gates singing or anyone else
playing. No mile-high Manhattan Transfer here, these folks can tastefully shred as well as sing.
Instrumentals such as "Raff-Riff" with it's driving flute/violin/piano leads, the flamenco- flavored "Quando El Ray Nimrod" and the English horn-haunted "Vermilion Cliffs" contrast with intricate, inviting, poetry-driven songs that reveal a smirking swagger sharper than most kids half their age. "Pandora's Box" opens just like one, full of fun. So are the rest; and by "Quittin' Time" -- a rotgut closer sure to bring out the lighters -- a "mean ol' gambler" is slyly slandered, sounding like "brother trucker". The liner notes read "Note: Adult language on this track." Pay attention folks: these people didn't miss a single detail.
Coyote Poets of the Universe "Pandora’s Box"
Review by Gary Hill- Music Street Journal
This disc is a wonderful set that combines jazz, folk and classical music along with other sounds into something that, while not a perfect fit, certainly seems to belong under the heading “progressive rock.” Whatever you call the music, though, this is a potent and powerful listening experience that should be enjoyable for most music fans.
Track by Track Review
Pandora's Box ~The vocal section (and this comes in with just vocals) that opens this is very much in a scat jazz kind of arrangement. It powers out from there into a cool tune that’s part jazz, part world music and part folky prog. This is a great tune that’s both unique and strangely catchy. There is excellent use of classical instrumentation later.
Spellbound~Jazz and mellow prog swirl around one another on the opening of this piece. Many of the instruments drop away and we are left with an acoustic based arrangement that’s quite cool. This is very much a jazz meets folky prog song. There’s a killer shuffling instrumental movement later in the piece, complete with piano soloing. There’s also a playful jazz instrumental segment before they power out into a soaring fusion-like movement with nonlyrical
vocals and some tasteful instrumental work.
Raff Riff~There’s definitely a Traffic vibe on this, somehow mixed with the rocking side of early Moody Blues. What a killer track this is! It’s an instrumental with inspired and powerful work from all musicians. A little before the two minute mark it moves out to mellow weirdness. Then before the two and a half minute point it rises up to an almost Tull like jam to take it out.
History of the World~A killer bass line opens things up, then banjo comes over top. After that we get jazz instrumentation on top and it works out to a
folky sort of jazz arrangement. This is weird, but also tasty. There’s a bit of a Dixieland vibe on the track, but blended with so many other things that it’s sort of hidden. This really has so many varying textures and moods that it’s a real melting pot of sounds.
Cuando El Ray Nimrod~Fitting with the title there’s a lot of Spanish music on board with this number. Classical instrumentation is also included here. This is a mostly instrumental number, although it does have some nonlyrical vocals.
Rescue~Bass guitar opens this and holds it for a while. Classical stringsjoin and as the vocals enter this feels like an old school psychedelic tune. There are some middle Eastern elements introduced for a time later, but overall this feels like it could have been recorded decades earlier, and that's a good thing.
Blood and Bones~There’s a killer bass groove at the bottom of this. The cut carries some jazz and other elements in a smoking hot arrangement that
really works. There’s even some old school country music in the mix here. There’s a lot of soulful passion in this number.
Surrounded By Cobras~Starting in a pretty balladic mode this grows out with soaring nonlyrical vocals over the top. This is arguably the most pure progressive rock cut on show. It has a lot of classical music in the mix. There’s a spoken male vocal on here that is a bit odd, but also cool. It gives way to sung vocals on the chorus and then alternates between the two treatments. This has an odd texture in some ways, but it’s also very cool and somehow compelling.
Vermilion Cliffs~Folk and world music merges with classical instrumentation and more pure prog rock on this mellow, but moving balladic instrumental. It’s quite melodic, pretty and organic in nature.
Solstice~The first section of this is a poetry reading, feeling a bit like the Moody Blues. Of course, they were probably known for poetry readings with music in the backdrop than anyone else ever has been. So, that comparison is appropriate, although the music backing this up is closer to mellow jazz. Then it works out to a more standard “song” type piece. There’s a definite Celtic texture on this second half of the cut. The vocal arrangement calls to mind some of the folk groups of the 1960s.
Quittin' Time~This is based on a killer jazz groove, but other elements bring in more progressive rock sounds. This is one of the coolest cuts on show and the vocals have a great soulful texture. There is definitely a parental advisory for this piece, but it’s an amazing song. Arguably the best track on show. There is classical instrumentation over the top later in the piece and this is a real screamer. How appropriate to have a track called “Quittin’ Time” close the set.
Coyote Poets of the Universe is the Denver, Colorado-based band that has been wowing fans with poetry, wildly emotional lyrics and artistic sound for over ten years. The band consists of Melissa Gates, Robert MacLean, John Rasmussen, Andy O’Leary, Patty Shaw, Josie Quick, Mark Busi, Shannon Spenser, Gary Hoover and Kelly O’Dea. Previous releases include Unmistakable Evidence in 2007 and Callin’ You Home in 2009. Pandora’s Box is the band’s newest release..
Listening to this album was a lot like stumbling down the rabbit hole with Alice and ending up somewhere in between a Monet or an Edward Gorey painting. It is, in turns beautiful, strange and compelling. Multiple musical instruments are used to create unique melodies and audible adventures. Male and female
vocalists alternate, but the female vocalist is featured more often. The first track, “Pandora’s Box,” makes you feel like you are falling into a strange fairy tale adventure. A true Pandora’s Box of musical treats, this track grabs your attention. You can hear multiple instruments and background vocalists. It is a musical tapestry of sound. Track three, “Raff Riff,” is heavy on the wind instruments. You can clearly hear the flute and within, shades of Jethro Tull make a brief appearance. “Cuando El Ray Nimrod” is instrumental, but beautifully crafted with the artistic imagery invoked with the masterful playing.
“Solstice” is a personal favorite on this album. For a moment, the artful male vocalist reads poetry, and then wisps of guitar and flute carry you into a full-on
fairy tale romance of sound as the female vocalist sweeps you away. Singing about childhood reminiscences, wind on your shoulders, and being happy that
spiders don’t have wings makes for a quirky and thoughtful song that will stick in your mind. Pandora’s Box is the perfect name for this album. You don’t know what you are going to get from one song to the next. From the starkness of “Surrounded by Cobras,” to the beauty of “Solstice” and “Pandora’s Box,” this album is interesting for the sheer variety of artistic sound and audible sensations the group creates with lyric and instrument. It is worth more than just a cursory listen. Each time I played the songs, I got more out of them. Truly, that is poetry personified.
Key Tracks- Solstice, Pandora’s Box
Dana Wright-Muzikreviews.com Contributor
SQUARE SHAPED RECORDS
COYOTE POETS OF THE UNIVERSE/Pandora's Box:
Now that they've made it to their fifth record, confounding some along the way, amazing others, the Coyote's take it up a notch making outsider music that falls somewhere between electric 70s English folk, late 60s Zappa and anything else they feel like. Look, put this on and fire up a doob. What else is there to say? Everything will be just right in the end.
MIDWEST RECORD, Entertainment & Review
Coyote Poets of the Universe Return with "Pandora's Box"
The Colorado outfit Coyote Poets of the Universe do a kind of Gypsyfolk- prog that at this point reminds me of It's A Beautiful Day,updated and refreshed for a new age I suppose, but not insubstantially or by resorting to ear-candy fare. The Poets have a lively nine-person outfit that includes violin, reeds, ethnopercussion and a female & male lead singer tag team, along with the various all and sundry instruments you might expect such a band to include. Pandora's Box (Square Shaped Records ) is their fifth album. The last one, reviewed on these pages, I found quite interesting on an instrumental level. My only problem with it was that the songs themselves were not as well developed as I would have liked to hear.
Pandora's Box is vastly improved in that way. It still has some rough edges--in the male vocals perhaps the most so--but it isn't supposed to be slick and it wouldn't work if it was. This is a kind of DIY outfit that has a sound more home-grown than formally schooled per se. Their combination of retro-psych-folk and post-world is at its strongest on this one. There is a good amount of variety and the quirkiness of the band hangs together well this time. If you have a penchant for off-beat neo-folk,I think this one will do it for you. A good effort.
Posted by Grego Applegate Edwards at 4:27 AM
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