1001 Albums You Must Die Before You Hear
#18: Gracious – Echo (1996)
Reunion albums often suck but they’re rarely as godawful as this egg-on-face progressive rock travesty, writes MATT KELLY.
When bands reactivate after decades of inactivity, anything can happen. Sometimes they beat the odds and pull it off (Leaf Hound), sometimes they disgrace themselves (The Stooges.) Sadly, Echo is in the latter category.
Ignored on release, early ’90s reissues of two 1970s albums by Gracious were warmly received by the prog community, leading to the band being asked if they wanted to reform and try again. Only two of the classic lineup were keen, these being bassist Tim Wheatley and Robert Lipson; somewhat concerning as absent keyboardist Martin Kitcat and vocalist Paul Davis were key to the Gracious sound.
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This means the group is rounded out by new guys, and boy oh boy did this not work out. Sev Lewkowicz, who replaces both Kitcat and Davis as dual keyboardist/vocalist, sucks. He has a heavy-handed style of playing which lacks Kitcat’s finesse and chooses some terribly cheesy and cheap sound banks – listen to those horrendous horn fanfares.
To add insult to injury, his singing is *horrible*, a desiccated, off-putting mutter that sounds nothing like Davis and drains the songs of charisma. As producer, Lewkowicz is also responsible for the record’s amateurish sound which somehow conspires to sound older than the ’70s Gracious output, obscuring the music with a layer of fuzz.
Gracious deserved a second shot, but I would argue that this isn’t actually Gracious. There’s a creeping sense that this is a Lewkowicz solo album attempting to co-opt a name that might mean something to prog nerds. Poor stuff that I wouldn’t even advise a diehard Gracious fan to track down – disappointment will be your only reward.