Animal Liberation Orchestra : Fly Between Falls

Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO) is one of the most promising jambands on the west coast – or any other coast– today. Their latest offering, Fly Between Falls, is chock-full of impossibly upbeat ditties and laidback groove-soaked mood lifters. This is summer evening backyard barbeque music at its finest. The band’s lead singer and main songwriter, Zach Gill, along with his stellar bandmates have created a very good album that leans on poppy melodies and bubbly choruses laid on top of some serious foot tapping rhythms.

Highlights include the danceable retro funk of “Possibly Drown,” the soulful “Pobrecito,” and the Jack Johnson-ish “Girl, I Wanna Lay You Down,” which, fittingly, features Mr. Johnson, a good friend and summer tourmate of the band. One of the longest tracks of the set, the six-plus minute “Shapeshifter,” has Gill professing “I’m the kinda guy you want in your Government / I’m the kinda guy you want in your bed.” The tune meanders back and forth between piano pop and groove rock displaying the talented musicianship of the quartet, as well as the impressive lyrical ability of Gill.

Although Gill is clearly the lead singer of the band for a reason, bassist Steve Adams contributes lead vocals admirably, and rather conversationally, on “The Gardener,” a haunting tune that may scare you into appreciating Mother Earth. Also, slick drummer David Brogan chips in vocals reminiscent of Roland Gift (Fine Young Cannibals) on the melancholy “Fly.” The only member without a lead vocal credit (although he does contribute background vocals on half of the album) is the rock solid acoustic guitarist, Dan Lebowitz, who paints the album with a few choice solos and incredibly tight rhythmic support throughout.

There’s not a weak song in the lot, even the very personal “Waiting for Jaden,” and the slightly tired although seemingly inevitable jamband tribute to marijuana, “Wasting Time (Isla Vista Song)” work here as they both manage to fit into the overall positive vibe of one of the better jamband albums of 2004.

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