Picks and Pans Review: The Polyphonic Spree

UPDATED 08/30/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/30/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

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Set your way-back machines for 1971, which was about the time both progressive rock and sunny yes-we-can chorusing peaked. The Polyphonic Spree combine both, as though Emerson, Lake and Palmer were kidnapped by Up with People. They're a gargantuan 25-member Dallas act that dresses like Hare Krishnas, sings about optimism and builds beautiful noises to a vast scale. Each song is like a trip to Sam's Club: It can inspire, awe or make you feel as though a giant bale of paper towels is falling on your head.

The earnest lyrics by singer Tim DeLaughter have a devotional flavor but strive to be secular (though a reference to a crucifix tends to give the game away). His compositions do impress as they grow into swirling sonic epics featuring brass, woodwinds, harp and even a there-min (the gadget that makes the flying-saucer sound on the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations"). Fans of Mannheim Steamroller, check this out.

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