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Glass (USA) - 1973-'75/2004 - "No Stranger to the Skies"
(100 min: 2 CD, Musea)
******


Prolusion. The American trio GLASS had existed in the '70s. They had a lot of materials recorded during their numerous live performances and studio sessions, but didn't have the opportunity to release their music at that time, which resulted in the band's break up in 1979. This double CD set is Glass's first and only output and is compiled of their best compositions.

CD 1 - "No Stranger to the Skies"
******

TRACK LIST:

1.  No Stranger to the Skies 9:14
2.  Give the Man a Hand 6:25
3.  Domino 8:24
4.  The Myopic Stream 8:17
5.  For Ursula Major & Sirius 12:12

All tracks: by the Sherman brothers.

LINE-UP:

Greg Sherman - keyboards
Jeff Sherman - bass, guitars 
Jerry Cook - drums & percussion

Produced by the Sherman brothers.
Engineered by B. Holden & E. Paulsen.

Synopsis. The first disc or, rather, album, titled just as the entire set, consists of studio recordings, most of which are from 1975. Although one of the five instrumental compositions was composed and recorded two years later, the album is rather homogenous in structure. This indicates that the band was conservative in their creation, which is a positive factor in this case, because Glass had their own incomparable style. This formation followed the romantic tradition of European Classical music more closely than any other keyboard trio, and not only. They in many ways anticipated the further dilatation of this direction, which, for instance, has become the integral part of the creation of such well-known outfits as Sky and The Enid. Basically, Glass's style is a combination of Symphonic Art-Rock, Classical music and quasi-Jazz-Fusion. Why quasi? The point is that there are no authentic improvisations on the album, and since all the music has been thoroughly composed, it would be wrong to talk about Jazz-Fusion as such in this case, i.e. implying the term in its traditional conception. Besides, on the album's title track and Give the Man a Hand the latter component manifests itself only in a furtive form. More instantly improvisational-like harmonies can be recognized on Domino and The Myopic Stream, and especially on the last track For Ursula Major & Sirius. Nevertheless, the band's general sound is preserved here, too. The intensive arrangements with up-tempo interplay between keyboard and bass solos, developing to the accompaniment of the powerful drumming, are present on each composition, but are widespread only on the second track, while on average they cover only about one third of the album. Mostly light, beautiful, and complex all simultaneously, Glass's music abounds in charming sounds of vintage keyboards: Rhodes piano, ARP string ensemble, Moog synthesizer, Mellotron and (to a lesser degree) Hammond organ. All the compositions are excellent, but the third, Domino, the only with passages of acoustic guitar and the distinctive 'magical spirit' of the blessed seventies, is especially mesmerizing.


CD 2 - "Broken Oars"
******

TRACK LIST:

1.  Broken Oars-I 5:57
2.  Broken Oars-II 5:05
3.  Broken Oars-III 8:07
4.  Broken Oars-IV 7:36
5.  Broken Oars-V 2:07
6.  Broken Oars-VI 1:01
7.  Changer 10:54
8.  Home 2:55
9.  Patrice's Dream 12:29

LINE-UP: same

All tracks: by the Sherman brothers
Produced by the Sherman brothers
Engineered by E. Paulsen
           

Synopsis. The "Broken Oars" album, going as the second disc in the set, is the predecessor to "No Stranger to the Skies" as a matter of fact, because all the tracks here are from 1973. Definitely, they were recorded 'live', but were later mixed in the studio. The applauses and the other destructive (with your permission) features that could divert some listeners' attention from the music have been removed, and the pauses between tracks are minimally short. The sound quality is so-so, but most of the compositions are brilliant. The band's instrumental equipment, with all sorts of vintage keyboards available, is still the same, so the overall musical palette of both albums is painted with similar colors. However, "Broken Oars" is free even of pseudo manifestations of Jazz-Fusion. Second. The parts of acoustic guitar (both passages and solos) play a much more important role here and are present on most tracks. Third. Four out of the nine compositions were performed without bass and drums; there are only orchestral cymbals and tambourines in places. Two of them: Broken Oars-V and Home are Classical music-like pieces, while the first and the fourth part of the epic are, surprisingly, nothing else but Symphonic Space Rock. The other five compositions represent Symphonic Art-Rock with the strong classical influence and are characterized by the alternation of intensive and quiet arrangements. What's probably especially noteworthy is that the mood on the album is for the most part distinctly dramatic, and not romantic like in the case of Glass's later recordings, and the music is more intricate and unpredictable. Regarding originality, very few references to the other representatives of the style can be found on the album. In fact, only a couple of bass solos remind me of those Greg Lake first applied in early ELP.

Conclusion. 1973, 1974 and 1975 were Progressive's most bumper-crop years, and many of the extant units of the genre have reached their creative peak at that time. While I wouldn't place Glass on par with such major acts as ELP, Yes, Genesis, etc, I find them much better than dozens of those, who, unlike them, have managed to get a recording deal in the middle of the decade and climb the ladder. Highly recommended, without any reservations.

VM: October 3, 2004


Related Links:

Musea Records
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