1. Overture 5:43
2. Astral Transascension 7:12
3. Isle of Dislexia 3:14
4. Medicine Man 5:30
5. The Hidden Room 3:42
6. Crossing 5:10
7. My Tantric Gatito 3:49
8. Eclipse 2:48
9. Wanderlust 2:38
10. Eternity 1:57
11. Reprise 1:35
12. Delirium 5:00
13. Falling 2:23
14. Slightly Behind All the Time 5:57
15. Gaia 6:10
All tracks: by G Sherman, except
7, 15: J Sherman, 4: Cook & 6, 14: Glass.
Produced by Glass & J. Evans.
Greg Sherman - Hammond, Roland, Grand Piano, ARP, Korg
Jeff Sherman - electric bass, bass pedals; keyboards
Jerry Cook - drums & percussion
Phil Miller - guitar (15)
Hugh Hopper - bass (3)
Richard Sinclair - voice (15)
Paul Black - percussion (15)
The first part of history of the American trio GLASS begins and ends in the seventies. The group was formed in 1973. Four years later, they had one studio album ready, and one compiled of their best live performances. Unfortunately, no labels were interested in releasing the material at the time, which resulted in the band's break-up in 1979. Glass's brainchildren saw the light of day only in the new millennium, as Musea Records issued them as a double CD album, "No Stranger to the Skies". The set has achieved a notable success among the Prog Rock fans and critics both. Having perked up, the trio reformed and went on recording a completely new material. Here it is, entitled "Illuminations".
To say simply and unpretentiously, the new music of Glass is vastly, at times radically, different from their older stuff. Gone are elements of Jazz-Fusion, and generally, this release has little to offer for the more or less adventurous listener. There are relatively few tracks here featuring the entire trio, and much of the music sounds like Greg Sherman's solo effort rather than a Glass album, which is in some ways explicable, considering that Greg penned the majority of the pieces. Although his arsenal of keyboards is still credited as being consisted almost exclusively of famous vintage models (see lineup above), he uses them much less frequently than modern synthesizers and so-called electronics. What I am talking about here is not criticism as such, especially since the band still retains one of the most important values of any true artist, namely originality. But the matter reflects the feeling of a fan learned that his heroes in many respects betrayed their symphonic roots and turned towards a more accessible and more fashionable sound. Only four out of the fifteen tracks on the album represent a full-fledged symphonic Art-Rock by dints of a classic keyboard trio: Overture, Eclipse, Delirium and Slightly Behind All the Time, though the third of them is overloaded with an absurd speech (perhaps as the title calls for), which rather strongly mars the impression. While structurally accessible, they are highly complex metrically and, besides that, are filled with a truly magnificent atmosphere. Wanderlust and Reprise are similar, but are extremely straightforward, emphasized on melody, featuring no tempo changes. The last composition, Gaia, is a kind of symphonic extravaganza, with certain avant-garde tendencies. It would've been very good had it been free of random solos and (once again) colloquial experiments, no matter whether they're done by 'Big Names'. The rest of the disc plows through fully predictable chord changes etc, though a couple of Space Rock-like compositions, Astral Transascension and Eternity, and also a sketch of Classical music, Falling, are at least beautiful. Medicine Man and My Tantric Gatito are, respectively, just drum and bass solos, which would have suited a concert recording, but seem odious on a studio outing. The remaining three tracks: Isle of Dislexia, The Hidden Room and Crossing are something between ambient and electronic music, abundant in sequenced sounds, even though the latter has a swinging axis provided by the rhythm section.
I understand I would've been much more positive if I were into electronic and ambient music, but I am not, thankfully. What I've gathered from Glass's new music is that they have well learned the prevalent tendencies on the modern Progressive Rock scene. Considering the distinct originality of the band's sound, I can count "Illuminations" a good album overall, but it doesn't mean automatically that I feel satisfied.
VM:October 14, 2005
Glass - 2005 - "Illuminations"
It is said that you cannot judge a book by its cover, which could be said of GLASS' "Illuminations". The cover features a photograph of a man of diminutive stature, standing amongst neo-classical columns; a cello case rests against one of the columns in the distance. The tones are dark, warm and rich. The photo wraps around to the inside, revealing the cellist, playing beneath antiquated street lamps. However, on the disk and the tray card behind it, opposite this scene, is a black and white ink drawing that has no relationship to the photo, or seemingly to the title. This was rather metaphoric to my experience with this CD. Seeing the cover, I was anticipating music of deep character, rich in tone and composition. What I found was not as incongruent as the line art, which emblazons the disk, but it was a disappointment. The album is divided into three sections, containing individual tracks. The first track opens hopefully with dramatic power chords (reminding me of the opening of White Room by Cream), followed by the rich, warm tones of Hammond organ laying out the theme. This is going to be good, you think, but the theme simply keeps repeating with just minor variations, and never really takes flight. The Overture is a bit like being on a jetliner on the runway taxiing. You are in anticipation of a great swell of excitement, as the plane charges the runway and rockets into the sky. Alas, Overture never leaves the runway and just continues to taxi near the end, the cymbals keep crashing again and again, so the listener will no the conclusion is near, though there is no real climax. Isle of Dyslexia is aptly named, as all 3 minutes and 14 seconds of it are an a-tonal, a-melodic piece played in reverse. Medicine Man is a relatively uninspired percussion track using lots of cymbal, tympani, cowbell and wood block. Thus ends the first section, "The Secret Life of Aqua J. Long". Part two, "Electronic Synaethesia", begins with harp-like keyboard sound of The Hidden Reem, which is one of the rhythmically more interesting tracks on the album. It also features a nice guitar solo. In the New Age style, it is very repetitive, almost trancelike with the underlying "harp" work. Next comes the sequenced synth work, which underlies Crossing. This one moves more into a jazz framework and could have been something from Soft Machine. It also uses some backward masked guitar work. My Tantric Gatito is essentially a bass guitar interlude, which leads to Part III, "Alchemy of the Word." Eclipse and Wanderlust are pleasant, bouncy tunes, featuring the Hammond, sounding a bit like Booker T & the MGs. Eternity is quiet and contemplative, with a shifting meter, used as a bridge to Reprise, which is a return to the theme of Wanderlust. In the midst of Eclipse the boys do a bit of twisting of time signatures, which shakes the tune briefly out of the 4/4 beat. Delirium utilizes an answering machine recording along with organ solo. Personally, this is an irritant and distraction, causing annoyance rather than somehow enhancing the track. Falling is the only track to feature piano. Unfortunately the beauty of this solo is marred by drumming, which is completely superficial, again, adding a distraction rather than enhancement. If you can focus on the piano, it is a truly beautiful piece of music. Slightly Behind All the Time, features some of the most balanced playing on the album with a driving beat. Alas, this track, too, establishes an underlying riff which repeats unchanged from start to finish as simply a basis for solo improvisation. The vocalizations of the final track, Gaia, resemble whale calls and add to a quasi-avant-garde atmosphere, oddly coupled with a majestic theme played on grand piano.
"Illuminations" meanders its way from beginning to end. There is much more of a New Age vibe to the compositions than Progressive Rock. Glass has a pleasant sound overall, especially with their use of the vintage Hammond sound. However, much of what's here is really not particularly progressive and mostly New Age, or simple 4/4 formats. The sound is dominated by keyboard, feeling more like a keyboard solo album than a full band effort, as the guitar and drums exist in mostly supporting roles. I would not recommend this for someone looking for Symphonic Prog, but more for the Progger with New Age and Ambient leanings.