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Hands (USA) - 2002 - "Twenty Five Winters"
(39 min, "Wheelhouse" & "Shroom")

1. Knock & Enter 6:50
2. Walls 4:15
3. Green Room (inst.) 3:51
4. Dance of Light & Darkness 5:09
5. I Laughed Aloud (inst.) 2:46
6. Zombeiroch-III (inst.) 4:48
7. Leaving 11:25
a) Song of Summer
b) Vigil For One
c) The Traveler's Lament (inst.)
d) Above & Below

All music & lyrics by M. Clay & E. Myers.
Arrangements by HANDS.


Michael Clay - piano & synthesizers;
 el. & ac. guitars; el. woodwinds
Ernie Myers - vocals; electric & acoustic guitars
Mark Menikos - electric & acoustic violins;
 mandolin & ac. guitar; vocals
Rex Bozarth - electric & acoustic basses, Stick;
 cello; vocals
Martin McCall - drum kit; percussion; noisemakers 
John Fiveash - drums (on tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, & 6)

Guest musicians:

Chris Dulen - French horn (on 7)
Steve Parker - backing vocals (on 1)

Prologue. I was not acquainted with the music of Hands until now. However, I know that they are veterans of American Progressive music, and the band's eponymous debut album was released at the end of the 1970s. Finally, I'd like to mention that this CD was received from my friend at the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock, Fred Trafton, who sent it especially for my review. Visit the GEPR, which is the first-rate Prog source on Earth (I am by no means sure that the phrase "in the world" is correct), by clicking here:

The Album. Yet another masterpiece! Although "Twenty Five Winters" by Hands is not as killer as Bubblemath's "Such Fine Particles of the Universe", it is by all means a wonderful album as well. The music that is presented on this album is very fresh and original. It is woven from the mixed stylistic textures that, in particular, are typical for Classic Symphonic Progressive, Classical Academic Music, and Modern Art-Rock as well. Also, there are many purely acoustic episodes on the album. Furthermore, a few pieces are completely acoustic. All three of the first songs on the album, namely: Knock & Enter, Walls, and Dance of Light & Darkness (1, 2, & 4), are about Classic Symphonic Progressive with elements of Modern Art-Rock and shades of Prog-Metal. (To know my view on Modern Art-Rock, click here). These songs contain the complete list of progressive ingredients that are typical for this genre. The masterful solos and passages of violin and cello that are present on them (as well as on most of the tracks on the album, though) make their sound very symphonic. What's interesting is that each of the songs on the album, including two out of the four parts of Leaving, apart from the lead vocals, features a wonderful male choir. When all three of the band's vocalists sing only to the accompaniment of hand percussion, which, though, happened only once (on 4), their choir reminds me a bit of that which was invented and regularly used by Gentle Giant. Stylistically, the first of the three instrumental pieces that are featured on the album, Green Room (3), is much in the vein of the songs that I've just described. In other words, the first half of the album is completely of a unified stylistic concept. Various interplay between solos of electric and bass guitars, violins, and organ and passages of acoustic guitar, piano, and synthesizers, frequent changes of tempo and mood, complex time signatures, etc, are typical for all four of the first tracks on "Twenty Five Winters". Among them, only Dance of Light & Darkness (4) features the parts of hand percussion, apart from those of drums, and, in addition, contains two short episodes of the industrial-like character. Stylistically, the second half of the album is quite motley. I Laughed Aloud (5), consisting entirely of continuously developing interplay between very beautiful passages of piano and violin, is, of course, an instrumental piece of a pure Classical Music. The contents of the following instrumental, Zombeiroch-III (6), represent a blend of Classical Academic Music and Classic Prog-Metal (yes, yes) with elements of both of Classic Symphonic and Modern Art-Rock. To be more precise, this unique composition features the alternation of the arrangements that are clearly about Classical Music and those in the vein of a heavy Symphonic Progressive. This is the only track on the album that contains the parts of clavier and electric woodwinds. To be frank, here, I for the first time hear electric woodwinds, though 'these ears' find that they sound too realistic to be synthetic. Although there are no pauses between the parts of the last and the longest track on the album, Leaving, all four of them can be differentiated easily. The instrumental parts of the first of them represent Classical Music, while the vocally instrumental parts of it are definitely about Classic Symphonic Progressive with elements of Modern Art-Rock. A pure Classic Symphonic Art-Rock is present on the second part of Leaving. Quite a fast, aggressive and dark Prog-Metal dominates throughout the third part of it, which is entirely instrumental. Finally, the fourth part of this epic composition is a Classic Art-Rock ballad.

Summary. All the songs and instrumental pieces on the Hands jubilee album "Twenty Five Winters" (the band was formed in 1977) are amazing, so I can't select the best track among them, which is quite a rare case in my practice. However, this unique and, overall, very contrasting album, full of unexpected changes of styles, all of which are distinctly original, is also a rare case on a contemporary progressive scene. Highly recommended! And don't forget to click on a link below.

VM. October 8, 2002

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