In 2005 The Inconsolable Secret was the eighth studio album by Glass Hammer. At the time I was one of the first reviewers across the globe who called Glass Hammer America's leading progressive rock band. After Lex Rex (2002) and Shadowlands (2004), I considered The Inconsolable Secret to be their third masterpiece in succession. Unfortunately the album was no longer available during a number of years. So, people who had discovered the band at a later stage couldn't buy this great double album.
Fred Schendel (keyboards, guitars, vocals) and Steve Babb (keyboards, bass guitar, vocals), the two core members of Glass Hammer, more or less admitted that the album didn't truly reflect what they had in mind when they worked on it. Therefore they decided to remix some parts of the album and add some overdubs. After this was done they re-released the original album with an additional disc that contained the remixed tracks.
With The Inconsolable Secret Glass Hammer created a concept album that might be compared to Tales From Topographic Oceans (1974) by Yes. This was a double concept album either on which Yes tried out some new things that were difficult to understand both for the public and the press. This can also be said about the second disc of this release. Glass Hammer successfully tried out something different that still can be regarded as 24-carat of progressive rock.
But let me first start with the concept of the album which is based on a wonderful epic poem written by Steve Babb called The Lay Of Lirazel. This poem was based on two paintings by John William Waterhouse called Lady Of Shallot and 'I Am Half Sick Of Shadows', Said The Lady Of Shallot. Babb was also inspired by the authors C.S. Lewis and Alfred Lord Tennyson, who were both influenced by the legend of this lady who fell in love with Lancelot and became a victim of a curse. In his own poem Babb replaced Camelot with a kingdom equally magical. In this poem he wondered why the lady was cursed and who cursed her, which became the inconsolable secret.
The music can be considered to be the ultimate soundtrack for the poem. The first disc is called The Knights and tells the story of the king and his knights, but it's also about the evil knight. The two extended tracks can be compared to the style that's already known to their fans. We hear a lot of stuff related to bands as Emerson Lake & Palmer, Yes and Kansas. For the first time on a studio album the talents of their live drummer Matt Mendians can be heard. It also features the lead vocals of Walter Moore and Susie Bogdanowicz.
The second disc is called The Lady and tells the tale of the king's daughter and the revenge of the knight of the North. The first two tracks continue where the previous disc ended, but the following pieces show another side of the band which partly could already be heard on The Middle Earth Album (2001) that featured elements of medieval, church and choir music. We hear full orchestrated parts which reminded me of some movie scores, but it also slightly goes in the direction of classical music. The short piece Mog Ruith brings back the other side of the band and contains traces of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The final track Having Caught A Glimpse features both sides and it ends a perfect album. At the time Glass Hammer proved that they were capable to record something different compared to their then latest album Shadowlands (2004). It even lifted the band to a higher level and in my opinion The Inconsolable Secret is another masterpiece that holds perfect artwork by Roger Dean. He did a fantastic job by creating an attractive cover painting, logo and lettering.
Now eight years later a third disc can be enjoyed as well featuring five remixed tracks from the original album with some overdubs. Four additional guest musicians make this third disc special. The band's lead singer Jon Davison did the lead vocals on Long And Long Ago and The Morning She Woke. This means that these songs sound even more like Yes, Davison's current band. Kamran Alan Shikoh, the present guitarist of Glass Hammer, added some electric and classical guitar to The Morning She Woke and The Knight Of The North. That also applies to Johnny Bruhns, who played the electric guitar on Long And Long Ago and for former Glass Hammer guitarist David Wallimann, who played the electric guitar on Having Caught A Glimpse. Furthermore Donna Curry played some beautiful flute parts on Long And Long Ago and Having Caught A Glimpse and finally two additional singers lent their services, namely Kelly Luther Stultz (alto choral vocals) and Josh Greene (baritone choral vocals).
It's difficult to say whether the remixes and the overdubs of these five original tracks led to a better sound than the original versions. Maybe they got better thanks to the above-mentioned guest musicians. But anyway, one thing's for sure: all these songs still sound awesome just like I heard them for the first time. This is mainly due to the fact that many old parts performed by Fred Schendel, Steve Babb, Walter Moore, Susie Bogdanowicz and Matt Mendians remained intact. With the addition of this third disc The Inconsolable Secret still remains a masterpiece as far as I'm concerned. Just like eight years ago it still deserves the highest possible rating of five stars.
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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