Life seems to be more beautiful than ever. My wife returned from the hairdresser with the haircut I like the most and Americaís leading progressive rock band Glass Hammer have released IF, an album that makes my heart beat faster. Some changes arenít always easy to understand. We have to accept that people sometimes do things in a different way. It happened to my wife and to one of the best progressive rock bands on this planet. But no matter what happened, you still love them very much since you canít live without them.
Of course, this review is not about my wifeís haircut, but about the stunning new release recorded by Glass Hammer. Since they released Culture Of Ascent, I felt they could do much better music wise. Its successor Three Cheers For The Broken Hearted was even further away from the beautiful music they wrote for masterpieces as Lex Rex, Shadowlands and The Inconsolable Secret. Gone were all the superb instrumental breaks with outstanding solos on synthesizers and electric guitar. No more Mellotrons, Hammond-organs and MiniMoogs that many progheads loved so much on the Glass Hammer- albums. I could no longer discover the musical connections with bands as Yes, Genesis, Kansas and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. However it happened before, that bands with a great reputation in progressive rock Ė like Earth & Fire, Marillion and Genesis Ė changed their musical style dramatically.
Fred Schendel (keyboards, steel guitar, mandolin, backing vocals) and Steve Babb (bass, keyboards, backing vocals), the founding members and the core of Glass Hammer, probably read the negative remarks about their latest releases. Very soon after the release of Three Cheers... they already stated to return to the musical style that suits them best: progressive rock with many epics on a solid musical base. The musicians kept word and with a brand-new line-up they returned to their previous sound. IF contains six tracks, almost seventy minutes of music. Again, we hear the Hammonds, Mellotrons and Moogs. Fans of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer can add this album to their collection without even listening to it. Especially fans of Yes-music from the seventies will enjoy this release. New singer Jon Davison has the same kind of high-pitched voice as Jon Anderson has. That also applies for the guitar and bass sound in the vein of Steve Howe and Chris Squire. You can also enjoy music performed on a Hammond-organ, so itís obvious to name Keith Emerson (ELP) as a reference. I already mentioned one of the two new band members, the other one is jazz-rock guitarist Alan Shikoh. We can enjoy his great musicianship throughout the album. This time the drum parts are performed by guest musician Randall Williams. What struck me most is that his style of playing better fits the music than Matt Mendiansí drumming on the latest releases.
I will not review the details of all tracks separately, because all songs have a very high quality level and are all delightful to listen to. I didnít hear any weak tracks at all. As far as Iím concerned the final piece If The Sun is the ultimate highlight of the album. Itís an epic with a total length of 24 minutes. It certainly belongs to one of the best pieces Glass Hammer ever wrote. Itís just one big adrenaline shot! During this roller coaster piece itís very difficult to sit still, because the band grabs you by the throat and will not let you go until the song has finished.
Americaís leading progressive rock band is back on track with another masterpiece. For me, IF certainly is the prog highlight of 2010! I wonder if any other album can beat this great piece of art, so only the highest score is suitable. Highly recommended to all people who enjoys the music of Yes, Genesis and ELP!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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