This might just be the perfect Glass Hammer album for the uninitiated
www.glasshammer.com Sound Resources
12 tracks / 62:13
In many ways I feel like I’m hearing a new Glass Hammer on Dreaming City. Of course as I write those words they seem familiar to me, because Glass Hammer has been an ever-evolving band over the past three decades - and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by those who have been paying attention. In fact, the ability to change and adapt their sound is probably one of the reasons Glass Hammer has managed to sustain an impressive longevity. Unlike so many bands that have built a following based on the personality and charisma of individual band members, Glass Hammer has built a reputation largely on the songwriting of Steve Babb (bass guitar, Keyboards, lead and backing vocals) and Fred Schendel (Keyboards, guitars, backing vocals), upon whose skills these albums stand or fall. Dreaming City stands strong!
Dreaming City shows that Babb and Schendel have mastered their production and engineering as strongly as their songwriting skills - the album’s sound is rich and unified, not sounding like phoned in performances, but like a powerful and textured whole. The album’s first two tracks - the title track and “Cold Star” - pull the listener in immediately. The uncharacteristically heavy “Dreaming City” explodes out as a fast-paced head-banger and “Cold Star,” with its furiously proggy organ and terse guitar lines, stretches out into a complex epic piece with acoustic sections and delightfully intricate vocal interplay. Fans of the Neal Morse Band will smile and nod in appreciation...
Of course all of this fine music is tied to a story populated by introspective heroes, beautiful maidens and a sword, Terminus. You knew the sword would have a name, didn’t you? The album’s illustrated booklet provides a text and context to the songs’ lyrics, providing an aural suggestion of where you are in this movie for your ears. Two of the twelve tracks are instrumentals, adding an ethereal, somewhat electronic ambiance - a ‘selah’ for the modern listener.
Babb and Schendel are rock solid on their respective instruments (as expected), while ‘guest’ artists Reese Boyd (guitar and vocals), Joe Logan (lead vocals), John Beagley (lead and backing vocals), and Brian Brewer (guitars) help to create a really dynamic, solid wall of sound. Glass Hammer ‘regulars’ Aaron Raulston (drums) and Susie Bogdanowicz provide consistency and fine performances. Susie’s Lulu meets Olivia Newton-John vocal on the dreamy “October Ballad” is a delight and Raulston’s drumming on “The Tower” is smart, funky and jazzy.
In an interesting album full of highlights, the shimmering “This Lonely World” is a surprisingly pop-jazz piece with a good strong melody - ethereal but memorable! There’s a great full band sound on “The Key,” which features crisp bass playing, some powerful organ and solid drums - the track also boasts an excellent guitar solo by special guest artist James Byron Schoen and flute playing by Barry Serroff.
The eleven-and-a-half minute closer, “The Watchman on the Wall,” is a magnificent prog epic, with changing tempos and sound-textures, dramatic swells and chord changes, and a sufficiently angst-ridden lyrics. Swirling synths, furious keyboard runs and searing guitar breaks (check just past the seven minute mark) abound. “In the city of despair,” declares the song’s protagonist, “I’m the watchman on the wall.” Note to Babb and Morse: you guys might want to tell your characters to check with AAA before going into some of these cities....
The truth is, there’s so much story and good music on Dreaming City that you need to explore it yourself. It’s Glass Hammer delivering their own special brand of very literate prog and for those in the know, that’s enough. In many ways this might just be the perfect Glass Hammer album for the uninitiated. It’s very ear-friendly, mind stimulating music. Dreaming City can be enjoyed for the sound, and then you can dive in deeper.
Dream on, good listener, and enjoy!
4 1/2 tocks
- Bert Saraco You can see the concert photography of Bert Saraco at www.facebook.com/express.image