It’s hard to compile ‘best of’ collections for prog bands, but this is certainly an effective sampler of what Glass Hammer does best – somewhat mythological, semi-cosmic, intricate prog-rock performed live, for your eyes and ears...
Glass Hammer: Double Live
Artist: Glass Hammer www.glasshammer.com
Label: Arion Records / Sound Resources
2 Audio Discs / 1 DVD (live performance: 1 hour and 30 minutes) 7 tracks
A surprising number of live projects have come my way in the past month or so - most of them combined CD/DVD packages. The format seems well-suited to the progressive rock fanatics among us, so it's no surprise to see Glass Hammer delivering Glass Hammer – Double Live Deluxe Edition a three-disc spectacular (two audio discs and 1 DVD), featuring a potpourri of prog assembled from their past catalog and going right up to their current masterpiece, The Breaking of The World.
With the level of musicianship that Glass Hammer always maintains, there aren't many surprises, variations, or unexpected diversions - but what you do get is the energy of a live performance which, when done right, always brings a new freshness to the music you want to hear.
On this particular night, the band consisted of the dependable founding fathers, Steve Babb on bass guitar and Fred Schendel on various keyboards (and background vocals), along with Aaron Raulston on drums, Kamran Alan Shikoh on guitar, and Carl Groves and Susie Bogdanowicz handling the lead vocal parts.
As live video shoots go, Glass Hammer Live At RoSfest will satisfy those who want to simply watch the performance without the distractions of frantic editing, dazzling light effects, or hand-held stage wandering. The multi-camera production is clean and covers all of the important angles without getting too fancy or stylized. The sound recording is effective and fills a room nicely. In contrast with the recent impeccable Flying Colors live concert video, this is a more pedestrian affair - but that's hardly the point if you're interested in seeing a band perform their music, and that's really what it's all about, isn't it?
And play that funky prog, they do. Babb . Schendel , and Shikoh are impressively fluid and technically sound on their respective instruments while Raulston drums effectively, with more power than ornamentation. Shikoh's guitar work is singularly impressive and passionate, with the guitarist firing off articulate runs and covering all guitar basses with style and technical savvy. The returning Groves has the unenviable task of following in the vocal footsteps of Jon Davison (who himself had the combined blessing/curse of sounding uncannily like Yes member Jon Anderson), but seems to have a ball in the process, possessing an almost goofy persona at times (especially compared to the gravitas of the compositions). Bogdanowicz supplies an appealingly feminine aspect to this motley macho crew, lending her sure, confident tones to the arrangements and showing a strong yet subtle visual presence, obviously deep into the music.
Although it’s always a matter of individual taste, I enjoy the band’s more recent material better than the older work, and the newer, tighter band sound of late is well represented on “Nothing, Everything,” “Mythopoeia,” and “Third Floor,” while fans going back to Perelandra will rejoice at hearing “Time Marches On.” The massive, 26-minute performance of “The Knight of the North,” with its musical twists and turns, and lyrical puzzles, will have old school forest-proggers shivering with delight. Classic, but more recent Glass Hammer pieces like “So Close, So Far,” and “If The Stars” are performed with appropriate passion and properly cosmic exuberance. It’s hard to compile ‘best of’ collections for prog bands, but this is certainly an effective sampler of what Glass Hammer does best – somewhat mythological, semi-cosmic, intricate prog-rock performed live, for your eyes and ears. And somehow the bass manages to sound funky – go figure...