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Hands - Hands CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.15 | 77 ratings

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Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This CD compiles a lot of material recorded by Hands in the late 70s. And what is Hands? It is one of the best kept secrets of USA's prog, and let me tell you that it is so unfair that they had to be so secret back in those days (other exceptional injustices that immediately come to my mind are the legendary Happy the Man and the still more obscure However, but now let's focus on this particular band). All tracks comprised in this CD are demos, but many of them really display a good sound quality, and that is particularly relevant for thsi band since the musicians involved were not shy about the use of a varied array of saxes, woodwind and keyboards in each and every track, together with the guitar, bass and drum kit, plus the violin/viola, which elaborates dialogues with the guitar, wind and keyboard alternatingly when not playing a good solo spot. Yes, Hands was as meticulous with the musical arrangements of their material as they were abundant as a line-up (6 or 7 members, depending on the era). Actually, Hands got a recording contract by the time they started recording these demos, but the final process never got to its fruition, and until the band's reunion in the late 90s, this "Hands" CD was the only item available for prog collectors everywhere. This band sure got influenced by their contemporary compatriots of HTM; other influences easy to notice are Gentle Giant, the melodic side of the Canterbury trend (Hatfield & the North, Caravan), the jazzy side of Zappa, PFM, "Songs from the Wood"-era Jethro Tull, Yes. You can even tell there are some Kansas hints for their rockier moments, especially the album's last two tracks. However, these guys were no dilettantes but serious performers/writers who managed to create their own prog voice through their unhidden influences. The instrumental arsenal they used and the controlled way in which the musician integrated their integral performances made their music sound very orchestral, which allowed them to enhance the symphonic side of their musical offer. 'Zombieroch' kicks off thsi album with an undeniable hook, yet bearign enough complexity as to fill the prog mold: mentally picture a mixture of "Free Hand"-era and first album-HTM and you can have a good notion of what this excellent instrumental is about. The same irresistible magic will be repeated in track 3 'Triangle of New Flight'. As a constrast, tracks 2, 4 and 5 step convincingly into the realms of serenity nd introspection, with 'Prelude No. 2' displaying a clear homage to Baroque and the other two tracks built on the melancholic side of jazzy prog (I find 'Mutineer's Panorama' breathtakingly beautiful, powerful despite its patent eerie softness). Later on, 'The Tiburon Treasure' brings another example of genius solemnity with its acoustic guitar-based bucolic aura. 'Mindgrind' is yet another HTM-related adventure albeit with an extra dose of energetic rock. The short tracks 'Greansoap' and 'I Want One of These' bring Celtic and madrigal moods, respectively, in a very polished fashion - pure finesse at writing and performing, this is what Hands is all about at the end of the day. The epic pieces are solid occasions for the band to show how skilled the individuals are and how well-oiled is the team they form: the sense of structure of symphonic prog and the dynamics of jazz-oriented art rock create a solid basis for the togetherness of the various motifs comprised in each epic. 'Dreamsearhc', 'Left Behind' and 'Anctartica' era really awesome, with the latter including some spacey nuances that providing a surprising variation for Hands' usual modus operandi. Since this album is a collection, the repertoire does not get to complety fulfill a sense of consistency, but it is definitely a masterful catalogue of excellent prog music. Hands is a band that should be included in any decent prog collection - the place to start is this particular album.
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |


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