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STAINED GLASS STORIES

Cathedral

Symphonic Prog


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4 stars Very much worth seeking out: the playing on this is top-notch and the songs are great. The vocals often come in for criticism, but that's a little unfair: if you can take John Wetton's voice then this will pose no problem.

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Send comments to Silk (BETA) | Report this review (#14105)
Posted Saturday, February 07, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars Another one of these unearthed gems by the (then-) essential Syn Phonic label in the early 90's, this one is made by a fairly-forgotten US band called Cathedral, which shouldn't be confused by three other bands of the same name, including the British doom metal one. I'm not sure Vernon Joynson even mentions the band in his Fuzz on Borderline book, but their sole album might be out of his book's usual time frame. In either case, this quintet (classic prog quartet, plus a singer) made an interesting album, but, like many of these later-70's US "gems" (like Pentwater, Yezda, Mirthrandir and uch), Stained Gmlass Stories is a bit over-rated, because it doesn't bring anything new than their main early-70's British influences (Yes and Genesis in Cathedral's case) had done 6 to 8 years before.

Unlike some of the groups mentioned above, Cathedral leaned more on Genesis (and Yes to a lesser extent) for inspiration, but these influences are permeating too much their music for it to retain any kind of originality. Some passages of The Search seem to be almost straight out of Nursery Cryme or Foxtrot, and I can almost sing out the Seven Stones lyrics (some/lots progheads might consider that good, I'm not so affirmative), and in other songs, we're just changing albums. Don't get me wrong, if you're into early-70's UK soundscapes (and I do), you'll love theses Stained Glass pieces, but I want my different bands to sound like like themselves, not like their influences.

According to the pictures in the booklet, they at least played one big gig, if I judge by the stage they played on, but like Pentwater or Mirthrandir, this Ontarian dude had never heard of them until the (then-) essential Syn-Phonic label released it in the early 90's. While rather enjoyable per se, if you're not too demanding regarding the band's originality, I didn't hang on to the album, because it's non-essential in my book. But for most progheads, this is a good consolidating block of a 70's US prog section, just like the other groups I cited. But Cathedral is always preferable to the 80's UK neo-prog clones that would come a few years afterwards.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#14106)
Posted Tuesday, February 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Steve Hegede
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars CATHEDRAL is usually mentioned with other 70s American prog bands like YEZDA URFA and MIRTHRANDIR. Those three bands played symphonic-prog influenced mostly by YES and early GENESIS (although YEZDA URFA showed a strong GENTLE GIANT influence). And it had a profound influence on CATHEDRAL. The listener will instantly notice that CATHEDRAL were quite aggressive for a mid-seventies prog band, and the band wastes little time exploring action-packed sections in each track. The bass/drum interplay was one of the first things to catch my attention. Not only does the bassist and drummer lock into complex and aggressive grooves, but the drummer was also allowed to fill most of the tracks with additional percussive instruments. The guitarist is the next musician to stand out. Try to imagine Robert FRIPP as an American guitar player. The guitar-riffs are dissonant, yet have a twangy, Southern, sound to them. The keyboardist is also impressive. Along with the standard hammond organ, and assorted instruments, he uses a very unusual mellotron (maybe it was sick or something that day) which gives the album a unique sound. The two complaints that I tend to hear about this band includes that the vocalist was rather average, and that the band borrowed heavily from YES. Personally, I have no problems with the singer. Yes, he is the weakest member of the band and he strains through a few parts. But, especially if you're familiar with MIRTHRANDIR, after repeated plays your ears quickly get use to his style. It's also true that a few parts sound exactly like some parts from "Relayer" (especially the intro here). But, to be fair, the majority of album sounds original. Aside from a few riffs that remind me of some YES melodies, the majority of the themes here are unique. Anyway, this impressive album was carefully crafted from beginning to end, and it is a perfect introduction to the seventies American-prog scene.

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Send comments to Steve Hegede (BETA) | Report this review (#14107)
Posted Monday, March 22, 2004 | Review Permalink
lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars An important, great reference for bands such as ANGLAGARD or SHYLOCK, enriched with tasteful light dissonances and captivating passages in the vein of YES. The only defect regards the weak vocals, but the quality level of the whole composition is very good!! Recommended, even though it is not a masterpiece...

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#14108)
Posted Thursday, April 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
Proghead
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Not to be confused with any other band named CATHEDRAL, this New York-based prog rock band released this one and only album in 1978 then, of course, vanished. As far as I'm concerned, this is by far one of the best American prog bands ever. There's a reason for that: while many other American prog bands of the era seem watered down, like adding bar-band influences or AOR with their music, CATHEDRAL completely avoided that, and sounds very much like British prog rock. The music is absolutely loaded with Mellotron, with lots of Rickenbacker bass. And if any of this sounds a bit familiar, well, the music sounds a lot like highly acclaimed '90s Swedish prog band ÄNGLAGARD, except of course, the vocals are much more dominant (in ordinary English), and none of that Scadinavian/Nordic influences, obviously.

So basically their music is influenced by the same bands as ÄNGLAGARD: YES, GENESIS, KING CRIMSON. While I thought the last song drags on a bit, I feel "Stained Glass Stories" is the ultimate prog rock masterpiece, and if you like ÄNGLAGARD, or you want a Mellotron-heavy album, you can't go without this!

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Send comments to Proghead (BETA) | Report this review (#14109)
Posted Saturday, May 01, 2004 | Review Permalink
cocosan55@yah
4 stars

One of the best old prog bands from the US I've been listening ever. I was more than surprised to find some parts of the first song very similar to a song written by a romanian prog band (Phoenix) 5 years earlier! A coincidence, no doubt! Anyway, don't miss this album!

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#14110)
Posted Tuesday, May 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
progmonster
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars There is definitely a Yes touch on this one shot ; something circa "Tales from Topographic Oceans" and "Relayer" (not their best, but hey, they did really really worse). The warmth and a bit too baroque voice of Paul Seal sweeps away any other common points. Again, the general feel of the album ain't light and enchanting as Yes does, and if the musicianship is great, their melodic hooks worked fined with me ("Gong" and "The Search" are probably the ones i like the most). But come on ; there is no case of plagiarism. Anyway, it can't be worse that the whole Starcastle catalog...

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Send comments to progmonster (BETA) | Report this review (#14111)
Posted Tuesday, June 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
etully@earthl
5 stars The Cathedral LP is an absolute must for any true old school progressive rock fan. I think that comparisons to other bands such as Yes, Gentle Giant & King Crimson are unnecessary. Any artist who released an LP in the wake of these bands will ultimately be compared to them no matter what they do. The "Stained Glass Stories" LP should be critiqued on the music itself.

Without going into too much detail, each member of the band gets to shine (which is ultimately the most important thing in any band). Also, the LP is very diverse, which to me is what progressive rock is all about...drawing from a number of different musical styles (i.e. classical, folk, rock, etc...) performed by musicians who are very talented. I laud the liberal use of the mellotron (something I wish more modern prog bands would utilize) because it adds a real complement to these incredible pieces of music. Finally, I do not understand the criticism of the vocalist (Paul Seal). Has anyone heard Christian Vander from Magma? Roger Chapman of Family? I'm sure many would single them out for ridicule. I for one really like Seal's voice. It is very unique and fits the music as perhaps no other vocalist could.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#14112)
Posted Monday, August 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Edited 09/27/05!

This album is an absolute hidden gem and when I was listening to it the first time, I've got the impression as if YES and KING CRIMSON would have released a Mega-masterpiece together. On their one and only album US band CATHEDRAL is offering long and very intricate compositions with heavy demands, Mellotron tunes and odd guitar arpeggios that remind at KC and very dominating Rickenbacher-bass sound reminiscent of Chris Squire. Sometimes one can even recognise some very typical Steve Howe-riffs (like from CTTE or TFTO, without wanting to say that those were just rip-offs), especially in the song Days & Changes. But they were anything else than just another Yes-clone like STARCASTLE for example. Their sound was really very original and unique and overall there is no direct resemblance to any other band present. The weakest point of the album, if there is any at all, might be that they did not have a great vocalist like Peter Gabriel, John Wetton or Jon Anderson. It doesn't mean that Paul Seal's vocals are really bad, but as well not perfectly fitting to the music. If comparable at all his timbre is a bit similar to that of Wetton's but of course his voice does not have the same quality.

Already the opener Introspect is an excellent track with intricate guitar/bass riffing, mellotron sound and drumwork which is just mind-blowing. Fred Callen's bass playing is really awesome and guitarist Rudy Perrone sounds like a hybrid of Howe and Hackett. In Gong one can fully concentrate on the music without getting distracted by vocals. Really great melodies and intricate structure, and here it's revealing that they do sound different from YES, more direct and rocking in a way, not that much polished. Actually all the other tracks are really excellent as well. I could not tell which is the best one. They are all outstanding!

CONCLUSION

This album is an absolute ESSENTIAL and unique one and MUST HAVE in any prog collection! 4 1/2 stars because both musicianship and composition are excellent!

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#14114)
Posted Saturday, February 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Not to be mistaken by either the metal band or the 90's Neo prog act both with same name, this was an American original and one not to be missed. "Stained Glass Stories" unfortunately was their only release and to only have had one album released is pure criminal as this album is fantastic. CATHEDRAL blend fat bass riffs (aka Chris Squire) with some heavy mellotron use creating a progressive yet slightly aggressive sound reminiscent of a cross of ANGLAGARD, FIREBALLET, and YES. With lead vocals by a rather theatrically plain sounding Paul Seal (nothing bad.just sounds plain) the members surrounding manage to create a huge wall of delicate sounds. The album was re-released by Greg Walker in the 90's by Syn-Phonic and I must say that the sound quality is for me quite awesome in contrast with nice heavy Taurus bass pedal work and acoustic guitar separation. The album is loaded with both lush Mellotron sweeps and deep bass Rickenbacker work which makes this album rank for me as one of Unger's favourites from the 70's USA scene.

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#41064)
Posted Sunday, July 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
Progbear
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Like many one-shot American sympho-prog acts from the 70's, this one tends to be rather overrated. First of all, the vocals are quite awful, with the singer frequently reaching for notes well out of his rather thin range. The effect is pretty unbearable, but you can take solace in the fact that the long instrumental passages dominate. Second, this band share a problem with many other Ameri-prog bands in that they wear their influences on their sleeve. There are far too many blatantly copied Steve Howe riffs for me to take this album totally seriously.

Still, they were on to something. When they aren't trying their damnedest to sound like Yes, they can hit a vein of deep intensity that makes me wish they'd honed these songs a little more before recording an album. The keyboard sounds are strong and the dense percussion attack adds an air of intrigue to the sound.

So, not the classic you've been led to believe. Had they worked on the stronger elements of their sound, jettisoned the weaker, more derivative ones and ditched the awful singer, they could have eventually become a force to be reckoned with. As it is, we'll never know.

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Send comments to Progbear (BETA) | Report this review (#45330)
Posted Saturday, September 03, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Ah, Cathedral. This is the greatest of the "unknown, unheralded, etc." progressive rock bands from the United States in the 70's. Kansas, Hands and Happy the Man are very good progressive bands with some great albums but nothing like this. Mellotron, synths, organ, guitar and drums are all outstanding but the complex and unique rhythms that the bassist lay down are just mind blowing and extremely enjoyable. For any true seventies prog/rock fan (especially if you like Yes, King Crimson or Anglagard), this album is a MUST- HAVE! A true gem.

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Send comments to dalt99 (BETA) | Report this review (#54310)
Posted Tuesday, November 01, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Stained Glass Stories" should've gone down in history as one of the greatest symphonic prog records of all time. Unfortunately, due to some unfavorable constellation of the stars, it is considered merely a collector's item these days, but that doesn't detract one bit from it's majesty. Of course, no album is perfect, and "Stained Glass Stories" isn't an exception, so a number of flaws is present. influences here) The issue is the often-criticized vocalist, while he does have some ability, his main problem is that he repeatedly reaches for notes he's clearly not comfortable singing, with rather embarrassing results; his other weakness is that his vocal delivery is rather bland and lacking the emotion the music frequently requires . The other members of the band are more proficient: Tom Doncourt supplies plenty of interesting Mellotron, and guitarist Rudy Perrone, though occasionally a bit sloppy, provides tons of melodic hooks and intricate, dissonant guitar lines drawn from many styles; these are augmented by solid, confident bass playing and creative drumming. However, the group's true strength lies in the quality of the compositions, which present in equal amounts complex, inventive ideas and catchy melodies of the highest caliber. Thus , the aforementioned inconsistencies and occasional dull moments are more than made up for to establish this as a prog classic.

The first track, "Introspect" begins with a calm intro that lasts for about 45 seconds before exploding with outstanding guitar/Mellotron interplay that provides one of the album's best moments, although it's over rather quickly, replaced by a mellow but likeable vocal section, which after a while makes way for tribal-sounding drums and bass riffs; these in turn lead into further interplay with intricate arrangements and a somewhat ominous atmosphere. Unfortunately, the moody melodic part that follows the strange-sounding Mellotron interlude is ruined by the weak, inexpressive vocals , but the following sections make up for this shortcoming with more great ideas and playing. The first several minutes generally constitute the stronger part of the song, but it's as a great an opener as one could hope for.

Following "Introspect" is "Gong", an instrumental number and probably my favorite on the album, mainly because of the superb sinister section guided by Doncourt's ominous organ work that occurs in the early part of the track. But it has lots more to offer, from the sweet, mellow guitar riff that is repeated throughout to the great transition sections, and is a towering achievement of 70s prog.

"The Crossing" would have to be the weakest song on the album, although it's not bad at all. A choral arrangement opens the song, unfortunately followed by an annoying funky section; it's redeemed, once again, by the tasteful guitars and keyboards, just not to the point where it can compete with the rest of "Stained Glass Stories".

The album gets back on track with "Days and Changes", although it too starts in a somewhat disheartening fashion as the singer decides to open the track unaccompanied. Perhaps I'm too harsh on the guy - after all, he does have a fine voice and could've been a capable singer had he taken some proper vocal training; unfortunately, it appears that he hadn't , and the results aren't satisfying. But soon the music takes over with a mighty guitar riff , once again displaying the bands ability to pull outstanding ideas out the ass. The song continues meandering through various impressive parts, ranging from Yes-like melodies to jazz guitar interludes, and is another majestic prog number.

Finally, we have "The Search" , an epic track that certainly doesn't disappoint . It begins with Perrone bouncing tasty guitar fills off Doncourt's Mellotron, following which is a great verse section (I love how the tonality changes from light and optimistic to unexpectedly ominous ). From there we are treated to more great prog rock music, full of interesting, intricate ideas and great instrumentation, making the song a fine way to end a fantastic album.

To sum things up, I repeat that while the "Stained Glass Stories" does have it's shortcomings, it easily surpasses the vast majority of what most consider to be classics of prog rock. It's a shame that these guys threw in the towel so early - I'm quite sure they had the potential for at least one more classic prog masterpiece.

4.5

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Send comments to Pafnutij (BETA) | Report this review (#60567)
Posted Saturday, December 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
arcer
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Cathedral come in for a lot of praise as one of the great lost prog acts of American prog. And as is so often the case with obscure albums that slip off the radar and are rediscovered, it suffers from an over-rating that rarity often confers. The playing is solid, the music tasteful and clever but the vocals, oh dear, oh dear, the vocals. Singer Paul Seal sounds like he's juggling marbles in his choirboy little voice. He sounds like a pub-contralto. His voice is hideous: pompous, mannered and lacking any real ability or grasp of melody. Around him the musicians are pushing themselves hard and the intro section of the 12-minute 'Instrospect' is great, as is the mid-section where the rhythm section are in top form, setting up a whirling dervish percussion and bass segment, washed over by some lovely mellotron and guitar. But as soon you're once again coming round to the idea of Cathedral as lost heroes of the American prog scene, the Seal wades back in with his cod-operatic voice, ruining a perfectly good sequence. You get some real respite with the second track 'Gong' a great 7 minute instrumental, the band wisely deciding to kick Seal to touch on this, which is the album's standout track. It is a shame. If they'd ditched Seal and recorded an instrumental album, or ditched him for someone of talent, it would genuinely be a lost classic. As it is 'Stained Glass Stories' is merely an interesting curio. Instrumentally extremely interesting but utterly undermined by the horrible vocals. There was a reason why Cathedral recorded a single album and his name, I fear, was Paul Seal.

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Send comments to arcer (BETA) | Report this review (#64855)
Posted Sunday, January 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
chopper
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Considering this was recorded in 1978, it sounds like it was recorded a few years earlier, mainly due to the murky production. To my ears, this is a mixture of Trespass- era Genesis, early Yes, Anglagard and the odd bit of Gentle Giant. It features some nice Squire-type bass playing and the wonderfully named Mercury Caronia IV is an excellent drummer/percussionist.

The guitarist and keyboard player contribute some typical prog flourishes and there are some excellent instrumental passages here.

However, a few things let this album down and prevent it being the prog masterpiece it could have been. Apart from the production, the somewhat mannered vocals of Paul Seal are annoying at times, the keyboards wobble occasionally and there is a general lack of memorable melodies.

Overall, this is an interesting example of 1970s US prog but I don't see it as the lost classic that some do.

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Send comments to chopper (BETA) | Report this review (#70198)
Posted Wednesday, February 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Yet another candidate in the "great lost American prog album" competition, Stained Glass Stories has always held a lot of interest for me, in part because of its title. In 2001, before I had even heard of this band, I was pushing for my group's album to be called Stained Glass and Other Stories (Stained Glass is the title of the second track of the Samarkand work that eventually emerged as Spinning In Infinity), and thus as soon as I saw this titled, I was filled with the need to know what it sounded like.

As anyone who's given the US symphonic scene of the 70s more than a passing glance will tell you, there were a fair number of avenues to explore beyond your essential classic Kansas quintet (the first 5 albums) and Todd Rungren's Utopia releases. Aside from the excellent Pavlov's Dog, the relatively disappointing trio of Happy The Man, Ambrosia, Catch The Sky, there's also a host of lesser-known bands like Arabesque, Lift, Mithrandir and Babylon (not all of which I've heard myself) and I'll bet a couple of hundred besides. As with contemporaries Starcastle and Yezda Urfa, the influence of classic early 70s UK prog is pretty audible in some of Cathedral's music (I'll bet bassist Fred Callan was a huge Chris Squire fan and guitarist Rudy Perrone liked his Hackett and Howe), although thankfully like the latter, Cathedral does have enough of an identity to hold one's interest.

Unfortunately, one of the first things that will hit you about Cathedral are the overbearing, yet somewhat weak lead vocals of singer Paul Seal who attempts to inject a lot of personality into his various narrative tales, but comes up short because of his technical failings. Thankfully no individual song is ruined by this, certainly not the opening epic Introspect which blends Yes-style prog-fury, a brief drum solo from Mercury Caronia, and a great of colouring from keyboardist Tom Doncourt and guitarist Rudy Perrone, who also gives this piece its cute little closing passage.

It's probably telling that I think the instrumental Gong is the ultimate high-point of a strong album. It moves from an energetic beginning to a sublime section defined by fantastic acoustic guitar work from Perrone, lovely vibes and swirling keyboards. The instrumental skill demonstrated during the "stacatto" guitar mid-section is also very impressive, with loads of enticing effects, and there's then a mammoth solo from Perrone riding some great playing from bassist Fred Callan and drummer Mercury Caronia. Great stuff.

The Crossing has a nice Gregorian opening, before Seal leads his troupe on a merry dance in which the exchanges between Perrone and Doncourt once again catch the ear. Days & Changes daringly opens with a Seal acapella before a beautiful Perrone figure leads the band into a sensational flowing riff in which the intiative seems to pass from one instrument to the next. The evolution of the piece is enjoyable as a number of moods are brought to the table including some fusion from Perrone and segments that sound like outtakes from first The Yes Album. The concuding epic The Search wastes the momentum of a superb symphonic intro, with a painful Seal vocal passage ... the delicious playing of the band does go some way towards regaining lost ground, but it is a pity for both band and listener, that this was ever an issue.

I don't know if Stained Glass Stories is the most essential of little known albums, even on the relatively sparse US scene (sparse in terms of profile and availibility of such records). I would recommend seeking out Pavlov's Dog (Pampered Menial) and Yezda Urfa (Sacred Baboon) first, while Arabesque's Tales Of Power is just marginally less compelling. I can however, confidently assert that you are unlikely to be disappointed by this album. ... 66% on the MPV scale

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#75529)
Posted Wednesday, April 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I'm a bit surprised to see so many 4 and 5 star reviews for this obscure US prog band's only album. Some compare them to YES and GENESIS with a smidgen of GENTLE GIANT. Well I can see the YES comparison with Callan's Squire-like sounding bass, although if you ask me he apes Gary Strater's bass sound from STARCASTLE. GENESIS?, hardly and I'll stand by that! GENTLE GIANT?, hardly x2! What you get here is more of the late-in-the-game prog that US bands put out that tried like the dickens to be the next big YES band, just like STARCASTLE, MIRTHRANDIR and the like. Right from the start, it's a mish-mosh of sounds with no kind of melody or theme and to make matters worse, Paul Sear trys extremely hard to sound serious, but his voice is terrible, (sorry Paul...). "Gong" is an instrumental and the best song on the album. I guess "The Crossing" is where people believe they have a GENTLE GIANT sound, but just because it has a somewhat medival flair, it's gotta be GENTLE GIANT-like. Sorry, Not even close. It's too straight forward to be compared to them. The last song to these ears has the best vocals and it's the only song to have a melody theme pop up more than once. It's actually quite catchy, but still not as classy as a first or second tier prog band. I must admit, they try really hard to be as complicated and proggy as can be, but when there's no memorable melodies, atrocious singing, and cookie-cutter playing it's just not that good. Buy only if you must have every obscure US prog album from the 70's.

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Send comments to NJprogfan (BETA) | Report this review (#130262)
Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
bhikkhu
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Team
5 stars It has been called the greatest American prog album of all time. If artists from the U.S. had abandoned any illusions of ever doing prog again back in the "70's, "Stained Glass Stories" may very well deserve that title. As it is, there is a newer crop of albums to give this opus a run for its money. One of them just happens to be CATHEDRAL's long awaited follow up (but I will get to that in another review).

Whether it is the best, or not, is really beside the point. The fact is that this is one heck of a great album. It was recorded in 1978, but you won't hear any of the changing tastes creeping in. These guys took their cues from the revered classics. You can hear the obvious influences of Yes, Genesis, and especially King Crimson (mostly Wetton era). There is just a touch of Gentle Giant sensibility, and surprisingly a complete snub of anything ELP (except the Greg Lake connection with Crimson). With these influences worn proudly on their sleeves, CATHEDRAL still manages to sound original. This is due to expert musicianship, and some of the best composing to be found in the pantheon of prog.

"Introspect" leads off the album, and is a classic prog fan's wet dream. A mellow ethereal beginning, straining guitars accompanied by bass work that would make Chris Squire do a double take, changing tempos and moods, and even a bit of acoustic, work to fill it out. This would be enough, and even worth the price of the disc, but there is more.

Many times when albums have such grand beginnings, the following tracks can be a bit of a let down. This is not the case here. "Gong," "The Crossing," and "Days and Changes" all deliver on their own. They offer different moods, styles, and don't hold back one bit on the virtuosity and creativity lain down from the start. It comes full circle with "The Search." The piece harkens back to the themes of "Introspect," (actually it could have been named "Introspect II) and creates the perfect closer to an already beautiful prog experience.

It's too bad that CATHEDRAL only came into being as the music industry was losing interest in this type of thing. We can be thankful that they were able to give us this gem. Luckily, the book is not closed, and a new chapter is now being written.

So, I guess you can tell I like this album a bit. What more can I say? Go get it. You want it. You may not know it yet, but you do. It is a masterpiece.

H.T. Riekels

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Send comments to bhikkhu (BETA) | Report this review (#150629)
Posted Wednesday, November 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Cathedral play good and challenging prog rock. They are clearly inspired by RED era King Crimson and Yes. I also hear small bits inspired by Genesis. This might not be the most original concept, but Cathedral carry the concept out with splendiour. In fact I think this is an excellent addition to your prog rock collection. It shouldn´t sound like Cathedral are a total clone of the aforementioned bands. They got their own style and they are pretty creative.

Cathedral are not to be mistaken for the english Heavy Metal band with the same name. The english band who are fronted by the former Napalm Death singer Lee Dorian. This band have also made some albums which should be worthy of inclusion in the prog archives, namely: Forest of Equilibrium, The Ethereal Mirror and expecially the long EP ( more than 40 minutes) Statik Majik.

Well the two bands have nothing in common except for the name, but they are both worth noticing.

The lead singer Paul Seal reminds me of Wetton, but I think he is a bit better and a little more strange in his performance. The musicians are flawless and clearly above the average. The sound quality is not so good, but it doesn´t ruin your listening experience. I have to mention the beautiful mellotron which is omnipresent throughout the album.

All in all this is a good album and definitely above average. 4 stars from me but I guess this is an aquired taste and that some might say this is average stuff. I think they got that little extra though that is required if you are to be noticed in the prog scene.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#157697)
Posted Saturday, January 05, 2008 | Review Permalink
Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A classic piece of Ameriprog at its cheesy, imitative best, Cathedral's 'Stained Glass Stories' is one of the Syn-Phonic label's resurrections and is among a few truly must-haves of the small but inspired handful of stateside bands that simply couldn't contain their enthusiasm for British and European prog. Bassist Fred Callan does a great Chris Squire, and Tom Doncourt's utterly ancient coffee-can mellotron is something to behold. Paul Seal is fine as lead singer sporting Greg Lake moaning and Derek Shulman-style overexertions, and Rudy Perrone's careful, tasteful accents of electric and acoustic guitar prove him to be an under-appreciated player. 'Introspect' starts with messy tinkering but opens out into twelve minutes of transcendently good symphonic rock, expansive, alternately powerful and delicate, finally exploding at the end with an enormous jam. Not really like any of the acts to which they're compared, more akin to some spontaneously arranged session with the best musicians that cutting-edge rock had to offer, all recorded by an unsuspecting tech trying to keep up with the unfolding creations. Or as if Squire, Howe, Dave Greenslade and Jon Hiseman met one night for some fun in the studio. 'Gong' is just as good, the contrived medieval flair of 'The Crossing' reveals a very good tune under the mud, 'Days & Changes' is a tad scattered and draggy, and very nice storybook atmosphere in 'The Search'.

Is this stuff derivative? You bet. Does the recording leave much to be desired? Oh yeah. Does it deserve its 'lost gem' status? In a big way.

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Send comments to Atavachron (BETA) | Report this review (#171844)
Posted Wednesday, May 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars An album with a mythological status.

.......And rightly so. It is difficult to get hold of this album/CD. When purchased, the music is difficult to fathom. It took me five times to get it. This is not easy listening.

The opening track Introspect starts as a YES clone with some strong hints towards GENTLE GIANT. Which sums up the rest of the songs too. There is a hint of KANSAS, GENESIS and STARCASTLE too. Starcastle is the US copycats of YES and that includes them in the reference sources. The opening track Introspect is both long and very good. The second track Gong has a lot of references to KANSAS. In particular, the guitars. This is a very good track. The third track The Crossing has some good vocals and almost a psalm feeling in the beginning. The song picks up and is becoming a good song with strong leanings towards GENTLE GIANT. The guitars are again superb. The fourth song Days & Changes starts with GENTLE GIANT vocals and continues like a YES song. It is epic and captivating. It is also a very good song. The final song The Search is long and epic with some strings included. It is a superb song.

I am comparing this album and Cathedral to a lot of bands. But I would not brand Cathedral a clone or copycat. This band has taken a lot of influences, most of them mentioned here, and created their own sound and style. Yes, it is pretty close to GENTLE GIANT, KANSAS and YES. But it is also very unique. The five songs on this album all stands out with their unique identity. The song structures is epic and symphonic. There is a lot of things happens in every song.

This album has got me captured. It is an album which I guess will brighten up my life in the years to come. I guess fans of symphonic prog will like this album as much as I do. I need to get the new album if it is as good as this one.

4 stars and a deserved mythological status.

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#188542)
Posted Sunday, November 09, 2008 | Review Permalink
debrewguy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After ripping the Bridge, I thought it just fair that I come back with an appreciation of their debut, so as to balance things out.

And that is sincerely what I mean - this release is something that I appreciate. That I love actually. Yes, it is derivative. Of Yes and more than a few other prog gods that came before Cathedral.

First, the angular and sometimes jarring shifts that I find in the Bridge are here. They just don't seem forced. For example - Introspect - imagine if Chris Squire was bassist for Gentle Giant. I hear bits of Genesis' Get them out by Fiday, some of Yes' Heart of the Sunrise, and some vocal melodies from Gentle Giant's A Cry for Everyone. Nice mix.

Gong covers much of the same sonic ground. Yes, I've heard all good people play this sort of music before. Yes, the mellotron Choir playing is here too. But unlike the Bridge, those mellotron bits seem to fit. Not just take up space in the song, or seems like needless attempts to fil out the sound. Imagine Genesis playing Gentle Giant.

The Crossing, sounds like Gentle Giant, with a Yes' Close to the Edge Steve Howe backing. Gentle Giant playing the main Close to the Edge melody ?

Days & Changes - By this point of the album, I've formed this general impression of the music herein - Gentle Giant & Genesis got together and re-wrote Close to the Edge. And it comes out very good. At times I swear I'd believe you if you were to tell me that it was Squire, Howe , and Wakeman playing together as sidemen for this project, with the music written by the the G & GG braintrust.

The Search brings about the same sentiments.

I wish I could describe the music enough to allow you, the listener, to determine whether a group & an album this derivative is worth your time. The best I can do is the aforementioned Yes / Gentle Giant / Genesis references, with the Genesis aspect being in their heavier moments. IF you can get past the where did I hear this before, you should find some enjoyable and quite typical for its' time (the 70s) symphonic prog. And for those who can, this earns a 4. Those who would cast it as a rehash, will see it as barely a three.

I'm in the first group !

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Send comments to debrewguy (BETA) | Report this review (#201543)
Posted Tuesday, February 03, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars Yes and Yezda Urfa are perhaps the closest reference points, but Cathedral have their own character and it's too bad they have been forgotten in time. If they would have stayed together, and kept writing, they may eventually have became a great band.

'Introspect' moves through many different moods and is quite epic in scope. By far this is best song on the album. Many of the heavier passages feel similar to Yes (think Gates of Delirium) especially in the excellent Rickenbacker bass lines. To my ears the vocalist sounds like an American version of Derek Shulman (Gentle Giant).

The opening section of 'Gong' is more experimental with quite complex timing shifts that remind somewhat of Gentle Giant. Wonderful acoustic guitars enter backed by mellotron and cymbal crescendos that lead into the best past of the song: another bass-heavy section of Squire-esque playing followed by a Genesis-like guitar solo sections played over excellent Moog Taurus bass pedals... quite an impressive sound, but the song wanders a bit and never seems to find it's destination.

Those first two songs are the apex of the album and the rest are not quite as good and are marred by less-than-spectacular vocals in places. The album has a good sound on the surface, and they use all the right ingredients, but the songwriting is not as deep or as accomplished as some other American Symphonic Prog bands such as Yezda Urfa and Fireballet. I can only give this record a 2.5 rating.

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Send comments to AdamHearst (BETA) | Report this review (#201991)
Posted Saturday, February 07, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Owl
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I actually enjoyed this album the more I heard it. True, they do have VERY obvious influences, the lighter joyous shades of Yes (and the insistent Chris Squire influenced Rickenbacker bass and Steve Howe-esque guitar), the dark intensity of King Crimson and some of the relentless complexity of Gentle Giant. The vocals, while not my favorite feature are still oddly charming, Paul Seal's tone and inflections laying somewhere between John Wetton or a lower key Derek Shulman.

However, the pros usually outweigh the cons here, compositions like Introspect and Gong pack quite a punch, between relentless time and meter changes that actually flow together, eerie Mellotron and organ passages and enough textural shifts to keep you on the edge of your seat. Can't say I'm that nuts about the lyrics (or most prog lyrics in general) but Paul Seal sings with conviction and earnestness. The odd percussion sections are actually pretty cool and engaging.

I wouldn't quite call it a masterpiece but it sure aimed high and tried its darndest. Enough that later bands like Anglagard studied listened and nicked a few ideas from it.

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Send comments to The Owl (BETA) | Report this review (#202564)
Posted Thursday, February 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I didn't see this one coming. I would rank this album and YEZDA URFA's "Boris" as the two best American seventies prog albums I have ever heard after BABYLON and POLYPHONY's releases. There's no doubt both bands were greatly influenced by the giants of Prog from the UK. YEZDA URFA mostly by GENTLE GIANT and CATHEDRAL mostly by YES. You gotta love that fat Rickenbacker bass on this album along with the majestic mellotron that flows freely throughout. A very Howe sounding guitar here as well. I just wasn't expecting this album to be so good. Also I was surprisingly reminded of ANGLAGARD and WOBBLER at times. Of course this pre-dates those two bands.

"Introspect" opens in a pastoral way with mellotron. It kicks in before a minute. Nice chunky bass here. It settles with mellotron as reserved vocals join in.This really reminds me of YES. Drums take over after 3 1/2 minutes then bass and guitar join in. Great sound ! The bass is huge here. Organ 6 minutes in then it settles with reserved vocals again. Amazing instrumental section starting around 8 1/2 minutes.The bass is earth-shaking. Mellotron comes and goes. Another killer section 10 minutes in. "Gong" is the only instrumental on here. Outbursts of sound come and go until it stays. It settles after 2 minutes. Mellotron follows. It kicks back in before 3 minutes. Organ and bass lead a minute later then it's the guitar and mellotron's turn. Nice.

"The Crossing" opens with vocal melodies then vocals, bass and that Howe-like guitar take over. Mellotron 2 1/2 minutes in as the bass digs deep and the guitar plays over top. Vocals are back and i'm thinking WOBBLER here. A river of mellotron follows. "Days & Changes" opens with vocals only before it kicks in after a minute. Fat bass and Howe-like guitar with mellotron leads the way. It turns kind of spacey until it kicks back in before 4 minutes. A mellotron feast 5 1/2 minutes in. The mood then brightens followed by more mellotron. "The Search" sounds so majestic to open. Vocals before 2 minutes as it settles. Mellotron too. The tempo picks up but it continues to shift. Lots of mellotron on this one.

A must have for Symphonic Prog fans out there.This won't disappoint.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#264115)
Posted Wednesday, February 03, 2010 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
5 stars Probably the best Symphonic album released in USA

Around 1978 Progressive Rock was suffering their first crisis and the iconic British bands were leaning more and more towards AOR and later POP, but in USA an obscure band named CATHEDRAL, dared to release one of the most elaborate Symphonic albums I ever heard.

"Stained Glass Stories" ´resents us a complex blending of YES and KING CRIMSON styles, as if somebody was blending "Relayer" with "Lark's Tongues in Aspic", in a style that sounds almost as ANGLAGARD would do 15 years later.

Even when Tom Doncourt does a great work with the keyboards and the rhythm section formed by the drummer Mercury Caronia IV and Fred Callan in the bass works as a perfectly oiled machine, the star of the band is Rudy Perrone, who manages to combine the radically different styles of Steve Howe and King Crimson, to create a unique and incredibly strong sound very hard to imitate.

But a review wouldn't be complete without mentioning the peculiar vocals by Paul Seal, who creates dissonances in the vein of Derek Schulman but much more controlled and respectful of the melody, simply an excellent band without a weak spot.

The album starts with "Introspect", a 12 minutes epic that after a short and melodic intro, changes radically into some sort of "wall of sound" where the constant and aggressive keyboards collision with the different moods that the guitar keeps adding, the multiple changes are absolutely radical and shocks the listener with some sort of "Relayer" meets "Lark's Tongues in Aspic " with vocals from "In a Glass House" pure Progressive Rock at it's best.

"Gong" is even more adventurous than the opener,. this time they jump from acoustic to electric guitar with incredible skills, and the Mellotron adds a bit of GENESIS atmosphere, but with a much more elaborate and complex structure.

"The Crossing" is the shorter and the closer CATHEDRAL gets to GENTLE GIANT, with an incredibly crafted vocal work that creates a "troubadouresque" atmosphere only broken by the lush keyboards and the aggressive guitars.

The last two tracks "Days & Changes" and "The Search" privilege the melody over the extreme complexity of the first three songs, but still the sound is absolutely unique and adventurous.

Surprisingly, this excellent band almost vanished in the thin air, and it's only after 29 years that we would see a second album in the stores, just when nobody expected it.

As rarely happens, I have no problem with the rating, because if a band releases a brilliant album, with a unique sound and not a single weak moment, I don't have any other alternative than go for the 5 stars.

I recommend "Stained Glass Stories" without hesitation.

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Send comments to Ivan_Melgar_M (BETA) | Report this review (#271731)
Posted Saturday, March 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Wow! this New York based american band had only one album recorded and disappeared not long after... but what an album! Stained Glass Stories is a fantastic symphonic prog CD that any 70´s prog lover will love to have! You´ll find here very strong songs, terrific musicanship, tasteful arrangements and powerful perfomances. Even the production is above average. A pity it was released in 1978... if it was out some 3 or 4 years before they would probably have gotten much more atention and maybe they´d have a longer career.

Their main influences are easily identified: Gentle Giant, Yes, early Genesis and King Crimson. The singers´s voice reminds me a lot of that of GG´s Derek Shulman (and so are much of the instrumental bits), while the bass playing is very Chris Squire-ish and the several mellotron drenched parts are a mix of King Crimson and Genesis styles. And yet they did have a personal touch on them all. Which indicates that their demise was a big loss for everyone, since this album promised so much. There are no fillers and their playing shows a highly skilled and confident group that really knew where they were aiming at.

A highly enjoyable CD that deserves to be jeard by any prog lover. A real musical gem lost in time that I´m grateful to have found. Rating: between 4 and 4.5 stars. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#276687)
Posted Wednesday, April 07, 2010 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
3 stars One of the finest examples of late-70's US Prog by a band,who got lost for over thirty years before returning in the 00's with a new album.CATHEDRAL's roots can be found on the psych rock outfit Odyssey,with whom bassist Fred Callan and keyboardist Tom Doncourt recorded two albums.The band split up in mid-70's,just when they were moving onto a more progressive sound,but Callan and Doncourt continued with CATHEDRAL,what they left unfinished with Odyssey.''Stained glass stories'' was published in 1978 and got a CD re-issue in 1989 on Syn-Phonic.

STYLE: The album falls fairly in the Symphonic Prog genre but I wouldn't recommend it to initiators of progressive rock.''Stained glass stories'' ranks among the most adventuruous and complex albums of late-70's classic prog with ever-changing moods and sudden breaks all the way and a battle among strong complicated moments and quieter acoustic passages loaded with keyboards.One reason for its complexity is Callan's bass work,which is trully unbelievable.Vocals,delivered by Paul Seal,are quite decent having an expressive theatrical approach.A very good guitarist ,named Rudy Perrone ,is responsible for the melodic touches of the music.Organ and especially mellotron sound pretty good and 45 minutes of music split in 5 tracks can only guarantee a unique sounding rock experience.

INFLUENCES/SOUNDS LIKE: Often a copy of YES,CATHEDRAL are after the traces of their heroes in their complicated phase.Compatriots ETHOS and YEZDA URFA are good reference points as well.

PLUS: It's not often that I speak for a bassist but this time Fred Callan is the man to notice in this album.One of the greatest bassist I have ever heard,who torments its Rickenbacker bass.Those after complex Symphonic Prog will find a certain long-time stop here,as ''Stained glass stories'' is one of the finest LP's of the style.Acoustic passages are also top notch,a great combination of acoustic guitar covered with symphonic keys and great bass.Speaking of keys,mellotron is used as often as it should be,creating a grandiose and haunting atmosphere.

MINUS: Not that original music with 1972-1974 period YES coming in mind every now and then,with Perrone sounding a lot like STEVE HOWE.Complexity is a good thing but the guys overdo it at moments with endless breaks and the whole thing doesn't work always succesful (at least to my ears).Vocal work is good,but it's not always succesfully connected with the music.

WILL APPEAL TO: Already written: complex Classic/Symph Prog fans and especially YES followers...but this album is a good example why progressive rock is not simply yet another rock path.

CONCLUSION/RATING: I really enjoyed this album,though it is hard to follow it at some points.I have listened to it over 20 times,yet I always discover something I skipped before. The final feeling is somewhat mixed: Difficult music,excellent musicians,nice atmosphere but with often a questionable result.3.5 stars is my final taste translated into numbers.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#290940)
Posted Sunday, July 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
3 stars About a year ago I posted my first review on PA. Reason enough to crawl out of my summer hide-out for a couple of reviews. But contrary to my cheerful nature I won't take the occasion to applaud a series of masterpieces. Instead I decided to make a real nuisance of myself by selecting a couple of popular PA titles that I either find inferior or that I can't bear to listen to.

Cathedral hails from US and has nothing ado with the UK band of the same name that spread doom and gloom over the UK back in the 90ties. This Cathedral is a Prog outfit clinging on strongly to a sound that sits somewhere between Foxtrot and The Yes Album, with prominent bass guitar, dynamic drumming, big organ and mellotron waves and frantic lead guitars. Their vintage sound must sure have inspired bands such as Anglagard, Sinkadus and more recently Wobbler.

The compositions are promising, inspired and natural. But there's a but. The recording can sound a bit amateurish at times, especially when vocalist Paul Seal chooses to disgrace the nice musical flow with his grating vocals, trying to add some Gentle Giant cleverness to the stew but resulting in a sloppy, strained and over affected performance that is melodically very poor and often almost out of key. He is the unfortunate weak link that diminishes the possible excellence of this album to plain average.

Stained Glass Stories delivers the kind of Prog we want to hear, but your listening pleasure will largely depend on your success in tuning out the vocals. Even if the album is mostly instrumental, I can't. The music is worth 4 solid stars, the vocals about 0.5.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#297120)
Posted Thursday, September 02, 2010 | Review Permalink
stefro
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Although bracketed under the symphonic sub-genre banner, little-known American outfit Cathedral are in actual fact much more Van Der Graaf Generator or Emerson, Lake & Palmer than say Genesis or Yes, though in truth their sound probably falls somewhere in between. Released in 1978, 'Stained Glass Stories' treads a curious path, with a sound characterized by oddly-calibrated guitar riffs, thick, galloping basses and a plethora of keyboards - moogs, synths, mellotrons and electric pianos all appear - which tend to dominate the group's sound. To put it mildly, we are slap bang in the middle of unashamedly full-blown prog-rock territory here, with the emphasis firmly on the progressive, the Cathedral sound edged with a serious and occasionally-mournful art-rock veneer which eschews the playful melodies and emotive streaks found in the very best of the genre whilst simultaneously eroding any 'rock' ingredients, making for a sound that juxtaposes soft, classically-tinged sections with harsh, dissonant passages. It's not an altogether pleasant listen, the group's over-emphatic approach and multiple use of different instruments producing a strangely cluttered effect, whilst the addition of lead-singer and percussionist Paul Seal's odd vocals seems excessively, almost deliberately, off-key. Whilst there's no denying the actual musical abilities of the five Cathedral members - Seal is augmented by Fred Callan(bass), Tom Doncourt(keyboards), Rudy Perrone(guitars) and the strangely-named Mercury Caronia(drums) - the group's overall sound remains condescendingly over-emphatic and simply far too busy for it's own good. This is best summed up in the two longest pieces which bookend the album, with both the ever-shifting 'Introspect' and the final, eleven-minute-plus 'The Opening' overcooked to the point of tedium. A complex, cold and fussy album that borrows heavily from a number of superior British groups, in thend 'Stained Glass Stories' ultimately suffers from a complete lack of emotion, rendering much it's skilfully-played content strangely empty.

STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012

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Send comments to stefro (BETA) | Report this review (#643425)
Posted Thursday, March 01, 2012 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 3.5 really

Cathedral, this cult band from USA with thier legendary debute album Stained glass stories from 1978. This album is considered one of the best progressive rock albums USA ever offered with a considerable amount copies sold in that period, around 12.000 copies printed and sold , when prog was in decline on every corner of the globe. Well, I see this album a good one towards great but not a masterpieces as many pretend to be, second, this is slightly symphonic prog to my ears, this is almost zeuhl in parts with blistering very in front bass lines and even jazzier moments appear here and there. This album is quite complex, I mean the bass lines of Fred Callan are really impressive and chalenging, it can be considered a real zeuhl bass player. Another thing the vocal parts are very Gentle Giant like, quite dissonant passages, not bad at all but nothing special either. Now the music besides this zheul/jazzier falavour, it has a certyain Yes feel to it, in guitar department, Rudy Perrone has a guitar tone very similar with Steve Howe one around Relayer, Going for the one era, also some similarities with another american prog band Starcastle, here and there aswell. Only 5 pieces with opener and ending track clocking around 11-12 min are to me the most promissing effort of the band. Complicated, twisted prog rock with very tight musicianship and some excellent instrumental sections. I really like this album, but I can't find it a masterpiece or something alike, is a good one for sure and stands as one of the best from the '70s from USA. 3.5 stars, nice cover art.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#985340)
Posted Tuesday, June 25, 2013 | Review Permalink

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