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HANDS

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Hands biography
A short-lived symphonic American band from Texas whose sound has been compared to GENTLE GIANT, JETHRO TULL, and HAPPY THE MAN, as well as the inevitable nods to early KANSAS, HANDS were actually an off-shoot of the even more obscure rock/fusion project PRISM.

The band used a wide variety of orchestral instruments including strings and woodwinds, and their songs were characterized by long instrumental passages and mellow, spacey vocals, although much like KANSAS the band would often include blues-influenced music such as JOHNNY WINTERS and ALLMAN BROTHERS covers in their live shows. Like many progressive American bands of the latter seventies, HANDS toured extensively and managed to release a minor-label studio album, but failed to garner much attention and quietly disbanded as the decade drew to a close.

Shroom Records released a collection of the band's early recordings on CD in 1996 which was critically acclaimed but made little commercial impact. The label also re-released the band's lone studio album from 1977 though, which did manage to find a small audience in the Midwest. On the strength of this re-release the band reformed with small lineup changes and began touring, eventually releasing a studio album of new material in 2001 ("Twenty Five Winters"). The band continues to perform today, and as of the fall of 2006 were wrapping up production on a third studio album tentatively named "Strangelet".

HANDS deserve recognition in the Archives due to their highly recognizable prog folk sound in the vein of so many seventies American bands, and their revival of that sound with a new lineup in the twenty-first century.

Bob Moore (ClemofNazareth)

Hands official website

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HANDS discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

HANDS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.15 | 41 ratings
Hands
1977
4.03 | 11 ratings
Palm Mystery
1996
3.60 | 12 ratings
Twenty Five Winters
2002
4.00 | 13 ratings
Strangelet
2008

HANDS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

HANDS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

HANDS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.14 | 2 ratings
The Early Years 1974-76
2000

HANDS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

HANDS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Early Years 1974-76 by HANDS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2000
2.14 | 2 ratings

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The Early Years 1974-76
Hands Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

2 stars One of the most overlooked US Prog bands, Hands from Dallas were formed in early-70's as Ibis, changing also several other names, with drummer John Rousseau, guitarists Steve Parker, Ernie Myers and Michael Barreyre, bassist David Carlisle and sax player Sonny Solell.Line-up changes were more than often for Ibis, who in 1975 were again renamed, this time to Prism, with Myers, Parker and Rousseau joined by keyboardist Michael Clay, violin player Paul Bunker and flutist Skip Durbin.These early days of the group were taped in a Shroom Productions CDR entitled ''Hands-The Early Years 1974 - 76'', released in 2000.

This document is not actually very representative of Hands' unique talent, containing only three original compositions and seven cover tracks.The common thing throughout the whole release is the problematic recording quality, which does not help very much.The first two tracks belong to Prism and were recorded in 1976, both of them made it to Hands' self-titled debut, and they are good examples of 70's Progressive Rock with nice instrumental work and demanding passages akin to GENESIS, GENTLE GIANT and JETHRO TULL, but the below average sound buries them significantly.The third track performed by Ibis is actually the only unreleased piece of the album.''Spacial Circumstances'' is an obscure arrangement of instrumental folky Psych/Prog with abstract organ themes and weird flute parts of limited interest.The next seven pieces are cover songs/compositions of famous Prog and Rock artists.The first four belong to Mahavishnu Orchestra, King Crimson, PFM and Michael Urbaniak and show a talented band capable of performing any kind of Prog-related music, from the symphonic delicacy of PFM and the strange King Crimson textures to the more Fusion side of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Urbaniak.Most of them have also an acceptable sound quality.The last three are compositions by Allman Brothers, Johhny Winter and Frank Zappa, transformed by Prism/Ibis into adventurous jazzy Prog Folk experiences with the good use of keys, saxes and violins.

I would recommend this album only to fans of the band or die-hard 70's Prog collectors.The lack of original or unreleased material and, more importantly, the harmful sound of these recordings prevent this work from succesfully qualifying into Hands' discography, despite talking about a highly talented act.

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 Hands by HANDS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.15 | 41 ratings

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Hands
Hands Symphonic Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I was wondering why this clocked in at 60 minutes when it was released in 1977. Well apparently these are well recorded demos the band had put together and they were compiled for this release. Unfortunately these Texans (like a lot of American Prog bands in the seventies) had a hard time being accepted and taken seriously by both the music indusrty and music fans. The music sounds to me like a cross between GENTLE GIANT, KANSAS and KING CRIMSON's first album. I really have mixed feeling for this recording and therefore 3 stars for me is the right rating.

"Zombieroch" has an uptempo symphonic intro with some chunky bass. It turns orchestral with strings then kicks back in. Nasty guitar after 2 minutes. An impressive instrumental display. "Prelude # 2" is a short piano and flute piece. "Triangle Of New Flight" is led by flute, gentle guitar and violin early. A change 1 1/2 minutes in as the guitar and a more powerful sound take over. Violin too. Synths with flute before 3 1/2 minutes then it picks up again. "Mutineers Panorama" has flute and a relaxed sound leading eventually and this soundscape will come and go. Mellotron too and this is the best song so far. "World's Apart" has vocals and is laid back. It picks up with keyboards when the vocals stop. They do come back again. "Dreamsearch" is acoustic guitar and flute led then the vocals come in after a minute. It's orchestral as well. It turns powerful after 3 minutes and the tempo picks up before 4 1/2 minutes. Some crazy synths too. It's orchestral after 8 minutes then the vocals end it.

"Left Behind" has strummed guitar and vocals as the piano joins in. It kicks in with prominant guitar 2 minutes in. Drums and flute too. It settles 3 1/2 minutes in with some nice bass and it's dark. "Mindgrind" hits the ground running. Vocals 1 1/2 minutes in as it settles some. Chunky bass after 2 minutes and some ripping violin before 4 minutes. "Greansoap" features violin and a classical vibe. A Celtic flavour here too. "I Want One Of Those" is acoustic guitar and a laid back sound. Synths help out after 2 minutes. "Antarctica" has an epic intro then all we hear is the wind blowing before it kicks back in. Vocals follow. "The Tiburon Treasure" is a short beautiful song to end it with.

A mixed bag for me but well worth checking out as most seem to love it.

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 Twenty Five Winters by HANDS album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.60 | 12 ratings

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Twenty Five Winters
Hands Symphonic Prog

Review by Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars With an irregular and sparse discography, Hands have nonetheless remained a solid example of top- notch prog rock from the USA. Hands is an undisputed part of the unsung American prog trilogy of the 70s, together with However and Happy the Man. Their "Twenty-Five Winters" effort, the first for the new millennium, shows the modified line-up (including two founding members from the distant 70s) willingly headlong for the task of creating refreshing music within the genre. It is so thoroughly refurbished that you can't tell that this is the Hands we all had known before: this is prog rock in essence and form, no doubt about it, but now we're witnessing a new road for the new Hands. The album opens up with 'Knock/Enter', a dynamic exercise on country-rock refurbished in a progressive scheme and with a heavily melody-centered focus: the dominant presence of the acoustic guitar guarantees the development of candor, while the impressive violin flourishes set the core for the whole ensemble's energy. Next comes 'Walls', a track that offers a more powerful approach although it preserves much of the melodic vibe that had been present in track 1. 'Walls' sounds to my ears like a hardened Caravan mixed with a bit of classic Kansas. I wouldn't have minded if the first two tracks had been a little more expanded so they could include some guitar or synth solo; both pieces comprise enough effectiveness in their hooks as to allow a more detailed exploration in their motifs. Anyway, they are great tracks. 'Green Room' is a weird, yet soft demonstration of instrumental experimental rock: it features an intro of multilayered guitars on harmonies and lead phrases (that would be Part 1), and then it shifts to a piano-led slow passage on a crepuscular tone, very beautiful indeed (that would be Part 2). 'Dance of Light and Darkness' states a peculiar mixture of Gentle Giant and Beatles-oriented pop-rock, plus a taste of the weirdest side of Tood Rundgren's Utopia: this is what GG should have done after "Interview" if they really wanted to remain interesting while playing the mainstream rock game. 'I Laughed Aloud' is a lovely due of piano and violin that states an inspired exhibition of elegance and constraint: romantic with a slight touch of Gershwin for good measure. The amazing polyphonic 'Zombieroch (Part 3)' bears a very clear title: just like the other Zombieroch pieces, it shows Hands' skill at creating amazing mixtures of Gentle Giant, Happy the Man and Jethro Tull. The lack of a recurrent wind player in Hands at the time makes it necessary to substitute the flute and clarinet sounds for digital equivalents (most likely synthesizers, although it might as well be a Lyricon.). Its 4 ¾ span goes by without the listener noticing: this piece is really engaging in its controlled, complex development. The closing track is the most ambitious composition - the 4 part suite 'Leaving'. The first section starts with a warm piano and French horn duet (with the horn played by guest Chris Dulen), that soon evolves into a fuller arrangement. The following section continues in the same reflective vein, this time featuring an acoustic guitar duo that elaborate soaring arpeggios carefully wrapped under synth layers. The third section finds the band exploring their most aggressive side, stating an original confluence of Gentle Giant and Wetton-Bruford era King Crimson: this section is patently based on the interaction between the multiple guitars and the abundant percussions, built on cadence rather than melody. I only wish the resulting climax had been longer, since the energy seems kind of aborted once we go to the next and last section. The 'Above and Below' section reminds me of classic Yes at their most lyrical, with the synth backup and violin providing an almost real orchestra for the motif's soft development. This is not a totally integrated piece, but it contains excellent progressive ideas. I wish the album had been longer (as well as some individual pieces), but "Twenty Five Winters" is more than just OK, it is really great, a proof of the permanence of prog creativity in veteran prog minds. and hands.

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 Strangelet by HANDS album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.00 | 13 ratings

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Strangelet
Hands Symphonic Prog

Review by Cesar Inca
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Being a real prog survivor from the 70s and with a wide array of influences and notions in its musical style, it is just a pity that Hands' discography hasn't been so consistent. It is also a miracle that in the idological-commerical circumstances that have shaped the music industry for the last 28 years this band still manages to make music in the new millennium. Not a miracle at all, but an absolute pleasure it is the fact that Hands' 2008 effort Strangelet happens to be one of the most solid and creative albums to be released in the current experimental rock scene. This album features a strong presence of guitars in many places: besides the habitual guitarist, the keyboardist and the bassist als oadd guitar inputs, plus veteran Stick/Warr Guitar player Mark Cook enters the band to make his own contribution. This is also teh first Hands album without a violinist and without a wind player, so I didn't kwno what to expect before getting it, but now I am totally convinced that the band remains as colorful as always, taking advantage of the present instrumental strategy. The opener is a very brief interlude that leads to the monster track 'Dark Matter', which lasts 15 minutes. The first sonorities offer a hybrid of Gordian Knot and Djam Karet, exploring an alternation of exotic Eastern-like textures and dense space rock- influenced passages. The heavy-friendly twists bring occasional ornaments in order to emphasize a sense of extravagance. The bucolic section that gets started at minute 7 bring a stylish serenity that gradually builds the elaboration of another bombastic section. The relatively Yessian epilogue tha tfills the track's last 2 minutes state a contemplative stance, with a cleverly ordained pompous closure. This track is pure progressiveness incarnated in a frame of modern sonic structures - 'Dark Matter' is a world in itself within the world that is Strangelet. 'Tambourin' features the piano on a prominent role: this piece goes to a different mood, combining the jazzy side of Keith Emerson and Happy the Man's lyrical reflectiveness. The instrumental approach takes fair advantage of the 5 ¾ minute span. 'Running Room', with a cadence that bears an unhidden inspiration from The Beatles' psychedelic era, may bring some memories from the early stages of The Flower Kings and Spock's Beard, more specifcially, during its first 4 minutes. Then comes a series of Gentle Giant-like tricks that brings an augmented intensity to the instrumental development, adding a variety so fluidly that it doesn't kill the natural flow. 'Entry of the Shiny Beasts' is based on a playful melodic approach to jazz-rock, stating a midway between late 70s Chick Corea and Happy the Man. 'Miracle in the Mind' offers a semi-acoustic portion that reminds us of a hybrid of King Crimson and Gentle Giant: there is an inevitable weirdness that fills the overall relaxing scheme. Things get more intense with the emergence of a tribal section, in which the plural drumming frenzy is augmented by soundscapes and street noises. The last 2 ½ minutes retake the opening motif with an extra touch of neurosis. But nowhere does this album get as neurotic as in the closing track, 'Rotten', which was recorded libve at Cristal Clear Sound Studios. This is a solid study of Crimsonian tension with a neccntuation of the hard rocking aspect. This album is a must for any lover of prog rock with a tight eclectic approach and abundant traces of creativity: in a few words, good prog rock music. Thsi album is dedicated to the memory of drummer Ian wallace (a friend of the band's), and honestly, I cannot imagine a better tribute than this magnum opus. Write down this item's name - Strangelet... and take into your collection!!

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 Strangelet by HANDS album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.00 | 13 ratings

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Strangelet
Hands Symphonic Prog

Review by Atavachron
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars The Texas prog scene has always been reliable and Dallas veterans Hands keep that tradition on track with this 2008 release. In fact, if it's possible for TexProg to have a sound, it would probably be encapsulated by these guys. Guitarist/singer Ernie Myers and keyboardist Michael Clay have been plying their brand of art rock with an edge since the 70s and though generally pegged as 'symphonic', there is a lot more going on. The production is roomy, warm and understated, and the band reflects subtle prog influences while maintaining a fairly original identity. Especially pleasing are the contrasts between Clay's classical piano breaks, Myers' guitar, percussionists Martin McCall & John Fiveash, and Mark Cook (Warr guitar) and Steve Powell (bass) holding the bottom together. Occasional reminders of everyone from the Crims to Rush as well as newer acts like the Flower Kings and even fellow Texans Thirteen of Everything but again, nothing blatant.

An electrical quaver and a distant vibration of alloy puts us on hold until a bit of riffage starts 'Dark Matter', growing into a 15-minute monster of multiple changes, acoustic interludes, hard rock and Myers' slightly nasal sneer. A beautiful jazz line from Clay's piano and some fiery organ/drum exchanges for instrumental 'Tambourin', great prog here with reflective passages of jazzicality and tight playing. Sentimental and odd 'Running Room' vaguely recalls later Beatles with a symphonic facelift and shows this ensemble's wide range. Bouncing 'Entry of the Shiny Beasts' slows enough to allow in a bit more jazz and some fun with the keyboard, the spirit of Roger Waters is invoked for 'Miracle in the Mind' complete with acid freakout, and very Crimsonian 'Rotten' to finish, a pounder with a delicately laced little midsection. Very cool stuff, especially for those interested in contemporary U.S. prog.

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 Hands by HANDS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.15 | 41 ratings

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Hands
Hands Symphonic Prog

Review by 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.

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 Twenty Five Winters by HANDS album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.60 | 12 ratings

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Twenty Five Winters
Hands Symphonic Prog

Review by NJprogfan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After almost 25 years, (hence the title) the American progressive band HANDS re-formed and produced a very nice album. With two of the original players, Clay on keyboards and Myers on guitar and lead singing, the newish bands sound is not as progressive as the first album, but it has its moments. It begins with a somewhat Gentle Giantish song with a catchy melody and some weird vocalization half way through. Violin is a lead instrument all over the disc giving it it's American feel, not Kansas but more in an Echolyn smoothed out jazz way. What surprised me was a couple King Crimson type songs, "Dance Of Light and Darkness" sounds straight out of KC's 80's era. Myer's vocals are a bit nasally, but he gets the nuances of Belew's vocals down pat and I love the warped out Frippy guitar work. It's one of my favorite songs on the album. The last song, which is the longest, "Leaving" has a definate Lark's Tongue vibe during the third part of the song, "The Traveler's Lament" with some fantastic drum work by McCall. The balance of the album is made up of some instrumentals that tend to be on the soft side, although "Zambieroch (pt. 3)" is very agressive and fusiony. Overall, a very good, pleasant album. 3.5 stars!

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 Hands by HANDS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.15 | 41 ratings

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Hands
Hands Symphonic Prog

Review by NJprogfan
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Grab a pot, throw in a load of Gentle Giant, some Camel, a smidgen of Kansas, Jehtro Tull, Happy The Man and King Crimson, add a pinch of Italian symph and you have a stew called Hands. And what a stew it is. These guys from good-ole Texas USA are some incredible players. Every instrument under the sun is played and played with professionalism. Starting out with the track "Zombieroch" a Gentle Giant-like instrumental, you'd swear it was cut from the 'Octopus' lp, it's that good. Most songs are instrumental, especially in the beginning. Of the songs with vocals, "Antartica" is my favorite. In fact, it's the only song that doesn't sound like any other band. And that's the only reason why I give this album four stars over five. It's fine to be able to sound like other bands. But for my money, originality merits masterpiece ratings. The track, "Dreamsearch" is a case in point. Starting out with an incredible take on classic Italian symphonic prog, four minutes in it switches gears into a blazing Gentle Giant boogie to then settle back into the Italian prog sound masterly. Yet, if you played the track not knowing who it was, you wouldn't think, "Oh, that's that band Hands." Come to think of it, the name of the band is rather the point. They dip there hands in all sorts of bands. Maybe they should have been called, 'Chameleon'. I'm not knocking the playing, which is awesome. But derivative, my name is Hands. Still, when compared to other US bands from that era, Hands are tight, talented professional players who, if given time, money and started out earlier could have been THEE best prog band ever from these shores.

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 Palm Mystery by HANDS album cover Studio Album, 1996
4.03 | 11 ratings

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Palm Mystery
Hands Symphonic Prog

Review by Tonny Larz

4 stars YOU gotta hand (sorry) it to SHROOM records....they really have something going...first there was HANDS (1´st) then this their second"Palm mystery"...not to mention ARABESQUE (another fabulous US prog band) and several others. OK, back to HANDS... a US prog band from way back when (then).. their first one from 1977..and a great one it is..this their...ahem ..second....is sort of a compilation...with material extending from 1977...to...1980.....and its actually quite wonderful material. Its amazing that this band could be forgotten such a long time...but now its here...for all prog freaks to enjoy!! So if you really like prog the US way....time schedule concerned, then this is absolutely your cup of ..eh...coffee. Music wise...we are in GENTLE GIANT and other brilliant time- change bands. OK..their first one are my favorite...but this one really seems like a follow- up...even though compilation are the key-word here. IN short..if you like US prog from the 70´ties..then this is certainly for you !! Strongly recommended!!! Oh....and they reformed and made a new album:"Twenty five- winters" in 2002. YES....quite right..its GREAT as well!!

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 Hands by HANDS album cover Studio Album, 1977
4.15 | 41 ratings

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Hands
Hands Symphonic Prog

Review by Steve Hegede
Prog Reviewer

4 stars It's pretty sad when you read about how these 70s prog bands spent countless hours composing, practicing, and promoting their music only to find indifference from the general public. This was the case with the Texan band HANDS. The band, made-up of gifted musicians from the same small town, recorded some excellent prog between 1977-1980 only to have to give up because of lack of interest. Their music was inspired mostly by GENTLE GIANT (they got to open for them once!), but I'm sure the other major prog bands were also influences. Each song's multiple sections feature different styles that range from guitar-led riffing, to baroque, to dissonant-prog-funk, to gentle flute/mellotron interludes(which sound very Swedish!). The weakest part for me here are the vocals which sound a bit like John WETTON. But they are far from being mediocre, it's just that WETTON isn't one of my favorite vocalists. This CD is a must for fans of bands like CATHEDRAL, MIRTHRANDIR, and anyone exploring the seventies American prog-scene.

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