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Glass Hammer - If CD (album) cover

IF

Glass Hammer

Symphonic Prog


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lor68
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Finally They have come back to their original roots, in their classic prog line-up!! In fact It seems another long-standing epic number, instead it has been just produced under a new brand ensemble (fortunately)- and issued on 2010. Moreover it's a pure symphonic progressive rock album, without compromises!! If you like "Lex Rex" for instance, for sure you will appreciate the present "If" as well!! A lot of Mellotrons - Hammond and Pipe Organs, enriched by means of some interesting solos and of course the Moogs...I can't say it's a complete step beyond, for example in comparison to their previous album entitled "Inconsolable Secret", cause naturally (as I've told you above) this is the return to their roots, according to a kind of "gift" to the seventies I mean..otherwise They often were in the habit to be pleased by means of this 70's prog-oriented music, as it happened in their past...Jon Davison is a good singer and also the jazz guitarist Alna Shikoh is clever, together being a couple of important "new entries". Perhaps the best album track is the suite "If The Sun", twenty-four minute long, thanks to the contribution of these two new musicians; while along with the other five tracks, the whole album is sixty-six minutes long, being composed by quite complex and all aligned tunes anyway, but it's not particularly prolix. As for all these reasons and also by considering precisely such a complete alignement from the beginning to its conclusion, I can't evaluate the present work (anyway good) higher than a three star evaluation; even though it's well played and introduced by a pretty album cover after all (regardless of a fine computer graphic definition and its design, which is epic indeedl!!...).

At the end this is a typical album by G.H., which you can love or hate (no half measures)- and if you're completely into their style you can add one star in the final score...regarding of a die-hard fan naturally!!

Report this review (#296101)
Posted Wednesday, August 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Is this album the fourth plus Close To The Edge, Tales From Topographic Oceans and Relayer?

No..this is Tales From the If.

I ,ve heard three times this album from a promo copy that is now in my PC ...but sure i will import the original.

This is the most Yesesque album of GH I have ever heard.

żIs Jon Anderson singing? Very good singer with a little lower tone than Yes voice.

If this would have been a Yes album ...all the Yes fans -i think -would have put to this a 5 stars mark.

But no... this is a GH album and because it sounds as a clone ...mmmm...

But the music is very good.. beautiful ..much more better than Three Cheers...(well i think in that they wanted to feel another style of prog)

I miss a little bit the more characteristic music of GH ...with those emotive epic songs as in Shadowlands and Inconsolable in their so American symphonic prog style (as Salem Hill,Transatlantic-mostly American-)

And I miss a lot too Susie Bogdanovic ...hope she will return soon....

But very good songs...as we are accustom with GH.

4 stars

Report this review (#298057)
Posted Wednesday, September 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
richardh
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I am something of a fan of the early period when they were a more melodic ,perhaps 'traditional' symph prog band. It appears though that GH's main ambition was always to morph into Yes as was made clear when they employed Jon Anderson for vocal duties on Culture Of Ascent.Now its Jon Anderson sound-a -like Jon Davison and a style of symphonic prog that is like swimming through treacle. I'm not keen on this at all. Just seems very studied and is basically too lack lustre for my taste. Sadly there are no longer those hooks in their music that used to exist and even the compositional side seems to be lacking as well.

EDIT 4/11/2012 I recently acquired Cor Cordium. Much to my surprise I enjoy that album very much so I have gone back to this to give it another listen without the apparent wax in my ears! I do have my reservations about the Yes comparison and I do prefer Glass Hammer music to be a little more 'loose' but this does have much to enjoy nevertheless. I think the band were trying something a little different here and it takes time to develop a new approach. Jon Davison is the star on this album.So emmotive he carries this all the way and the band get behind that. I have decided to upgrade my rating to 4 stars from 2 stars. My next edit in 2 years time will probably make it 5 stars!

Report this review (#299679)
Posted Sunday, September 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Glass Hammer's newest album, "If", is not a work of original genius that comes around once in a decade or anything like that. Like the majority of music stuffed under the grand prog. umbrella, it is gleefully derivative of a number of bands of future past...and does not hide its intentions in neither the music, arrangement nor the vocal harmonies which permeate each part of this sextet.

Hence, I apologize if I think the joy and starry-eyedness that this album brings to the table is a hell of a lot more digestable than Neal Morse and his incessant gospelling.

This is a beautiful album that any fan of Yes will appreciate on its own merits.

Good night, and good luck.

Report this review (#299712)
Posted Sunday, September 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Gooner
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I like this album. In fact, I like it a lot! This is my first real introduction to the music of Glass Hammer. I mean, this is first time I've heard an album by them in its entirety. Well produced and a great vocalist. The obvious vocal influence is Jon Anderson of Yes, but I'm also reminded of the first vocalist in the Quebecois band Hamadryad - Jocelyn Beaulieu and a bit of Benoit David(new vocalist of Yes). So, the vocalist does have a range that is not a carbon copy of Jon Anderson. If there is criticism of Jon Anderson- cloning; it's unwarranted. The first track _Beyond Within_ is standard modern prog. in the vein of Spock's Beard and Big Big Train. Very good. The album really takes off with _Behold, The Ziddle_. Wonderful keyboard work. _If The Stars_ is the big highlight here with some asian influences. Almost sounds like it could've been a highlight on the Yes album Going For The One. Some keyboard sounds a la Anglagard- style pop up here and there. The dreamy conclusion with the 24 minute _If The Sun_, and I really mean dreamy. Keyboards have a Kerry Minnear-like tone to them and maybe a little Kansas. One of the few long players from a modern prog.band that held my attention the entire time. Great epic, and I don't say that often about the new ones. Recommended release for 2010. Fans of Yes's Keys To Ascension, Talk, The Ladder and Magnification; as well as bands such as Hamadryad, Big Big Train and Canadian band Mystery would really enjoy this.
Report this review (#300479)
Posted Saturday, September 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Every once in a while, and album comes along that stands apart from all others, either in your personal collection or the musical listening library we all carry around in our heads.

Humbly, I would submit that IF, the latest offering from Glass Hammer, is exactly that.

But first, I must set the table before I present the banquet.

I grew up in the 70's listening to Yes and Genesis, my two favorite Prog bands as I grew into loving music, more and more. Over the years since then, I've embraced and loved many, many other bands that surfaced after the revival of Prog in the 90's and since. Spock's Beard, Flower Kings, Kino, Frost, Transatlantic, Dream Theater, Marillion, Saga, Asia... the list goes on and on.

Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to discover Glass Hammer. It was an instant Karma sort of thing, I felt like they were the band I had always missed, having never known of their work and amazing performances. My first listening of the Lex Rex album simply blew me away. Who the heck were these guys?? How had I not ever heard of them or heard them? Was this some Cosmic joke on Tony??? LOL

Ah, but since then, it's been a match made in heaven. Glass Hammer makes new music, and I, I soar and fly, loosing myself in the magical weaving of musical textures and sounds, flying high and filled with joy, at such sound manifested.

Which brings me to the latest offering by this amazing band, IF. Having seen some advanced sneak peeks of the album cover, I was instantly intrigued and excited. Wow, amazing art work and design, and yes, it definitely resembled many a Yes album cover by Roger Dean. To me that was an endearing omen of sorts.

Then I heard the music.

Ahhhhhhhhh..... *eyes glaze over*

Sound. Such sound. Soaring synths, layers of organ and guitar, and that oh so immense growling bass sound that I love and adore. Then a voice. A new voice. Ahhhhh.... Yes, Jon Davidson sounds similar to Jon Anderson of Yes, and no, he is not the previous vocalist, Suzie. That was both confusing for me, and ultimately liberating. The music, the voice, this sound I was hearing was something new and old, both. It grabbed me from the very first bars to Beyond, Within, and never let me go.

I've had the album almost a month now, and quite frankly, I'm not even close to be tired or content in my listening, for it still is in my truck's CD player, having been played over 40 plus times now, from start to finish. Not normal at all for me, but I truly can't conceive of listening to any part of it without the rest. The music is seamless, moving from one song to the next, but the underlying theme is constant, making the entire album a spell binding listening experience. Yes, each song can stand on it's own, but why, oh why would I bother to listen to one piece, when the whole still grabs my soul and cuddles it in Prog Heaven with each listening?

I'll be investing in some repair materials for the dash in my aforementioned truck, those growling bass lines have resulted in a pure pummeling of my dash, I can't help it, I must beat my fists to that awesome bass sound.

As a prog fan that truly loves progressive rock like no other genre, I am proud to share my humble thoughts, and say this is my Album of the Year. I've loved and adored many other offerings by some very fine bands and musicians, but once in a while, maybe once in a lifetime, something comes along that shakes the very roots of your beliefs or accustomed preferences, and for me, this album IF is exactly that... An amazing, unparalleled GIFT.

I can't stop listening to it. And I'm OK with that. I don't sing quite as well as Jon Davidson, but I don't let the stop me from accompanying him on every note. I don't play bass anywhere near as good as Steve, but I haven't let that stop me from memorizing every single lick or growl he emotes from his bass guitar. And I will never be the keyboard player that Fred is either, but my fingers continue to play phantom duets with him, with each listen of the CD.

IF you have an open mind and Prog heart, this is the album for you.

IF you have wondered where the magic in music disappeared to, my GIFT to you is IF.

IF you listen to no other CD this year, listen to this one. I promise you will discover something beyond anything else offered by any other band, recent or in the past.

IF you love hearing the best Prog band on this planet, then you must buy this CD!

I may eventually remove it from my truck's CD player, but I imagine by then, a year will have passed, and Steve and Fred will have something newer for me to replace it with.

Tony Geron

Report this review (#301117)
Posted Thursday, September 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, I think this is almost a comeback album after the rather big break with the tradition album Three Cheers for the Broken-Hearted. Thankfully, If is a return to the epic symphonic prog tradition.

The vocals reminds me a lot about Jon Anderson & Yes. But I would not say this album and Glass Hammer is clones. Genesis is also a pretty big factor here and so is Spock's Beard. In other words; If is somewhere in this landscape. The sound though is very contemporary and very much 2010'ish.

The quality of the songs are all great. It does take a while to "get" the songs to sit perfectly. But after 8-10 listening sessions, the flowers here are in full bloom. If is by no means instant coffee.

All songs has great melody lines, but not throughout. Hence I am withholding the final star. But this album is still a cracking great symphonic prog album in my view and not at least; my ears. There are a lot of details here and great melody lines. The best song is in my view Behold The Ziddle and an hour flies fast in company with this great album. The art work too is great and this also makes this one of the better albums from 2010. Glass Hammer has returned. Hurray !!!

4 stars

Report this review (#302387)
Posted Wednesday, October 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Having had some 40 listens to this new album (many days to and from work in the car) I feel that I can now give an in-depth and honest review. To me, this album just keeps getting more rewarding with each listen. I guess the reason I wanted to post a review and to share my thoughts was that lately I've read reviews of new prog that seem to be too quick to judge, seemingly not having given the music a chance to speak (especially when a review is posted a day or two after the release - there's my two cents anyway). Granted, first impressions greatly influence how we think and feel about something, and musical tastes are subjective, but a quick critique can be unfair to both band and customer. This new Glass Hammer album is very deep both musically and lyrically. I've heard it said that prog is the 'thinking-man's music' and this album is not unlike its predecessors (Shadowlands, Lex Rex) in that it asks those philosophical questions of, "What does dwell within me?" and "Who does my song call out to?". With that said ? permission to speak freely sir?

Track 1. 'Beyond, Within' Immediately the listener is struck by a full sounding band, an infectious riff and a 1:30min opening that sets up the album's main intent, and perhaps the direction the band wants to take those who have come to hear. Many layered keys and nice guitar work here. This is very Glass Hammer sounding, yet sounds new also. Of course those listening will quickly recognise some Yes influences, this not being new to their sound though, as both Fred & Steve I'm sure will unashamedly attest. The mighty Hammond (3:59), borrowed from prog of old, drives this and not long after (4:35) there is this fast and crazy moog-like key solo which is pulled off very nicely - immediately answered with a guitar solo of equal skill. Half way through the song now, calming back down (5:10) with subtle/minimal piano and synth, the question is put forward, "What does dwell within me? ? How does my song come to be? ? Am I the final meaning?". With just enough stillness to think, the music changes direction (7:06) into a string-like section with bass accompaniment; very King Crimson sounding. Then a 30 second medieval-sounding jig with guitar/drums/keys (7:48) which goes back to a KC-sounding flange-bass just by itself now (yeah bass solo!). Back to musical theme heard halfway through the song (8:27) that feels like it rises in intensity to the final section (as the lyric suggests "Each one a soul to rise up and take flight"). And take flight it does! (10:00). What sounds to me a very Spock's sounding tightness (drums are great here) as it winds up with some nice doowah's and aah's in the background with a very Tele-like sound ala Steve Howe on 'Relayer'. The first riff brings this baby to an end.

Track 2. 'Behold, The Ziddle' A favourite on the album (only a close 2nd to the last track). Eclectic piano, some rolling reverby synth, touches of mellotron with some light cymbal work and probing bass that feels like the beginning of a mysterious dream? you get the feeling that the instruments are not quite sure where they're headed either. Then all of a sudden you know you're somewhere else as the music erupts into a great moment (0:48) of what I think is a very Italian-prog sound here with bits of ELP coming through too. After you've been hit with that, a voice comes over with some kind of welcome or greeting ? what is this place? The next 2 minutes showcases some lovely Rhodes piano which always gives a certain dreamy feeling for me, a more fusiony side which is new to my GH ears. Some jazzy type drumming definitely helps this. Next (3:30) is a fun little bit, kinda Flower Kings I feel, as if to give the dreamer a 15 second sense that all is OK before a dark and jutted section (3:46) as the lyrics agree, very close sounding to VDGG. If you listen carefully, next you will hear the Ziddler (or is that Steve/Fred?) a Gollum-like sounding creature to whose hands is our fate in this strange nightmare. I think someone's trying to tell us that if we stay too long we're gonna turn out like this guy.

We're halfway through the song now and a change of direction. (5:30) Brilliant use of percussion along with the drums as they kick it up a gear ? such a cool groove. Organ and bass join in and not long after, the guitar too. Some Yes-like doowah's and multi vocal parts ala Gentle Giant. The Rhodes makes a return (7:00) which sounds great turned up loud in the headphones by the way. Here the vocals penetrate deeply, sung quite beautifully, which speak of, 'sad and lonely ways and how dearly the searcher would love to pray'. Very honest. The next line is, "Yet all is madness". Musically speaking (7:30-8:04) this section is madness, as both basses (bass drum & bass guitar) handle a very intricate passage. I don't know what timing it's in but as a drummer myself this is the stuff that makes prog very cool! Turns out Fred wrote it and Steve & Randall pull it off wonderfully! A very nice guitar solo, with strong bass underneath and beautiful mellotron bring this mammoth track to a finale. It ends abruptly but you kinda get the feeling that its gonna pick up where it left off later in the album. Is it just me, or does the way this song ends suddenly bring back memories of the ol' glory days of vinyl? It felt just like when you'd get to the end of Side A of a record, the needle's just lifted up, and you desperately get up to turn the record over and continue the journey?

Track 3. 'Grace The Skies' A very Yes flavoured track that grooves in and out of 7, 5 and 6 at the start. Very tricky lyrics to sing (well they would be for me) in this first section and Jon does a great job with that (1:30). The organ and lap steel here (2:00) evocative of 'Relayer' and 'Going For The One' days and of course past GH albums, as is the little guitar run (2:20). The song becomes more mellow (2:40), acoustic guitar or is it mandolin does a lot to help this, bringing a bit of a folksy 7 groove with it. As fans would be aware, the lap steel is a distinctive part of the GH sound and plays a significant role in their previous work (think Farewell to Shadowlands). It definitely comes to the fore in this track, but seems to disappear from the rest of the album. There's a feeling that they've just been more selective with it ? in any case you hope that thing is firmly fixed down because Fred goes to town on it around 3:30. Tinges of Camel and Genesis can be heard as this little gem comes to a close (3:50) with the guitar sounding a lot like Hackett's might. I love the bass and vocals here as they climb up and up towards the sky as the final line sings, "Fly, fly high, fly free ? Carry me on your wing ? Carry me home".

Track 4. 'At Last We Are' We know that Fred loves the Beatles, and I think this may be his nod to them, but I'm hearing shades of Chronometree too. The intro is psychedelic and boppy, with multi-layered keys and sitar-like sounds in the background. Then some lovely duel acoustic guitar picking (0.46) that sounds a bit like Genesis' 'Ripples', tied together with haunting vocal harmonies that give depth (1:20). The acoustic guitars come back and clavinet can be heard which may be the first time I've heard it on the album I think. Then (2:50) a moogy sound that has lovely tom rolls that leads into a very Gentle Giant interlude in a nice 5 groove (3:15). This is a wonderfully full-sounding section, every instrument demanding the listener's attention, with some lovely bells hidden there and multi vocal harmonies ? wonderful stuff! It sounds like you're out in the garden with the instruments mimicking the sounds of nature or something, you know what I mean (hehe). This section of the song rides along quickly so one need's to keep an attentive ear. Followed by some Yes-like vocals (4:15) talking of "summer nights, lingering lights, chasing starlight and racing moonbeams" and still holding to that cool groove in 5 baby. The keys and guitar exchange phrases (4:50) giving that feeling of your attention being bounced from speaker to speaker ? the music has a great hold of the listener here. The song then changes time and slows down a little as it heads towards the finish. Some more vocal harmonies, softer and delicate, together with the moog and sitar winding it up to a calm and peaceful end. Nice.

Track 5. 'If The Stars' The song carries over from the peaceful ending of track 4, with chimes echoing and beautiful harpsichord-type keys. The drums are very controlled here on the toms (0:26) and all instruments are gently building the atmosphere up to a point, as though you were almost near the summit (2:09). Next penned are the insightful lyrics, "Man, just a grain of sand on an island ? In a sea of stars" which bursts into some lovely guitar soloing and epic choral-like synth that gives you that sense of wonder, that you've reached the pinnacle of a mountaintop (those goosebumps-on-the-arm moments that makes prog so darn excellent!!). The story is now unfolding, as if waking from the dream with the feeling that we're just starting to comprehend it ? as the lyrics tell, "I heard the call to come home" (2:33). This next section is in true prog time, 7/8! It's a very cruisy section that I think is very GH. Then at (4:17) is goes into double-time which is very rocky, and the next minute or so makes me think of Nektar a bit here. We're exactly half way through the song now and a good change of direction is coming. The change is brought about by a very piercing mellotron (5:12), nice piano and a bit of classical guitar which will show up later too (5:28). Be prepared cause you'll need to crank up that sub very soon as the bass begins to penetrate the walls of the mind (5:42), soooooo prog! (Steve you're the master of that, and its so cool to see you doing those moments live cause you fully get into it). A very Yes-sounding section for the next two minutes or so, complete with chants, Alan White-esque drumming, tambourine, and wailing guitar. It comes to a complete halt and the listener is now met with a very beautiful piano piece (7:19). Chimes, pulsating tron, and a snippet of classical guitar (3:09) repeat an earlier section of the song (7:55) but with a sense of finality as we're being lead through the closing stages. Cool chunky guitar (9:05) and sci-fi sounding synth rock this number out with an ending (10:14) reminiscent of 'Tales from Topographic Oceans'.

Track 6. 'If The Sun' If you thought the last track was an epic the you'd better sit down and strap yourself in. This track has everything a prog fan will love. With the drums bringing it in, we're treated to some Hammond and mini-moog runs backed up nicely with some cool guitar runs before the tempo changes up a bit (0:37) into a swinging 6/8 groove. There is plenty going on here, guitars wailing ? and a definite showcasing of Fred's amazing keyboard skills. He's pulling plenty of tricks out of his prog-bag baby! Lots of cool synthy sounds - very old school prog. The bass kinda has a Pink Floyd sense to it (1:09). This whole section could pass right over you if you're not careful cause it's pretty busy and there are many motifs vying for the listener's attention ? and its darn good! Very Glass Hammer! Silence for a milli-second as the bass by itself now continues to drive this song onward (2:05) and some nice jazzy guitar which has a very Canterbury feel to it. The timing is so spacey and gives you the feeling of being transported to another place. The pace slows just a bit (2:52) still in the same groove, before descending (3:04) into a heavier feel. Moog right in your face now. The next part of this song is lead by the piano (4:03) a touching piece that winds up later in the song (spoiler alert!). This section builds lovely a feels a bit Beatlesy, but I'm not quite sure where, maybe a bit of 'Dear Prudence' or the latter part of Abbey Road ? or maybe that's just me ? or maybe it's the whole McCartney bass-thing Steve does at (5:12). In an epic song there are going to be many directions in which you are taken ? what better than 7/8 time with a bit of sitar and organ! (5:56) Gentle Giant bass lines (can you picture Steve doing his best Ray Shulman impersonation?).

Speaking of epic, is a 6:18min intro before the lyrics even begin prog-epic enough for you?!? Yeah that's right ... the lyrics are just starting man. If you listen carefully (7:52) Fred makes a lead vocal appearance, showing glimpses of past GH glory. Next is a very ethereal section (9:14) of floaty synth that reminds you of the start of 'Fool on the Hill' or the middle of 'Close to the Edge'. The sitar comes back (12:46) along with some really awesome organ (13:00), you know? the type of organ that transports you back to prog's heyday. And when it's backed with some funky bass and moog can it get any better? Jon holds his own here with some very superb singing (14:00) the type that sends a shiver. The song then shifts up again, with a bit of an ELP sound, mostly due to the bass and probably the organ that gives it this feel (15:05), as well as the ELP-like swinging section that follows (15:20) as guitar and keys trade solos again. Cool organ runs and some dual guitar harmonies (16:22) in there ? nice! Then a lovely little acoustic guitar section in 3/4 that has some piercing organ, and when the bass comes in (16:44) this is very GH.

Only 7 minutes to go?

(17:38) Enter the classic triumphant prog section. Bass pedals! (although I see they weren't listed in the liner notes but I'm imagining its done on bass pedals). Is there anything better than bass pedals in that pivotal epic-part of an epic! Toms and organs fill out next little bit and you'd think this was the end, but we're not quite there yet folks. The lyric is repeated over, "If the sun could launch a thousand dreams and carry us away" (19:00) and if you don't have hairs raising up on the back of your neck then there's something wrong with you. I'll have to take my hat off to these boys, this is an emotional rollercoaster (think 'Having Caught A Glimpse'). Piano all alone (20:47) starts drawing this epic to its end ? Only a marathon like this can have a 4 min outro. Moog comes to join the closing party (21:30) and makes itself known, as do all the singers, as if saying a farewell to the listener. How could you wind an epic like this up? Well, you could do the fade out (Having Caught A Glimpse) which is nice, or the electronic sounding repeat into the ether (A Maker of Crowns, Revelation/Chronometree), or even let the whole band milk that final note for all its worth (Knight of the North, Long & Long Ago) ? or go out and buy it and find out for yourself.

Reflections? It just boggles my mind as to where you would start to begin writing a monster like this!! Noticeable omissions this time around being the Adonia String Trio and female vocals that have been a staple of the GH sound for the last while. The double-kickers are absent (what you would hear with Mr. Mendians) but this album doesn't call for that heavier sound. As I mentioned above, there are parts that will remind you of Yes, but there are also parts that sound like other classic prog bands too ? so I don't think some of the criticisms of it being a 'Yes-copy' are justified.

This album still has the same GH individuality and quirkiness we all love and is a pure delight of grandiose symphonic prog that borrows from that marvellous period of classic old-school prog, yet is firmly footed in the present-day. This is bound to be a GH classic and is easily up there as best album for me for 2010 (and there have been some other excellent releases this year) - A must buy for all fans of excellent symphonic prog!

Report this review (#302715)
Posted Thursday, October 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars (Only) If...

I'm confused; it feels like an Abbott and Costello film. I my memory, Glass Hammer had a style on it's own (yeah right!): they had their Lord of the Rings period, their Jesus Christ period, their Romantic/ Chamber Music Period, their Pop Period and so on...Never I witnessed such a difficulty to stick to a crew and to find a definite niche.

I'm sorry, it's true! They like Yes. They really, really, really like Yes. So much that I officially never heard something so close to a lost Yes album (Relayer\ Close to the Edge period). Oh my, the prodigious vocals! Jon Davison wins the award for best supporting Actor in the progressive rock category. Have you ever heard such a great impersonnation? Even with Yezda Urfa or the great Starcastle in comparison, Glass Hammer dethrones the king.

And this is where it fails. I love Yes, and I love Glass Hammer. But not today.

You guys (Babb and Schendel) have a God given talent: both of you make excellent, no, superior material. But you chose to use it to impersonnate something you idolise. You have a God given talent, but you keep making Relayer all over again....It's your choice. Feels like the guy who loves him mom so bad that his girlfriend is a lot like her. It's been seen many times, and it's a sad painting.

For the Yes fans out there who cannot get enough of the legendary band, this album will drive you bananas. It's a feast of Yes, a complete banquet of pure Yes, with scrumptious vocals and lushious keyboards.

For those who hoped a return to the basics, well duhh.

Hence the teennage schoolgirl yelling: ''Hey, if you like Yes so much, why don't you marry them?''

Report this review (#304306)
Posted Friday, October 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I listened to this album in it's entirety today, alone and undistracted on one of my spare free hours. What can I say, it's indeed so very much like Yes, with a pinch of Genesis, some obscure synth sauce making it juicy, played perfectly straight till the last note. Still I can't but help but like it nevertheless. It's lot better than some of their other work, but first let me tell you in what order I got to know this band. Note that I didn't follow their albums chronologically.

First album I bought was Chronometree which I absolutely adore to this very day (even the weird vocalist) I personally consider this one of the best of GH albums I own, it's quirky nd I don't know what it is I like about it. Then I got a hand on Perelandra which wasn't for me really, I felt that the album dragged along with no real ''Bang'' to it. Next one in my possession was ''Three cheers for the broken hearted'' which made me oh so sad, I found it poppy and bland and the female vocals really annoyed me. Then I came across ''Journey of the Dunadan'', I like Tolkien, I liked GH, so nothing wrong there (although I must admit that it's clearly a debut album, promising more to come). Then I got to The Middle Earth Album......erm, I think I played it once, the last track I ripped to my MP3 Player....says enough....ewwww! Lex Rex was somewhat of a letdown for me, no return to the conceptalbum Chronometree proved to be, the female vocalists annoyed me still, especially the clearly computer racked parts! But the guys of GH redeemed hemselves completewly when I bought ''Shadowlands'' which became the numer two GH album for me that ranked in the top 10 play list of that year, and I still feel it's a fine, somewhat rougher and more daring effort on GH's behalf in playing virtuoso Prog with epic long songs, and guess what, the female voices don't bother me on this one because somehow they fit. (I still don't like computer tracked voices, there's no excuse for any artist to ever use this technique aside from the fact that you can't sing propperly without singing off key, period) Last in line for me was ''If'' just this week in 2010......and yeah, I like it, I like it a lot. I have to be honest when I say that I do think that this band plays too tight sometimes, but that's my opinion. This album has it's share of rigid moments, when it´s so tight that it almost feels unhuman. Nevertheless, the virtuosity of these guys IS impeccable, the Jon Anderson voice works for me since I am a huge Yes fan, although Jon Davison (my god, even the name sounds alike) clearly has to find the bends in his falsetto, in order to make it a little more exciting to listen to his superb voice......I wonder what would happen if Benoit Davis sang this one....oooh! Still, although it sounds as Yes it is no Yes, it's diet Yes, and then again it's neither really typically GH, so in that respect I must agree with one of the people reviewing this before me, guys of GH, when you are this good, then why copy another band that's so prolific and well known....you guys are capable of so, so much more.... do that and stick with it.

All in all, I review this as an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection, it's quality and easy listenable and worth you money and time. I like it and I'm sure it'll grow on me more after a listen or two, which I'm about to start now.

Report this review (#306024)
Posted Thursday, October 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Recently there was a ProgArchives forum discussion on what makes a "masterpiece". It's a surprisingly hard word to define. Rightly disregarding all of the blindly relativistic "because I really like it, it's a masterpiece" offerings, several pieces of definition arose to the top. And I submit to you that Glass Hammer's "If" fits all those pieces -- well, except one...

Composition (including lyric, song structure, musicality, orchestration, etc.): On "If", there are six tracks, ranging from 4-1/2 to 24 minutes long. Within those we have all the marks a lover of symphonic prog craves: twisting diversities of tempos and textures, timely in-your-face instrumental solos, moments of delicate sublimity to moments of garish crescendo (and everything in between), all intertwined with lyrics to engage and inspire. It's all here, the structure of 'masterpiece'.

Musicianship: The instrument that jumps out most on "If" is Jon Davison's vocals. No one familiar with Jon Anderson of Yes would miss the likeness. Reading through previous reviews, this will disgust some listeners, and delight others. I say-- Let it delight you! There are some wonderful Anderson clones out there (including Benoit David in the latest Yes live line-up). One thing we should glean from these ethereal symphonic rock vocalists is that "The Voice" is not owned by any one individual, but is a gift (though rare) dispersed here and there throughout vocaldom. Mr. Davison is surely a sharer in that gift, and his sometimes serene, sometimes soaring intonations resonate with those of us attuned to that gift. Besides the vocals, there are wonderful moments of synthesizer and keys, rhythm and lead guitar work, and bass/drum underpinnings that leave one fully satisfied. It's all here, the structure of a 'masterpiece'.

Freshness/Originality: OK, I understand how some will hear and cry, "Derivative!" But methinks they are being hard-of-hearing (I'd have used 'myopic', but that would be sort of mixing metaphors). I submit that these six songs are songs Yes, Genesis, or any other symph-prog band could never have achieved. I challenge the naysayers to listen past the Anderson-esque vocals. By the time I reached my third listen, I was discovering depths and intrigues in the songs that are simply astounding. This is no one-listen, nor even 20-listen, album. It is crammed with creativity, worthy of our repeated hearings. It's all here, the structure of 'masterpiece'.

Emotionally Engagement: I think one of the most important aspects of a masterpiece is whether it evokes emotion or not. I am no fan of Munch's painting "The Scream", but I will tip my hat to it as one that it makes me feel. So with "If". With it's music, I soar, I ponder, I become hopeful, I become curious -- I am engaged. It's all here, the structure of 'masterpiece'.

Longevity: Here's the one tenet of 'masterpiece' that is yet lacking, but time will tell. I have a feeling "If" will takes it's place besides my copy of "Close to the Edge" (can I get it on vinyl? oh please! oh please!), and be played as often as the years roll by. One more for the pantheon of symphonic prog greats. It's all here, the structure of 'masterpiece'.

Report this review (#308580)
Posted Saturday, November 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm not normally one to write a music review since music is so subjective, but for this gem I will make an exception. Quite simply this is the finest offering of vintage symphonic prog I have heard in many many years. Its as if Yes got together and made a masterpiece. And thats what this album is, is a masterpiece. Every song is fantastic. Vintage keyboard sounds, wonderful melodies, and tight, complex arrangements abound. Never a dull moment, as this cd just improves as it goes. The last 2 tracks are especially strong, with the final track 'If The Sun' being the magnum opus here. The middle section is painfully beautiful and emotional, as beautiful as 'Soon' or 'Turn Of The Century' with just as strong a melody for sure. Each member is brilliant on their respective instrument and yes, Jon Davison, from the Yes tribute band 'Roundabout', sounds more like Jon Anderson than anyone out there. Normally, I wouldn't really be interested in a band that sounds this much like another, in this case, Yes, but because it is so amazingly good, I dont mind at all, in fact I'm thrilled with every note on this album. A runaway for my favorite album of 2010 absolutely.
Report this review (#311631)
Posted Wednesday, November 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars I've been listening to this album from time to time the last few months and my initial reaction prevails: I'm afraid it doesn't do much for me at all. I loved Lex Rex, Shadowlands and parts of Inconsolable Secret, and this is nowhere as good. First of all: It's a Yes-clone, but not in a good way. It's a quite boring version of Yes we're being served here. There are endless segments of piano chords hammering on straight fourths in almost every song, the turns and twists are quite predictable after a couple of listens, very little of the material sticks when the music ends, not a single phrase, theme or chorus remains in my head. Nothing really grabs or moves me here. Second: The singer is a parody of Jon Anderson, a clone which will never be the original anyway, so why try? Suzy Bogdanovic would have lifted this album from being a mere copy to something a bit more original at least. I really miss Walter Moore, he was THE male voice of Glass Hammer for me, see the DVD Live at Belmont for proof. Third: For all it's complexity, it bores me! I really feel bad having to admit this, but it does. Even more than "Three Cheers..." which I listened to for a short time, but doubt will be replayed any time soon. So there it is, quite disappointing in my opinion. A pity, I was looking forward to this one after the promising announcements of Glass Hammer returning to form.
Report this review (#347439)
Posted Wednesday, December 8, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I felt compelled to review this album after listening to it last night after spinning it for about 5 months now. I have really liked everything from Lex Rex to Culture of Ascent. They have a revolving door when it comes to the lead singer but the backing and female vocals have always been consistent. I thought their last album was quite an improvement with Carl Groves on lead. Then they went and changed things up and went with another new voice, Jon Davidson. OK fine, we are used to that. BUT where did Susie go? I really thought she was the consistent vocal glue that held things in place from album to album (along with the other female singers).

At first, I really thought it was a dull album. The first several listens really did nothing for me and it hardly compared to the great albums of the past. Sure, there was great musicianship. And Davidson's voice was actually quite good. But something seemed to be lacking and I couldn't put my finger on it. So I came to the conclusion it had to be the lack of backing vocals and if it wasn't that, I really didn't know why it wasn't drawing me in. This album should be right up my alley from what I know about my taste in music. So I put it on the shelf for a few months and wanted to revisit it later after about 20 spins.

THEN last night I pulled it back out...This album sounded fantastic! What happened? Nothing except that since I was quite familiar with the songs and sections, I was able to anticipate what was coming next. In the world of prog, familiarity almost always enhances a listening experience compared to that of mainstream type of music. Some of my favorite all time albums grew over the course of time, some took years until I fully appreciated them. And this album is following that pattern which is a great sign of it aging quite well. So in the end nothing changed but my opinion went from it being a 2 star album to a 4 star album by just leaving it alone for a period of time. Sounds crazy but I am sure most everyone on this site can relate to this prog phenomena. Is it as good as Lex Rex or Shadowlands? I'm not sure but it doesn't matter, this album can stand on its own as an excellent addition to any prog collection. But just don't give up on it too soon like I almost did. IF is very challenging and will be a reward to those who persevere.

Report this review (#387559)
Posted Thursday, January 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
Gerinski
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Glass Hammer's If is to Yes what Citizen Cain's Somewhere But Yesterday was to Gabriel's Genesis: so dangerously close that many will too quickly dismiss it as just a clone, but so good that I don't care. Same as with CC's masterpiece album, the clone feeling comes mainly from the vocal department, but if you overcome the prejudices of the vocals first impression and listen carefully and for enough spins, you realise that the music itself is different and personal enough to deserve full credit in its own right.

The addition of vocalist Jon Davison is a double-edge sword for the band, he shares with the Yes classic frontman not only the name similarity but also his vocal timbre is a carbon copy (coming from Yes tribute bands Roundabout and YesStory), causing this dangerous risk for the guys of being tagged as a clone band and not appreciated for the great music they make. On the other hand he sings wonderfully and if the great vocal melodies are in any part his own contribution, the choice for Jon is more than welcome.

The music is pure symphonic, certainly inspired in the 70's but with a modern twist in the vein of Neal Morse, Spock's Beard, Simon Says etc, and when it resembles Yes it does so mainly in their modern era like Magnification or the best material from The Ladder, and only occasionally to earlier periods. Very strong melodies throughout the whole album, but with more than enough twists and turns, time signature changes etc to delight any classic symphonic lover.

The musical weight falls mainly on the outstanding keyboard work of Fred Schendel with Steve Babb providing strong support as usual, but guitarist Alan Shikoh and guest drummer Randall Williams shine as well. The work on backing vocals is also thorough and adorns the overall sound with a deep richness, and the production is simply excellent.

Difficult to pick best tracks as they are all brilliant and similar in style, but my favourites are the three around-10-min tracks Beyond, Within, Behold The Ziddle and If The Stars plus the 24- min epic If The Sun. The relative lack of originality and the lack of diversity may be considered as a weak point for those seeking for these attributes in their prog quest, but for me they are not, after many spins I can still listen to this album from beginning to end without a single moment of boredom.

Nice artwork too by the way. Highly recommended to symphonic fans, 4 to 4,5 stars.

Report this review (#463581)
Posted Saturday, June 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars It appears that when Glass Hammer was in the studio in 2007 recording "Culture Of Ascent", and Yes' frontman Jon Anderson was adding some tracks as a guest artist, Fred Schendel and Steve Babb had the foresight to gather up some of the spittle from the microphone, whisk it away and extract the DNA and begin the cloning process. "Jon Davison" indeed. We can see through your ruse.

Seriously, it's no surprise that when Yes needed a singer on short notice they came to Davison, who's vocal range, timbre, and phrasing all sound like the second coming of Anderson. Add that to Babb's Chris Sqire-like bass lines, Schendel's Sort-of-Wakeman-but-more-like-Kaye keyboards, and introduce Alan Shikoh, who along with Schendel's steel guitar do a fair Steve Howe, you have a band that sounds as much like Yes as Fish-era Marillion sounded like early Genesis.

Compositionally, each song sounds to me like Roine Stolt wrote some songs, and gave them to Yes to record. But each piece has moments where if I wasn't paying attention, I could easily mistake this for a lost Yes album.

But you know what? It works. It's actually very good Yes music. And sing at that point Yes hadn't been creating new music for a while (and their more recent effort was disappointingly un-Yeslike), I'll be glad that someone is carrying on the tradition.

Report this review (#745418)
Posted Friday, April 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
5 stars Over the years the duo of Steve Babb and Fred Schendel have had a somewhat rotating door policy to musicians and styles, but here they have gone back to what nay fans are going to love, namely classic progressive rock in the style of Yes. Now, it is in the style of as opposed to going out and copying what has gone before ? and surely they have been paid the ultimate accolade by that band, as not only has Jon Anderson appeared on a previous album but the vocalist on this 2010 release is Jon Davidson ? who is currently the newest member of Yes, replacing Benoit David for the 2012 Australasian tour. Now, as I was lucky enough to see Yes in Auckland recently I know just how good Jon D is in a live environment, so it is of course no surprise to hear him to be more than up to the task in the studio.

They may not have a Roger Dean cover, but in Tom Kuhn they have someone who again has prepared something in the style of as opposed to just rehashing something that came out thirty or more years ago. I read one review where a comparison is made between Glass Hammer and Citizen Cain and that makes quite a bit of sense ? when CC was releasing albums in the early Nineties there was quite a lot of flak as it was stated that they were just doing what Gabriel had done with Genesis, but it has to be remembered that Peter had long left the band and the Genesis of 1992 wasn't anything like CC. Now, I really like 'Fly From Here' but this probably has more in common with the traditional Yes sound than that ? and after 20 years GH still has the same two people at it's heart yet it took far less time than that for Chris Squire to go through two drummers, three keyboard players, two singers and three guitarists.

Anyone playing this or writing about this is going to compare Glass Hammer to Yes, but that isn't a bad thing. The question is not why does that have to take place, but more why on earth isn't this band better known and spoken about with the same reverence? This is a great album, whatever name is on the cover ? if you like Yes then this is five stars and essential, if you don't then don't bother, but it is your loss.

Report this review (#755433)
Posted Sunday, May 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
FragileKings
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Amazon.com has this lovely feature. It's a widget (isn't that what you call 'em?) that runs near the bottom of the screen that advertises albums purchased by people who bought the same album you are presently checking out. I have checked out a number of bands clicking down there and one night Glass Hammer's Cor Cordium cropped up. I gave a quick sample listen to a couple of songs and thought, "This sounds awesome. I'll get Glass Hammer too." But Cor Cordium was quite a bit more expensive than If and since the albums covers looked similar (love the little flying creature) I bought If.

Allow me to insert here a quick history of my interest in prog. For most of my music life I have been interested in groups that approached music with a more serious intent towards composition and song writing. Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Iron Maiden, Queensryche and lighter weights like Pink Floyd, the Moody Blues and Alan Parsons Project were already in my collection. But it was only near the end of 2010 that I understood that these artists were progressive in their music and what that all meant. I had just become a rabid Rush fan and by June 2011 I was seriously hooked on Yes.

Back to Glass Hammer's If. This sub-genre of symphonic prog really appeals to me, and so what I heard from Glass Hammer seemed like it would be right up my alley. I was looking forward to hearing If, expecting to hear something in the vein of Yes's classic years. But I didn't expect that I would hear something almost exactly like Yes! As the first song Beyond and Before... er, sorry... that's Beyond, Within played, I started thinking of all kinds of things to write. "It's as if the Topographic Oceans crew was transported to 2010 and made a new album!" "No, it's like after making the studio tracks for Keys to Ascension, the band jumped ahead to 2010." "No, it's like after the last tour with Rick Wakeman in the early 2000's and the band decided to take a break and do other things individually, a tribute band said, 'We'd like to pick up where you left off and continue producing Yes music.'" At first I could even see how similar Jon Davison sounded like Jon Anderson. But after a few more listens I felt I was able to begin to distinguish the differences.

It's not easy to review this album without citing how utterly similar the music and vocals here are to Yes and it would be easy to fall into the argument of music that attempts to imitate something that has already been done is not progressive in the true sense of the word, unless while imitating the previously established form something new is added. I can't say there's anything outstandingly new here. However, I also thought that it might be better to avoid this argument all together and just decide whether or not I liked the music.

So, at last, my opinion is that - in the manner of Yes's best music - Glass Hammer's If manages to capture all those interesting and exciting elements. There are epics and a super epic, all of which feature the expected odd time signatures, the abrupt changes in style and pace, acoustic guitar bits, Steve Howe-like rock guitar bits, lots of keyboards including Moog synthesizer solos that sound a lot like Rick Wakeman's from The Revealing Science of God and Mind Drive, Chris Squire-like bass sound, and some cool drumming that fits right in without being overzealous. The track If the Stars has a guitar part that's almost straight from Onward and the song ends with a snippet of guitar from The Revealing Science... The longest track If the Sun sure will take several listens to digest in whole, and Grace the Sky has some suspiciously Christian-sounding lyrics but overall I rather like the song and the music. Perhaps, to my ears anyway, the song that sounds the least like Yes is Behold, the Ziddle. It's a little darker at times and the lyrics are bizarre. This is the one track where I feel Jon Davison's vocals are weak in places and where I am sure Jon Anderson would have handled the vocal duties more skillfully.

It's not all Yes, however. I picked out a Steve Morse-like guitar solo and at times the music seems to carry the symphonic prog Yes banner with more zeal than Yes did. There's a strong musical theme throughout the album that seems consciously adhered to, unlike Yes albums that were more about creating and expanding this "new" approach to music way back when. If I have anything truly negative to say about If, it's that by the time the final, super epic track If the Sun begins, the uniform sound of the album begins to sound over stretched. For all that the music has to offer, there's no respite from the continuously reinforced onslaught of symphonic prog in modern style. Perhaps if the album were 10 minutes shorter or offered something different either heavier or lighter?

I am still having mixed feelings about how good I actually think the album is. I recently also purchased Wobbler's Rites at Dawn and I am finding that one more enjoyable because I think it's a step and a half further away from Yes than this album. I also think Jon Davison's vocals are not as strong as Jon Anderson's. They have the timbre of Jon Anderson but not that slight bit of edge that Anderson has. I expect I might find some of Glass Hammer's older albums more interesting maybe. Still, all things considered, as a symphonic prog album, or maybe it would be better to just call it a symphonic rock album, it has most of what I like to hear. The compositions are musically strong if not overindulgent at times. There is no question of talent or purpose. This might be an album that will grow on me more as I explore progressive music further.

Report this review (#810160)
Posted Saturday, August 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars The comparisons with Yes can't be avoided here but I think that only adds to this album. It's melodic mix of soundscapes and virtuoso playing delivers top class prog rock. Yes, Jon Davison's voice sounds like Jon Anderson but he also has his own personality which comes through regularly. I bought this album along with their next release Cor Cordium but this is the one I keep returning to. The last track, "If the Sun", at 24 minutes is a master class of pure classic prog which lifts the listener from start to finish. In fact, the entire album is a triumph for Glass Hammer and it deserves top marks.
Report this review (#818158)
Posted Monday, September 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars Glass Hammer's "If" is more far removed from their previous albums than anything they had approached since their conception. The addition of Jon Anderson? I mean Jon Davison (the resemblance in vocal style is unmistakeable) is an inspired move. The influences of Yes are too obvious to labour on but it is still wonderful music, and at least Davison can sing. I missed Susie Bogdanowicz though, but it is great that the keyboard wizardry of Fred Schendel remains, the one constant of the band that has a revolving door membership as compelling as King Crimson's morphing lineups and indeed the revolving policy of Hawkwind.

It begins with glorious Mellotron, Hammond and ambient atmosphere on 'Beyond, Within' (11:44) and Davison certainly sings beautifully in his high register. It is little wonder he joined Yes in 2012 on their tour, of which I was privileged to see in Melbourne. I like his vocals so I had no problem with his voice on any of these tracks. The lyrics have the searching for God symbolism, "And who does dwell within me, And who does my song call out to, Who looks into my dreaming and makes my visions whole, In infinite creation, So many small infinities, Each singing out their own song, Each one a soul to rise up and take flight".

'Behold The Ziddle' is similar in style with lots of tempo shifts, keyboard dominations and Davison crooning sweetly. The lyrics are poetic with darker meanings, "Through a wintry scene I flee, A murky hollow looms ahead of me, Down I slip and tumble, Torn and bruised I lay humble, Am I lost forevermore in this dark world, Now I only walk the lonely way, Where all is sadness, How dearly I'd love to pray, Yet all is madness".

'Grace The Sky' is a very smooth tranquil track, Davison again peaceful and relaxed, the keys and tempos remaining subdued and organic. The lyrics are as usual replete with Christian symbology, "In sleepwalking society, A youth questions his role to be a pillar, puppet a parasite, Get your head on right, As your heart takes flight, If the bird is free to fly, Then why my soul should I deny, If the bird is free to fly, Then why the wings of my soul should I deny, Oh bird of paradise, Let your colors grace the skies and with courage on your wing rejoice freedom's blessing."

'At Last We Are' is replete with synth, medieval sounding guitars and a steady tempo. Davison sings, "Sing to me a star, Set it in yonder sky, Shining, and guiding me, For I've lost my way before, There in the mist on eastern hill, For I would climb to the sun and then beyond to hear what you might sing, Such was the power of your voice, Oh, that I might hear more." Then it moves to a new time sig and finally ends on a bright tempo and Anderson flawless on passionate vocals, with an even higher vocal, almost sounding like the 5 octave vocals of Annie Haslam.

'If The Stars' is a lengthy piece at 10:25, that opens with a steady percussion, chimes, and grand swirling synths. It builds steadily and features scintillating lead guitars, soft vocals and meandering Mellotron. The lyrics have intriguing imagery based on the Bible; Phillip or James, "If the stars should then appear, One night in a thousand years, How would man believe and adore, If the light of the city of God was shown there, Would they believe?, If the stars should then appear, One night in a thousand years."

'If The Sun' is a mammoth epic clocking 24 minutes, in the traditional prog epic length. Since I only have the version without this I can't comment. However, this is one of the greater Glass Hammer albums with some of their best vocals. The lyrics, the musicianship and the overall atmosphere are symphonic prog bliss.

Report this review (#869409)
Posted Saturday, December 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is certainly a grower. It is great revival from the disappointing "Three Cheers for the Broken Hearted". The album is a very friendly and very heartfelt album. It is an easier listen than any of the albums before it (perhaps with the exception of "Shadowlands") except for the second track, the arty and dissonant "Behold the Ziddle".

"If" is yet another concept album from Glass Hammer, but what's different here, is that the story is mainly open to interpretation. It is based upon one's search for self meaning, a common theme of prog concept albums. The lyric's are beautifully written, and much more subtle then their previous efforts. Jon Davidson's voice communicate the story rather nicely. There are no tracks that stick out as the "standout", but that is not a bad thing, in fact it makes the album more consistent. What I love about this album, is that the themes are often repeated. Quite often in progressive rock and metal, the themes get lost in the strive for technical showcasing. At times Glass Hammer have been guilty of this (not always) but this album is very consistent due to the emphasis on melodic and rhythmic themes.

Last of all, I want to express my annoyance at the constant comparisons to Yes, no matter how deserving. Yes is to Symphonic Prog as Dream Theatre is to Prog Metal - pioneers of their genre, and it is only natural for a band to acknowledge their influences.

I recommend this album to any fan of any type of progressive music, particularly to fan's of Yes and classic Glass Hammer. Peace!

Report this review (#918313)
Posted Saturday, February 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars "The Song Remains the Same" (Led Zeppelin)

What a beautiful music. it's purring like balsam on the wounds. Vocal is outstanding (just a sample, how history repeats itself); organ and bass work is excellent. Entire album is great, especially last 2 songs (about 35 min) - real masterpieces of prog rock, not less. The more you listen to it, the more you like it. Since release of Close to the Edge a lot of musicians were fascinated and inspired by it. However, nobody came so close and did it so well, as Glass Hammer with their last 3 albums. Artwork is remarkable, as well. as the music. It deserves to be at least on cardboard sleeves.

This album is recommended for Yes fans and for all complex symphonic prog lovers. What, if you're not one of them? Then, it is not necessary to leave your review.

When Glass Hammer said "If", it means: If this album was done by Yes with Anderson vocal, how would you rate it? In other worlds: Is it fair to rate the same music differently, depending on the group name? Is this "buy or die" album? For those, who want that the song never ends, it is. 5 golden stars.

Report this review (#933357)
Posted Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars If you were to clump all of the sounds and stereotypes of 70's prog into one album, then If by Glass Hammer would be this album. It isn't a secret this album's (and band's) music is highly motivated by classic prog, especially symphonic. This record bleeds Yes, Genesis and ELP, all in a modern and more polished fashion. Despite all of this, these guys manage to have their own sound that is marked with very melodic passages, deep and lush atmospheres, and great musicianship and virtuosity.

Song-wise, this is a bit harder to deconstruct due to the songs being based on the same songwriting scheme. As mentioned, each song will have heavily Genesis, Yes, etc inspired passages with frequent use of organ, Mellotron, and synth, as is custom with symphonic prog. Though there really isn't any weak song on the album, I feel as though it could have been shortened slightly, a problem with many modern albums, no doubt. But this problem is minor, especially when considering the phenomenal production and mixing values; everything is clear and the instruments are given plenty of breathing room.

The highlight of the album is probably the final epic track, 'If the Sun,' which seems like an endless stream of high energy, catchy melodies, but also includes some deep, atmospheric parts as well.

What this album lacks in adventurous music, it makes up for in its melodies and lush atmosphere. If you like catchy melodies one after another, all played in a highly symphonic fashion with superior production, and don't mind the overall derivative nature, then this album is certainly for you.

8/10

Report this review (#993190)
Posted Sunday, July 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 stars really!

This is the kind of thing Yes should be putting out. This implies that this is something of a Yes "copy" or even tribute. I'd say the latter is more accurate than the former, as the more I listen to this album, the less the music really sounds like Yes (though there are certainly some extremely similar.......some would say "rip off".......moments).

I think the main similarity is the vocals of Jon Davison. Of course, he is now the full time vocalist for Yes, and performed for a Yes tribute band for many years. The resemblance is uncanny, so it's no surprise that the Yes comparisons are made. Then we have the guitarist, who sounds remarkably like a young Steve Howe, and was almost certainly heavily inspired by him. The bass has that heavy Rickenbacker overdriven sound that Squire was always known for, and the keys use a lot of vintage sounds, many of which were used by Yes in their heyday. The cover art is great, though again, the similarity to one Rodger Dean can not be ignored here either.

So two paragraphs in and I'm STILL comparing that band to Yes. For many people, this is where they decide that it's not for them, they don't need another prog band trying to recreate the glories of a more famous 70's prog band, etc. This was my first thought upon hearing it the first time as well. However, repeated listens have opened this album up to me as a valid and enjoyable work in its own right. There is no denying the Yes similarities, but since when has Yes produced an album as good as this? I would say not for at least 20 years. So to me, this is a welcome addition to my collection. Beautiful melodies, stirring orchestral crescendos, fantastic guitar and keys solos, odd time signatures........but most of all, emotional impact. This album moves me like Yes albums of old used to. Sure, it's not as innovative and "new" as those albums were upon release. This is unquestionably retro prog, with a heavy Yes influence. Yet, it is also a beautifully, well written and arranged prog rock album that after 2 years I still haven't gotten tired of hearing. To me, that is enough to make it essential. Tracks 1, 5, and 6 are my firm favorites, also sounding the most Yes-like, incidentally, but every song has something I like. Behold The Ziddle is the one where the Yes comparisons break down a bit, though I suppose it has some correlation to the heavier and wilder parts of the Yes' catalog.

Basically, if the constant references to Yes haven't put you off yet, then you need to own this album. For my personal taste it really is a 4 star album, but in the scope of prog music and this site I'm going to round down to 3 stars, as I don't think I can honestly say it is an "excellent addition to ANY prog rock music collection". Just to mine, and perhaps yours, if you love Yes and wish they would make good symphonic prog again.

Report this review (#1207227)
Posted Wednesday, July 9, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's hard out there for a Yes fan. Jon Anderson, whose voice is for many a de facto requirement for Yes, is out, having been replaced by Canadian soundalike Benoit David (from the band Mystery, who aren't all that bad on their own terms). They're touring with those musical giants Styx ? on equal terms. There's new album, Fly From Here, but it's based around a decades old leftover from the Drama days and is not being all that well received. To top it off, Geoff Downes, who's back for another stint on keyboards (as the Wheel O' Keyboard Players spins), has decided that the proper media strategy is to confront the critics and call for their mass murder.

Fun times. Fun times.

But what if you're in the mood for something very Yes-ish in the classic sense (and want to avoid forking over you cash to douchebag Downes)? You're in luck my friends ? Glass Hammer has you covered.

Glass Hammer is sort of like a Steely Dan of prog, as it's the brainchild of two guys, Steve Babb and Fred Schendel, who bring in a revolving roster of folks to fill out the band from album to album. After a brave, but not too well received attempt at a more mainstream approach, they roared back to their very Yes-influenced roots with If in 2010. To do so, they recruited an entire new slate of collaborators, including a vocalist, named Jon, who sounds an awful lot like that other vocalist named Jon (who guested on 2007's Culture of Ascent).

Seriously. If you didn't know Anderson was on the outs with Yes these days and somebody played you "Beyond, Within" and told you it was off the new Yes album, it would be hard to argue with them. Which isn't to say Glass Hammer is just ripping off the classics. They have that muscular edge to them that many American prog bands seemed to have absorbed from their arena-rock neighbors (look at Kansas or Spock's Beard, for example).

Glass Hammer doesn't really break any new ground, but they do what they do very well. If you cut your teeth on the symphonic prog of the 1970s and want to hear more of it, with a little modern sheen, check out If. You won't be disappointed.

Report this review (#1453708)
Posted Sunday, August 16, 2015 | Review Permalink

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