(08 July 2006) Glass Hammer's The Compilations 1996 to 2004 (Sound Resources (USA) 2006) is a digital release available for enthusiasts from iTunes. The album is comprised of seven tracks recorded but not previously released. The earlier material spanning the period from 1996 through 1998 featured Fred Schendel (keyboards, vocals), Steve Babb (bass guitar, vocals), Walter Moore (guitar, drums, vocals) and David Carter (guitar).
The two studio tracks from 2004 were recorded by a slightly different lineup: Fred Schendel, Steve Babb, Walter Moore as before but with the addition of Matt Mendians (drums), Susie Bogdanowicz (vocals), Laura Lindstrom (vocals), Bethany Warren (backing vocals), Eric Parker (acoustic guitar) and on "Heroes and Dragons," The Adonia String Ensemble.
According to Glass Hammer, "all tracks included [on the album] either never made their way to an official album, were recorded for tribute albums, or were part of compilation projects that indluded many prog artists." The material is available exclusively via Apple's iTunes music store.
The album opens with a live rendition of the band's enduring piece "Time Marches On" recorded live at ProgDay 1997. Not only is this a faithful arrangement of the original, but the recording quality is completely stunning. Glass Hammer are largely a studio band so live recordings of their material are rare--this epic 10:41 piece is just superb.
A year earlier the band recorded "Air Born" for the Camel tribute album. This progressive piece features tight instrumentals with keyboards and guitar working well together underscored by tight percussion. Harmonious male vocals produce a tremendous arrangement of the Camel classic. We especially enjoyed the instrumental work and solos by Glass Hammer's artists.
"The Narrow Way," recorded in 1997 is completely representative of Glass Hammer's sound between Perelandra and On To Evermore with a timeless quality today although it was recorded nearly ten years ago. Listen for strong allusions to Yes and ELP both in guitar excursions and massive keyboard riffs. Although the vocal harmonies are tremendous, don't expect female vocalists. The band's progressive prowess is evident in the track, setting the stage for much of what would follow in the band's history. "A is A" is a heavier and shorter piece from 1998, dominated initially by thick guitar and contrasted by memorable male vocal harmonies.
The symphonic arrangements and fast paced keyboard in "The Morning Song" recorded in 1998 clearly illustrate the artist's virtuousity. Virulent guitar solos are contrasted by warm keyboard washes and vocal harmonies in this most accessible progressive rock number apparently, at least from the lyrics and overall sound, from the On To Evermore sessions.
The compilation includes a stunning rendition of the band's well-known "Heroes and Dragons" from Lex Rex and a timeless number the band have also performed on stage. The album features a symphonic version recorded for CPR Volume II in 2004. The arrangement is extremely tasteful and is certain to appeal to all audiences.
The album concludes with the epic (21:30) number "In The Court Of Alkinoos" recorded in 2004 for The Odyssey Project. While the tracks that precede this one are each great it their own right, this concluding track is clearly the standout for Musical Discoveries. It opens with a lovely and extended female vocal solo by Laura Lindstrom. Susie Bogdanowicz joins the passage in a lovely duet.
The track develops into an elaborate progressive rock suite and ultimately includes the range of Glass Hammer's sounds. We especially enjoyed the way female vocals were included throughout the piece. Individual contributions by Susie and Laura are superb and a careful listener will recognize Bethany's backing vocals especially in the soaring vocalise passage two thirds of the way through. Enthusiasts will adore Babb's Squiresque bass lines and Schendel's Yes/ELP-like keyboard work. Walter Moore does the band proud with vast guitar excursions.
The Compilations is available strictly as a digital release from iTunes at this writing. There has been no indication by the band that a physical release of this album is planned. For those unfamiliar with iTunes purchases, the digital download can be burnt onto CD-R and artwork created by the software. This album is an extremely good value priced at two thirds that of a physical release. Complete your Glass Hammer collection with The Compilations.