Glass Hammer - Live At NEARfest

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Arion Records / NEARfest Records
Catalog Number: SR1121/NFR 0003
Format: CD
Total Time: 72:45:00

I don't start writing until I've heard an unfamiliar disc at least a few times, but this time let's just throw caution to the wind, shall we? This live release from Glass Hammer is good, wait, no ? awesome, fantastic, spine tinglingly good. About two thousand lucky so and sos got to see this event live in Trenton, New Jersey last summer, so that leaves the other three and a half billion of us to wonder about one, just one, supreme thought. What does a band that never plays live sound like? Could Steve and Fred pull it off? Just a few moments into the first track, I knew the answer. You?re damn right they could! And they did it with far more style and panache than you?d probably think.

Mostly material from Lex Rex with a couple of numbers from Chronometree and, of course, a surprise or two, this live set rolls over you like a tidal wave. The band sounds like they had been playing this stuff live for ten years. The sound and power is overwhelming, the vocals often better than the studio versions, the drums and guitar are stunning when compared to the original cuts and, oh yeah! ?the best thing? Fred is even hotter on his B-3 and Mini-Moog on stage than he is in the comfort of his own studio. The real kicker is this though, I think these are BETTER versions of material that I think was ALREADY among the best stuff produced in the last twenty five years. Who knew?

I think that when this line up of veteran Glass Hammer sidemen/women and some new faces were assembled and rehearsals began, Fred Schendel and Steve Babb (the core of Glass Hammer) must have had a pretty good idea that this project would be capable of slaying any audience. In the extended liner notes that are posted on their website, Steve reveals that due to an insufficient soundcheck at showtime most of the band members couldn?t even hear each other on stage, the eternal plague of live performance. But you?d never know it from listening to this performance, and that?s a fact.

This set begins with "Chronotheme" from the band?s Chronometree release. I love that disc, but it suffers from a lack of bottom end punch. That is remedied by the live band, and this version is much more satisfying than the original. This ELP influenced track runs about thirty seconds longer than the original and this time is used to extend Fred?s B-3 solo which brings this tune to its end.

The band continues with about thirty minutes of music drawn from Lex Rex. In order, we get "Tales Of The Great Wars," "One King" and "Further Up And Further In." The high point of this live set, in my opinion, these cuts overflow with the extra excitement that live performance brings to even the best material. The complex, multi-part vocals are beautifully performed and in many cases, superior to the studio versions. The pristine, pure sound that I have come to expect from Glass Hammer gets a major infusion of gutsy energy in the best rock n? roll tradition.

A brief departure from Lex Rex follows. One of the new Glass Hammer associates, Matt Mendians brings us "Cowboys And Mendians," his live drum solo (don?t be afraid, it?s only about three minutes long) which segues into another track from Lex Rex, "A Cup Of Trembling." Another ballsy rendition of classic material follows, but this time the classic comes from the discography of another beloved American progressive band, Kansas. Kansas guitarist Rich Williams takes up the guitar role while Glass Hammer regular Walter Moore belts out the vocals on Point Of No Return?s "Portrait (He Knew)." It?s a knockout to hear how well Walter covers Kansas vocalist Steve Walsh?s wailing, full throated vocal part, and Fred uses this opportunity to whip out some heavy handed keyboard work during the kick ass finale to this number.

The next three numbers dip back into Chronometree, Lex Rex and finally, Perlandra. "Chronos Deliverer" benefits immensely from the large choir assembled for this appearance. The choir of voices on the studio cut is actually made up of only five voices, whereas, on this live track, the choir is nearly twenty voices strong. The difference is thrilling. Fred shows his guitar skills well here, and his lap steel playing is deadly. Some of his slides and ultra high end licks will darn near snap your head off.

Going back to Lex Rex and Perlandra, the group approaches the end of the evening with another home run. "When We Were Young" segues into "Heaven". This is the kind of moment that brings tears to the eyes of symphonic progheads like myself. Pulse quickening, crushing layers of Moog, cathedral organ, and Moore?s soaring guitar take us to the climax of the evening with the choir in hot pursuit, their angelic voices making your hair stand on end.

Well, what else can I say? This stuff is brilliantly played and recorded. All the instruments and vocal parts are richly resonant and distinct. It will knock your socks off and bring a smile to your lips. You should buy this, NOW!!!

Oh yes ? one last thing. Fred?, Steve? Now that people know how good a live band Glass Hammer is, I think they?re going to want more.

Greetings Ladies And Gentlemen (1:36) / Chronotheme (5:06) / Tales Of The Great Wars (10:26) / One King (6:12) / Further Up, Further In (14:28) / Cowboys And Mendians (2:42) / A Cup Of Trembling (8:03) / Portrait (He Knew) (6:27) / Chronos Deliverer (5:16) / When We Were Young (8:14) / Heaven (4:08)

Walter Moore - electric guitar, keyboards, vocals
Eric Parker - acoustic guitar, bass guitar
Steve Babb - bass guitar, keyboards, bass pedals, vocals
Fred Schendel - keyboards, lap steel guitar, vocals
Flo Paris - vocals
Bethany Warren - vocals
Susie Bogdanowicz - vocals
Matt Mendians - ums
The Glass Hammer Choir - Patt Christiansen, Laura Dent, Beth Folland, John Galgano, Tom Galgano, Shellyn Ganger, Christine Holz, Tim Kubit, Janie Lindenbaum, Sean McFee, Brian Neilsen, Jen Porta, Mike Rumpza, Stephanie Rumpza, Karl Schendel, Jon Yarger
April Bower - choral director, choral arrangements

Journey To The Dunadan (1994)
Perelandra (1996)
Live And Revived (1997)
On To Evermore (1997)
Chronometree (2000)
The Middle Earth Album (2001)
Lex Rex (2002)
Shadowlands (2004)
Live At NEARFest (2004)
The Inconsolable Secret (2005)
Culture Of Ascent (2007)
Three Cheers For The Broken-hearted (2009)
If (2010)
One (via GH only) (2010)
Cor Cordium (2011)
Perilous (2012)
The Inconsolable Secret (Deluxe Edition) (2013)
Ode To Echo (2014)
Breaking Of The World (2015)
Double Live (2015)
Valkyrie (2016)
Untold Tales (2017)
Mostly Live In Italy (2018)
Chronomonaut (2018)

Lex Live (DVD) (2004)
Live At Belmont (DVD) (2006)
Live At The Tivoli (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin US

Added: July 25th 2004
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Artist website:
Hits: 2192
Language: english


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