Glass - No Stranger To The Skies

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Relentless Pursuit
Catalog Number: RD4128
Format: CD
Total Time: 44:20:00

I've been trying to find an overarching description to describe the music of Glass, but there is such a wide range material on the first disk that it's proving difficult. One moment you'll think of Genesis and Yes, the next Mannheim Steamroller, the latter especially so on "For Ursula Major And Sirus The Dog Star." You'd think with a title like that either Rush or Tangerine Dream, but the rolling but gentle piano parts are closer to the Steamroller. And, I mean that a positive comment, seeing as I like Steamroller. There are sections to the title track that recall King Crimson symphonic parts to "In The Court Of The Crimson King." There is an air of familiarity to the latter half of this 9-plus minute track as well, with its high pitched (but not unpleasant) guitar solo. This piece starts out very bouncy and energetic -- I'd say very happy. The middle section features dual pianos, about which multi-instrumentalist Jeff Sherman says, "I still smile when I heart that beautiful solo Greg [Sherman, his brother] pulled out of thin air on the spot as I played the rhythm piano part behind him ?" The band is rounded out by Jerry Cook on drums and percussion, though there a few tracks where it is Paul Black in that role. Jeff also remarks on the third section, and it is, as Jeff himself feels, majestic. There is such a sense of hope, of resolve, that is alive within the notes ? you can picture some visuals to go along with this yourself, but I, of course, see snow-capped mountains and the breathtaking beauty of nature undisturbed? Well, undisturbed except for the airplane or helicopter flying overhead that is usually photographing such spectacular shots (perhaps I'll pretend they run on clean-fuel).

"Give The Man A Hand" is bass and percussion heavy, one might say a little funky. But keyboards soon become very prominent -- mellotron through a Leslie speaker, ARP 2600, Baldwin Grand Piano (it's this that gives me the feeling that they'll soon break into the "Peanuts Theme"). In a few spots, I thought a bit of Djam Karet, but I'm going to chalk that up to "just me" ? the irony is that, while there probably wasn't influence by Glass on Djam Karet, both bands did play the first ProgWest festival. "Domino" is bit more subtle, being very low key and gentle. Very, very vaque hints at Pink Floyd can be heard, though not intentional. Subtle (yes, that word again) flutes (mellotron) breathe in an added texture. This is very pastoral and lyrical?until shifts into a jazzy section with noodling keys and shimmering percussion., says in the liner notes that he composed the latter section having been listening to Dave Brubeck's classic "Take Five."

"The Myopic Stream" is a piece that initially would fit well on a Narada or Miramar release -- hmm, yes I'm thinking of David Lanz here especially, and yes it's because of the piano. But add in the percussion and bass, and we are taken in some other directions -- a bit of Yes, a bit of Rush (though the latter hadn't come into their own really quite yet to be influential (this was recorded the same year as Rush's Fly By Night). But, the heavy bass work here is very reminiscent. The first section and third sections were composed by Greg Sherman (Jeff's brother), the middle section by Jeff.

All instrumental, the open arrangements allow for a great deal of exploration. Mood and feel is very much a production of the instruments used. While I'm not so skilled as to pick out them all, but Fender-Rhodes has such a particular sound, as does a grand piano, that these are certainly the easiest.

This is a great package, not for the music alone, but also for the well thought out liner notes. Not just the dry data of who played what, but personal anecdotes about the piece itself, commentary. It's this that makes the music come alive, and breathes an extra personality into the music. Notes aren't always necessary, but I think it adds something -- another point of connection with the artist. The insert itself is a foldout, with a collage of photos, recording receipts, set lists and other bits of historical pieces on the reverse.

And so, on to disc two, which contains 6 part suite "Broken Oars" spanning nearly 30 minutes. While each piece is given a separate title in the liner notes, the track listing just lists them as "Broken Oars pt21," "Broken Oars pt 2," etc. This suite begins very subtly and very atmospheric -- it is very much the film score music of the late 60s-early 70s, though I can name one specific composer. The movie would be dark -- the concept is the story of a man lost at sea, adrift in boat with broken oars. It becomes a jazzy rock number for "pt 2" ("Realization") with a bit of spacey electronica thrown in. In between we get atmospheric musings or various sorts; subtle, pastoral sections (shades of Italian prog and Steve Howe); moves into a dark, angular section with "pt 5" ("Final Realization") dominated by the heavy tones of the bass. Interestingly, I thought a bit of Supersister. And also at one point ("pt6" ("Acceptance")) of Cream's "White Room." Although the latter section is a reprise of the first, I didn't think of (taste?) Cream then? All this was recorded "over the course of a weekend," Greg explains in the liner notes. "The pieces were then edited to make one performance," all recorded at Port Townsend High School in February 1973. "Pt 3" ("Fear") three is a shimmery segment (percussion and keys) that is made a few shades darker when bass is added?there are points that are vaguely Yes and Pink Floyd-esque (yes, at the same time).

"Changer" is a lighter piece with a slight country accent to it?hmm, progressive country. Though, not entirely, as there is a piano section that is lovely, understated and dramatic ? there is an underscore of tension. "Home" is another Yes/Floyd/Genesis hybrid sounding tune and yet the mix also makes it sound very fresh. The track is elegant in it's simplicity - acoustic guitar, timpani, and mellotron. It will make you think of the pastoral passages of Yes and Genesis mostly, and maybe that's down to the mellotron. "Patrice Mersault's Dream" is an often jaunty piece, upbeat and lively ? ironically, it's named for a character in Albert Camus' "The Stranger" (and upbeat isn't how I think of Camus). This 12-plus piece of music ends with a gloomy and eerie ambience.

I thoroughly enjoyed the journeys this album took me on. The band are planning on recording new material for a new CD and are already scheduled for BajaProg 2002, so it appears as if many will be able to say that they're no stranger to Glass. One can also order volume III from the band's website at Relentless Persuit which features 11 tracks, some of live material, some of rare material.

Disc 1: The Studio Recordings: No Stranger to The Skies (9:14) / Give The Man A Hand (6:25) / Domino (8:24) / The Myopic Stream (8:17) / For Ursula Major and Sirus The Dog Star (12:12)

Disc 2: The "Live" Recordings: Broken Oars (pt 1- 6) (29:55) / Changer (10:54) / Home (2:55) / Patrice Mersault's Dream (12:29)

Jeff Sherman - Fender-Rhodes electric piano, Moog Taurus bass pedals, Alembic bass guitar, Fender Stratocaster guitar, acoustic 6 & 12 string guitars, '52 Fender Precision bass, Rickenbacker bass, Gibson J200 acoustic, Baldwin electric piano
Greg Sherman - mellotron, ARP 2600 synthesizer, Baldwin grand piano, Yamaha grand piano, Hammond A-100 organ, Baldwin electric piano, ARP Odyssey synthesizer, Clavinet D-6, Clavinet through Morley Wah-Wah, ARP Pro Select synth, Oberheim sequencer into an Oberheim synth, Elka string synth, Hammond M-2, Baldwin Electro Pro piano, upright Tack piano
Paul Black - drums, bells, "space flute"
Jerry Cook - drums, Moog drum pad (through a mini-Moog), concert gong, triangle, concert timpani, Moog drum, Moog snare & portamento slide

No Stranger To The Skies (2000)
Illuminations (2005)
Glass Live At The Progman Cometh (2007)
Spectrum Principle (2010)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: December 21st 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1404
Language: english


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