Glass Hammer - The Middle Earth Album

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Arion Records
Catalog Number: SR1311
Format: CD
Total Time: 45:16:00

I mentioned in my review of Glass Hammer's second album, Perelandra, that the band sounds different on every CD. Well, folks, they've done it again. Anyone who has grown comfortable with the very symphonic style of their last album, Chronometree, is in for a big surprise when they slip The Middle Earth Album in their CD player. Whether it's a pleasant surprise depends on your taste in music. On this album, the sound is old-English folk, reminiscent of the 70's prog band Gryphon.

If you can't guess from the title, this is a theme album based on the works of J.R.R.Tolkien. Moreover, the band's idea here is to present the music as if it were being performed in a pub somewhere in Middle Earth. That being the case, most of the music is acoustic, and where electronic keyboards are used, they're set to sound patches like harpsichord. You can also expect lots of mandolin, acoustic guitar, recorders, and hand percussion, as well as barroom sing-alongs about adventuring and heroism, not to mention a troll or two. There is, however, one track that takes the electric approach to prog, but we'll get to that later.

About three-quarters of the way through the album, the music moves toward a more modern approach, though it still retains an old English folk sound and fits in with the other pieces lyrically. At this point the sound is more akin to the band Renaissance, not in little due to the fact that the ladies get to take over the lead vocals. By track 10, you can expect some very modern, not to mention wonderful, vocal arrangements, including male/female duets and harmony backgrounds. I have to admit, although the earlier tracks are fun, this is my favorite part of the album. On the next to last track -- and only on this track -- the music takes the full-band approach, creating a symphonic prog piece along the lines of what the listener might have expected from Glass Hammer (not that one ever knows what to expect from Glass Hammer), with electric guitar, a full drum kit, Yes-like bass lines, and electronic keyboards.

In summary, in spite of a little silliness here and there, the songs on The Middle Earth Album are well crafted and expertly performed. Those who didn't care for the unusual vocal style of Brad Marler, who took over lead vocals for the Chronometree album, will be happy to know that Steve Babb and Fred Schendel have once again taken over the vocal duties, along with a slew of guest vocalists -- eight, if you're counting [including Marler]. Sonically, the album sounds wonderful, expertly recorded and produced. In short, if you like a band who's not adverse to experimenting, or you have a hankering for old English folk music, you'll dig this visit with the denizens of a pub somewhere in Middle Earth.

Elrenn and Endereth (2:33) / The Old Troll (1:56) / The Old Troll and the Maiden (5:58) / Dwarf and Orc (3:53) / The King's Beer (2:41) / The Ballad of Balid Longbeard (4:11) / The Man in the Wood (3:27) / Mirkwood (2:12) / As I Walk (2:34) / The Last Ship (2:41) / Mithrandir (This Fading Age) (5:08) / Sweet Goldberry (4:41) / No Crown for Balin (3:07)

Steve Babb - vocals, bass, keyboards, percussion
Fred Schendel - vocals, keyboards, guitars, mandolin, percussion, wind instruments
Walter Moore - vocals
Susie Bogdanowicz - vocals
Felicia Sorensen - vocals
Sarah Snyder - vocals
Thomas Hammett - vocals
David Luther - vocals
Tim Starnes - violin
Jamie Watkins - backing vocals
Brad Marler - vocals
Bob Stagner - percussion

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 8th 2001
Reviewer: Clayton Walnum

Artist website:
Hits: 1741
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]