Glass Hammer - Lex Rex

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Arion Records
Catalog Number: SR1123
Format: CD
Total Time: 66:47:00

A couple of years ago it looked like two American bands were finally breaking through on a larger scale. Having worked heavily throughout some years both Mastermind and Glass Hammer looked like stepping into another dimension by enlisting female singers to augment their sound. Mastermind got hold of Lisa Bouchelle whilst Glass Hammer struck a deal with Michelle Young. Lisa only stayed with Mastermind for a short space of time but we all hoped that the collaboration between Glass Hammer and "la" Young would fare better. Sadly this relationship also was called to a halt way too soon and the output of the band seemed to have dried up. An older live album was released but it felt like the band had ceased to exist. You can understand my surprise when, totally unannounced, a brand new album from the Glass Hammer nucleus arrived on my doorstep and what an album it is. Everyone into vintage Yes who has been longing for another Fragile or Close To The Edge will be pleased to hear that Lex Rex contains all the elements which set Yes apart from their contemporaries years ago. Don't get me wrong, as this is by no means a flashback album, yet the approach towards the compositions and the way the duo tackles the arrangements will certainly please Yes fans the world over.

To be honest I was thinking more of Starcastle than of the "real" Yes, Starcastle having been the American Yes-clone in the seventies. I think what set Starcastle apart from Yes were their harmonies, something which is also apparent in the new Glass Hammer composition "Tales Of The Great Wars" where the vocals are backed by acoustic guitar, soft organ touches and a roaring Rickenbacker that only Squire can master. Add to this the steel guitar passages courtesy of Fred Schendel and you know where we're heading to! Then out of the blue comes the magical voice of Susie Bogdanowicz which combined with the vintage sound of the Mellotron kind of introduces flashes of pure Renaissance before mini-Moog solos put the rhythmic fuel back into this wonderful piece. These solos range from pure Wakeman to jazzy Kit Watkins. Also "One King" very much holds the Starcastle format based on tasty Hammond and Moog and a great surprise is introduced once harpsichord enters the melodic structure. Somnambulist guitarist Charlie Shelton adds an extra guitar lead to spice it all up, ending in full force. No doubt the intro for "Further Up And Further In" contains everything you could wish for in the domain of progressive rock, as drums and synth work ever so well together, adding the almost necessary breaks. Telling the story of a young Roman man on a personal spiritual quest to find elusive glory, Lex Rex's musical and lyrical twists and turns are riveting. This becomes very clear during "Further Up And Turning" where some passages are included that leave all the space for the vocals to really shine in their own right, backed with some superb analogue equipment. Especially the crisp and clear sound of the Hammond backed by the original sound of the Mellotron is a true highlight in the music of Glass Hammer!

Throughout this concept album Fred and Steve have once again added some spoken passages which relive the spirit of the old black/white movies. They have also done this on their sideproject TMA-2. Here however it has been specially recorded to be in the spirit of things whilst some artificial crackle has been added to give it a more genuine, older touch. "Music For Four Hands (And Temporal Anomaly)" is exactly as its title implies: a short "quatre mains" piano concerto which comes like a resting point in the middle of the album. The same grand piano forms an important part in the wonderful ballad "Centurion," where guitar and mellotron form like a musical shield. In the end it introduces an experimental part where percussion gets a large share whilst Mellotron adds the ominous element. "When We Were Young" starts a bit in the cosmic vein with synthsounds adding spacey elements as the song builds and builds ending almost in kind of a "rondo" theme. With the steel guitar running throughout the song, no doubt Yes references are high on the cards again, the song ending almost in a similar magical way like "Close To The Edge"! The album closes with the acoustic "Heroes And Dragons" which acts as kind of a retrospective for the entire album. Occasional synth flashes add the Glass Hammer trademark, but it will mainly be the other material on Lex Rex which really make this seventh Glass Hammer album stand out. 2002 has proven to be a wonderful year for great progressive rock albums but no doubt Lex Rex will find its place in most of the media's special "best of" lists which will soon start to emerge. Congratulations to Fred and Steve for not giving up and believing in honest good music!

Just visit the band's website where you can download the song "One King" in its full 6:07 glory as an MP3 file, whilst there's also a RealAudio Lex Rex sampler plus streaming video to be found, all to give you an idea of just how good this album is. For those with a lot of cash in their wallets you can also fly to the next edition of NEARfest (28th and 29th June 2003) where Glass Hammer will be performing all of this album in its entirety next to some material from Chronometree and The Middle-Earth Album.

Good Evening (0:51) / Tales Of The Great Wars (10:42) / One King (6:07) / Further Up And Further In (15:13) / Intermission (1:08) / Music For Four Hands (And Temporal Anomaly) (2:19) / A Cup Of Trembling (7:50) / Centurion (7:47) / When We Were Young (9:53) / Goodnight (1:11) / Heroes And Dragons (3:45)

Steve Babb - lead & backing vocals, bass, synths, keyboards, pipe organ, Hammond, Mellotron
Fred Schendel - lead & backing vocals, steel guitars, electric & acoustic guitars, Hammond, piano, pipe organ, keyboards, synths, Mellotron, mandolin, recorder, drums and percussion

Additional Musicians:

Vocalists: Susie Bogdanowicz, Walter Moore, Sarah Lovell, Haley McGuire, Robert Streets, Carrie Streets
Guitarists: David Carter (4), Charlie Shelton (3), Bjorn Lynne (2)

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: December 2nd 2002
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 1411
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]