Hands - Twenty Five Winters

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Shroom Productions
Catalog Number: SP 2113
Format: CD
Total Time: 37:42:00

Using any one point of reference to describe the music to be found on Hands' absolutely terrific Twenty Five Winters only tells you one-seventh of the story. Hands are at one moment Celtic, one moment Ameri-prog in the vein of Echolyn, one moment classically influenced and another moment something else. There was even a point where I thought of both Squeeze and Madness...and in the case of "Zombieroch" I sometimes thought of King Crimson and at other times of French TV; that is, an eclectic mix of jazz and rock played sometimes with and sometimes against each other. I keep playing this CD over and over, each time finding new things to like and appreciate about it. You should zoom over to Shroom and get your hands on a copy.

Twenty-Five Winters is the first release by the band in 22 years, a band that formed in Texas in 1972, first as Ibis then Prism. In 1978, owing to the fact that there was a Canadian band called Prism, the band changed their name to Hands. Their earlier material has been compared to such artists as Happy The Man and Gentle Giant, the latter of whom they opened for in 1977. By 1980, the band had split. Their first album, Hands was recorded in 1977, but wasn't released until 1996, the first release from the Texas based label Shroom Productions (a label formed by Richard Patz to release prog rock from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana). Shroom later released Palm Mystery and Prism Live 75-77, two albums that also contained archival material. The bio on the Hands site brings us up to date by telling us: "In 1996 [Ernie] Myers and [Michael] Clay began to write some songs in a style that was progressive but not a recounting of their earlier sound. That sound was gone and would never return. But the new songs began to take on life and after several personnel changes and midstream alterations in recording technique, the CD Twenty Five Winters was finished in the Fall of 2001."

While lyrically "Knock/Enter" seems underdeveloped, there is a great deal of meaning in the few lines there are -- whether it is a comment upon their career, life in general, or both, the message is clear -- don't wait for something to happen, make it happen. There is an extended instrumental section to this track that is quite Celtic-rock in nature, in the vein of California's Tempest, this is brought about by not just Mark Menikos on violin, but the whole arrangement of the track - though not any one specific track, "Cat In The Corner" is what came to mind most often (from Turn Of The Wheel). This violin sound is picked up by the next track "Walls," a track that does make me think of Echolyn...and thus by extension we get Gentle Giant. There are at least three tempo changes here, from very quick to languid, the "solo" section becoming even more languid. Speaking of "Cats," there is a certain part of the main guitar phrase to "Green Room (pt. 1 & 2)" that reminds me of "Cat's In The Cradle" ... this segues into a beautiful, gentle, flowing piano and bass passage, presaging the classicism of what follows in "I Laughed Aloud" and "Leaving." As good as this album is overall, it is here, in these three tracks, that Hands are truly spectacular.

Each track is varied enough that each deserves some mention. "Dance of Light And Darkness" takes the layered vocals of Gentle Giant (counterpoint) and the smart pop of Squeeze (including the vocals of Myers) and melds them. Though there's a dash of Madness in there, too, as "Our House" was echoing in my mind in terms of the phrasing of certain passages.

"I Laughed Aloud" is, ironically, a melancholy section where the light piano notes suggest false cheer. A tragic figure who must smile through his pain.

"Leaving," the four part suite that concludes the album, is beautifully stunning. Chris Dulen guests on French Horn, which gives the intro a wonderfully warm feeling. Michael Clay's lyrical piano lines play in contrast to the languid French Horn, giving this piece a very classical feel...and a classy feel. A cinematic feel, somewhat melancholy but hopeful -- as the title suggests. Menikos and Clay also play acoustic guitar on this piece, beginning with the second movement "Vigil For One." "The Traveler's Lament," the third movement, at first begins moody, but soon becomes angular and rocky, guitars and bass churning away over rapid, varied percussion -- Crimson. "Above And Below" hints at Emerson, Lake and Palmer's gentler, symphonic moments. It's a piece that I could easily also hear The Flower Kings do. Everything flows and swirls...the lyrics are as evocative of the music as the music is of the lyrics -- that is a match between words, imagery and music.

[Aug 2009: I'm not sure if Shroom is still active as the site seems stuck in 2003; But you can (probably) still get your um? hands on the CD via the band's website ?ed.]

Knock/Enter (6:50) / Walls (4:15) / Green Room (pt. 1 & 2) (3:51) / Dance Of Light And Darkness (5:09) / I Laughed Aloud (2:46) / Zombieroch (pt. 3) (4:46) / Leaving (11:25): I. Song Of Summer - II. Vigil For One - III. The Traveler's Lament - IV. Above And Below

Rex Bozarth - electric and acoustic basses, Stick, cello, vocals
Michael Clay - piano, synthesizers, electric and acoustic guitars, electric woodwinds, devices, composer
Martin McCall - drums, percussion, noisemakers, electronics
Mark Menikos - electric and acoustic violins, mandolin, acoustic guitar, vocals
Ernie Myers - vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, composer

Additional musicians:

John Fiveash - drums (1-4, 6), backing vocals (1)
Steve Parker - backing vocals (1)
Chris Dulen - French Horn (7)

Hands (1977)
Palm Mystery (1996/1999) Prism Live 75-77 (1997)
The Early Years 1974-76 (2000) (Shroom Ltd Edition of 400)
Twenty Five Winters (2002)
Strangelet (2008)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: May 18th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: hands.wheelhouse-music.com
Hits: 1483
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]