IF (E)

Artiest / Band: 

If is the ninth studio album - not included the Middle Earth-album and compilations - by the American band Glass Hammer, that I would rather refer to as a duo. In essence Glass Hammer consist of the nucleus Steve Babb (bass, keyboards) and Fred Schendel (keyboards, mandolin, steel guitar) and a different cast of musicians and vocalists. This time Babb and Schendel chose to conceive a retro album which is reminiscent of Yes in the mid-seventies. The voice of new vocalist Jon Davison seems to me a cross-over of the voices of Jon Anderson (Yes), Terry Luttrell (Starcastle) and Colin Carter (Flash). However, in my perception Davison lacks a characteristic vibe or a distinct warm tone and for me his singing is too clean and emotionless. No false notes and a good performance, but again for me there's something missing and it's not very original. The first track Beyond, Within opens with lush keyboards, gracefully filling by drummer Randall Williams and the powerful Rickenbacker bass. The guitars, played by Alan Shikoh, sound like a mixture of Steve Howe and Peter Banks (both Yes). The music is quite varied and typically prog rock': many changes in tempo, multi-vocal pieces and just a single bass, orchestral parts versus only a piano as accompaniment. At the end the guitar is very low profile in the mix while the organ seems too dominant. The singing is unmistakably 'Yes'. Piano, bass and keyboards open the second track called Behold, The Ziddle and because of the more difficult rhythm patterns and intonation one has to think of Emerson, Lake & Palmer or even Gentle Giant. Some of the melodies are very catchy, others are definitely not, but they are nevertheless well-crafted and certainly intriguing. Grace The Skies is the shortest track on the album. It's a tasteful mid-tempo tune with Mellotron-like orchestrations, next to the organ. This song could have been on the theTormato-album by Yes as far as I'm concerned. At Last We Are is in the vein of the songs on Going For The One, again by Yes, but with a warmer and richer sound. If The Stars contains a lot of different keyboards. It's a bombastic piece combining the emotional feel of And You And I and Awaken by Yes. The longest epic is instrumentally the most interesting one. On the foundation of drums, Mellotron and bass there's a variety of melodies and soloing by guitar, synth and several other sounds by keyboards. At around four minutes an instrumental theme, started by piano, keyboards and guitars similar to Supertramp playing their interpretation of the first part of Würm by Yes. There's also a section in the vein of the vocal parts of Siberian Kathru by Yes. In the next bit, the vocal harmonies show some influences of The Beatles. It's followed by a rather slow, subtle section with keyboards, vocals and bass at first, later on joined by drums and guitar. Then suddenly a very different, almost 'heavy' passage with a powerful bass, organ and the best guitar solo on the record, finally not a Howe or Banks sound! Again quite another very melodic Yes-sounding piece with Davison reaching for his highest notes and richly orchestrated by Schendel. However, the grand finale that could be expected  is missing: the last part is a melodic tune with Davison singing and Schendel mainly using the piano.

If contains intelligent compositions by excellent musicians and has a nice production. The album is absolutely recommended for fans of seventies prog by band like Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and perhaps Gentle Giant. Although this cd won't rank among my favourite Glass Hammer-albums - and I've got them all - it's a truly nice album indeed but for my taste the music, the vocals as well as the sound of most instruments are far too close to the legendary mid seventies Yes. Even the artwork by Tom Kuhn, though quite tasteful, is too much resembling Roger Dean's to be called original. I never have been fond of 'clones' and that is a strictly personal preference; this album definitely sounds too much like a Yes-clone to me.