GLASS HAMMER: Shadowlands

Cover Musicians
GLASS HAMMER: Shadowlands

Steve Babb : vocals, four and eight string bass, synthesizers, keyboards, pipe organ, Mellotron, Taurus pedals, percussion

Fred Schendel : vocals, steel guitar, electric and acoustic guitars, Hammond organ, piano, pipe organ, keyboards, synthesizers, Mellotron, drums, percussion 

Guests :

Walter Moore : vocals

Susie Bogdanowicz : vocals

Sarah Snyder : backing vocals

Flo Paris : vocals

Bethany Warren : backing vocals

The Adonia string trio :

Rebecca James : violin

Susan Hawkins : viola

Rachel Hackenburger : cello

Release Label Cat. N° Playing Time Rating
14/01/2004 Arion Records SR1122


Website Contact Style

Progressive Rock

Cd of the month January 2004
Review by
John 'Bobo' Bollenberg

It’s strange how people tend to only look at bands such as Spock’s Beard, Flower Kings, Porcupine Tree or Dream Theater in order to stick on the label of ‘productive band’ when it concerns to revival of progressive rock. For sure most ‘other’ artists tend to deliver only a handful CD’s during their existence but in the case of the American band Glass Hammer things most certainly look much different. By releasing their brandnew album “Shadowlands”, our US friends deliver their eight album under the moniker of Glass Hammer and once again it has become a collection of authentic vintage prog sounds the way we like ‘em best !

Prior to Glass Hammer Steve Babb released the album “The final catastrophe” as Wyzard with Fred Schendel helping him out on keyboards. Around the same time they put their respective ideas and talent together to help singer Tracy Cloud on her album “Love changes”. Cloud later on repaid the favour by singing on Glass Hammer’s “Perelandra” album. Maybe those early days really cemented the partnership between Babb and Schendel no doubt admiring the same seventies icons. From their debut as Glass Hammer “On to evermore” onwards right until the recent “Shadowlands”, the band has melted all the right symphonic moves into a waterfall of progressive delight. For their latest collection of epics Steve and Fred have used amongst others the talents of singers Susie Bogdanowicz and Walter Moore next to using the latest modern recording technology in order to record both digital and mainly analogue equipment as cristalclear as possible. The duo most certainly are ace producers in their favourite musical field having produced albums by Volare and Somnambulist under the name of Sound Resources. The perfect proof that these guys’ interest in music reaches far wider than solely prog, the duo also releases trancelike ambient-techno-dance music as TMA-2 who has issued two albums so far. But what about “Shadowlands” then ? Well, you can really tell it’s Glass Hammer as most of the influences remain. No doubt YES has been very influential in both their lives which sounds very transparent through the Glass Hammer compositions.

With no less than seven different voices present on this album, a string trio and both Schendel and Babb playing the mighty mellotron, “Shadowlands” has indeed become a much richer album, fuller what arrangements are concerned and by using a decent amount of acoustic instruments also much more detailed. For some strange reason the opening section for ‘So close, so far’ reminds me of “Point of know return” era Kansas, accessible yet wonderfully arranged. Once the vocals enter however I immediately think of Starcastle. Fact is I also hear synthsolo’s through the vocal passages something which I also detect when listening to Terry Lutrell singing whilst Herb Schildt delivers his Moog solo’s as during Starcastle’s “Fountains of light” album. A couple of authentic Steve Howe-like chords suddenly change the rhythm of the song completely making way for Flo Paris’ vocals. Fred Schendel’s adoration for Steve Howe goes a long way when he delivers some ace steel guitar making certain parts sound as if they were lifted from “Close to the edge” ! The love for Yes continues when the intro for ‘Run Lisette’ unleashes some powerful Rickenbacker. Combined with pipe organ the song gets close to the feel of ‘Awaken’. No samples have been used as this pipe organ has been recorded at the First United Methodist Church in Waynesville, NC. In fact all of ‘Run Lisette’ is a feast if you’re into melodic keyboard parts. Towards the end of the song all attention goes towards the male and female vocals which sadly are not of the same caliber as the perfect instrumentation. Similarities with Kansas become even clearer when violin is introduced.

After a rather long and uninspired introduction I nevertheless detect tiny Kit Watkins interventions on keyboards and even some “Relayer” era Patrick Moraz during ‘Farewell to shadowlands’. The main attraction here however is once again the pipe organ. Again ‘Longer’ takes a lot of time before it finally kicks off. As I didn’t read the accompanying booklet before, I thought it concerned an original Glass Hammer composition where I heard a speeded up version of the melody from Dan Fogelberg’s hit ‘Longer’. But when the singing started there was no more doubt : this was the Dan Fogelberg classic but delivered in true progressive style ! I’m sure the original composer will be pleased !

The album closes with what Neal Morse would describe ‘an epic to end all epics’. ‘Behind the great beyond’ begins with classical, Baroque-like acoustic guitar before it evolves towards a mixture of Transatlantic moves and Yes from the “Magnification” and “YesSymphonic” era. The latter is mainly the case due to the integration of an authentic strings trio. As this lengthy song develops another pure classical intermezzo is introduced by means of a Morish acoustic guitarsolo. The synth follows the vocal lines whilst electric piano once again delivers some of the experimental nature of Kit Watkins and once that violin comes to te fore there’s no escape from the Kansas mould ! After some rhythmic changes the Baroque feel is once again introduced yet this time around firmly integrated into the Glass Hammer music. The roaring organ contains some Ekseption (Rick van der Linden) magic whilst the classical nature of some of the arrangements rubs shoulders with Minimum Vital. The song ends with some mellotron and bass sounds which in a way contain a similar atmosphere as the outro for “Close to the edge”. So once again Glass Hammer has delivered a wonderful album which all lovers of superb, melodic symphonic rock will enjoy to the fullest. Listening to all the material on “Shadowlands” it’s like listening to Yes and Kansas in one studio so if you’re a fan of one of them or better still both of these icons, then you’re in for a real treat ! This incredible leap-year couldn’t begin any better !

Tracklist Discography
  1. So close, so far (9’50”)
  2. Run Lisette (10’30”)
  3. Farewell to shadowlands (7’30”)
  4. Longer (9’55”)
  5. Behind the great beyond (20’26”)
  1. “Journey of the Dunadan” 1993 Arion Records (7690-51111-120)

  2. “Perelandra” 1995 Arion Records (features Michel Young)

  3. “Live and revived” 1997 Arion Records (SR-5710) (limited edition of 1000 numbered copies)

  4. “On to evermore” 1998 Arion Records (SR1127)“Chronometree” 2000 Arion Records (SR9000)

  5. “The middle-earth album” 2001 Arion Records

  6. “Special edition ‘adventure pack’

  7. “Live and revived”  re-issue

  8. Lex rex” 2002 Arion Records (SR1123)

  9. “Shadowlands” 2004 Arion Records (SR1122)

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