Hands: Twenty Five Winters 2002 Wheelhouse Publishing CyberHome: www.WheelHouse-Music.com/hands.htm Twenty Five Winters by Hands a collection of moderately progressive rock songs that feature some non-standard rock instrumentation including violins, mandolins, woodwinds, and French horn. The composition is definitely more progressive than pop music that is typically played on the radio these days, but the format resembles that of traditional progressive rock. The instrumentation is more involved than radio rock and the musical ideas venture outside of the standard progressions and scales. The sound is a little similar to the rock group Kansas, but with more exploration into nonstandard harmonization and instrumentation. The sound is interesting and comes off well with the instruments that are used. The instrumentation is well-played, well-integrated, and well- balanced, a professional job. Mark Menikos lays down some impressive violin work on the opening tracks "Knock / Enter" and "Walls" reminiscent of Kansas. And, Michael Clay proves that he can keep up on the keyboard. The vocals left something to be desired for me, but are probably good enough for commercial music and are probably just a matter of listener adjustment. The lead guitar work is sparse and is not up to speed with modern guitar technique, though well-felt where it does occur. But, this musical format is not a showcase for guitar technique! Overall, I like the use of nonstandard instrumentation. This gives the music unique character and a new dimension that stretches the boundaries of conventional music's instrumentation and sound. In the context of commercial progressive rock, the composition is fairly good, but was a little more repetitive in places than I prefer. But, this comment should be taken into context of the format of the music presented on Twenty Five Winters which has its footings in a more traditional progressive rock format (similar to Yes and Kansas) which strives for an outside sound with more variation than is common in rock. But, not everybody has mastered continuous variation like Scott Henderson, Greg Howe, and their peers! The Twenty Five Winters album will probably find an audience in followers of progressive rock who like a more traditional flavor of progressive rock with its footing in groups such as Kansas and the like, but are looking for a little more flavor outside of the standard diatonic harmonies. The standout on this effort for me was "Dance Of Light And Darkness" which is good enough that it should probably receive some radio air time. This song has some good vocal harmonies, rhythmic foundations and changes, kind of a fusion between some Beatles-like arrangements with more modern content. "Dance Of Light And Darkness" has good direction, good resolution, and kept me surprised where it was going, which is pretty rare. The instrumental "Green Room" also had some tasteful piano and a soulful violin melody that might strike a broader appeal. The final four part track, "Leaving", is an ambitous eleven minute opus that has some interesting melody lines that ventured outside the standard diatonic harmonies. Twenty Five Winters does not posess any ground-breaking musical composition or virtuoso instrumental mastery. But, all in all, Twenty Five Winters is a worthwhile effort to check out for its outside harmonies that are presented in a pretty coherent, digestible format with advanced yet modest instrumentation. If you are a fan of the traditional progressive rock genre, after a few listenings to this CD, you may find yourself with some more good listening material! Tracks: 1) Knock / Enter 2) Walls 3) Green Room (pt. 1 & 2) 4) Dance Of Light And Darkness 5) I Laughed Aloud 6) Zombieroch (pt. 3) 7) Leaving I) Song Of Summer II) Vigil For One II) The Traveler's Lament II) Above And Below ~ Christopher Ruel ~ www.ChrisRuel.com
Prism: Live 75-77 (CD, 67:17); Shroom Productions -SP97002, 1997 P.O. Box 130475 Houston, TX 77219-0475, USA Phone: 415 327-6234 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cyberhome: http://www.shroomangel.com Here is pre-Hands aka Prism in an earliest 1975-76 incarnation and the 1976-77 near- Hands form that finally coalesced into Hands. Get a sneek peak at the raw and true life of a band struggling to be heard through noisy nite club chatter, apathetic ping pong ball echoes, local Texas radio shows, live and in the studio. Prism plays mostly original tunes but does cover Gentle Giant’s “Plain Truth” and King Crimson’s “Great Deceiver”. Their Crimson cover is impressive, even in such a raw format and Prism sings as good as if not better than Wetton. The best offering of this early era is the live studio session cut, “Triangle Of New Flight”. Probably a crowd pleaser with all its funk but weakest cut to me was the you-can-dance-to-it, “Multi Dimensional Jive”. Things polish up noticeably with late era Prism’s “Hands in the Fire” which sounds much better than the later version found on Hands. Definitely the hippest, jazzy, offbeat cut is the 8:43 “Nasebluten” which shows just how creative and what potential these guys really had. This is great Canterbury jazz fusion stuff here. Tracks 11-15 are all from Prism’s opening for Gentle Giant at the Electric Ballroom in 1977. We hear a great flute solo, then “Ditty” which is found on Hands’ Palm Mystery release. More quality Prism follows in a Dregsian mode, then a keyboard solo, and another Palm Mystery cut, “King’s Mischief”. Prism outros in a whacked, jazzy, and playful tune called “Skeletone Rag”. For fans of Hands this a completist must-have. ~ John W. Patterson
Hands: self-titled (CD, 71:16); Shroom Productions -SP96001, 1996 P.O. Box 130475 Houston, TX 77219-0475, USA Phone: 415 327-6234 E-mail: email@example.com Cyberhome: http://www.shroomangel.com Richard “Cool Beans” Patz should be considered the “T Rex”of dinosaur hunters at Shroom. He has dedicated his tireless energies to unearthing, rediscovering, and offering the waiting-for- cool-stuff, world lost “dinosaurs” of treasures of ‘70s fusion, prog rock, and other such eclectica. Having first reviewed Hands’ Palm Mystery which followed this release, I was eager to hear more of this exceptional band’s music. I was not to be let down -- plenty of quality musicianship here! I again heard rockin’ fusion and mellow acoustic guitar, strong keys, tight bass, great drumming, lilting flute, tender vox, and of course jazzy, folk rock fiddling. Hands is Canterbury meets Dixie Dregs with flashes of vintage Jean-Luc Ponty. Listen closely for echoes of Jade Warrior, National Health, PFM, Arti + Mestieri, Hatfield and the North, Genesis, Kansas, Flying Island, and Tull. They wax their most ambitiously symphonic prog on the 10:29 “Antarctica”. I found “The Tiburon Treasure” a delightful vignette of acoustic guitar and violin. Best cuts for general rocking out and flat out furious fusion are “Castle Keep”, “Mindgrind”, and “Zombieroch”. The remainder of this release is predominantly toned down and contemplative with songs like “Dreamsearch” -- that even your non-prog, girlie friend/soulmate will enjoy. I highly recommend this release for a sweet taste of “what was but never came to truly be -- until now”. Thanks again, Mr. Shroom. ~ John W. Patterson
Hands: Palm Mystery (CD, 62:43); Shroom Productions -SP98005, 1998 P.O. Box 130475 Houston, TX 77219-0475, USA Phone: 415 327-6234 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cyberhome: http://www.shroomangel.com This review is a long time comin' and it fits the bill as Hands recorded this over the years of 1977-1980, merely a couple of decades ago. Shroom Productions has unearthed more gems in these 17 tracks. This is solidly, some of the best, way-back-when progressive rock I've had the joy to hear as a reviewer. You are treated to great guitar, excellent keys, hot violin work, top-of-the-line lead vocals and harmony voices, lilting flute, fine reeds, tight percussion, melodic-driven bass, and a variety of stylings in superb compositions. Tracks 1-14 are studio cuts with 15-17 being bonus live tracks. The live tracks are unique, bonus tunes, not found among previous pieces. Song lengths range from the 32 second intro to the 7:15 outro. First time I heard this, I was wondering just how best to review this bevy of delights. I could have just said, "Buy this now, quick, trust me," or waxed long and loud on the incredible musicianship or whined about the tragedy these Texans didn't go places years ago but hey -- giants like Happy The Man suffered demise even after a major label showing. Such is the plight of proggers drowned in mainstream music's moolah-minded morass. In Hands you will hear National Health, PFM, Arti + Mestieri, Hatfield and the North, traces of early Yes, Happy the Man, Samurai, Dixie Dregsian down-home jig and tender ballads, snippets of Tull, Genesis sensitivities, flashes of Kansas, echoes of Flying Island, and I know many out there will hear other bands I've missed. Amazingly enough, with all this diversity present, things remain cohesive. Palm Mystery is a well-crafted mosaic of wonderful sounds. I have to give this release a double-thumbs up with a smile from ear to ear. ~ John W. Patterson
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