The first thought that ran through my head as I gave No Stranger to the Skies its first spin was "who are these guys and why haven't I heard of them before?!" Quite simply, Glass' archival release is one of the best examples of American progressive rock I've ever heard. Comprising two CDs of first class material recorded between 1973 and 1977, it is all the more amazing to realize that these recordings never saw the light of day until the band released them independently in 2000. Reissued again in 2004 by Musea, the music of Glass is more accessible to symphonic rock fans than ever before.
Hailing from Washington state, Glass were/are a three piece instrumental keyboard driven band, but they do not fit the "power trio" tag at all. The few descriptions I did see compared them to Emerson Lake and Palmer, which just isn't true. So what do they sound like? Well, at various times I was reminded of Happy the Man, Schicke Führs and Fröhling, King Crimson and even Goblin here and there.
Disc One, "The Studio Sessions", consists of demos that sometimes took up to three years to complete. Disc Two, "The Live Recordings", is similar in execution to the first disc except that these pieces were more or less recorded in one take with overdubs from different performances. So it isn't strictly live as there is no audience, but the songs have a decidedly more spontaneous feel. Sound quality is surprisingly very good and much better than your typical archival release. "The Live Recordings" suffers from distortion on occasion, but it's hardly a significant distraction. Highlights range from the thirty minute "Broken Oars suite" to the twelve minute "For Ursula Major and Sirus the Dog Star" as well as the nine minute haunting title track. Except for the pretty three minute "Home", the compositions are very long and the arrangements are always exciting and unpredictable. You won't find excessive soloing for its own sake, although there's plenty of impressive musicianship on display. Glass relied extensively on atmosphere and dynamics. Keyboard player Greg Sherman must be mentioned for the remarkable tones he draws from the ARP synthesizers. He is also a master mellotronist, if there is such a person. In fact, I would consider No Stranger to the Skies to be a mellotron lovers delight and the gradual buildup of "Broken Oars pt 1" is particularly noteworthy in this regard.
Beautifully packaged in a fold out sleeve that includes a vintage montage of the band in the studio and on stage as well as copious liner notes detailing the troubled history of the band and we have a candidate for reissue of the year. Happily, Glass have recently reformed and are at work on a new studio recording as I write this. Richard Sinclair of Caravan fame was intrigued enough to ask them to play with him at BajaProg 2004. No Stranger to the Skies is readily available. With all these factors in place, Glass may finally be on the verge of the success that they so deserved in the first place.
Disc One The Studio Sessions
- No Stranger to the Skies (9:14)
- Give the Man a Hand (6:25)
- Domino (8:24)
- The Myopic Stream (8:17)
- For Ursula Major and Sirus the Dog Star (12:12)
Disc Two The "Live" Recordings
- Broken Oars pt 1 (29:55)
- Broken Oars pt 2
- Broken Oars pt 3
- Broken Oars pt 4
- Broken Oars pt 5
- Broken Oars pt 6
- Changer (10:54)
- Home (2:55)
- Patrice Mersault's Dream (12:29)