After roughly a quarter of a century since legendary Texas progressive act Hands last recorded, 2002 sees the release of the bands reunion CD titled Twenty Five Winters. Back in the mid-90’s Shroom Productions pulled out of the vaults the first Hands self titled album, a wonderful collection of fiery and intricate prog-rock. While the band hinted at many of the characteristics of their contemporaries such as Gentle Giant, Happy the Man, Kansas, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, they really had a unique sound that was the result of a talented group of musicians who played many different instruments and wrote wonderfully complex, quirky, and melodic songs. Shroom later released Palm Mystery, made up of recordings that the band completed shortly after the debut and right before the breakup in the late 70’s. This new CD marks the first time the band has put together new material since then, completed by three of the original members, keyboardist Michael Clay, guitarist Ernie Meyers, violinist Mark Menikos, plus new members Rex Bozarth on bass, and Martin McCall on drums.
Once you get past the fact that Twenty Five Winters is in no way a continuation of Palm Mystery or the bands debut, you realize what an enjoyable CD this really is. Sure, the music here is not as complex as the band previously came up with, but there is an inherent beauty to the seven tracks recorded here that the band has never quite achieved before. “Dance of Light and Darkness” is a perfect example, including a wonderful and melodic lead vocal supplemented by exquisite violin and keyboards, which quickly climaxes into a terrific Gentle Giant influenced ensemble vocal fugue. Two enchanting instrumental pieces, “I Laughed Aloud” and “Zombieroch Pt. 3” let the band strut a little of their musical prowess, especially bassist Rex Bozarth, who adds a little Tony Levin flavor to the latter. Violinist Menikos however is the star of the show throughout this CD. His soaring lines permeate “Knock/Enter” and “Walls” with majestic grandeur, and becomes the perfect partner to Clay’s gentle keyboard touches. The final track is the epic “Leaving”, an atmospheric masterpiece that is broken down into four parts and features the best guitar work from Ernie Meyers on the CD. The constantly changing time signatures and tempo variations are well done, as the song moves from quiet acoustic interludes, harmonious vocal sections, to raging, complex prog.
The only real negative here is the length of the CD, which is barely over thirty minutes, but it is extremely enjoyable time spent nonetheless. I also missed some of the woodwind playing that highlighted much of the bands earlier work, but Mark Menikos does a good job of picking up the slack. Twenty Five Winters is highly recommended and a welcome comeback from one of the greats.