Sunday, January 09, 2005

 

Glass Hammer - "Lex Live"

As I've noted before there are some incredible chops on this DVD, yet it seems in many ways a pastiche of Yes, ELP, with touches even of Dream Theater and Renaissance. Many of the songs echo Yes a bit too much, to the point where I could've sworn I heard parts of "Heart Of The Sunrise" and "Close To The Edge". Keyboardist and auteur Fred Schendel effectively channels both Wakeman and Emerson, to the point of using every one of his keyboards with four different patches during each song. Schendel also does a Steve Howe-ism, playing lap steel on "Chronos Deliverer" (which actually works the best out of the songs on the DVD, IMSHO). Guitarist Walter Moore and bassist Steve Babb switch to keys for this song and guest guitarist/bassist Eric Parker takes over on bass. The steel works very well in the context of this song, and the more consistent approach to keys makes it more pleasurable to listen to, instead of trying to get every sound possible out of the rigs. The singers are treated better on "Chronos" as well, being a touch more prominent in the mix. I especially like Susie Bogdanowicz and Bethany Warren's voices on the entire DVD, however, the mix doesn't showcase them adequately for the most part.

Walter Moore's a good guitarist, channeling both Steve Howe and John Petrucci on the performance, a bit too effect-driven sometimes. Steve Babb's bass playing likewise channels Squire and Lake a bit, but he's got a crisp tone and drives the songs nicely. The big problem here is most of the songs, which have typical pretentious pseudo-Tolkein themes, just aren't memorable at least on the basis of a couple of listens. There isn't a hook in any of these. A lot of these songs have the assembled composition feel of Yes, lots of little pieces put together into one big piece, and some vague theme. It's a great excuse for showing off instrumental chops (and there's a nifty homage to The Nice's "Rondo" in "When We Were Young").

The show has some minor video issues, mostly with long shots from an audience-based camera. Most of the show is shot as closeups of the instrumentalists, which of course is my favorite type of concert DVD. It's definitely a musician's show, but it won't convert the uninitiated.

Extras include interminable footage of the band rehearsing in a hotel in preparation for a gig at NEARFest, plus a bit of recording footage. The main show on this DVD was filmed at Rhythm and Brews in Chattanooga.

There's actually quite a bit of good material here, and the show improves dramatically toward the end, "Heaven" being a major epic with a dramatic finish. I suppose it warrants digging a bit into the catalog a bit to see where they're coming from (the albums providing the source material for the show are "Lex Rex", "Chronometree" and "Perelandra". The thing that pleases me most about this is that there is indeed a sense of melody at work here, far more so than the annoying Dream Theater Budokan set list. Perhaps this will grow on me, but on first intense viewing, the bottom line is that the pastiche aspect comes through a bit too much for me to be a huge fan of it. Not to say that a pastiche can't be majorly grooving ("Lies" by The Knickerbockers, anyone?)......

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