Tennessee's progressive rock veterans Glass Hammer are back with the follow-up to 2012's very fine Perilous, this one titled Ode to Echo. With lead singer Jon Davison recently joining Yes full-time, he's joined here on this latest album by a host of previous Glass Hammer vocalists, including Carl Groves, Susie Bogdanowicz, Walter Moore, and Michelle Young, giving Ode to Echo an even richer vocal experience than we've heard from the band in quite some time. Rounding out the line-up are Fred Schendel (keyboards, guitars, backing vocals), Steve Babb (bass, keyboards, backing vocals), Kamran Alan Shikoh (guitars, sitar), and Aaron Raulston (drums), with special guests including Randy Jackson (lead guitar & backing vocals on "Crowbone"), Rob Reed (piano & Moog on "Misantrog"), and David Ragsdale (violin on "Crowbone").
Though the previous few albums with Davison in the sole lead vocal slot have been very 'Yes sounding' (not in a bad way by any means), that seems to be less the case here. Though still clearly symphonic prog-rock, Ode to Echo seems more immediate, more lush, and extremely easy to get into from the very first listen. "Garden of Hedon" and "Misantrog", the two stellar tracks that kick off the album, both contain some great hooks to go along with Glass Hammer's always well thought out & created arrangements. The lovely "Crowbone" features some gorgeous vocal harmonies to go along with a heart tugging violin solo from Kansas' David Ragsdale, a thunderous ELP inspired Hammond organ jaunt courtesy of Schendel, and a tasty guitar solo from none other than Randy Jackson of Zebra, who also lends his unmistakable backing vocals. This is a stunning song and one of the bands best in years.
Babb's muscular bass lines and Raulston's acrobatic drum fills drive the complex "I Am I", with the always enchanting vocals of Bogdanowicz soaring over beds of simmering keys & guitars. Hints of Gentle Giant, Yes & ELP pop up on the engaging "The Grey Hills", and the grand, majestic take on "Porpoise song" is like a meeting between Electric Light Orchestra and Kansas, with dreamy musical soundscapes (beautiful Hammond) and layers of lead & backing vocals. After the tender mostly keyboard/vocal duet with Susie on "Panegyric", the band closes things out on the quirky "Ozymydias", another multi-layered prog extravaganza, featuring all the vocalists putting in great performances and plenty of intricate, weaving musical passages.
Thoughtful & engaging lyrics run throughout the entire album (something you can always count on the band for) helping make Ode to Echo not only pleasing from a musical perspective but also intriguing to read along while soaking in all the great sounds. Nice to have Groves back in the fold, and he works well with all the other vocalists here giving this album a really warm feel. Another triumph from the Glass Hammer family!
1. "Garden of Hedon" 6:57
2. "Misantrog" 10:00
3. "Crowbone" 7:22
4. "I Am I" 8:15
5. "The Grey Hills" 4:47
6. "Porpoise song" 3:37
7. "Panegyric" 4:11
8. "Ozymydias" 8:12