Harp - Hourglass; It's About Time!
hour·glass : 'au(-&)r-"glas : noun : an instrument for measuring time
An hourglass is typically used to measure time. But a few listens to this CD might lead you to believe you're being fooled. On one hand, the energy and drive of these three guys makes it seem as if little or no time has passed since their last studio CD. In fact, this band has more drive and creativity than ever before. But, there is also a level of musical and lyrical maturity that can only come with time, age and years of perfecting the craft. As a group, John Sferra, Daniel Pecchio and Phil Keaggy have a chemistry unmatched by most bands. Listening to them play, it feels as if they've been playing together as friends and bandmates for decades.
These guys aren't new. They started playing together in the late 60's and that legendary chemistry was there from the start. You can hear it in the 1971 recording Glass Harp Live at Carnegie Hall. But, as they were on the verge of fame, they stopped playing. Many people thought they had fallen off the edge of the earth. Ohio fans were teased a few times with "reunion" shows but until October 22, 2000, nobody imagined (or even dared hope) the band would get back together again. But, that show with the Youngstown Symphony (and it's offspring, the Strings Attached double live CD) were such a success that the three bandmates decided it was time to do more. Hourglass is the studio release fans have wanted for nearly 30 years.
But, as it's title alludes to, much time has passed. One would be tempted to think Glass Harp had mellowed with age. They haven't. And to prove it, they combine modern rock, folk and blues with their usual classic rock sound and unique harmonies. The sounds coming from the CD are newer, even a bit different, but this is Glass Harp all the way through. They are older, but they are more mature and their vocals (which many have claimed were a weak point in the past) have improved with time.
"Seven In A Box" is probably the most unique track on the CD and it's solid 7/4 beat, heavy bass and short bursts of guitar solos prove a stark contrast to the vocal harmonies, sound bytes and opening "spacey" sounds. This turns into the typical Glass Harp fun jam which ends abruptly with the start of the very bluesey, guitar-laiden "What's In Your Heart" complete with help from the Memphis Horns. "You Whisper Something" is probably the most radio-friendly song on the disc with it's Byrds influenced guitar work, and Phil's vocals bring out that Beatles flavor. "Everlasting Light" is just plain happy rock. "In Every Cathedral" might have you think you've switched gears but these guys bring the distortion level up a notch for the chorus giving the song an almost "power ballad" kind of feel. True to form, there are also some acoustic tunes like "Eastern Star", "Voice of God Call Out", "Once A Day Dream" and, my personal favorite, "Image". Similar to "What's In Your Heart", "That Way" and "My Prayer" have a very Cream sound, with "My Prayer" sounding a great deal like Blind Faith's "Presence of the Lord" (which these guys do in concert quite often) and "That Way" loosely resembles "Whatever Life Demands". "Lupins" is a cute little instrumental number leading to "If Love Is All We've Got". Co-written by Paul Overstreet, this has the potential to be a radio success as well if it were cut a bit shorter. It is also the only song that opens with and prodominately features keyboards. But as you get used to the acoustic numbers thoughout much of the last half of the CD, you are jolted back with the final track "Weather Boy". Just as the CD started with a modern note, it ends with a fresh dose of modern rock co-written by Phil and his son Ian. This is the more rock oriented tracks on the CD and is a great way to close out the album.
Lyricly, this album is as diverse as the music. The songwriting styles of John, Daniel and Phil are very different and anyone familiar with the band should be able to tell who wrote what. But part of Glass Harp's charm is to combine these styles into Glass Harp songs. From the pop of "Everlasting Light" to the introspective "Image" and deep spiritual insights of "What's In Your Heart" and "That Way". And lets not forget the praise-oriented "In Every Cathedral" and "Voice of God Call Out" which follows like a modern hymn. The longest song on the album, it combines simple praise with some modern touches. At times, it's drums and shakers give you a military march feel but the soundbytes never let you forget this is a modern song. In fact, the little snippets of instrumentals throughout the CD bring you back to 2003 should you happen to lose yourself in the music. I want to be very clear. This isn't just a "Phil Keaggy and Band" CD. This is Glass Harp with three full members, each with his own contribution that makes up what is uniquely Glass Harp.
Even with the quantity and diversity of music here (as with all Glass Harp albums), the tracks don't seen thrown together as a compilation would be. There something that pulls them all together and the disc seems to flow effortlessly from one track to the next. Could it be the friendship these guys have shared over more than 30 years? Could it be that Glass Harp magic? Or just good production? I'm sure it's all of the above, and I can't argue with the results. So was it worth the wait? Yes! Is it what I expected? No, it's much better. I won't say every track is a musical masterpiece, but with 16 songs, that's an impossible goal for any recording. I have been listening to demos and different renditions of many of these songs since last September but I certainly wasn't expecting this. I was not disappointed, and I don't think you will be either.
While their live performances will always be better than a CD (they thrive on improvisation), both are worthy of your attention. Don't call the AARP just yet. These guys still know how to rock!
-- Stephanie Bargenquast
View more information on Hourglass.
Posted: August 17, 2003