New Horizons Review

MONUMENT

Although there are experts who would have us all believe that progressive rock music was killed off by the arrival of Punk in around 1976/7, this was never really the case. The music was kept alive by musicans and fans alike, and remains to this day – the only thing that really changed was the attitude of the record companies towards the genre.

In fact, the late seventies and early eighties saw an enormous number of up and coming bands on the scene; and for every band that made itself known in the media, like Marillion, Pallas, IQ, or Twelfth Night, there were dozens more that remain to this day largely unknown. How many now remember the likes of Moriarty, Airbridge, LaHost or Glacier?

Glacier came into existence early in 1979 with a line up consisting of John Youdale (guitar & vocal), Dave Dawson (guitar & vocal), Dale Harbron (bass) and Mick King (drums). Later that same year it was decided to take on a full time keyboard player in the guise of Alan Husband. When Dave Dawson left, the addition of Dave Birdsall, on vocals, in September gave the band a stable lineup that was to last them until 1982.  During this period the band wrote a large amount of material as well as making live performances but, inevitably with the lack of industry support, the band broke up.

In 1985, this time with Bob Mulvey on bass and Peter Cornforth on keyboards, there was a reformation of the group, during which time more new material was written and live shows undertaken. Sadly, it was not long before the band once again went their separate ways.

The latest attempt to get things going again came in 1995, and while there have been some further changes to the lineup in the time between then and now, things seem to be finally on course. The current members of the the band are Dave Birdsall (vocals), John Youdale (guitars & vocals), Dave Kidson (keyboards & vocals), Bob Mulvey (bass) and Greame Ash (drums).

In recognition of all the members of the band, past and present, ‘Monument’ is a collection of tracks that looks back over the band’s history.  The majority of the material featured was written between 1979 and 1985, and is representative of the band’s live repertoire. The key exception to this is the title track itself, which was written last year and may represent the band’s future direction.

From the outset though the music comes across as being well put together with immediate melodies and strong harmonies. There were moments on the way through that put me in mind of IQ (‘Lull before the Storm’ and ‘Beyond the Wave’), Twelfth Night (‘East of Arabia’) and Pallas (‘The City Gates’), but interestingly in every instance the Glacier track actually predates the very music I thought it was reminiscent of.

There is a strong sense of humour (or is it irony) in some of the songs, as can clearly be heard in ‘Think of England’ and ‘East of Arabia’. The first of these is worthy of particular mention for the superb Mellotron part – which I have to say is a composition that Mr Wakeman would probably have been proud of.

Mellotron also features strongly on ‘The City Gates’. I have already mentioned the fact that this has certain similarities to Pallas, and the subtitle to the piece, ‘Atlantis’, somehow serves to accentuate this! In addition to the keyboard work, the guitar work and vocal harmonies are astonishingly rich and for me this is one of the high lights.

The album is however one that puts forward a variety of styles. Tracks like ‘Lull Before the Storm’ and ‘Beyond the Wave’ (which I have already touched upon) are very upbeat numbers with a strong driving rhythms pushing them along while, in complete contrast, we have the softer ‘Bring Down the Rain’ which is a powerfully uplifting piece enhanced by additional vocal contribution from Heather Davies. The tone of the song is excellent and the beautiful harmonisation from the general backing vocals makes the track particularly memorable.

The most recent number featured on the album is the instrumental ‘Monument’. The guitar work is wonderfully restrained but the playing is full of feeling and the emotion runs high. The other notable instrumental passage is the track ‘Through the Mist’ which stems back to 1981, the style is very different here with acoustic style guitar providing the main impetus for the piece.

The musicianship, from all concerned, and the production are excellent from start to finish and I honestly don’t believe that there is a bad track in this collection. Since I received my copy of ‘Monument’ I don’t think a day has yet passed when I have not played it – and there is still no sign of the power of the music diminishing.

Whether or not you have heard Glacier before, it is probably true to say that anyone who was part of the vibrant neo-prog scene in the early 80’s, is going to find elements of this album nostalgic. The music is the embodiment of the style prevalent at the time – but with the benefits of modern technology, the recordings on ‘Monument’ stand streets ahead of many of their contemporaries. This is not second rate modern neo-prog, but the real McCoy and as such I heartily recommend it!

Glacier have dedicated ‘Monument’ to Mick King, the band’s original drummer, who passed away in 1997 – a fitting tribute and one to be justly proud of.

Simon – New Horizons
27th May 2001

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