Out of limbo and out on a limb: American adventurers climb on a cloud to become legends.
That’s quite an inauspicious beginning if a band’s first album is deemed too conceptual for its heavy music and too metallic for its coherent lyrical ideas, yet this trio countered such a punch by delivering a follow-up platter which would become a cult classic. Their self-titled actual debut and a two-in-one offering “Mother/Bow To The King” – both released in 1972 – as well as 1973’s “Music” were well-loved but the ensemble’s disappointment with the business side of what they did resulted in unwillingness to enter the studio and a break-up. And when they did return, to lay down 1999’s “Return To Zero” and “The Maze” five years later, a contemporarily polished veneer replaced the deliciously rough surface of the group’s early works – the rawness returning on “Another Me” where all three original players are present.
Of course, it’s difficult, after five decades of experience, to recapture the innocent-just-lost, underground edge of yore, yet Franks Ferrara and Glicken did a stellar job of seamlessly stitching their past to the present, if not the future which the erstwhile drummer Tony D’Iorio’s lyrics touch upon on some of these fresh cuts, letting young recruit Danny Pisell hit the skins and help the veterans reach for the skies. From the irresistible riff of the acoustically tinctured, reflective title track to the eerie balladry of “This Night” that provides the most perfect, anthemic finale for the record’s intense run, there’s nary a moment for the listener not to relish, as Glicken’s harmonic guitars get grounded with Ferrara’s steamroller bass and infectiously strident voice. So though the cymbals-splashed “Clouds” covers metal territory and “Broken Toys” seems to stick to sonic gloom, the former number boasts sweetly layered vocals and the latter stomping piece rides a danse-macabre-inducing, blues-smeared groove.
But then, the mesmeric seriousness of “Man Of God” is lighted by piano chords and the overall orchestral vibe, and “Two Angels” soars in an unhurried, reverie-like manner towards two majestic six-string solos, and whereas “Drone Pilot” simply rocks recklessly and with much gusto into the sunset, “Tin Man” proudly marches to challenge infinity and win the day. It’s a glorious return to the fray – hopefully, the ensemble will stay there a little bit longer, enough to enter the studio again.