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CD Review: Glass Harp

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Tomorrow (November 8), an historic event will take place. Historic if you are a music fan, anyway — especially if you enjoy classic rock. Music Mill Entertainment is re-issuing the first three Glass Harp full-length albums. These albums have been out of print for over thirty years.

Glass Harp is known as one of the founding bands of what ultimately became known as CCM — Contemporary Christian Music. Don’t let that label fool you, though — you won’t hear a lot of pop-derived, sugar-coated Jesus music out of Glass Harp. In it’s day, Glass Harp opened for such rock icons as Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, Yes, and The Kinks. Guitarist Phil Keaggy went on to greater acclaim as a solo act after leaving the band in 1972. Bassist Daniel Pecchio went on to co-found the Michael Stanley Band. These guys have rock chops.

The first release, their self-titled debut on Decca Records, was released in 1970 and showcases the band’s creativity quite well. The songs run from the dreamlike “Southbound” to offerings like “Village Queen,” with a more rock/soul feel. “Village Queen” has something about it that always reminds me of the Beatles’ “Baby, You Can Drive My Car.” Maybe it’s Phil Keaggy’s vocals. Keaggy also displays his guitar prowess in songs like “Look In the Sky.”

Synergy is the second release, which was also recorded at Jimmy Hendrix’ Electric Lady Studios. The highlight on this one for me was “Never is a Long Time” — a hard rock prototype that highlights not only Keaggy but Pecchio’s guitar work as well. The harmonies are as tight as the first release, and the music is becoming more and more creative. The lyrics and the music have matured on this second release.

By the time the third album, It Makes Me Glad, was released in 1972, Glass Harp had a huge following. They were doing live TV concerts, and were one of the first bands to simulcast a concert on TV and radio. The big tracks on this album were “David and Goliath,” “I’m Going Home.” and “Do Lord” — collectively known as “The Trilogy” by Glass Harp fans. Shortly after this album was released, Phil Keaggy announced his departure from the band. He played with Love Song, a highly influential band with a more pronounced Christian direction in it’s lyrics, then started his solo career. A year after Keaggy’s departure, after trying to recapture the magic, Glass Harp disbanded.

All three albums are solid offerings by this highly influential band. It’s interesting to listen to the development of the band lyrically and musically — they didn’t set out to be a Christian band, but ended up being one of the chief influences of the Jesus Music bands that were starting in the early 70s. If you listen to early Petra, for example, you can hear Glass Harp influences in many of their songs. The only thing that could be better than getting all three of these CDs would be getting a copy of Glass Harp: Live at Carnegie Hall concert that they did in 1972, when they opened for The Kinks.

Each CD also offers one previously unreleased track. The debut album contains “Voice of God Cry Out,” a song that Phil Keaggy recorded using a sound-on-sound tape recorder. It wasn’t played in concert because of the effects that were used, but it’s an outstanding piece. Synergy includes the accoustic song “Let It Ring,” which drummer John Sferra later played on his own solo album. It Makes Me Glad ends with “Little Doggie,” which was used in a TV documentary about children.

The audio quality of these re-issues is outstanding. It would be easy to think that they were recorded at a Glass Harp reunion show, rather than redone from the originals. These three CDs are a must have for any serious collector, anyone who is interested in classic rock, Christian rock fans, and Phil Keaggy fans.

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About Warren Kelly

  • MT

    It’s about time.

  • You’ve got to be fuckin’ kidding me.

    I’ll be all over this. Next paycheck. Awwwe yeah.

    *will finally replace his bootleg copies*

  • Warren, I plan to read your review when I have written my own. Glad to see you are ahead of me in terms of getting the work done. I look forward to getting your thoughts on the album, too.