Thursday, March 16, 2006

Cathedral - Stained Glass Stories (1978)

There were several bands named Cathedral. One was a British metal band, another was a 1990's Washington, D.C.-based neo-prog rock band, and then there's this Cathedral, a 1970s prog rock band out of New York. This band only released one album, Stained Glass Stories in 1978, but it's incredible!
Usually little good can be said about America's prog rock scene. Many American bands were accused of being derivative of British bands (Starcastle, as much as I like them, were frequently criticized as little else than Yes clones), or selling out to AOR (Kansas and Styx are that example, although I think Song For America by Kansas, is great, as well as most of what they did up to Point of Know Return). But Cathedral isn't like that. You won't find any traces of AOR or anything like that (this band wasn't interested in having those huge FM hits like their AOR contemporaries like Boston, Styx, Foreigner, etc.).
The photo of the band (at least on the insert that was included on the 1989 Syn-Phonic label LP reissue) makes them look like a bunch of rednecks who should play country music at a bar, but the minute you hear this album, all your fears will simply vanish. This is straight-up classic prog rock that rivals many of the great of British prog rock. And if you're a fan of the '90s Swedish band Änglagård, you'll be completely flattered over Stained Glass Stories. Cathedral sounds very similar, except without the Scandinavian/Nordic influences, of course. Influences from Cathedral include bands like Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, and Gentle Giant.
The album is loaded with Mellotron, the band used the small white M400 model, and they tended to use a lot of that choir sound (like what you hear on Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway). The album opens up with "Introspect", and once you hear the electric piano and the Mellotron, you know right away, you're in for a real treat. The next four songs are all in this vein, more or less. My other favorite included the instrumental "Gong", "The Crossing", and "Days and Changes".
I thought the final cut, "The Search" drags on a little too much. The only real criticism this album gets are in the vocals, but they never seem to bother me any. Stained Glass Stories was originally released on the Delta label, which was a very small label. Very few copies of the original LP were made, so it will run you in the three digit price range. Luckily it's been reissued, by Syn-Phonic. Regardless, I think this album is a real masterpiece, and perhaps the greatest prog rock album to come out of the USA. I especially recommend it to all Änglagård fans, especially because Stained Glass Stories shows where Änglagård got their sound. Incredible album that no prog rock fan should go without. Ben Miller



Progrocktv said...

One of my ALL time fave American Prog bands along with Yezda Urfa and Happy The Man!

Donno said...

Great album!! To my ears very influenced by early 70s Yes & Genesis.
Thanks for the share.

Anonymous said...

What a pity I can't listen to it ! Checksum eroor during unrar, or wrong password ... say MacPARdeLuxe, UnrarX and Stuffit Expander

Anonymous said...

Can you pleeeaaseee re-upload this classic ?

Anonymous said...

This is a really frustrating record !! Frustrating because the band could obviously really play and they had some fascinating musical ideas. But they simply couldn't write songs. Each of the songs is ever so disjointed, lurching from one section to the next, almost like they just had all these unrelated pieces of music that they just crunched together with no kind of flow or relation or build up or tension or whatever, just lots of bits, some fantastic, some banal. If you think of pieces like "Supper's ready" or "21st century schizoid man", they are comprised of quite a few sections but they all hang together well and the songs actually have melodies that can be followed. Cathedral almost come across as 'progressive rock by numbers', all form and no substance. One needs more than just a mellotron and discordant guitars and whacky time signatures. Very annoying.(grimtraveller)