Cathedral: Stained Glass Stories
Mercury Caronia IV – drums, percussion
Fred Callan – bass, bass pedals
Paul Seal – lead vocals, percussion, bass pedals
Tom Doncourt – keyboards, percussion
Rudy Perrone – 6 and 12 string guitar, vocals
It has been called the greatest American prog album of all time. If artists from the U.S. had abandoned any illusions of ever doing prog again back in the “70’s, “Stained Glass Stories” may very well deserve that title. As it is, there is a newer crop of albums to give this opus a run for its money. One of them just happens to be CATHEDRAL’s long awaited follow up (but I will get to that in another review).
Whether it is the best, or not, is really beside the point. The fact is that this is one heck of a great album. It was recorded in 1978, but you won’t hear any of the changing tastes creeping in. These guys took their cues from the revered classics. You can hear the obvious influences of Yes, Genesis, and especially King Crimson (mostly Wetton era). There is just a touch of Gentle Giant sensibility, and surprisingly a complete snub of anything ELP (except the Greg Lake connection with Crimson). With these influences worn proudly on their sleeves, CATHEDRAL still manages to sound original. This is due to expert musicianship, and some of the best composing to be found in the pantheon of prog.
“Introspect” leads off the album, and is a classic prog fan’s wet dream. A mellow ethereal beginning, straining guitars accompanied by bass work that would make Chris Squire do a double take, changing tempos and moods, and even a bit of acoustic, work to fill it out. This would be enough, and even worth the price of the disc, but there is more.
Many times when albums have such grand beginnings, the following tracks can be a bit of a let down. This is not the case here. “Gong,” “The Crossing,” and “Days and Changes” all deliver on their own. They offer different moods, styles, and don’t hold back one bit on the virtuosity and creativity lain down from the start. It comes full circle with “The Search.” The piece harkens back to the themes of “Introspect,” (actually it could have been named “Introspect II) and creates the perfect closer to an already beautiful prog experience.
It’s too bad that CATHEDRAL only came into being as the music industry was losing interest in this type of thing. We can be thankful that they were able to give us this gem. Luckily, the book is not closed, and a new chapter is now being written.
So, I guess you can tell I like this album a bit. What more can I say? Go get it. You want it. You may not know it yet, but you do. It is a masterpiece.