Alas, we have arrived at the end of this ten part series. The final band I would like to draw your attention to hails from the great state of Texas. They are a group of six known as Hands and they are one of the most talented bands I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. As a matter of fact, I consider these Texan minstrels to be up there with Universe as two of the finest American prog bands (sorry Kansas and Styx). Their first album, released in 1977, features quite an array of instruments besides the standard guitar, bass, keys, and drums. These instruments include, but are not limited to: flute, saxophone, oboe, violin, and vitar. This band is no doubt America’s version of Gentle Giant, although I prefer the vocals of Hands to those of their British counterparts. Each song is a treat, and although idiosyncratic compositions are ubiquitous in the prog rock world, these guys seem to have the ability to produce a unique tune every time. Here are just a few songs from the album that I especially enjoyed:
1. Zombieroch– the opener is a fun and rollicking instrumental straight out of the Gentle Giant catalogue
5. Worlds Apart– the first song to feature vocals, similar to John Wetton’s soft and raspy voice; excellent performance on the keys
6. Dreamsearch– my favorite piece; a sweeping epic with fine guitar, bass, and keyboard work; features a brief but funky clavinet riff, transitions to a wonderful bass and keys interplay, and then finally to flute and keys
7. Left Behind– opens with Simon and Garfunkel-like acoustic guitar and piano, but eventually transitions to electric guitar before ending the same way it opened
Hands has remained active over the years, releasing a handful of albums, their latest as recently as 2008. I found every song on this album enjoyable to listen to, which I admit I cannot say of every prog album, even some of the most noteworthy ones. As I leave this series behind, I am glad I can say it ended on a high note (no pun intended, seriously). Hands is a band which should command more attention and respect, but unfortunately they couldn’t quite reach that level of stardom that some of their British comrades did. Nevertheless, please take some time to listen to their eponymous debut album, or at least part of it. You won’t regret it.
Also, although this series has ended, I will not ignore other obscure prog rock bands, and neither should you. The website Proggnosis is an excellent database of bands old and new, well documented and rare, good and bad. Take some time to discover some of the hidden gems of the prog world.