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 sextet 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 (apologies to Kansas and Styx). Their first album, released in 1977, features quite an array of instruments besides the standard guitar, bass, keys, and drums, including 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. Hands deserved more attention, but unfortunately they couldn’t quite reach that level of stardom that some of their British comrades did. I hope you will take the time to listen to their eponymous debut album. 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.
5 thoughts on “The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard Of (Part Ten): Hands”
These guys are fantastic! Not so sure I would put them on par with Kansas or Styx, though. Kansas, in my opinion, was the American equal to Yes, ELP, and Genesis. The drumming was always superb, the bass phenomenal, the guitars distinctly unique to Kansas, the keyboards awesome, the violin breathtaking, and the vocals and lyrics soaring. Styx is just, well Styx. They are awesome (and when I say they, I mean Dennis DeYoung), but they tended to stray from the prog fold, so I can see your argument there. While Hands is obviously incredibly talented musically, they seem to be missing something that would give them that status as the best prog America had to offer at the time. I suspect that something is Livgren’s lyrics and Walsh’s (and Steindhart’s) vocals. Okay, I’ll shut up now :p
I figured you would say that. I agree that Kansas’ vocals are superior, but I believe Hands is nearly on par with them in regards to musicianship. Both groups are supremely talented (as are Styx). I wonder what prog history would have been like had Hands reached a broader audience like Kansas and Styx did. I guess we’ll never know…
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