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Eela Craig: Hats of Glass (1978)

Eela Craig gave it all they could with One Niter and try as they might, their following album Hats of Glass doesn’t quite match the heights of that album, but then I didn’t expect it to be. But don’t let that scare you off, as it’s another great album. And if you’re wondering why they didn’t release an album in 1977, here’s why: Hats of Glass was recorded from August to November 1977, given the time it was finished, didn’t give the band time to release it before 1977 was over (most albums take about two or three months for it to be released after it was recorded, of course there are exceptions). And by this time, the band reacquired vocalist Wil Orthofer, who was last heard on the band’s self-entitled 1971 debut. Apparently Othofer rejoined because the band he was with from about 1972 to 1977, the bluesy Ice Planet (which featured two other ex-Eela Craig members, drummer Horst Waber and guitarist Heinz Gerstmair – Ice Planet never released an album) had two of their (non-Eela Craig) members killed in two separate automobile accidents. Anyway, Hats of Glass continues on the prog sound of One Niter, although in a less funky manner, and in a more traditionally symphonic manner that owes to the likes of such German bands as Eloy or Novalis, or any similar German bands that get the Pink Floyd comparison. The album starts off with a cover of Chris de Burgh’s “A Spaceman Came Travelling” (yes, that same Chris de Burgh who gave us that easy listening ’80s hit “Lady in Red”). That might really ring alarm bells, but you might forget it’s not originally an Eela Craig song because it’s squarely in the late ’70s prog vein. The next song is the title track. Largely consists of Floydian guitar solos, it’s pretty obvious this is the work of guitarist/vocalist Fritz Riedelberger. The song then segues in to “Grover’s Mill” (the LP makes no mention of the song title, although it is there, as the last movement of the title track) is a reworking of their 1974 single “Stories”, but with new lyrics. “Chances Are” points more to the sound of their next album, Missa Universalis which would be released later the same year (1978). “Heaven Sales” seems to have lyrics criticizing the commercialization of organized religion (sorta like those televangelists, like that crook Robert Tilton, who asks for your money if you want to go to heaven). The music pretty much screams “late 1970s”, and if you don’t like music that sounds dated, you won’t like this one (but I like the song anyway, and I have little problem with “dated music”). The next song, “Holstenwall Fair” is generally regarded as the best song on the album. This song harkens back to the best moments of One Niter, especially because it includes an excellent jam. “Caught in the Air” is basically an unremarkable ballad, written and sung by Fritz Riedelberger. That song isn’t even featured on their Symphonic Rock CD (which contains most of this album, and most of their previous offering, One Niter on one disc), so if you want the entire Hats of Glass, you’ll have to get it on LP (as it’s not on CD anywhere else than on Symphonic Rock). The last song is another remake, this time “Cheese” (which was the flip side of their 1974 single “Stories”). This time around, it’s all instrumental, a Moog solo is placed where there used to be vocals, and for some reason, bassist Gerhard Englisch isn’t even present on this song, so a Moog bass is used in place of a real bass. While this album isn’t as good as their previous album, it’s still an excellent album, if you don’t mind the sound of late ’70s prog.
– Hubert Bognermayr: keyboards, vocals
– Harald Zuscrader: keyboards, flute, acoustic guitar
– Hubert Schnauer: keyboards, flute
– Wil Orthofer: vocals
– Gerhard Englisch: bass
– Fritz Riedelberger: guitars, vocals
– Frank Hueber: drums
– Alois Janetscko: live mixing