1. Have U Got Soul
3. Xerxes (Pt. 2)
4. Llama Face
6. Break Up Summer
9. What I Would Do If I Woke Up In A Dream
the Tom Glenne 5.5, a name like a computer program. But let me tell you, this band is nothing like a computer program. They are raw emotion and have a collection of 10 clever songs. You probably never heard of these guys, but you should have. This band based in Canada but also having an Amsterdam, Netherlands branch, makes progressive rock songs, which we would like to describe as ‘free rock’. It’s not just your everyday standard rock band, or even your everyday standard progressive rock or grunge band. Not at all. The Tom Glenne 5.5 draws from influences in blues-rock & jazz. The music is progressive, experimental, and absolutely refreshing. It might not be music you will hear on any radio, but it is music constructed and performed with intelligence, skill, and a whole lot of creativity. The music fills up the room and fills up the listener. It’s not just music, it’s an experience. And if you’re up for it, the Tom Glenne 5.5 has what you want.
In 2005, the Tom Glenne 5.5 released a collection of songs under the title “Free Rock”. This album is as tight as a clock and as creative as Picasso. It has only 10 songs, but 10 songs that fill you up from the inside and slowly take over. The whole album is one big highlight, but to name a few gems off of it: Have U Got Soul, Llama Face, Give! & Xerxes.
The album starts off with Have U Got Soul, which can be considered as one of the more mainstream songs on the album, even though mainstream is probably the last word you can apply to this group. With vocals that slightly remind one of Bob Dylan, just a little rougher (think of the upcoming artist Rocco DeLuca), and a very free rhythm, this song sets the mood for the album. And the song title is a legitimate question. As for the Tom Glenne 5.5, I can answer that question with a very big YES!
Next up is Clockwise, which is a very interesting song. Over six minutes of experimental ‘free rock’. You can absolutely hear some blues-rock influences in this song. The song is really intense and you can feel the emotion in it. I can imagine the band being completely drained after playing this song. There’s a great co-existence of instrumentals & vocals, which a lot of experimental and progressive rock bands from the past and present often didn’t seem to care about. The drums on this song by Paul Kolinski are from a very high standard and Tom’s vocals are as close to perfect as one can get. And the song can be presented as a whole package, also due to the skills of Betty Dimo & Todd Harrison who helped to make this song complete.
The third song on the album is called Xerxes (Pt. 2). It starts out with the lyrics: “If you like this song you should be pierced/Because last night I wrote a better one.” I would counter that question and ask: Are you sure? Because this is a damn good song. Many classic rock bands (late 60s to mid-80s) would’ve been very proud to have written and performed this song. At times I want to make the vocal comparison with Bob Dylan again, though once again the vocals have a harder/rougher edge. Maybe it would be somewhere in between Bob Dylan & Mick Jagger, without sounding too nasal. Tom has very full vocals and shows that he has a pretty nice range. He also varies between rough and fragile very well. Xerxes (Pt. 2) is a great ‘free rock’ song. It has the tendency of being a blues-rock song, but it is not quite that.
Llama Face is the next song on the album. One can’t help but hear the blues & jazz influences in this song. The free rhythm of the song and the exceptional instrumentals set a framework of a song that’s crafted to perfection. Perhaps my favourite song off the album. Tom sings this song with soulful vocals that are just right for the atmosphere that this song has around it. If you appreciate good music you will embrace this song with both of your hands. And nothing about this song sounds constructed, it sounds very spontaneous and at times even improvised. This song, maybe even more than the other songs on the album, shows the skill and talent these guys have.
As we continue listening to this album, we arrive at the fifth song, Give! which in my opinion fits in the tradition of the opener (Have U Got Soul). Though there is some cool improvising on the guitar solos and the tempo of the song is different. But the general feeling of the song, to me, is similar to the first song on “Free Rock”. However, Give! shows a different kind of creativity.
Once we get to the second half of the CD we listen to Break Up Summer. It starts off with this dark mood. The Tom Glenne 5.5 once again shows us how emotion is music and music is emotion. Maybe Break Up Summer isn’t the most memorable song on the album, but it fits in perfectly with the rest of the songs. I’m a big Nick Drake fan myself, and when I listen to this song I always think that of it as a progressive rock version of Nick Drake. Both set the same emotionally loaded mood, even though the genres of music are very different. Both Nick Drake and the Tom Glenne 5.5 can make you feel emotion through their music. These songs, you don’t just listen to, but you experience them from inside. Allow the songs to take you over, sit back, and enjoy the ride.
The next song has a somewhat unusual title, Gored. It starts out cool, almost reggae-like, freestyle rock, whatever you want to call it. This song sound like it was very much improvised. And when I listen to it, I feel like the band really enjoyed recording/performing this. It is not really one of the most memorable songs on the record for me. Maybe because it’s a little different from the rest of the album. However, during a live set, I would really like to hear this song, because I think it would be so much fun.
Song 8, Rhinoceros. I love the song title. Apart from the opening song, this is the shortest song on the album. The band says on their myspace: “We play rock and roll like free jazz.” I couldn’t describe this song any better than that. It kinda fits in with Have U Got Soul & Give! even though, again, it is different. It would be a great opener for live sets in my opinion.
And then, another song with a great title, What I Would Do If I Woke Up In A Dream. With 10m27 it is by far the longest song on the album. It is almost an album on itself, because it shows a lot of skills in a lot of fields. We can see how tight the instrumentals are performed and how perfectly the vocals fit in. We can see improvising, we can hear the ‘free rock’. There are definitely influences from progressive rock, blues-rock, & jazz. But thanks to the exceptional improvising skills of this band, it all blends together as a new genre or subgenre of music. The song has a very slow build-up, but that in itself sets the mood for this song perfectly. The best label to put on this song is ‘mysterious’. When you listen to it you get that image of mysterious places and the unknown. I think this kind of music would be perfect for a certain type of movies. (It would’ve been great for some parts of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy).
Then the album ends with Xerxes, which is absolutely one of my favourite songs off the album again. It starts out with a subtle guitar and then Tom’s vocals take over the room. This song isn’t filled with all kinds of weird instruments or effects. It is remarkably stripped down, with a focus on Tom’s vocals and the excellent guitar playing. “A soul is to the brain what an ocean is to man.” A good example of the many times where this band shows to have a great gift for lyrics as well.
Once in a while you hear of a band that makes creative and original music that sticks. This band shows skill and talent, as well as creativity and has a refreshing sound. The sound of the Tom Glenne 5.5 is not something I listen to very often. But this band makes me realize that I have been missing out on something. Though in my defence, I could argue there are hardly any bands out there with a sound like the Tom Glenne 5.5. But you can be certain that this band will be on my permanent playlist. It’s been an eye-opening (or rather ‘ear-opening’) experience listening to this album, and I can strongly recommend you to open yourself up for this kind of music and for the Tom Glenne 5.5 in specific. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.