On first glance, Through the Listening Glass is a duet recording between bassist David Friesen and guitarist John Stowell, at the time two burgeoning jazz fusion musicians whose kinship to the world sound of the group Oregon is easy to recognize. As one absorbs this music, you realize this album could easily be titled "The Art of the Overdub." Using multiple basses and guitars, percussion instruments, and the soprano sax of Gary Campbell, Friesen and Stowell create landscapes and skyscapes of sound on sound, at times a bit busy, mostly reaching for inner truths and a connection to some other dimension. There's no modicum of earthiness, but they strive to reach for the heavens, and use the technology of the times to create conversations within basic texts, layering them to a degree approaching epiphany. Friesen's spiritual center is quite prevalent on pieces like "Wings of Light" yet has a jazzier construct, and a pared-down focus among the three players. "Autumn Ballet" is the most uncomplicated piece, a simple bass/guitar duet with no accoutrements, while a similar sparse style is identified with a dual bass excursion in the intro, Stowell's 12-string invited to cozy up on "High Places/Secret Moments of Silence." The larger, orchestral-oriented "Peace for the Enduring Heart" is pastoral, featuring four bowed bass tracks, and two soprano and one tenor sax overdub from Campbell. "Opening Out" features the always-far-reaching Stowell on his own with two 12-string guitars, a six-string, and a cymbal in loose refrains. The title track, as beautifully rendered as all of the other selections, is particularly angelic and lovely in its ultra-melodic, memorable stance that resonates with Friesen's bass, Stowell's 12-string and Campbell's two soaring soprano sax tracks dancing the joyous, passionate night away. There's some African-influenced music here too, as log drums and shakuhachi flutes are employed during the more new age, space-music track "Wisdom's Star." "Ancient Kings" is perhaps a definitive track that uses the overdub technique to the hilt, as a mbira and log drum played by Stowell buoy Campbell's two soprano tracks, and Friesen's bowed morning horizon, semi-tropical bass/bass/percussion, and a cymbal stroke here and there. The unlikely quick, romping and rolling beat of "Carousel Parade" with just the headline participants seems a rushed afterthought, but still is fun to listen to. This album has been reissued on CD, and along with Stowell's Golden Delicious, Friesen's Star Dance, and Waterfall Rainbow, and the duo's Other Mansions provides a five-part look at what these quite capable artists were creating as fusion waned in the late '70s.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos