The words of Edgar Allan Poe are timeless, haunting, and undeniable beautiful, so it's no wonder that The Glass Prism had no problem making a career out of being a band whose songs are based on those very works.
The Glass Prism, now made up of core members Rick Richards, Tom Varano, and Lou Cossa with the addition of Fran Festa, Mike Mercuri, and Nancy Granziano for the April 27 album release party in Dickson City, originally hit the scene in the early 1960s. Poe was of interest to the group members, but they never knew it would turn into what it did.
“We just came up with an idea to do the poem 'The Raven,' and we would play that song live with eight verses every night. It took forever, but people asked us to play it again,” Varano said.
Interest was peaked and the band found themselves locked into a two-record deal with RCA. They put out “Poe Through the Glass Prism” and “On Joy and Sorrow,” the former of which featured “The Raven.” The single hit the Billboard, Cashbox, and Record World charts in 1969, a part of one of the very first concept albums ever made.
The guys recorded the album at the studio of Les Paul, a man known not only for inventing the electric guitar, but for creating many of the concepts used in recording studios today, such as double and quadruple tracking, to start.
The experience was one that Varano said would be hard to duplicate in this day and age.
“The song 'The Raven' was recorded in one take at 5 o'clock in the morning; nothing happens like that any more, and that's how it was with the whole album. We didn't have things like pitch control, where you can make the person sound good even when they're not. You either had it or you didn't.”
The Glass Prism had it, especially in a time when the music scene was being infiltrated by acts hailing from England. The guys went along great until a series of unfortunate events unfolded quickly, including the unraveling of the personal life of the band's manager Mort Lewis, his subsequent disappearance from the industry, and the loss of an opportunity to tour with Blood, Sweat and Tears when the tour fell through. Once poised for success, Prism disbanded in 1971 after the recording of the second album, which never netted the same success of the previous one.
It was through another series of events, this time incredibly fortunate ones, that The Glass Prism found its way back together to make music again. Fans began to rediscover the group's music through the Internet, and this soon snowballed into interest coming in from all angles, even so far as Asia.
The group has been signed to a regional label called Debra Records and they just released a new album, “Resurrection,” which comes in a double packaging alongside the recording “Shenandoah – Sessions '73.” There have been reunion shows at the Mellow Theater, Scranton Culture Center, and Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site in Philadelphia.
Much of this renewed interest also stems from the airing of the documentary “On Joy and Sorrow: The Glass Prism Story,” which was shown on WVIA and Metrocast in September and October of 2012.
It's been quite the ride for the members of The Glass Prism, one that Varano recounts fondly and with verve. He said he is often quite stunned when thinking about it.
“It's neat that people are still aware of a group that never became The Beatles or The Rolling Stones,” he said of his thought process when he looks back on the group's career. “It's been an amazing experience, and we're happy to be back doing what we do.”