Thursday, December 11, 2008
It seemed like it was recorded today for this short-lived band in the early '70s. It was showing the darker world of obscure prog, but opening the door to see what was on the other side of the fence of Progressive Rock. Gracious self-titled debut album realed on the Vertigo label in 1970, their first album was showing their world of darkness and the sinister post-apocalyptic view of hell. Heaven, an ambient piece. Set with an improvisation on the Mellotron, it goes through various motions then goes into an homage of The Moody Blues take of a pre-Tuesday Afternoon style inside the pearly gates. Introduction is a dreamy opening to the number in which the guitar and harischord fill the dream like segment while Fugue in D Minor pulls it with a folky tradition of acoustic guitars and the harpischord to pay tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach. Meanwhile, Hell suprises itself with its arrangement of an electric piano sounding like the pit world of the Apocalypse of St. John then goes into a prog version of Black sabbath style then a humorous ending of the Ragtime Big Band sounds of Jazz in the 1930's. The Dream, a 16-minute avant-garde epic is a technique of medieval proportios. A rumbling introduction of the guitar and the drums as it shifts to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata then an Atmospheric nightland sound of slumberland and then BOOM! the hard rock arranging comes out of nowhere with a Jimmy Page relative guitar solo to ha ve a 12-bar blues style then a Bebop Jazz almost Coltraneish sound on the keyboards. The last 7-minutes of the piece goes into a symphonic jazz composition as a snippet of The Beatles Hey Jude comes in and then becomes a Deep Purple exercise and mixing it up with a funky Salsa music and you get a suprising climax of an early mellow sound of Yes meets King Crimson's debut album.
The last album to feature big brother Phil Shulman of the Shulman brothers, Gentle Giant's fourth album went into a virtuoso mode and going a little further with their arrangement and compositions. They went ahead and got the Prog wagon almost rolling, but with the roots of classical music, heavy rock, traditional jazz, and a sense of humor that was almost strangely strange.
They crystal with baroque italian symphonic music that went with the fusion technique of The Advent of Panurge and The Boys in the Band. Think of Me with Kindness goes into a mystical ballad transition while they go a little proto hard rock on A Cry for Everyone with Gary Green's guitar work and Kerry Minnear's keyboard work. A Dog's Life is an acoustic folk ballad set to a string quartet and odd little notes to the keyboard making more crazy like Mozart made a 13-minute suite of mellotronic bliss. Knots, an odd little number has the Shulman bros. and Gary Green and Kerry going barbershop and then go funky/buckwild with the 18th century classical rocker of Raconteur Troubador. The finale of experimentations on River sets it up into a Hancock fusion style that ends with an improv from the band.