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Friday, September 26, 2014

Gentle Giant - The Power and the Glory

Gentle Giant for me, are one of the most influential, overlooked and mind-blowing progressive rock bands to come out of the ‘70s. And among supporters including Snooker legend Steve “interesting” Davis and the late great Frank Zappa, they would take different time changes into unbelievable results in the sounds of Classical, Blues, Folk, Avant-Garde, Jazz, and Chamber Music in their early days. Here in their sixth album, The Power and the Glory, the band took it into a different view in the concept about corruption, poverty, and someone coming into power and abusing it as it goes horribly wrong.

An amazing digipak of the reissue features the new stereo mix by Steven Wilson including an 10-page liner notes done by Sid Smith along with talking to Derek and Ray Shulman, Gary Green, and Kerry Minnear about the making of the album. And it features a DVD/Blu-Ray release featuring illustrations of the album that tells the story and the 5.1 sound is spectacular that Wilson himself has done that adds the surround mixes along with the original 1974 mix and shows how much work he brought to clean it up and bring it to light.

The opening track, Proclamation, begins with a roaring applause before Kerry Minnear electric keyboards, and Derek’s voice come kicking in as the story begins before Ray’s bass comes in. And then they come in with a boost from the groove on John Weathers drums as the vocals from Derek are almost double as if there was two of them while Gary and Ray take a duel between each other as Kerry goes into his organ and his homage to the Flight of the Bumblebee on the piano before the sinister line of “Hail to Power and to Glory’s Way.” It let’s the listener know that this is a dystopian world that they have landed on.

Then everything becomes almost chamber rock if you will between sax, violin and bass playing the melody with a darker tone on So Sincere. Kerry comes in with his calming vocals on who the person really is and the skeletons in the closet he has, doesn’t want anyone to know by keeping it a low profile and making the person signing a deal with the devil himself.
And then the intense signature comes in with the vocals and Gary Green’s guitar lines fits the mood as if someone was kicking you in the gut with the lines “So! Sin! Cere! Green is all over on his solo on the wah-wah with a bluesy touch before the haywire effect for a brief second from Minnear and then back into the vocals.

Aspirations, is a very moody and mellowing ballad which gives the band a break from the signatures of time changes and Kerry’s calming voice and his Wurlitzer Electric Piano has this moving emotional boundary that has a Jazzy vibe as if you can imagine this song being performed in a smoky nightclub and the audience moved by the lyrics. Playing the Game begins with xylophone, keyboard, bass, and telephone ringing which makes it a perfect way to start the song off and Green’s classical guitar introduction.

It has a lot of wonderful melodic boundaries and Derek and Kerry in which he changes the mood, take turns on the vocals, it is has wonderful ideas they would come up with before they go back into the introduction phrase to close the piece off. The riveting Cogs in Cogs features some throttling keyboard, drumming, and bass lines that is almost like a swirling tornado coming in as Derek comes in with the line “Empty promises broken the path have not been paved any way/Cogs in cogs the machine is being left where it lay/Anger and the rising murmur breaks the old circle, the wheel slowly turns around.”

The tempo goes through various changes from the instruments like a Merry-Go-Round going round and round and ends with a stunning boom as they go back into the mellowing mood from their previous third composition, but more of the elaborate movements following in on No God’s a Man. The vocals go through the intricate styles, but it’s really amazing on how they handle it as well the guitar, clavinet, organ, and bass coming in and having almost like a renaissance jazzy touch reference to a waltz.

But they are coming in for a full landing on the classical touches with the same style on The Face with cello, shrieking violin solo, bass lines, alarming sounds from Green, and John Weathers all over on his drum and percussion kit. The closer, Valedictory, is a reprise of Proclamation. It’s hard rock like no other with a Zeppelin vibe as Derek is shouting almost as if he’s screaming through a bullhorn that its time to go through some changes in the town before ending with the tape rewinding back to the beginning.

The bonus tracks feature the Clavinet yet voltage tapping foot vibe of the single of the title track and an instrumental outtake of Aspirations. When it was released in 1974, it was only released as an import in the States along with In a Glass House because the record label thought it was too un-commercial but they had received word of mouth in North America. But 40 years later, Gentle Giant’s sixth album pushed the boundary of storytelling in a dystopian universe and they nailed it very well along with Steven Wilson’s mix on here, he did a superb job along with the Crimson and Tull catalog to name a few. I can’t wait to see what Wilson will do next with the Gentle Giant catalog in the near future.

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