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Gentle Giant - In A Glass House CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

4.36 | 1515 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Prog Reviewer
3 stars Making Me Work for It

Gentle Giant is not known for easy to digest music. And yet, once your brain becomes accustomed to their style, their sound can be quite enjoyable. There is a warmth, love, and humor in much of their music that draws even the novice musician in. (My 6 and 8 year old kids like GG). The album In a Glass House, however, ups the ante by being less whimsical, perhaps their most complex (which is saying something, this is GG after all), and just more work to get into. Unfortunately, there are also some recording issues that make it even harder (mainly the vocals being mixed too low and the EQ being a little too sharp (too much in the highs, not enough fullness in the lower registers))

It is not surprising that on first listen in the car home from the record store, I was pretty disappointed. That was months ago, and many listens later, I must admit that there is some very essential GG here. It's worth the work. But it's not like Free Hand or Octopus that pull you in from the first listen and then continue to reward with hearing after hearing. This one is the ultimate "grower," and deserves a track- by-track.

The Runaway - Starts with the sounds of broken glass evolving into the rhythmic backbone of the song, not unlike Money by Floyd. Lots of clucky clean electric playing - both single note lines and strumming. Derek Shulman's vocals follow rather than lead here, and there are lots of different instrumental parts including recorders, big keys, dreamy harmony vocals, and complex time signatures. Toward the middle of the song, a new lead voice comes in (Kerry Minnear) and the whole song starts to pull me in a little more. There's just more thematic anchor to the second half that then allows the freedom to explore. (8/10)

An Inmate's Lullaby - This song consists of two voices, a music-box key sound, and percussion. One of the voices is mildly distorted, the percussion employs single syncopated tympani hits, and the timing is quite complex. Simply put, this one is strange, experimental even for this band. I'm not sure it works, frankly. (5/10)

Way of Life - A relatively simple riff over almost disco drums, and then Shulman singing in quite dissonant tonality that doesn't fit his voice well. This one is almost irritating at times, though certainly ambitious. However, there are many instrumental breaks and some of them are brilliant. There is a great dark minor march riff, some symphonic keys, and then back to the dissonant dance theme. That this juxtaposition works at all is remarkable, but this may be the lowlight of the album. (5/10)

Experience - Here's where things pick up a bit. Still complex and angular, Minnear's vocals again just work better than Shulman's under the demands of the chaos. The guitars are distorted, filling out their tone, and the disparate parts just hold together better. When Shulman comes in, his vocals are effected, fuller and more up front. The song just sounds better. All the things they've been trying to do all album finally click. 9/10

A Reunion - A remarkably short, quiet and simple piece, with Minnear again taking the lead. This is a much needed chance to come up for air before the final race to the finish. Pleasant ballad but not as good as the corresponding piece on Octopus (Think of Me with Kindness) 6/10

In a Glass House - Like Experience, this song contains more of a thematic core that holds the piece together. These melodies just aren't that interesting though. Shulman takes lead vocals, and it works a little better than earlier in the album. This time, interestingly, Minnear's vocals are buried when they come in midway. This song does have a nice little slide guitar bit that comes out of nowhere. 6/10

Experience (Live) - This is a bonus track on the 35th edition, and it may have saved the disc for me. Obviously, the recording process was completely different than the album. The bass is better, the vocals sit on top of the music much better, and of course there is the live energy. Like many live GG performances, this is actually a composite, and includes at least part of Runaway as well. This live track gave me another perspective on the music and a motivation to come back for further listens. Good choice for an add-on. 9/10

This album suffers from two things - the exit of older brother Phil Shulman and overambition. In combination, these lead to a loss of the warmth and humor that serves as a foil for the complexity of the music. Luckily, the band continues to hone their sound and by Free Hand have created a masterpiece that combines the best of both worlds.

This is one of the hardest reviews I've done on this site. Over time, I've considered giving this album anywhere from 2 to 4 stars. Three seems appropriate. This is still essential for the GG fans, but is for me in the bottom tier of their classic 8.

Negoba | 3/5 |


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