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

IN A GLASS HOUSE

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.35 | 1104 ratings

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Eapo_q42
4 stars This is VERY close to being a 5 star album, but falls ever so slightly short of "Essential" status.

My personal opinion is that for their whole career, Gentle Giant were more or less building up to the phenomenal works of art that are "The Power and The Glory" and "Free Hand". This album sees them finding a very sweet sort of groove mere months before those seminal albums occured.

To my ears, In A Glass House sounds like a prototype for those two albums. Which is to say, they were experimenting with ideas that would not fully gel until those two masterpieces.

Still, for me, this is better than "Octopus" which I think was not their best effort. The complexity was absolutely awesome, but in my personal opinion, it came at the cost of feeling. Octopus never really rocked, never really uplifted. Even though it was technically a marvel, it always felt slightly cold to me.

That is the main problem which has been rectified for this release. GG seem to have pleased themselves with the sheer prog-chops displayed on Octopus and here they seem to concentrate a little harder on actually making their listeners FEEL something special. As I said at the very beginning, I feel tempted to award this one 5 stars, but unfortunately there are a couple of little issues I will address in the track-by-track below.

The shattering glass opening seconds of THE RUNAWAY are prog legend. What a glorious way to begin an album. From chaos comes order as the shattering becomes suddenly very rythmic. The synths slowly fade in over this and then one of my favourite GG riffs explodes into your ears. This is a great song, but I feel as though the ideas are stretched EVER SO SLIGHTLY too thin across the 7+ minutes. But this is a very minor gripe, and one which I only really noticed after hearing the song countless times. The instrumental work from all 5 men is exceptional as always. The song is, IMHO, more digestable than anything on Octopus. There is definitely a hard rock n'roll feel to this one, and I am very much a fan of that. Green's guitar work is mind-boggling as always. Very percussive mid-section will please most GG fans.

AN INMATE'S LULLABY is not such a success. It's not a bad song by any stretch of the imagination. But Derek's child-like falsetto is...well, exactly that! Not the most beautiful tone he ever achieved with his voice. Despite this, the song actually has a pretty catchy melody and some very melodious percussive work, with good backing vocals. The problem is that after about 2 minutes, the song overstays its welcome a little bit. At 4:40 this seems a tiny bit like filler.

The next two tracks are just jaw droppingly awesome. WAY OF LIFE begins with a riff so spirited and energetic that it almost sounds silly. Then you notice what they are actually playing and "silly" will be the furthest word from your mind. The band do several variations on this riff throughout the track, some more developed, some less developed. This makes the track feel extremely cohesive, which is some feat considering all the (seemingly) random changes. Minnear's keyboard really shines here as well. The ballad-like, medieval-sounding middle section contains one of my favourite GG melodies, and is very, very uplifting. It reappears at the end of the song to end on a high note.

[NOTE: Then for some inexplicable reason GG include a full minute and 35 seconds of utterly discordant organ nonsense. It's just two notes, repeatedly, the whole time. It REEKS of filler and I always have to skip it unfortunately. What a shame, as the previous 6 minutes are utterly fantastic.]

EXPERIENCE is my favourite track off the album. It begins with more medieval sounding tones and a very catchy vocal melody. A slightly confusing time signature combines with more great keyboard work to provide a unique and awesome sound. The bass lines are intrinsic to this effect, they are just awesome. Then the song starts playing a sort of cat-and-mouse game with itself. Very ethereal vocals from Kerry, accompanied by just organ, sort of stop and start with a bass line shoved in between. The bass line seems to come out of nowhere, promising menace, and then disappearing again. So it should come as little surprise when suddenly the song bursts into full-blown Rock n' Roll! Derek takes over lead vocals again and you WILL get this stuck in your head (I master inner voi-CE-HE-HE-HESSSS!!!!!)

A REUNION is a short interlude, but cannot and should not be considered filler. Though it lasts barely over 2 minutes, it has a very memorable melody and excellent violin and guitar work. The lyrics are actually quite nice as well, which isn't usually their strong suit.

So, finally, we come to the title track IN A GLASS HOUSE. More simply awesome stuff from the boys in the band. This sounds like the single proggiest country and western song of all time. That may not sound appealing, but trust me it is. The violin is played with the intensity of a country fiddler, and in the middle section the guys seem to realise the only appropriate thing to do is...whip out the slide! Hearing Green play the slide guitar over this sort of proggy goodness is very pleasant indeed. Do not fear though, the song is not limited to these sounds. The medieval, GG-ish sound is entirely present.

So, all in all a fantastic album. Really its track 2 and 3 over staying their welcome which loses the fifth star. Note: I have the recent Alucard re-issue and the live version of Experience is INCREDIBLY awesome. If you're going to buy this version, this track might just elevate the score to 5.

Eapo_q42 | 4/5 |

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