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Gentle Giant - The Power And The Glory  CD (album) cover

THE POWER AND THE GLORY

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.27 | 937 ratings

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LionRocker
3 stars An observation I have made about most of the "classic" prog bands is that they always seem to have a minor (but still quite good) album sandwiched between two HUGE masterpieces that set the hardcore progheads a-raving. Case and Point: "Trilogy", "Starless and Bible Black", "The Snow Goose", "Waterloo Lily" and "Time and a Word" are all underrated or forgotten when compared to their predecessor and ancestor albums. In that lovable, cuddly giant's case it's "The Power and The Glory". While not displaying any of the fiery flashiness of "In a Glass House" or the charming balance of dissonance and accessibility of 'Free Hand", "The P and the G" still manages to charm me to death with it's endlessly inventive amount of ideas as well as being the world's first perfectly coherent prog concept albums. (Sorry all fans of Slippermen, armadillo tanks, flying teapots, or the asinine lyrics of Jon Anderson)

So wot's the er.. deal with the concept, you enquire? Well, the lyrics of each song take an aspect of the always askew world of politics and present them in a very original and uncliched fashion making them very enjoyable. The course of the album seems to closely follow the high and low points of a hailed leader's rein; it starts with a lot of arrogantly cajoling promises ("Proclamation") and ends with a total suppression of the tyrannical leader. ("Valedictory") When it comes to lyrics, this album is a total success. The band was obviously very well read (Kind of like Mr. Joe Strummer of The Clash but.... shhh, don't tell their fans!) and present us with some very realistic and hard hitting statements that can very much be applied to the skeevy politicians of today.

In contrast, the music isn't as impeccable. The virtuosic instrumental dissonance, waves of Gregorian vocal harmonies and hyper-spazzy tempo changes; all unmistakable trademarks of this band in its heyday are present but these parts alone (Amusing as they are) are not enough to make me want to squander up some cash for a GG record. However, the often brilliant and untrivial vocal and instrumental melodies, the captivating atmospheres as well as the incorporation of the above elements to create the ones I just mentioned are what make me consider these guys worth an investment. This album itself is quite intent on making the former well known to us and sadly the latter often gets shoved aside in favor. However, a great deal of these songs do possess charms that simply need to be uncovered to be appreciated and sometimes I think that this album's 'underrated' status is often unjust.

The album's opening track "Proclamation", for instance, is a perfect example of how the endless twistedness of GG can unravel itself to reveal a product of unmatched genius. The song itself is a healthy marriage between GG's brand of oddball prog rock and some cool funk elements that truly create something thats both 'danceable' and 'artsy'. The leader's false alluring promise of "It can change, it can stay the same" also makes for a highly infectious chorus and damn is that electric piano the living, breathing sonic manifestation of groovy.

Other highlights of tonight's show include the jazzy, multipart "Playing the Game" which contains a clever middle-eastern sounding riff, positively gorgeous, chiming keyboards that pop up after Derek Shulman sings each verse, and a great engaging vocal melody to boot. The slightly unmemorable but perty ballad, "Aspirations", which mostly benefits from being sung by the heavenly, lulling vocals of keyboardist, Kerry Minnear, is another plus for this album. With a lot more patience and (quite possibly) a slightly masochistic complex, one can also find a lot of enjoyment in "No God's a Man" and "The Face". The former is a twisted, slow and raving medieval hymn that has a few dark, folksy guitar parts that sound like they were inspired by Genesis' "Entangled". The latter is mainly a vehicle for some aggressive violin soloing but the frantic melody that presents a musical analog to political paranoia is great and the song is quite aware on how to completely rock out too.

Now let us discuss the material that often makes people green and their heads throb. (This message was lovingly directed at the likes of George Starostin and John Mcferrin who condemn these following songs like 13th century murderers.) I have very mixed feelings on the 4/4, three minute "So Sincere" which has a song structure quite similar to a majority of the material on "Please, Please Me" by The Beatles but is several spectral dimensions apart from that said entity. While I do think the Minnear/Shulman sung melody of this song is quite a good anthem for the crooked political jargon that this song is about, the instruments in the song are simply farting in (mainly) incoherent patterns that totally drive me up the wall. The other frequent scapegoat is the berserk, keyboard driven rocker "Cogs in Cogs". This one is pretty stupid for the likes of GG but eh.. I do like the hectic-ness of it all.

"Things must stay, there must be no change." Valedictory is how we end our venture with the political leader having botched everything up and most likely being carried off to the guillotine. The song takes elements from "Proclamation" but is in many ways different especially with the ultra ballsy, electric guitar riff that opens the piece. I also like how the song ends with a tape loop being played in reverse; either a reference to the Watergate tapes (The whole Nixon scandal seems to be what many fans believe was GG's inspiration for this album) or simply that the whole course of political events will most likely repeat themselves again and again. It's really a neat concept for a band that seemed so utterly disconnected from everything else. It's a shame they couldn't configure their music to be the perfect companion to their best concept.

Album Grade: B and basically a 3.5 when it comes to stars.

LionRocker | 3/5 |

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