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


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

4.30 | 1642 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars A *** album: nothing more, nothing less. The good news is that the band seemingly looked into a crystal ball and saw that, almost thirty years later, I would be sad about them abandoning the approach of Octopus for the epics of In a Glass House, and thus went back to the "cram ideas into little spaces" approach I like. The bad news is that the band was pissed that I didn't worship all of the hard work they put into Glass House, and out of spite made the songs more dissonant and twisted than the band had ever done before. A concept album tracing a ruler's rise to and fall from power, it unfortunately intersperses some excellent numbers with some of the worst, most pointlessly complex and discordant tracks in my whole collection.

Among non-Prog Archives people I know that are familar with Gentle Giant, the trendy choice for the worst track here is "So Sincere," and I heartily agree with that mob. I read an interesting comment on the George Starostin site that said the track reflects "twisted logic and disingenuous political rhetoric," and thus matches the subject well with the loose, non- sensical structure and melody. Well, he may be right. And I just can't get myself to care (even though juxtapositions between subject matter and song approach often float my boat) - this is four minutes of pure discodant torture, almost sounding like a bad parody of the best Octopus moments. If you like it, good for you - as for me, I have enough things in this world to give me horrid headaches. Along those lines, I'm also not fond of "Cogs in Cogs" at all. Honestly, it sounds like something Genesis would have come up with on a really, really, really, really bad day, with the guitars buried in the background (playing some nice lines here and there) while Kerry wanks all over the place with keyboards that don't help much at all.

Fortunately, apart from those two monsters (and the slightly boring but not bad "No God's a Man"), the rest of the album is much more pleasant and interesting to my ears. The standout for me is the most 'normal' of these, the GORGEOUS keyboard-based ballad "Aspirations." Yup, my pop-sellout-whore ears are once again drawn to one of the band's high quality ballads, with Kerry wooing us with his delicate angel voice in a still decidedly untrivial vocal melody, with all sorts of moody electric piano tinklings and the band allowing itself some actual resonance.

That I love the 'simple' song of the album, though, in no way means that I'm snubbing the more complex stuff. "Proclamation" is a terrific, herky-jerky way to start things off - that dissonant electric piano riff, with a dissonant vocal melody to match, manages to be disturbingly catchy in its own prog-funk way, and all the usual wanking doesn't hurt things at all. I could take or leave the ULTRA-discordant sung mid-section, but I have to admit that it fits the flow of the song well, making it a sort of dialogue between the new ruler and his pious followers. Similarly, "Playing the Game" has its own catchy vibes-and-guitar duet theme (with a funk effect on the bass), with another great (and unintentionally poppy) vocal melody to match, with some more lovely atmosphere spread here and there. And finally, aside from the closing "Valedictory" (a good reprise of "Proclamation"), there's "The Face," where the violin-guitar duels of yore rear their head once more. Possibly the best jam of the album, possibly not, but a decent enough way to wind things down, even if the jam is a little overlong.

So in short, I actually like this album a lot more than I originally thought I did, but it's still well below the standard GG had previously established in my mind. The balance of complexity and listenability that they'd mastered well in the beginning was getting dangerously skewed here, and that they avoided total disaster here is a testament to the innate talent of the band, even if it wasn't always used in its best way.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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