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Gracious - This Is ... Gracious !! CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.81 | 128 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars This is... AWESOME!!

After gorging myself on their spectacular debut, I knew that I just had to hear Gracious's second album as well. There seemed to be no proper reissues of this album, so instead I decided to buy the Japanese Mini-LP (for those of you who don't know about Mini-LPs, they are CDs that are given the same packaging as the original vinyl LP, but obviously scaled down, and are usually manufactured in Japan). This was my first mini-lp, but while this album has no fancy packaging, the original sleeve was nonetheless revealing about the history of the album and the band. Upon viewing the back cover, one becomes instantly aware that this was originally a very cheaply produced album. Distributed by Philips as part of their 'International Series', the sleeve is donned with an advert for other albums in this range including 'This is... Dusty Springfield', 'This is... Val Doonican' and even 'The Band Of The Scots Guards'. This explains the ghastly album title 'This is... Gracious!!', though I dislike the fact they included two exclamation marks instead of one. In fact, this album was shelved for a while before being distributed, leading to the bands unfortunate demise. The album may have been cheap, but for your money you get astonishingly good music.

The album kicks off in true prog form with a sidelong track Super Nova. For some of you, this version is 25 minutes long, but on the original album, and on my version, this track is only 21:40 in length. Apparently the original suite was too long for one side of music so they had to cut one of the sections (What's Come To Be) out, and stick it on the second side. Some remasters have placed this section back into the song, bringing it to 25 minutes, but I disagree with this move. On the record, Super Nova sounds as if it was rewritten so as not to include What's Come To Be, and thus sounds better without it. In the 25 minute version, the suite simply loses it's flow! I shall review it as a four-part suite and not a five-part.

Arrival of the Traveller is the first part of the suite, and is entirely instrumental. The first two minutes sound experimental and dissonant, but afterwards the music becomes more regular. There is a throbbing bassline behind this part which gives way to a theme that sounds inspired by Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra.

The next section of the suite is called Blood Red Sun. This section is very catchy, and has a very anthemic mellotron sound. The lyrics of the song remind one of 21st Century Schizoid Man and the vocals are treated in a similar way too. After this part finishes, it gives way to a groovy instrumental that stops abruptly before the next part (which may or may not be What's Come To Be).

Say Goodbye To Love is played on the acoustic guitar, and accompanied by the mellotron. The lyrics are simply sublime. This is a very beautiful song.

The next three minutes are very experimental and proggy, before we reach the final part of the suite, Prepare To Meet Thy Maker. This is a hymn-like song with wonderful vocals and simple yet beautiful lyrics. The last 2:45 of this track are instrumental, but with wordless vocals. The outro to this song, and indeed this suite, is very symphonic, and is simply perfect. Whilst The Dream on the last album had more recurring themes, Super Nova does just as well without them. This suite is a rich, beautiful and moving piece of progressive rock.

Side 2 opens with C.B.S., so called as it reminded mellotron player Martin Kitcat of some artists under contract to the Columbia Broadcasting System. The structure of this song is a classic in terms of prog rock: two shortish vocal sections seperated by a meaty showcase instrumental, much like a thick musical sandwich. Other songs in this format include Firth of Fifth and By-Tor And The Snow Dog. The instrumental is extremely good, with other instruments soloing on top of the repetitive bass riff. It's easy to criticise this song for being too repetitive but I don't feel it detracts the song that much. The highlight is the technical guitar solo.

If the King Crimson influence wasn't obvious by this point, What's Come To Be will surely make it clear. This song, with it's deep mellotron sound, is incredibly similar to Epitaph on KC's debut. The clue that this song was once part of the suite on Side 1 is the inclusion of the word 'Supernova' in the third verse. The lyrics are quite apocalyptic, and the outro is quite spectacular and powerful until it fades out. This would have been a good inclusion into the suite if they'd found a way to make the songs flow together.

Blue Skies and Alibis is perhaps the weakest track on the record. The breaks between verses are quite long and repetitive, although the proper instrumental is actually quite good. The verses themselves sound nothing like the rest of the song and feel a little out of place at times.

Hold Me Down is a return to form for the band. This is more of a straightforward rock tune, although the instrumental betrays the groups progressiveness. I have to admit I really like the chorus to this song, and the verses are good too. The instrumental is obviously the highlight, and at one point the band play with time signatures extremely successfully. It's hard not to enjoy this playful track.

The individual songs on 'This is... Gracious!!' are more concise than those on 'Gracious!' but they are still as fun and enjoyable. It seems that the band put more effort into writing proper songs rather than being experimental on this record, but I think the two records are equal in quality. Gracious are one of my favourite underground prog groups, and their second album deserves nothing less than 5 stars for being so enjoyable.

baz91 | 5/5 |


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