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

IN A GLASS HOUSE

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.35 | 1046 ratings

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AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
5 stars Gentle Giant's "In A Glass House" is one of their most popular albums, and in fact receives high ratings from many reviewers. The lineup are infamous as one of the all time greats in prog history. Gary Green is awesome on 6 & 12 string guitars, mandolin, percussion, alto recorder, Kerry Minnear is brilliant on keyboards, tuned percussion, recorder, vocals, Derek Shulman is a marvel on vocals, alto sax, soprano sax, recorder, Ray Shulman is particularly great on this, playing bass guitar, violin, acoustic guitar, percussion, and John Weathers is magnificent on drums. This is one time when everything went right and, when the chemistry was evident, nothing could stop these influential pioneers of prog; these progenitors of eclectic rock.

It begins with glass smashing, as if stones were being thrown into windows in a rhythmic meter, on the warm melodic 'The Runaway', and this classic song is literally shattering the boundaries from the outset. Gentle Giant love to break walls of musical boundaries down as is evident on all of their earlier albums. The fractured guitar rhythms, percussion and keyboards are thrown about like stones exploding into shatters as they hit their target. This album certainly has it's fair share of quirky pieces such as 'An Inmate's Lullaby', a paean to a mental institution, with a ton of crazy glockenspiel, a seizure of guitar chords, and insane time sigs throughout. The polyphonic or metronomic time sigs are prevalent with some of the oddest switches in musical tempos you will hear. The music bounces all over the place and injects that whimsical sense of fun; the band never took themselves as seriously as their critics.

The quirky edge is heard on the jaunty manic phrases on 'Way of Life', that begins with the shout of "Go!" Then the band in fact do go for it with no holds barred relish. This track has that medieval flavour that the Giant loved to explore, sounding like some fairy tale at times with instruments more suited to the 18th century Elizabethan era. Then the organ and heavy guitar joins to remind us this is 20th century prog. The lyrics are as fragmented and crazy as the music; "You'll find an answer, You've got to believe in your own way of life, So you'll have to find an answer, You'll have to find a way, try to find, try to find, You'll try to question her, Does she believe in the choice of your life, So you have to try to ask her, when you are away, left behind, out of mind, away."

'Experience' opens side two with glorious fanfare, along with that weird high vocal register and some wonderful basslines. The music is a circus sideshow of keyboard whimsy and frantic guitar spasms. The sigs are twisted into shapes and turned inside out and the band keep up, tighter beyond compare. The glockenspiel is followed by courtly a capella harmonies, the trademark of Gentle Giant. The lead break is fat and muscular and I like how the more forced vocals break through the technical layers of music. This is definitely one of the best Gentle Giant songs showcasing all that they stood for in one sitting.

'A Reunion' is a short little piece infusing very calm melancholy strings and vocals; "Meeting in this way who could have known, How our destinies and ways apart have grown, Looking still the same after all these years changing only in my memories not clear, and believing all futures we would share." This makes a nice departure from the complex time sigs and is quite a serene piece with Ray Shulman's violins becoming so essential to the sound.

'In a Glass House' ends the album on a mini epic, opening with intricate phrases on bass, drums, violin, mandolin, chimes and whatever else they could get their hands on. The medieval troubadour flair is obvious and the vocals have a nice rhythm spouting imagery of some fanciful musings; "Living in a glass house shielding all that's meant for me, Can you clear the shade and can you tell me what you see, Shadow fills the light until the glass house becomes the night, dark is gleaming or am I dreaming." The instrumental break is incredible with tons of brass, woodwind and a dynamic bass punctuation. It is complex and impossible to emulate but incredibly infectious. When it breaks into the heavy guitar riff I am completely entranced by this amazing composition. This is quite possibly the greatest gentle Giant song, they saved the best for last. It features the weird little courtly moments of Elizabethan charm sandwiched in between the heavy guitar augmentations, that seems to be playing in a 29/8 time sig if that were possible, though Gentle Giant make it possible. It ends with another pot shot of glass breaking and thus a legendary album was thrown through the glass house of the musical industry to the masses.

Gentle Giant tip their hat at the establishment, the stuffy musical industry, and show it is possible to play brilliant music and still have fun. "In A Glass House" is quintessential Giant without a doubt, all killer and no filler where everything just worked. The band are obviously virtuosos and deserve their high powered reputation. This is definitely one of the best albums from their catalogue, along with "Power and the Glory", "Free Hand", "Acquiring the Taste" and "Three Friends". Masterpiece is the only way to describe it as everything on "In A Glass House" is incredible legendary prog, without a shadow of a doubt.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |

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