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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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Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars Graham Green published a novel of the same name in 1940 that loosely inspired this Gentle Giant work of genius. The concept of this particular album is the cyclical nature of politics and the Machiavellian manner in which people engage in them. The music (including the way the words are sung) reflects the lyrics in an amazing way. Derek Shulman, with his authoritative and boisterous vocals, speaks for the leader, while Kerry Minnear, quiet and docile, assumes the role of the unassuming common man. This highly consistent work represents Gentle Giant at their absolute finest.

"Proclamation" This was the first Gentle Giant song I ever heard, and the first time I heard it, I thought to myself, "What the hell am I listening to?" I was so dismayed that I had bought their previous album that same day! The truth about Gentle Giant for many people though, I suspect, is that their constant eccentricity makes them quite an acquired taste (no pun intended). For a young man with preferences of symphonic and heavy progressive rock, this album took a few listens to really appreciate and enjoy. The first thing one hears on this album is the cheering of a large crowd, setting the stage for a popular leader's ascension to power over a nation, which are exactly what the lyrics describe (from the perspective of the new chief). The music relies on piano, both electric and otherwise, a grooving bass and drum pairing, and some peculiar arrangements, including something like "Flight of the Bumblebee" in the middle. After a frightening and commanding vocal section, the music becomes hushed and a bit disturbing, until the final verse comes in, much faster in tempo than the two that came prior. The song ends with further applause- the coveted approval of the people.

"So Sincere" Naturally, this was the second Gentle Giant song I ever heard, and my reaction was even more pronounced then when I'd heard the previous song. I was positive that Gentle Giant was just some weird band I would never like; remarkably, this proved not to be the case, and even this strange little number (which I had skipped over multiple times in the past) grew on me. It begins with an awkward riff that relies heavily on strings. The vocal melody is even weirder, but is an integral element of the song, which is about the genuineness of the leader. It is telling that the word "sincere" is cut off at times to produce the phrase, "so sin." The guitar solo is highly enjoyable, highlighting Gary Green's crucial role in fitting in with such unusual arrangements.

"Aspirations" The only quiet and straightforward song on the album, "Aspirations" features quiet electric piano, acoustic guitar, and Kerry Minnear's soft, lovely singing voice. The mildness with which this song is performed reflects the meekness of the populace, entreating their leader to lead them to glory, and assuring him that they are behind him. They express their complete assurance that their leader will make all their "sorrows gone forever."

"Playing the Game" The crowning moment of the record, "Playing the Game" has a couple of recurring themes that use Gary Green's guitar to great effect, one of which is situated after each verse, and one that starts off the song and serves to bridge the verses. The ascending bass played during certain repetitions of the first theme is a good approach and lends variety to a musical motif that could have otherwise become stale. Kerry Minnear has a brief and quiet vocal part as the song fades out in the middle before a bass riff explodes into an excellent organ solo. In the lyrics, the leader asserts his invulnerability, pointing out that everything else exists for his purposes. Derek Shulman gives an energetic but controlled vocal performance, demonstrating both the authority's unbridled confidence in himself and his exacting strategies.

"Cogs in Cogs" Despite the leader's efforts, he confesses that his empty promises have not paved the way, and now the cogs of discontent are turning. The music is fast paced and frantic, reflecting the mounting panic of the person in charge. The piece is tightly orchestrated, and, along with the songs immediately before and after, was one that kept me returning to this album until it all "clicked" with me.

"No God's a Man" The music features some springy clean guitar and intriguing arrangements. It is another highlight. The lyrics describe the cyclical nature of power, how, even after the rise of a great and popular leader, the vacillation of the minds of the people can quickly result in a revolution. In typical Gentle Giant fashion, the vocals overlap one another, here giving the impression of the general population (many people out on the street, for instance) speaking about their current state of affairs and being in agreement.

"The Face" A Cajun feel accompanies the beginning of this piece, with violin and tambourine, and guitar and bass accompanying. The instrumental section is incredible, yet another example of Gentle Giant's creative greatness. Green gives a respectable guitar performance, also. The words describe a leader who realizes how unpopular his direction has become, but still urges his associates to "wear the face that is sorry."

"Valedictory" This is a heavy rock number that reprises the melody from the first song. The lyrics, however, reflect the opposite idea: The leader establishing his authority in "Proclamation" is pleading with his uprising people that "things must stay; there must be no change." The very end of the song is the sound of a tape player rewinding, perhaps inducing us to return to the beginning and listen to the album again- or maybe reminding us that whoever assumes power after this leader is deposed will experience the very same cycle.

(Bonus Track) "The Power and the Glory" Typically I do not review bonus tracks, but I'll make an exception here. This short piece carries the classic Gentle Giant sound, but is much less complex. According to one source, it didn't make the album because it had not yet been written (and Ray Shulman thought it was the worst of three "atrocious" "commercial" songs they'd written for the record company). Regardless of his opinion, the song is well worth having if you can get the 35th anniversary release.

Epignosis | 5/5 |


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