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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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5 stars THE POWER AND THE GLORY is one of Gentle Giant's more "difficult" albums, there's no doubt about that. It's also one of my favourites from this highly inventive and influential English prog band.

Dating from 1974, this concept piece delves -- with fitting cynicism -- into the political experience, and the compromise, corruption, betrayal and egotism that go hand-in-hand with high office. (The cover, depicting a glowering, playing card king, is a classic.)

The opening "Proclamation," with its jazzy electric piano, and oddly-syncopated multi-instrumental "exchanges," is a real winner, while the softer "Aspirations," replete with acoustic guitar, and more great electric piano, is a fine showcase for keyboardist/singer Kerry Minnear's breathy, almost ethereal voice.

I absolutely love "Playing the Game." From start to finish, this one does it for me. From the insistent synth bass line, to the catchy melodies, to the terrific Hammond organ riffs, to the breezy, blinkered bravado of the lyrics, this is outstanding stuff. Lead vocalist Derek Shulman, in the role of the album's politico protagonist, likens politics to chess, claims the part of "king," and pompously declares that "the other pieces are there for my art and my tactics now.... I'll play the game, and never ever lose." A multi-faceted, joyous pure prog track, this is the essence of Gentle Giant -- if you don't "get" this one, you just don't like the band!

The hard-hitting "Cogs in Cogs" sees more great Hammond work (reminiscent of that on Tull's THICK AS A BRICK), and some passionate singing from Shulman, before "No God's a Man" slows things down a bit with some superlative multi-part vocal harmonies -- these guys can really sing!

Next up, "The Face" has some fine violin from bassist Ray Shulman, shining percussion and cymbal work from drummer John Weathers, and some especially cutting and powerful axe work from guitarist Gary Green. (The Hammond parts on this one also admirably conjure up comparisons to THICK AS A BRICK.)

"Valedictory" is another standout for this Giant fan. Dizzyingly-accelerating keyboard motifs, more terrific guitar, and almost histrionic vocals from Shulman bring the session to a memorable close.

I have deliberately put off mentioning the second track, "So Sincere," until now. As one of the band's least-accessible tunes, this one is almost guaranteed to make the non-initiate cringe. I enjoy "So Sincere" (it is quintessential Giant, at their most experimentally avant garde), but take my word for it -- if your non-prog-loving "significant other" or roommate walks in when this one is on, just hit the "skip" button -- and fast! This most convoluted and "weird" offering from a band that is an admittedly acquired taste is no way to introduce the neophyte to Giant's arcane mysteries and rewards. (Try them with "Playing the Game," or FREEHAND's "Time to Kill" instead.)

In conclusion, THE POWER AND THE GLORY is a stellar album from a terrific, supremely talented and important early prog act. Though perhaps not the easiest introduction to Gentle Giant, this excellent disc is yet a must for fans, and deserves inclusion in the thinking progressive rock listener's library. Complex, challenging music, certainly, and not for everyone, but for those "in the know," essential!

Peter | 5/5 |


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