(All Album Reviews by Vinylroolz)
Derek Shulman: Vocals and sax
Ray Shulman: Bass, violin, vocals
Kerry Minnear: Keyboards, cello, vocals
Gary Green: Guitars
John Weathers: Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Gentle Giant is often described as a "musician's band", not necessarily because of the awesome chops of the band members, but because of the densely structured and executed music that the band composes. With this, the sixth album by the British group, the "Boys In the Band" have constructed a masterpiece.
Most fans of Gentle Giant find this album too "cold" or too "clinical". They prefer prior albums like Octopus or In A Glass House, both of which exhibit more of the band's humorous and playful side. But for me, The Power and the Glory symbolizes the absolute pinnacle of this band's potential.
There's just no messing around here. This is 37 minutes of serious prog business. Most so-called prog bands would need twice that long to produce half as much music.
The Power and the Glory is not a concept album, per se, but the lyrics are all based on a theme of political corruption. It's release in 1974 followed hot on the heels of the Watergate scandal, but there's no obvious connection.
Oh sure, in a lot of ways it's typical Gentle Giant: lots of contrapuntal instrumental gymnastics, the trademark Minnear-sung ballad ("Aspirations"), the Gary Green blues-saturated guitar solos, the insane meters and time changes, the lighting-quick transitions, the ridiculous vocal harmonies, the sheer musical ability of all members on various instruments. But it just seems to me that all of these elements are done to the nth degree on this album, like it's a culmination of their collective musical experience.
Some might wonder why none of the members ever went on to do solo albums. Kerry Minnear is a keyboard god, and Ray Shulman is rock's most underrated bassist. But this was a band that performed best as a collective. The musical magic of Gentle Giant could never be replicated by any one of the members alone. These guys were all on the same wavelength and relied on each other in order to come up with the ultimate musical product.
The album's opener "Proclamation" lays it all out, with the instrumental counterpoint and the amazing vocal dissonance during the "Hail to power and to glory's way" chorus. I mean, it shouldn't work at all, but it's absolutely gorgeous.
"So Sincere" brings violin and cello into the mix, while Kerry Minnear's vocal purity is at odds with the lyrical cynicism: "Lies, he only tells the truth for he means it, means not anything he says, but everything is so sincere". Sound like any politicians you know? Gary Green gets off a nice solo over an impossible bridge sequence.
"Aspirations" is the trademark Minnear-sung tune (there's one on every album). This is perhaps the most beautiful tune these guys have ever done. The electric piano, acoustic guitar, fine bass work and quiet drumming is just excellent.
"Cogs In Cogs" has to be the most complex prog song ever recorded. There's so many things going on simultaneously you don't know which part or instrument to follow, yet Derek's vocal line fits around everything effortlessly. Some bands could have stretched this idea for 20 minutes. But not Gentle Giant. Three minutes and five seconds, and there's nothing left that could have been said. Leaves me breathless and unable to speak coherently for half an hour.
If you've never heard Gentle Giant, don't try this one first. You won't get it. Listen to the other ones several times. Then try The Power and the Glory and see if you agree with me that it's the best album they ever did. And that's saying something!
p.s. Some CD versions have a bonus track called "The Power and the Glory". Please ignore this, as it was a single recorded closer to the Free Hand period and has no reason to be associated with this album. Thank you.
payday loan cash national payday loans
good payday loan companies