Gentle Giant


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1969-71)

- Gary Green -- guitar

- Kelly Minnear - vocals, keyboards, cello

- Derek V. Shulman -- vocals, sax

- Phil Shluman -- vocals, saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, recorder,

  percussion

- Ray Shulman -- vocals, bass, violin

- Martin Smith -- drums, percussion

 

  line up 2 (1971-73)

- Gary Green -- guitar

- Kelly Minnear - vocals, keyboards, cello

- Malcolm Mortimore -- drums, percussion (replaced Martin Smith)

- Derek V. Shulman -- vocals, sax

- Phil Shluman -- vocals, saxophone, trumpet, clarinet, recorder,

  percussion

- Ray Shulman -- vocals, bass, violin

 

  line up 3 (1973-80)

- Gary Green -- guitar

- Kelly Minnear - vocals, keyboards, cello

- Derek V. Shulman -- vocals, sax

- Ray Shulman -- vocals, bass, violin

- John Weathers -- drums, percussion, vocals (replaced 

  Malcolm Mortimore)

 

 

 

- Ancient Grease

- Big Sleep

- Graham Bond Organization (John Weathers)

- Pete Brown and Piblokto

- Simon Dupree & The Big Sound

- Eyes of Blue

- The Grease Band

- The Moles

- Neutrons

- The Reapers

- Strawberry Dust

- Wild Turkey

 

 

 


 

Genre: progressive

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  The Power and the Glory

Company: Capitol

Catalog: ST 11337
Year:
 1974

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: curved sleeve; original lyric inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 198

Price: $20.00

 

1974's, self-produced 'The Power and The Glory"  was released after a two year absence from the US market (1973's "In a Glass House" didn't see an American release).  The album revealed another round of personnel changes with multi-instrumentalist Phil Shulman having quit to become a teacher and the addition of former Graham Bond Organization drummer John Weathers to the line-up.  Though extensive, for the most part the personnel changes didn't see major changes in their musical orientation, which continued to feature a weird mixture of '70s progressive moves (think ELP, Genesis, and Yes) and English folk influences (think Fairport Convention).  Apparently a concept piece whose plotline was largely lost to my ears (something to do with the rise and fall of a politician ?), the playing on this one remained sterling throughout, with keyboardist Kelly Minnear getting plenty of spotlight time.  That said, the first time I listened to this album I clearly remember thinking something along the lines "if Spinal Tap had been a progressive band, I bet they would have sounded like this album ..."   Mind, you, legions of Gentle Giant fans are going to tell you I'm stupid, or worse ...  That's fine.  I own quite a few of the band's albums and while I like much of their catalog (including bits of this LP), I'm going to stick by my guns on this one.  It almost sounded as if the band were unsure what to do next and the result was a compromise showcasing some of their most progressively oriented efforts ('So Sincere'), some hard rock ('Valedictory'), and even some commercial moves ('Aspirations').  Individually it was all fairly impressive, but taken as a whole ...  not so much.   Unless you were a hardcore Gentle Giant fan, this one was likely to be a challenging proposition.  

 

- Built on a cool Minnear electric piano riff, 'Proclamation' took the riff and beat it into dissonant submission.  Almost jazzy at times, the track captured the band at their most progressive orientation, bouncing through a series of complex time and melodic structures in rapid succession.   rating: *** stars

- The opening sax and violin section combined with a reflective folk-ish vocal made 'So Sincere' even harder to figure out.  Very dissonant, this one didn't make for particularly easy listening and was one of the tracks that inspired the earlier Spinal Tap comment.   YouTube has a clip of the band performing the song for the West German ZDF television network:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIaG8a9ACYY  rating: ** stars

- And just when I'd about given up on the album, the band unveiled one of their prettiest melodies via the ballad 'Aspirations'.  Opening up with some gentle Minnear electric piano,  Derek Schulman turned in a restrained, but simply gorgeous vocal - easy to imagine the late Sandy Denny taking a stab at this one.   rating: **** stars

- 'Playing the Game' was even better showing these guys knew how to combine progressive sounds with a more commercial orientation - always loved Ray Shulman's dance-ready bass line.  Hard to believe I'm saying this, but even with the needless mid-song jam session that was apparently intended to showcase Minnear's chops), this one actually had considerable commercial potential.  I'm not sure where it was filmed, but YouTube has a 1978 performance of the song:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4StScMaYffE  rating: **** stars

- The first couple of times it didn't do much for me, but eventually I came around to the 'Cogs In Cogs' charms.  Showcasing Minnear's keyboards and some nifty harmony vocals, the song had a goofy, jittery edge, but was fun and one of the songs I'd pull off for a 'best of' set.   YouTube has a clip of the band performing the song live for the West German ZDF television network:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2c4k_dHA2Q   rating: **** stars

- I guess it was bound to happen and the band's Yes-influences came streaming out on 'No God's a Man'.  Interesting instrumentation including harpsichord, some Chris Squire-styled bass, and the band's overlooked layered, harmony vocal capabilities ...   rating: *** stars

- To my ears any song that opens up with an electronic violin and a syncopated beat starts at a major disadvantage so 'The Face' simply never had a chance in my book.  Dense and difficult; and what was with Derek's pained vocals ?  He literally sounded like he just smashed his pinky in a doorway.   rating: ** stars

- Guitarist Gary Green had been largely subdued until the closer 'Valedictory'.  Opening up with some crushing Green chords, he steals the show on the album's final performance.  Not sure why, but this one's always reminded me of a Genesis track.  rating: *** stars

 

The band actually recorded a song entitled 'The Power and the Glory'.  I'm not enough of a GG fan to have the inside story, but my understanding is that it was written as an after thought - almost a contractual obligation effort intended to placate record executives who didn't think any of the album tracks had commercial potential.  So here's the funny thing - even though the band reportedly hated the song, it was actually quite good; certainly commercial, but with enough edge to please progressive fans:

 

 

 

- 1974's 'The Power and the Glory' b/w 'Playing the Game' (WWA catalog number WWS 017)

 

"The Power and the Glory" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Proclamation   (Derek Shulman - Ray Shulman - Kelly Minnear) - 6:44

2.) So Sincere   (Derek Shulman - Ray Shulman - Kelly Minnear) - 3:46

3.) Aspirations   (Derek Shulman - Ray Shulman - Kelly Minnear) - 4:36

4.) Playing the Game   (Derek Shulman - Ray Shulman - Kelly Minnear) - 6:44

 

(side 2)
1.) Cogs In Cogs   (Derek Shulman - Ray Shulman - Kelly Minnear) - 3:06

2.) No God's a Man   (Derek Shulman - Ray Shulman - Kelly Minnear) - 4:23

3.) The Face   (Derek Shulman - Ray Shulman - Kelly Minnear) - 4:09

4.) Valedictory   (Derek Shulman - Ray Shulman - Kelly Minnear) - 3:13

 

 

 

 

 

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