Monday, July 23, 2018

In a Glass House - Gentle Giant

Gentle Giant's fifth album, 1973's In A Glass House, had a bit of difficulty upon it's original release. CBS Records, who released GG's previous two albums in the States, apparently didn't care for the band's latest offering, and they passed on it. For the longest time, American fans of Gentle Giant could only get the LP as an import. The incredible packaging, though, made the extra expense worthwhile.

The album's bookend tracks, "The Runaway" (kicking off with the sound of breaking glass) and the title track (which concludes with the same sound of breaking glass) are two of the band's best pieces - great, quirky, uncompromising prog rock. "An Inmate's Lullaby" and "A Reunion" are both haunting and beautiful, and "Way Of Life" and "Experience" are solid Gentle Giant rockers. The band's precision and performances are amazing, the vocals are oddly mellifluous, and the album's production is top-notch. 

With a far gruffer production, this record departs from the medieval folk and jazzy touches that tend to define Giant's work, and goes much further in the vein of traditional Prog Rock, with a stronger, heavier, bluesy edge, Gary Green taking center-stage in guitar-driven tracks like "Experience." The predilection towards rock means there isn't the same bizarre variety in style and sound that made Octopus and Acquiring the Taste such delights. The longer track lengths also mean there is a tendency to ramble, something which until now had never effected Giant as it had their Prog contemporaries. Nonetheless, Kerry Minnear's partnership with the remaining Shulman brothers continued to produce bizarre and fetching compositions which grab one's ears with twists and turns tied together in a trademarked melodic creativity. The band was, by and large, vice-tight, with their classical elements (Minnear/Shulman/Shulman) providing fascinating interplay with its rockier edges (Green/Weathers). That interplay gave the band's bizarre output the driving edge it needed to appeal to the mainstream. In A Glass House is a definitive, if overlooked, Gentle Giant gem.

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