Lee Speaks About Music… #80

The Power and The Glory (CD/Blu Ray) – Gentle Giant

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Introduction…

Well I have always liked Gentle Giant since I finally got into them which was a good couple of decades after they disbanded in 1980. I barely took any notice of them back in the 70’s and I am pretty sure it was through getting into Neal Morse in the 2000’s that led me on to investigate them more and to finally buy their albums. This particular album The Power and The Glory as always been my favourite album of theirs for some reason. Though I like them all to be honest and it’s perhaps hard to choose a particular favourite.

I have to admit I have been meaning to buy this CD/Blu Ray Edition for some time now, especially has it’s got the 5.1 mix of the album. To be honest I am surprised I never brought it before I purchased Three Piece Suite last year, and it was seeing a post by John McLoud of the album in the Progrock Group on Facebook. That jilted my mind to finally get it.

I shall also be getting the CD/Blu Ray version of Octopus soon too, and I was hoping to see Steve Wilson do 5.1 mixes for more of their albums as well. In A Glass House and Freehand I would love to see him do. Just do them all Mr Wilson and I shall buy them :))))). Even The Missing Piece and I might even have “Two Weeks In Spain” to celebrate :))))).

Incidentally I have also pre-ordered this box set of Gentle Giant’s that was originally released back in 2012. It’s been out of print for awhile now and they are reissuing it again with new 2018 remasters all for the price of £20.75.

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It’s a 4 CD Clamshell Box Set that contains the studio releases of the albums Free Hand, Interview, The Missing Piece, Giant For A Day and Civilian and includes the much-loved live album Playing The Fool from 1976. It also comes with some bonus tracks and includes a 16 page booklet and is s due to be released on the 22nd June.

I shall look forward to reviewing that and now let’s get back to The Power and The Glory. But first as ever let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The album comes in a 3 panel cardboard Digipak and the discs are held in place by the same type of plastic holders one would find in a jewel case. These type of holders offer great protection for the discs and you can easily retrieve the discs without getting your fingerprints over the disc surface, they also lend support in strengthening the cardboard packaging and the booklet stores nicely away in the pocket they have made on the sleeve.

The 12 page booklet contains the usual linear and production notes and contains some useful information based on around the time the album was being made and was written by the freelance writer Sid Smith. It also has a few photographs of the band from that time period, and although it does not go into great detail, it’s quite informative.

The Artwork.

The albums front cover came from a pack of playing cards the band brought whilst on tour in Germany. They simply passed on the pack to Cream Sleeve Design and asked them to do something with it.

The CD/Blu Ray Release…

Both the CD/Blu Ray and CD/DVD Editions of Gentle Giant’s The Power and The Glory were released on the 22nd July 2014. It was the first Gentle Giant album that Steve Wilson decided to mix and do a 5.1 surround mix for. Most likely because it was his favourite album. Steve Wilson’s new mixes also come in the form of a CD only and they have also released it on vinyl album.

Since then, Wilson has also done the mixes for the bands 1972 album Octopus and also a compilation of the bands first 3 albums which was entitled Three Piece Suite. The reason that was compiled was down to the fact that not all the original multi-track master tapes could be found for those albums to do 5.1 mixes for.

I decided to go for the CD/Blu Ray Edition and purchased it from Amazon for £17.12 and have to say it was truly worthy of every penny and Steve Wilson has without a doubt done a truly superb job on the mixes. I think with any package like this most of the bonus material comes more in abundance on either the Blu Ray or DVD and these are without doubt the real quality in these packages and not the CD.

Though obviously also with these type of packages the bonus material one does get is more or less is the same thing, and this is not an album that has a great deal of extra bonus tracks at all. So let’s now take a look at what we get on the contents of the both discs.

The CD.

The CD contains the albums original 8 tracks and also has a couple of bonus tracks. The overall playing time of all 10 tracks is 46 minutes, 23 seconds. All the tracks are also new mixes done by Steve Wilson though he has not added a thing to any of them, he has managed to mix the album really well, that well that I would even stick my neck out and say it sounds better than the original mix of album.

But for all you purists out there, the original master recording of the original album has been included on the Blu Ray. The two bonus tracks “The Power and the Glory” and the instrumental out take of “Aspirations” are nothing new (apart from being mixed by Wilson) and have featured on other re-releases of the album over the years.

The Blu Ray.

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The Blu Ray opens up with some fine 3D Animation of playing cards and presents you with the main menu (shown above) that also contains an animation through the shaped window of the playing card. The main menu presents you with 5 options to choose from “Play Album”. “Track Select”. “Instrumentals” “Audio” and “Extras”.

I quite like how when you click on the options they appear on the same screen for you to make your choice, rather than loading to another screen. The following screen shows you an example of the “Audio” option as an example.

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By default it’s set to my personal favourite choice of DTS 5.1 Master Audio. All the audio formats are in high quality 96/24 even for the other bonus and extras material. A couple of the of the added bonus features you get on the Blu Ray are the instrumental versions of all the tracks, including the 2 bonus tracks and the “Extras” option contains the original album mix of the 8 original tracks which is in stereo only.

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The other interesting feature on this Blu Ray comes when you play the 5.1 mix only. Each track features a different 3D Animation video for every track on the album, including the 1 bonus track you get here “The Power and the Glory“. These are a series of animated videos made by the bands bass guitarist and violin player Ray Shulman. You also get the lyrics to all the songs too which they have also animated.

There is nothing in the booklet that tells you when Shulman made the animation, and to be honest I doubt very much he would of been able to of made it the time this release was made. So the animation he made here was most likely done earlier on and intended for a documentary or something about the album that never got put out, and got used for this release instead.

The animation is really well apt to the lyrics and the whole concept that was behind the album The Power and The Glory. This is truly a great feature and quite a surprise to see included here.

The 5.1 Mix.

Both the 5.1 and stereo mixes Steve Wilson has done here are purely fantastic. But personally for myself the 5.1 mix will always be the real winner, and this is a stunning 5.1 mix he has done. The very fact that we have 3 Dimensional Animation works a treat with the quite like 3 Dimensional sound of how everything as been so well placed and panned out. Gentle Giant’s music suits a 5.1 mix especially with the array of instrumentation they use and their 4 part harmonies.

Wilson is very much a master at not going over the top and making sure that the album still sounds like how it was originally but somehow manages to breathe completely new life into the mix by bringing out the dynamics and the clarity. His vision for a 5.1 mix never ceases to amaze me and no doubt he improves all the time. He’s a lot better than Jakko Jakszyk in this field of working with 5.1 and I do prefer Wilson to do the mixes of these great albums overall.

There is no doubt in my eyes and my ears that this is without doubt the best mix this album has ever seen, and it is without doubt purely fantastic and I take my hat off to Wilson for doing such a grand job and making me want to play this album over and over again.

Though to be honest Gentle Giant have never been far away from my turntable so to speak, simply because they made music to last more than a lifetime, and I can enjoy listening to their albums every year on that score. Though this 5.1 mix will definitely be my go too choice of hearing this album from now on.

Musicians & Credits…

Gentle-Giant

Produced and arranged by Gentle Giant for Alucard Productions Ltd. Recorded at Advision Studios London between December 1973 – January 1974. Engineer Gary Martin. Cover Design by Cream. Illustrations for “Aspirations” by Lior Wix. Stereo & 5.1 Mixes by Steven Wilson.

Musicians:
Derek V. Shulman: Vocals & All Saxes.
Ray Shulman: Bass/Violin/Vocals.
Kerry C. Minnear: Keyboards/Cello/Vocals.
Gary W. Green: All Guitars.
John P. Weathers: Drums/Percussion/Vocals.

The Album In Review…

The original album The Power and The Glory was released on the 22nd September 1974. The album contained 8 tracks and had an overall playing time of 38 minutes, 7 seconds. It was the bands 6th studio album, and the last one that was released on WWA Records a subsidiary division of Capitol Records before signing up to Chrysalis Records.

By now and even on their previous album In The Glass House the band had slightly changed it’s style to more of an American way of thinking and it was also due to the American market taking more of an interest in the band with the imports they brought of In A Glass House that the band decided to release the album in the US and Canada first.

The Power and The Glory was the 2nd most successful album they ever had in America and it reached number 50 in the album charts. They also continued to release all the albums that followed it in the same fashion right up to their final album 1980 studio album Civilian.

Prior to the release of The Power and The Glory in America. They also made a more commercial song with the same name of the album. Though the single release of “The Power and The Glory” was never included on the album and it did nothing in America either, and never made a dent in the singles charts.

I am sure at the time many would of never heard the single release of “The Power and The Glory” and the album drew its title from the opening and closing tracks on the album “Proclamation” and “Valedictory” which was a reprise of the 1st track, and not the single release at all.

In the following year of 1975 with the band now signed up to Chrysalis Records. Capitol Records decided to release a compilation album entitled Giant Steps… The First Years to which they included the single “The Power and The Glory” and that was the very first album the song had ever appeared on.

I suppose the reason why the band never wanted to include it on the album, was down to the fact that it had more of a rock approach about it, and it was perhaps something they just made on the spare of the moment to try and break into the American market.

I find it rather strange however why they gave this single the same title of the album in the first place, and I would of expected if it did have more success that their fans would be wondering why it was not on the album in the first place :))))).

Concept Ideas & Interpretations…

Gentle Giant’s album The Power and The Glory is very much done in the way of a concept album only it’s not story based and each individual track is based around power and how it’s consequences can have an effect of how it works in society. Not only in the political sense but also the music business. Because the album was conceived at a time of great uncertain political events that were going on around the time. Most of the people associated it with Nixon’s Watergate scandal.

I have to confess trying to make head or tail of the lyrics on this album is not the easiest thing to do. I think you need to be some sort of professor or these guys were totally off their head when they wrote them :))))). It’s no wonder so many people can make so many interpretations out of them, and that in my book has always been a good thing.

I have to confess doing a review of any album, the research side of things is what I like the best about it. Though I cannot always be accurate with all the sources from the internet and the information I find in the booklets that come with these albums. I also find Youtube a useful source, by either watching documentaries or interviews of the artists, and even down to other people reviewing them.

I even enjoy other people doing album reviews on Youtube and I wish I had the confidence that they have to do them as well. I myself need a lot more time to think which is why I prefer to do written reviews like this, where I can take my time. But I quite like the reviews of these couple of guys (even if I do not agree with everything they say) and here they are reviewing The Power and The Glory.

I quite like how they think it’s not a concept album but does have some theme about a concept with the way it’s been packaged like a pack of cards, and they try and interpret the concept into a story based around playing cards with some of the titles on the album at around the 10:10 mark in the video.

I also like how another guy in one of the comments on the same video goes about describing the concept behind the album being a story as well. He puts it like this as follows:

“Proclamation begins with a dictator addressing his crowd. So Sincere comments that the dictator is a hypocrite. There is another character with high aspirations, who plays the game of power where cogs run in cogs. He realizes that no gods a man (so the dictator is human after all) and overthrows and replaces him. But as Valedictory recalls the first track, he succumbs to the same corruption as the previous ruler”.

I dare say there are plenty of other great interpretations of the concept behind The Power and The Glory and no doubt it would of certainly raised a few eyebrows when it was released.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Most of the material for the album The Power and The Glory was written whilst the band was still on the live tour of their previous album In The Glass House. Gentle Giant was very much a band that wrote most of their material outside of the studios to save on cost, and they recorded the demo’s of the basic ideas for the songs onto a cassette, and then spent the time in the studio piecing it all together and recording it properly.

They also spent more time putting this album together than they did with their previous album to which was more of a rushed out album to keep within the scheduled time of the record company. All the material was written by Kerry Minnear and the two Shulman brothers Derek and Ray. Although in terms of the music side of things, that is very much left to Kerry and Ray who have always been the bands main music writers.

So now let’s take a look at the 8 individual tracks that make up the album and see if we can make some sense out of the lyrics.

Track 1. Proclamation.

The album opens up with the longest track on the album which is just under 7 minutes. It opens up with the atmospheric sound that very much sounds like a fast tube train running along the tracks in a London underground. It most likely is too, although the sound can be seen as representing a crowd hailing the candidate they are voting in power.

Then in comes Kerry Minnear on the electric piano playing the main riff of the verse sections of the song with quite a funky vibe to it. Derek Shulman comes in with the vocals on the opening verse and he takes on the lead vocals on this song and gradually the other members of the band come into the action.

There is no doubt that Gentle Giant’s music can be very diverse at times with its  quirkiness and ever changing time signatures, and it’s short bursts and spasms with how they create melodies and rhythms that shift patterns in other directions even over short tracks. Though most of the material on this album is perhaps more heavier and more accessible.

I have always found their music very strange, but it’s that strangeness that as always drawn me to it more than anything, and I find it quite interesting and even exciting. The lead break section that runs from 2:10 – 3:20 shows that there is a lot more to a song like this than just a verse and chorus. Just in a space of 1 minute and 10 seconds there is a hell of a lot of shifting melody changes and even two part melodies running through it. The interaction between the musicians is quite breathtaking.

Proclamation” is very much the self titled track of the album in that the albums title is contained within the song. The lyrical content is very much about the politician who is running for power and wanting the vote and the confidence of the public with his manifesto that is aimed at changing the way things are. But all too often it remains the same, and at the end of the day just like the many that came before him, he ultimately becomes what he thought against in the first place.

It’s a really great song and very much a strong contender for the best track on the album. Just like the song that follows it too.

Track 2. So Sincere.

So Sincere” lyrically speaking about the way the words have been written in the way of a metaphor, could be seen as combining the first 3 letters of the word “Sincere” with “sincerity” which results in Sin being told with Sincerity. The lies told in any politicians manifesto are in fact sincerely told to try an win over the public votes. For every bit of truth he talks about you can expect the opposite. He will tell you anything just to get in power and try and win you over. It’s all hypocrisy at the end of the day.

There is no doubt that practically all the lyrics on this album are metaphors and it’s not always easy to put them all into context for one to really get the idea behind them. Looking at the way they have been put them into context could even have one thinking WTF is he’s going on about, hence the reason for me thinking they was off their head when they wrote them.

So these are lyrics one will have to dig that deeper into, to really get the point they are trying to put across here. Although basically the lyrics to all the tracks are literally based around the same subject matter.

The songs musical structure is built around the opening few notes in the melody line played on the violin, which is supported by the cello, bass and sax. Kerry Minnear takes on the vocals in the verse sections and the piano and drums add further support as the song builds its way slowly along in a sort of creepy awareness and dramatic way, almost like something one might find in a cartoon.

The chorus section it changes into is quite a frenzy of notes played on the keys and guitar and the Derek Shulman handles the vocals on the chorus sections. They also incorporate a small bridge section which allows Gary Green to go into a nice frenzy on the electric guitar. “So Sincere” is perhaps less accessible in relation to many of the songs that are on this album, and is more like the bands earlier folky side on that score. But this I like a lot and it’s my 2nd favourite track on the album.

Track 3. Aspirations.

Much more of a more straight forward song musically with the use of electric piano, bass, acoustic guitar and drums. Kerry Minnear takes on the vocals and he’s always had more of the sweeter voice in the band to take on a song like this, though he very rarely sang live so he could focus more on his keyboard playing.

Lyrically the words are pertaining to the hopes and dreams one hopes will result from having a new government in power, and reflects of how one lives in society with their current position and having a stable enough job to bring up their family. I suppose these aspirations could also apply to the music business too.

I quite like the animated video they have put to this song which shows a family outside their house, and how the house in the background can look in a bit of a rundown state, and changes into something more clean and new. It shows the line between poverty and wealth and that basically sums up what this song is really all about.

Track 4. Playing the Game.

Playing The Game” I suppose can be seen to as any politician who gets in power is in a no lose situation. The odds are very much stacked in his favour as soon as he becomes elected into office in that no matter what decisions he makes especially upon inflation and the cost of living, by the end of his term in office he will be wealthy enough to live comfortably for the rest of his life. Unless he gambles it all away that is :))))).

Musically this track is perhaps constructed around Ray Shulman’s bass line which plays a very dominant role here, it also features some great keyboard work and the marimba is put to great use in the percussion department. The vocals are handled by Derek Shulman on the verses and Minnear sings in the bridge section only.

Track 5. Cogs In Cogs.

Musically this song contains excellent progression and is perhaps similar to the same prog epic goodness found on the bands 4th album Octopus on the track “Knots“. Only this is not quite as minimalistic and certainly has a lot going on. The band weave out some magic on this track, and even though it’s the shortest track on the album at just over 3 minutes, it’s very much my favourite track on the album and merits my top spot award.

Once again Dave Shulman takes on the vocals and for all the remaining songs on the album. Its lyrical content is based around how each cog changes yet the wheels always move in the same direction just like the hands of power may change from time to time, yet nothing ever really changes with their so called promises.

Track 6. No God’s a Man.

Lyrically the song is more of the same thing and perhaps could be seen as the same old song when those in power at the end of day who always fail, and the same old song gets sung again with whoever picks up the next microphone to sing it so to speak. Also most often is the case that the party they voted in office in the first place, end up becoming those they now want out. Those who are put on pedestals soon fall aside with their deception and lies and man is far too imperfect to be a god, and no man is a god.

Gentle Giant without a doubt have their own way and style of creating music out of some of the strangest short melody lines and developing them like no other band has ever done. Their use of vocal harmonies also plays a big part in the arrangement of the songs they do, just like many of them on this album, they also feature the other members of the band joining in on the harmonies, and not just the main singers as I have already mentioned.

No God’s a Man” starts off with a well developed musical intro before the words come into play. Musically the combination of guitar, keyboards and bass are a dominant feature throughout the song and it’s a very well constructed piece of work with how they have intertwined all the melodies together.

Track 7. The Face.

The album picks up the pace on “The Face” and it’s a song that features Ray Shulman on violin and it was most likely written with that instrument too. Even Ray’s bass work on the track plays an integral part here and both he and Gary Green’s guitar feature very well throughout, and the lead break sees both the violin and guitar rocking it all up.

The lyrical content is based around the politician having to face up to all the wrong decisions and changes that’s been made during their term in office. Quite often it’s left for the next candidate to clean up the mess, and it’s all been a bit too embarrassing to face up to the carnage they have left the country in. It’s another one of my contenders for the top spot on the album.

Track 8. Valedictory.

The final track on the album is a reprise of the opening track “Proclamation” with a different arrangement to which is played at a slightly slower more rocked up hung back pace. I suppose when looking at the context of how all the lyrics on the album are based around political power. It was only fitting to use the last track in the way of recycling the whole thing all over again, to which no changes ever really get made and things remain the same no matter who’s in office. It puts an end to a really great album.

Summary…

To sum up Gentle Giant’s 6th album The Power and The Glory. Overall it’s perhaps a more heavier album in relation to the bands previous albums and it works very well for it. However although the concept does appear to work over all the individual tracks, it does perhaps tend to hark on a bit over the same subject matter throughout the album with how the lyrics have been written. So these are perhaps not the best lyrics the band have come up with on that score, but never the less the real strength of the album lies in how the music has been structured and how the lyrics are expressed with the music with how they put it all across.

Like I said at the beginning of my review that this album for some reason as always been my favourite. It’s also Gary Green’s though I can perhaps see why simply because the electric guitar does get utilised perhaps more on this album. Though I have to confess that I do miss a lot of the acoustic guitar that got featured on many of their earlier albums, so to even say this is my favourite album of the bands is a very hard thing for me personally because there are at least another 3 of their albums that are very much on par with it.

The band were no doubt branching out a bit more when they made this album and were heading into more rock territory to some respects, though they still maintained their unique style no doubt. My personal highlights from the album are “Proclamation“. “So Sincere“. “Cogs In Cogs” and “The Face“.

Conclusion…

The The Power and The Glory by Gentle Giant is quite a solid enough album, but then again I could say the same about most of their albums on that score. Even though The Power and The Glory could be seen as a more accessible album there is no doubt that their music will still sound rather strange to the biggest majority of people, and for many its perhaps still quite hard for people to really appreciate it and get into it.

They make music one has to grow into, and once you have you will reap the rewards and very much will have something that will last you a lifetime. Gentle Giant are a band that possess a load of musical talent, and they do things differently in relation to the biggest majority of bands in this world.

They are not the type of band who get together in a studio and create their music by jamming together. They very much sit down and write around 75 percent of it on a musical manuscript before they have even played it. Then they get together in a studio to finalise all the arrangements add in a bit of improvisation and play it and record it.

So however bizarre people may think their music comes across, it’s very much planned in advance to be that way in the first place with how they have so very well constructed it. This is what makes this band quite unique and they are very skilled musicians who have learnt their craft.

This particular CD/Blu Ray release I personally feel cannot be beaten, even at it’s price point of £17.12 it’s a superb package of high quality. OK you are not perhaps getting anything really new in the way of bonus material. But the fact that they have included the original mix and even the instrumental version of the album in 24/96K on the Blu Ray is a really great extra.

The added bonus of the animated videos is also a great feature and both the Stereo and 5.1 mixes done by Steven Wilson are superb, the latter of the two is simply stunning, and no doubt the real winner here is the 5.1 mix. Once again Wilson as done a top notch job with the album and breathed a new lease of fresh air into the mix. It adds even more excitement to it all and for all those surround freaks like myself. I would say that this is a must to add to your collection.

It Can Change, It Can Stay The Same…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. Proclamation. 6:56.
02. So Sincere. 3:52.
03. Aspirations. 5:21.
04. Playing the Game. 6:45.
05. Cogs In Cogs. 3:08.
06. No God’s a Man. 4:26.
07. The Face. 4:13.
08. Valedictory. 3:26.
09. The Power and the Glory [*]. 2:59.
10. Aspirations [Instrumental Out-Take][*]. 5:17.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee’s 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Bonus Material Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

 

One thought on “Lee Speaks About Music… #80

  1. Pingback: Lee Speaks About Music… #80 — Lee Speaks About… – Progarchy

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