Gentle Giant
In a Glass House


5.0
classic

Review

by ProgJect USER (31 Reviews)
April 26th, 2011 | 222 replies


Release Date: 1973 | Tracklist

Review Summary: One of the finest hours of a truly inimitable group.

Regarded as the most complex of all the well-known progressive rock legends of the 70’s, Gentle Giant were formed in 1970 by five skilful multi-instrumentalists, including guitarist Gary Green, coming from the straight blues school, classically-trained keyboardist Kerry Minnear (vibraphone, cello), and brothers Ray (bass, violin, acoustic guitar), Derek (lead vocals, bass) and Phil Shulman (woodwinds), all eventually joined by seasoned drummer John Weathers.

From their early beginnings, Gentle Giant knew exactly what they were doing. They wanted to create the most original sound ever to be heard at the time. They borrowed from a wide spectrum of musical styles, and were by far the most intricate and elaborate of the art rock bands to emerge from 60’s psychedelica. From the start, Gentle Giant was a particularly flexible band due to the exceptionally broad musical skills of its members. With an incomparable musicianship, unusual instrumentation, odd time signatures, musical counterpoint, and their trademark multi-layered vocal harmonies, they went further than anyone ever did into unexplored grounds in the genre, navigating over neo-classical, medieval, avant-garde; pretty much the over-the-top kind of canvas Jethro Tull became famous for. By the standards of progressive rock, Gentle Giant’s music is considered to be particularly complex and demanding, although the way they always incorporated beautiful melodies throughout always pulls you back to more familiar territory.

In a Glass House is their fifth album and the successor of Octopus, one of their finest hour along with Free Hand. Like substantially any of their LPs up to Interview (terminating their classic era in 1976), Octopus was a rollercoaster of moods and structures, focusing heavily on medieval elements and experimentation, bordering avant-garde. The band’s sound on In a Glass House isn’t too different from its predecessor, except that the songs generally have fewer about-faces within them and instead feature a greater amount of development. There is also less of a medieval feel to the album, as the sound is harder rocking and more electric guitar-oriented. In a Glass House is also the first album to feature the five-piece line-up (the middle years, confirmed when Phil Shulman left the fold) that would carry them through until their demise in 1980.

With Shulman’s departure, taking his voice and his woodwind instruments with him, In a Glass House signalled a turning point musically for the band. In willing to remedy the situation, Minnear utilized extra keys, and Ray Shulman occasionally delivered some trumpet or clarinet sessions to partially compensate for the lack of Phil’s acoustic instruments. Derek occasionally took over on saxophones, but still there are far less saxophone melodies compared to the group’s previous records. Given that Phil proved to be the one who was more straightfordwardly interested in eerie harmonizations and sonic textures, it is not surprising that a lot of the medieval tinges that gave those early albums their artistic bells became slightly less frequent, now being replaced with far more ballsy rock sections that juxtapose brilliantly with the more sedate, classically-informed moments. Overall, instead of losing some of its effectiveness, the music just got more intense without Phil’s contributions, and became tighter and more driven than previous works.

The album contains highly complex interludes, well-thought-out tempo shifts, memorable riffage and addictive melodic runs, with some musically all-inspiring moments. Highly melodic, the music is both beautiful and challenging to the ear. Each side of the album has two longer compositions that include multiple segues or bridges, ranging from quieter acoustic sections to louder, rocking passages.

Glass House opens with shattering glass sounds that soon set the rhythm to the main infectious riff of The Runaway, which bears a very appealing hook despite the complex melodic line and weird adornments on recorders and vibes. Inmate’s Lullaby combines eerie percussion and vocals, creating an almost a claustrophobic feel, as if the walls are moving ever closer; the percussive part is interspersed with quaint but rather creepy xylophone.

Way of Life is a high powered-tune that is vaguely evocative of Yes’ Long Distance Runaround played at double speed. It’s symphonic middle section is filled with pleasant and anthemic melodies, and powerful organ from Minnear. Experience is complex but very enjoyable, compromising many forms of music: it bears a floating Renaissance ambience that is only interrupted by a blues-rock section. A Reunion is a very soft ballad, based on violin flourishes with Minnear, in exclusive charge of vocal duties. The closing title track is the icing on the cake. It offers the most engaging melodies, memorable hard rock riffs and powerful singing. Be warned though; the band pull a sublime 180°-turn in the middle of the song.

Gentle Giant continues to strike a chord with listeners young and old to this day, and their music has stood the test of time: not exactly with the mainstream audience, but with those who enjoy the more challenging, quirky, and clever of art forms. In their classic years, the band released too many excellent works to say with certainty which is the best; while it is safe to say that every one of them is strictly in line with all the others, In A Glass House certainly does count as one of their very best.



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user ratings (278)
Chart.
4.3
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Comments:Add a Comment 
ProgJect
April 26th 2011


37 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

With twenty on the counter, ProgJect once again thanks all its loyal readers for staying with us. A very proggy evening to you all.

greg84
Emeritus
April 26th 2011


7587 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Another great review guys! The first and the last track on this one absolutely rule. I may not exactly agree with the last sentence though. For me, Octopus is definitely their best. It has the superior songwriting to any of their other albums.

Digging: St. Vincent - MASSEDUCTION

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2011


7575 Comments


Huge band and great review. Have a pos.

I have Octopus from them, which is great.

Digging: Urarv - Aurum

ConsiderPhlebas
April 26th 2011


6157 Comments


they went further than no one ever did into unexplored grounds in the genre



Should be 'anyone'. Great review.

Jethro42
April 26th 2011


15012 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

TWENTY!! Long live to our dear ProgJect! Thank you so much to your precious help on the review, Nag. I once again realize my tendency to be overlong when I write. I think it's because of my endless generosity lol.

Another great review guys! The first and the last track on this one absolutely rule.


Much appreciated Greg! My personal favorite songs are the t/t and Experience. These two songs remain as fresh as when it came out.

Octopus is definitely their best. It has the superior songwriting to any of their other albums.


My personal top 3 would be 'In a Glass house', 'Free Hand' and 'Acquiring the Taste'. But! There is a solid constancy regarding their strong discog through their classic era. So all these albums never fail to impress, and they all are hard to rate. However, my overall rating for their discog as a whole (save their last 3 LPs) would be something like a big 4.5/5



@voivod, thanks dude. If you enjoy Octopus, get them all except the last three ones. Don't forget to pick up their stunning live 'Playing the Fool'.



Voivod
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2011


7575 Comments


@ Jethro42

check your shoutbox ;)

Jethro42
April 26th 2011


15012 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

@ConsiderPhlebas, fixed. Thanks for reading us!



@voivod;Yeah Royal Thunder, I heard the 1st track (minus the intro) and it sounds like something right up my alley. Reminds me of both some Sleepy Sun and Black Mountain. I'll read your review later, that's for sure. Thanks for the link, my friend.

SloppyMilkshake
April 27th 2011


981 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Awesome album, great review.

Nagrarok
April 27th 2011


8546 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks guys. I myself have been listening to their first two and their sound is absolutely great and unique.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 27th 2011


7503 Comments


I seriously love you guys. Happy pos =) And well done on hidding the big two-oh!

Jethro42
April 27th 2011


15012 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

^^awww my 1st comment about my ''personal top 3'' was pretty fuzzy, fixed.

I myself have been listening to their first two and their sound is absolutely great and unique.


Damn right Nag, GG are huge. There is so much going on musically it may take a great deal of time to grow on you to full maturity but once it's done, their genius really begin to reveal itself. There's something new to discover with every listening again and again...



Jethro42
April 27th 2011


15012 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Thanks Irving! We love you too.

Hidding the big two? The francophone in me doesn't get it...

Tyrael
April 27th 2011


21026 Comments


Congrats on keeping the prog train a-chugging guys, I hope there are many more of these wonderful reviews to come. Prog pos!

Jethro42
April 27th 2011


15012 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Thanks a bunch, Tyrael and don't worry, it's only the beginning; ProgJect machine is well oiled.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
April 27th 2011


7575 Comments


Review Landberk :P

AngelofDeath
Emeritus
April 27th 2011


16202 Comments


Good album, but I don't think it's a 5 (or their best).

ProgJect
April 27th 2011


37 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@voivod; Excellent idea. One Man Tells Another is on my priority list



@Angel; None is easy to rate, really. What a strong discography GG have. All their albums up to Interview have a serious potential to deserve at least a solid 4 due to their constant quality. Like I said in my 1st comment, my overall rating of their discog (save their last 2 or 3 albums) would be a 4.5/5. They're all classic in their own rights.

Jethro42
April 27th 2011


15012 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

^ oopsss Sorry, I forgot I was under the ProgJect account when I wrote ^

Nagrarok
April 27th 2011


8546 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Good album, but I don't think it's a 5 (or their best).




Angel, you know such a lot of old prog albums, you should rate more of them.



I'm going on a GG binge today, working my way up to Free Hand. Upon first listen this is a 4, Acquiring the Taste is definitely my favourite thus far.

Jethro42
April 27th 2011


15012 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Angel, Nag speaks the truth.

I'm going on a GG binge today, working my way up to Free Hand. Upon first listen this is a 4, Acquiring the Taste is definitely my favourite thus far.


I'm really glad to hear it, Nag. I'm currently looking to some of my ratings and I might bump some of these up. It's a hard task to rate that music, damn it's so rich, so saturated. I know each and every GG songs since 3 full decades, and I still love most of them big time.



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