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Gentle Giant

In a Glass House - 35th Anniversary Edition

Review by Steve Alspach

Back in the early 1970s Columbia Records had Gentle Giant in their stable, but a problem of density kept Columbia (or anyone else in the states) from releasing "In a Glass House," the band's fifth album: density in the band's arrangements, and density on part of the A&R men who couldn't figure out the band or the music. This album never really saw the light of day in the US until a few years ago. The remastered version of this release is a pure delight. With oldest Shulman brother Phil departed from the lineup, the band lost its more sentimental edge, but the complexity of the arrangements never waned. For you prog fan audiophiles, this CD is a must-have to your prog collection. The mix is excellent.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at

Track by Track Review
The Runaway
From a tape loop of breaking glass, the band starts its counterpoint right off the bat. The lead vocal line stands in contrast to the riffs. Keyboardist Kerry Minnear, guitarist Gary Green, and bassist Ray Shulman all play well off each other. There are also moments of playfulness as Kerry Minnear's lead vocal lines play off of an arrangement of recorders aswell as a xylophone solo.
An Inmate's Lullaby
In 1971's "Edge of Twilight" the band used tuned percussion as an instrumental break, but here they utilize tympani, glockenspiel, and several other tuned percussion instruments as the foundation of the entire song. Derek Shulman's vocals are perhaps as restrained as at any point in Gentle Giant's work.
Way of Life:
"GO!" With that barked order the band starts on a high-speed tempo. The song then goes into another movement, a rather complicated one that brings memories of "Three Friends" in its stateliness. The end, though,is a bit of a nuisance with the incessant keyboard pattern, and less attentive listeners may have thought that the album was stuck.
In one of those patented Gentle Giant "two-part" songs, this one starts with a lively 3/4 feel in the first part, but the second part rocks out with quite a bit of funky strut to it.
A Reunion
The band hadn't lost its softer side entirely, and this little ditty (and, at 2:09, one of the shortest songs in the band's history) is a bit of a charm with its neo-baroque arrangement of violin, cello, bass, acoustic guitar, and Rhodes keyboard. Kerry Minnear's crystalline vocal adds the perfect touch.
In a Glass House
The title piece starts with a repeated acoustic riff. Some of the Giant's album closers, like "I Lost My Head" can pack a punch after a softer first part, and this one is a bit of the prototype. The first 4-plus minutes don't sound too heavy, perhaps because of Gary Green avoiding power chords for single lines, but the second half bounces between Derek Shulman's growl and Kerry Minnear's more delicate vocals on the bridge. Gary Green gets a nice acoustic solo with a slide, but it's a bit short and leaves the listener (at least this one) wanting more.
There is a bit of an interesting tag to end the album proper - very short snippets of the previous songs followed by the sound of breaking glass that echoes itself to a fade.
Experience - Live (Bonus Track)
Although listed on the album as simply "Experience" This is an extremely well-recorded version of the medley ("The Runaway" / "Experience") that the band played in its live shows and, soundwise, runs rings around the "Playing the Fool" version.
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