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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Kevin Gilbert

The Shaming of the True

Review by Josh Turner

I really love every aspect this album: the title, the artwork, and apparently, the melodies and verses. I would consider this the best album never truly finished by its creator. To give you the back-story, Kevin Gilbert was in the process of completing this album when he passed on from our world. His close friend Nick D’ Virgilio - who was once just a feature in Spock’s Beard and is now their stoic leader and shining star - led the charge in the spit n’ polish of this album. You could say he returned earlier favors from Gilbert: Back when Spock’s Beard’s needed to touch up their sophomore album, Beware of Darkness, Gilbert greatly assisted with the production.

Other than D’ Virgilio, Gilbert wasn’t short of powerful allies. Once upon a time, he had worked with Madonna and Michael Jackson, and even received a Grammy® for his contributions to Sheryl Crowe’s Tuesday Night Club. You could say he helped this diva launch her lucrative career. [What’s ironic is that Spock’s Beard – a baby brother that Gilbert helped foster and deliver – has now been recently nominated for a Grammy® as well.] In a way, Gilbert was the Quincy Jones of his time, and he only made it to 30. It truly begs the question of what might have happened next. Taking his musical inclinations a step further, he could play many instruments and sing. It’s rare to see someone capable of playing both the piano and the drums. It was said that like Richard Morse; he could play anything by ear. As long as we’re dipping into that talented family tree, Neal Morse, who happens to be a maestro on the keyboards as well as a songwriting wizard, draws the line on mallet and skins. Basically, you could take all the musical Olympians, roll them into one, and then institute another level beyond the medalists. Only Gilbert belongs atop that apex.

Forging ahead, Gilbert was a part of the band Giraffe as well as the manager to the brilliantly-eccentric Rubinoos. He also struck gold in his pursuits with Patrick Leonard in Toy Matinee. All this was done at a very young age. Amidst these achievements, he somehow found the time to further impress his niche audience with a slew of thoughtful solo projects. Thud was great and his concerts were said to be fantastic. They were so good; fans yearned for live releases. Gilbert was also invited to play on tributes to Gentle Giant, Genesis, and Yes. The Shaming of the True, however, is his most amazing creation, as it’s a concept album that incorporates prescient compositions. Honestly, it’s the epitome of what it means to couple a vision with a hominy of well-written harmonies and lyrics. At the time of his demise, he was contemplating a take on Dark Side of the Moon. In a way, he could be working on that right now. For people like me, heaven might be earning the right to hear it. Mournfully, we will never get a chance to experience Gilbert’s surely magical interpretation of Pink Floyd’s magnum opus. I’m sure it would have been marvelous. As is stands, Kevin Gilbert lives on in a masterpiece that is tragic in more ways than one. Above all, it shows promise from a very talented young man. I hope he is looking down as I type or at least has access to the Internet from where his cloud hovers. I have gotten so much from his music, and it would be a comfort to know that he has gotten the message. He has accomplished much and seen the limelight, but Shaming of the True is his quintessential masterpiece.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.




Track by Track Review
Parade
As the title suggests, we will get a procession of tunes. Since every fan of music should know this artist and have his music, I won’t bore you with my opinions. I plan to merely touch upon the many wondrous facets of this collection. As for this song, it’s more than a setup. It’s a regal commencement to a munificently-thought-out pageant about a rockstar named “Johnny Virgil.”
The City of the Sun
Like a number of articles in Thud, this is less like music and more like art. While it’s depressive and downbeat, there is much to be appreciated in this memoriam to the people. Even in well-lit places such as this; there is grief. You could say this song is a wake-up call of sorts.
Suit Fugue (Dance of the A&R Men)
Quite possibly, this is the most ingenious piece of music ever devised. You must hear it! Think of it as the cleverest outgoing message to an answering machine in the company of the smartest rebuttal. Any further comments would only do damage to your impending shock and awe.
Imagemaker
As the adage goes: What goes up must come down. While this ascends, it feels somewhat like a confident pilot at the controls without a parachute in stow.
Water Under the Bridge
Once the shrewdness of the other songs wears off; the beauty of this one will become apparent. This is the very definition of a bittersweet cliché.
The Best Laid Plans
This cut shouts aloud. At the same time, there is passive aggressiveness nestled within its velvet fabric. For some reason or another, the alliteration of this sonata reminds me of the many crafty ballads from Toy Matinee such as the crucial “Last Plane Out.”
Certifiable #1 Smash
This is arguably, the most disturbing monologue you’ve ever heard intertwined with the most accessible hit. I dare you to find another album with such wickedly-good and scandalous riffs.
Staring Into Nothing
By this point, there shouldn’t be a dry eye on the other side of the speakers. In a jiffy, the dejection in this despondent account goes from salty to sour. This is how a camper would feel once the homesickness has set in. While kids frolic and play, there are regrets of what you could have said and done before the bus took your miserable self away. Plus, there is antipathy that you cannot leverage the opportunities of present. It’s a limbo that’s hard to duplicate, but somehow Gilbert does it.
Fun
Amidst the laughter, parties and the champagne, there is a foreboding sense that overrides the noise. No celebrity to this day who has partaken in the spoils of mainstream success - and logged out of rehab as defined in a judge’s schedule - would say they’d do it again unless they were insane. This captures the innocence back at that critical moment when a rising star goes too far and gets loopy. Gilbert captures how it would feel when adrenalin and fame naively catalyzes the ego of a character with the leading role.
From Here to There
And so our story continues: The protagonist Jonny Virgil becomes disillusioned as he traces his path from past to present. Isn’t it strange that this particular Pinocchio has two first names? I don’t want to give too much away but the architect and his tool have much more common than their given handle. For instance, his best friend’s moniker might lend an extra clue. Anyhow, the puppet-master and his patsy share cynicism in regards to the wooden inhabitants that adorn the planet’s plastic dollhouse. What’s interesting is that this follows footsteps. If you could count on Gilbert for just one wily device, it would be his Fibonacci Series of ancillary sound-bites.
Ghetto of Beautiful Things
Gilbert does for pop what Joe Strummer did for punk. He integrates a message into the melodic minutiae. In some ways, this is un-listenable. In contrast to my observation, you finally get it when you realize that’s the intended point, as this is when insolence rears its gorgeous coif. While this isn’t progressive rock per se, any aficionado will appreciate what’s on the creative playwright’s mind.
A Long Day's Life
It seems as if Gilbert can craft profound pieces at a whim. Moreover, he was capable of passion and angst as well. The exquisiteness of this one is not in its melody or rhythm. Instead, it’s in its lyrics and tone.
The Way Back Home
Some parts of the album are compelling while some are outright sing-able. In contrast to his strong suits, this song takes another approach as it’s merely introspective. Before the end of the line, he takes us through Recollection Street and Melancholy Boulevard before dumping us on the side of Reminiscence Road. As if he were an immortal deity, he’s reborn in these reprisals that are so proficient; he must have used caulk to seal them.
Johnny’s Last Song
This is his swan song, as it is the last track we’ll ever hear from him. The simple ditty will make you ponder his potential. In a way, this wunderkind of a tune rightly deserves its place in this precise timeslot. This makes it a fitting end to a legacy that was smoked out much too soon. When it comes to Gilbert, I find it hard to pigeonhole my thoughts or sterilize my view. Pardon my poor grammar, but there is only one way to end this review: “The candle burned out long before the legend ever will.”
 
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