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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Gentle Giant

Power and the Glory – Remastered

Review by Gary Hill

Another of the new series of Gentle Giant remasters, this is actually one of my favorites from the band. For my money the sounds that they work here are more successful than on other releases. That’s not to say that those albums are bad, though, but rather that this one rises higher. I’d recommend this as a first taste of the band for those looking to sample this classic (but rather obscure) progressive rock outfit.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Proclamation

The sound of wave hitting the shore starts off. Then a killer retro sounding keyboard bit enters. The vocals come in over the top in a typical rising and falling Gentle Giant fashion. It carries in this keyboard and vocal only arrangement for some time but the keys work through some varied progression and different vocals are added. Between the one minute and minute and a half mark other instruments join and we’re off on a bouncing lilting sort of jam. It’s still purely based on the same musical themes as the first part, but after a while they take us out in new directions via a couple of changes. Some of this feels a little like Yes, but I can also hear King Crimson and early Genesis at times. The keyboards take it later into some seriously crazed territory for a while. Then it shifts to a dark and dramatic RIO meets symphonic bit that’s rather disquieting. This eventually gives way to a return to the song proper and they use that to take us to some sound effects that end it during the fadeout.

So Sincere
This begins with a symphonic sort of structure that has chamber orchestra feeling to it – right down to the vocals. As they take into more rock territory later it is vintage Gentle Giant, but there are some hints of King Crimson in the mix. They bring it back down the opening section eventually to end, but work through a number of changes in the process.
Aspirations
A stripped down keyboard and vocal motif leads this off and somehow it reminds me a bit of the In the Wake of Poseidon era of King Crimson quite a bit. This is a slow moving and slowly building piece that has a definite folk meets chamber music element to it. It’s one of the most instantly accessible piece here and while not as chaotic or challenging as some of the other stuff is one of my favorites here. I can make out hints of groups like Traffic and even Pink Floyd on this. 
Playing the Game
Keys start this off and it moves out from there. It’s definitely Gentle Giant but in many ways this makes me think of Yes. Of course, the vocals are closer to Chris Squire solo. There is a killer jazz-like jam later that’s one of my favorites parts of the disc. 
Cogs in Cogs
Firing out in a fast paced jam, this is another that reminds me a lot of both Yes and Chris Squire solo. It’s got some ELP and other sounds built into it, too, though. It’s also a highlight of the set as far as I’m concerned and works through a number of killer changes and alterations. There is a dramatic section that’s dominated by keys and multiple layers of vocals. We also get a couple short movements that make me think a bit of Frank Zappa. 
No God’s a Man
This begins with a fairly accessible little segment but shifts quickly into more RIO-like territory. As it grows I’m reminded a bit of King Crimson. Of course, when they multiple layers of vocals enter and the song is shifted around to herald that transition, it becomes very much trademark Gentle Giant. Bits of King Crimson remain here and there, but you might also hear sections that make you think of Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer. 
Face
Another trademark Gentle Giant jam, the first section doesn’t really have any real surprises. Later, though, there is a bit of a Yes-like section and then a killer excursion with a tasty violin solo that seems one part Jean-Luc Ponty and one part Charlie Daniels. They take us through some other solos as they continue and this thing really rocks out very well. A series of changes ensue before they take it out. 
Valedictory
Gentle Giant meets King Crimson on this fast paced rocker. There are a couple sections here that feel distinctly like a nod to “Flight of the Bumblebees” and this is full of drama, passion and alteration. It’s another great tune and another highlight of the set. That makes it a great choice for closing the album. This is one of the most dynamic and interesting pieces here. Yet it’s somehow quite accessible.
 
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