Long considered one of the greatest albums from Gentle Giant, if not progressive rock in general, In a Glass House is being remastered and reissued in a 35th Anniversary edition from DRT Entertainment, the record label of original GG member Derek Shulman. As was the case with the remaster of Free Hand, this version of In a Glass House sounds absolutely sparkling, and will no doubt be a welcome replacement for many old CD copies of this album that reside in most progressive rock fans collections.
The power (and the glory?) of Gentle Giant is instantly heard on the complex and majestic opening cut "The Runaway", one of the band's many classic songs. The intricate guitar lines of Gary Green weave inside and around the classy keyboard work of Kerry Minnear, with steady drum & percussion from John Weathers, muscular bass from Ray Shulman, and plenty of recorder added for that medieval effect. Of course the lead vocals of Derek Shulman are instantly recognizeable, as well as the unique voice of Minnear who also adds his vocal talents to this one as well. "The Runaway" has so many hidden caverns of musical delight, so many changes of mood and tempo, that it is a song that is impossible to ignore by even the staunchest of critics. Combining prog rock, classical, medieval jigs, and hard rock, this is what represents the best this genre had to offer in the 70's.
The band switches gears for the atmospheric and poignant "An Inmates Lullaby", a gentle piece that is accentuated by some sophisticated vibes from Minnear that work well with the effects laden vocals of Shulman. From there, the band blasts into bouncy, complex rock with "Way of Life", featuring stinging, angular guitar from Green ( a very underrated player), sinewy rhythm work from Ray Shulman and John Weathers, and as always the nimble synth presentation from Minnear. Check out the majestic middle section which sees Minnear take the lead vocal slot, along with his church organ and Shulman's recorder... a truly magical, medieval experience. The band then finishes out the cut in grand symphonic fashion, with multiple keyboard textures, rippling bass, and melodic guitar work. Again, the organ playing of Minnear is just marvelous.
Another GG classic, "Experience", follows; a ridiculously complex and fun song that sees Minnear crooning his angelic vocals and blasting out intricate keyboard lines alongside the pumping bass of Shulman and the wah-wah guitar licks of Green, until the band switches gears and blasts in with Derek's wailing vocals, Green's stabbing and lethal guitar solos, and thunderous drums from Weathers. Minnear again steals the show with an array of keyboards, such as piano, organ, electric piano, and analog synths, but Green also makes a firm statement with some truly monstrous and distorted lead lines.
Ray's violin comes out on the haunting "A Reunion", an acoustic piece that again shows off the uniqueness of the band. On this remaster, the sound is breathtaking, with Shulman's violin lines soaring, Minnear's vocals crisp, and Green's acoustic guitar work gentle. The band takes this concept one step further on the title track, mixing the acoustic elements with some Yes-flavored symphonic rock. After a breathtaking opening that sees plenty of violin and acoustic guitar twiddling, Green's heavy electric guitar work comes in alongside Derek's husky vocals. Derek's sax makes an appearance here as well, adding a little jazz twist to a song that seems to have a little of everything. Like a bizarre mixing of The Dixie Dregs and Yes, "In a Glass House" is a song that seems to bridge the gap between bluegrass, classical, jazz, and symphonic prog, before the heavy ending kicks in for some Jethro Tull-like thunder, with Green's monstrous power chords leading the way, and sounding fatter than ever.
A bonus live version of "Experience" recorded in Germany in 1976 is also included, which shows the band to be extremely lively and spontaneous on that given night (OK, so GG were supposedly that way live all the time!). Although Alucard Records also recently released a remastered version of In a Glass House as well, those who didn't pick up that expensive import will be glad to know that this DRT version will be easily available. What more can I say-this is must have stuff here, easily one of prog rocks gems, from a band that was like no other.
1) The Runaway
2) An Inmates Lullaby
3) Way of Life
5) A Reunion
6) Experience-live from Germany 1976