‘The Power And The Glory’: When Gentle Giant Ruled The Prog World
Tackling greed and corruption in authority, Gentle Giant’s ‘The Power And The Glory’ is a prog classic that continues to resonate.
Though sharing a title with the Graham Greene novel of 1940, Gentle Giant’s sixth album, The Power And The Glory was not deliberately named after it – perhaps a surprise given the amount of literary connections you can find in their back catalogue. That’s not to say the group didn’t have high concepts in mind when they settled in to record the album across December 1973 and January 1974. With the Watergate scandal raging, Gentle Giant turned their sights on political power – particularly those who abuse it.
Two albums on from the departure of multi-instrumentalist co-founder Phil Shulman, the group had settled into a new groove… Which, in some ways, was the old groove. Though, overall, there’s less of a Renaissance influence, a song such as “Cogs In Cogs,” in its three-minute running time, displays all the hallmarks of Gentle Giant’s characteristic disregard for simple time signatures. But there’s an ease to their playing on this album, as if the band aren’t trying too hard to connect myriad ideas together in one song, but letting things flow more naturally. Despite this, it’s testament to how innately creative the group were that The Power And The Glory is no less imaginative than their earlier outings, and still gets labelled by fans as one of their more difficult listens.
Sure, the band are as out a limb as ever – the dissonant violin solo on “The Face” is proof enough of that. But despite the proliferation of styles on display, The Power And The Glory is actually remarkably cohesive. There’s a unity of sound, largely through Gary Green’s clean, precise (albeit often heavy) guitar lines, which belies the idea that this album is not for the uninitiated. Indeed, after its predecessor, In A Glass House, wasn’t given a North American release, The Power And The Glory entered the US album chart on October 12, 1974, where it peaked at No.78 – Gentle Giant’s best Stateside performance to that point. It also spawned their first commercially released single when the title track, paired with “Playing The Game,” was released that November.
If the low-key Mellotron that characterizes the optimism of “Aspirations” finds the group at their most laidback, then “The Power And The Glory” is a strident closer signalling the moment where their protagonist becomes the despotic character he once railed against. Yet, by this point in their career, it could also have served as Gentle Giant’s victory march: in prog circles at least, the power and the glory was all theirs in in the mid-70s.
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August 31, 2016 at 3:55 pm
hmm.. There’s no mellotron on Aspirations – as I recall there’s no melly on the album at all. Aspiration is moved along by Kerry’s Wurlitzer electric piano, with Gary’s gentle 12string filling out the ambience. GG used very little mellotron, a bit of Mk2 on Gentle Giant and Acquiring The Taste, but I think that was about it. The single wasn’t actually on the album either, it was an after thought which they didn’t really like (I love it though!)
Other than that, a good review, overall 🙂
September 6, 2017 at 3:52 am
True. I can’t recall a song with Mellotron actually…
Fantastic album. Ray’s tone and taste are very underrated. The best bass player of the prog era imo.
Brian Thomas Hickey
September 20, 2016 at 9:25 pm
After being blown away by “Octopus”, my introduction to this amazing group, I waited anxiously for the next one with an attitude from “top the last one, show me”. “Glass House was delayed in the states but with the first song on “Power” I was truly humbled. Always loved their vocal choruses, and “hail to Power and to glory’s way” put the hook in me for good..
May 5, 2017 at 6:59 am
This was the worst album they ever di and I’m a huge fan.
December 12, 2017 at 3:18 am
Though not my favorite of theirs, I still like it quite a bit. Especially the syncopated interplay among Weathers, Kerry, and Gary towards the end of “Aspirations”. Weathers, a great drummer, outdoes himself on that cut.
And as for it being their worst album, for that I’d have to point you to their last couple of albums (I mean the last couple of the original releases, not counting all the reissues, remasters, etc.) – very difficult listening indeed.
September 5, 2017 at 8:27 pm
The Power and the Glory – the single track, was just that, the single. It wasn’t on the original album. It’s on many cd re-releases as a bonus track.
October 7, 2021 at 6:40 am
This album sounds beyond amazing in it’s (kinda) recent 5.1 Surround mix edition. A good amount of Gentle Giant music has been issued this way in the past 5 years or so. As a bonus, you can choose to hear the music as instrumental-only. Talk about getting fresh ears!