Gentle Giant was reduced to a quintet on In a Glass House with the departure of elder brother Phil Shulman, but its sound is unchanged, and the group may actually be tighter without the presence of his saxophones. The time signatures are still really strange, and the tempo changes are sometimes jarring, as is the wide range of dynamics, but this is also one of the group's most pleasing records -- they rock out in various places, and elsewhere perform all kinds of little experiments with percussion instruments ("An Inmate's Lullaby"), or create a strange, otherworldly sort of modern medieval-style music ("Way of Life"). None of it except possibly "A Reunion" is light listening, but the challenge does yield some rewarding sounds.
by Bruce Eder ~ allmusic.com
By their fifth album, 1973`s In A Glass House, UK art rockers Gentle Giant had acquired a reputation of mystifying audiences with their technically dazzling live performances. Individually exceptionally talented musicians, they were never a band for the masses as exemplified by Capitol Records`refusal to release In A Glass House in North America because it was deemed too uncommercial for audiences on that side of the big pond. Ironically, it became one of the more sought out import albums of all time and was arguably the band at it`s creative zenith. Exploiting their musical vituosity and borrowing from a wide spectrum of musical styles they were by far the most intricate and elaborate of the art rock bands to emerge from 60s psychedelia. They were definitely way out there blending classical, rock, and jazz with touches of medievalisms using counterpoint, unresolved musical inversions, clashing intervals and harmonic progressions to achieve discordant and inconguous eoteric sound which was difficult or even impossible to catagorize .
That all said, In A Glass House signalled a turning point for the band musically with the departure of a key member Phil Schulman who left to become a teacher and who also wanted to streamline their music to appeal to a wider audience. One of the main composers and vocalists, he brought out intimate aspects to the band with his multi-instrumental talents on trumpet, recorder, clarinet, saxophone, mellophone and percussives especially on the previous Octopus album. Instead of losing some of it`s effectivenes the music just got more intense without the additional instrumentation and became tighter ( most notably with Kerry Minear's keyboards ) and more driven than previous work. It tends to rock it out with more emphasis on electric guitar although medieval and celtic elements are still in evidence. A darker overall ambience prevailed over the work with the songs loosley tied in by an overall concept of " those who live in a glass house shouldn't throw stones". In other words a figure of speech refering to vulnerability. An Inmate`s Lullaby about a crimminally insane convict`s perspective of life within the confines of the walls of a mental institution probably best personifies this message and is played entirely on percussion instruments. The album is opened by a track entitled " The Runaway " which opens up with sounds of glass breaking which was lifted from a BBC album of stock sound effects, which lyrically and musically introduces the themes in the work describing the isolation and hell one might discover on the outside trying to wrestle free of one`s inner sanctum which features a frantic jazzy vibraphone solo by Kerry Minear which emphasizes this utter confusion. "Experience" which goes heavy on medevialsms is perhaps the most complex of all the tracks on the album both instrumentaly and vocally that deals with loss of innocence with age, which ends up rocking it out to Gary Green`s lead guitar which gets into a cool groove but despit the increased presence doesn't extend as much as on the previous albums adding to the stark nature of the album's concept. One of the prettiest songs in Gentle Giant`s repetiore, A Reunion, occurs towards the end of the album features a string quartet ( if one counts the bass guitar ) with Kerry Minear accompanying on piano and providing the vocals but unfortunately runs it's course in a little over 2 minutes. Way Of Life is as complex as Gentle Giant gets with solos and dynamic changes galore and the celtic tinged multi sectioned title track forshadows more of what is to come on The Power and the Glory, another concept album this time about power and corruption. Although not credited on the record jacket the album concludes with a phantom track unofficially entitled Index which is a brief collage of a few seconds of each individual piece.
One of the greatest art rock albums ever committed to vinyl there is something new to discover on this masterpiece with every listening. It is also provides a good example of how out of touch management can be with bands and their audiences when In A Glass House was turned down for North American release whose audiences initially missed out on one of the most unusual rock album covers ever with images of the band silouetted against a plastic transparency giving the impression that they were literally playing in a glass house. Not enough can be said here about Gentle Giant's tour de force which was a pivotal point for the band as they began veer more towards electric instrumentation. On a last note, despite the daunting complexities to be uncovered on a In A Glass House the uninitiated should not be intimidated by this. Whether or not it's one's first exposure to the band In A Glass House will take a few listens to absorbe and many reviewers warn that this is not a good introductory album, but I say throw caution into the wind and go for it if you've never experienced this unusual and often misunderstood band.
by Vibrationbaby ~ progarchives.com
The Runaway / Experience:
1. The Runaway (7:15)
2. An Inmate's Lullaby (4:40)
3. Way of Life (7:52)
4. Experience (7:50)
5. A Reunion (2:11)
6. In a Glass House (8:26)
Bonus tracks on Remastered Edition:
7. The Runaway/Experience (live in Dusseldorf 9/23/76) (10:01)
8. In a Glass House (live in Munster 4/5/74) (9:49)
Total Time: 58:04
Gary Green - 6 & 12 string guitars, mandolin, percussion, alto recorder
Kerry Minnear - keyboards, tuned percussion, recorder, vocals
Derek Shulman - vocals, alto sax, soprano sax, recorder
Ray Shulman - bass guitar, violin, acoustic guitar, percussion, backing vocals
John Weathers - drums, percussion
[ Rip and Scans by CrunchyFrog ]