Gentle Giant - In A Glass House

Gentle Giant – In A Glass House

89 / 100

This album from Gentle Giant is impossible to grasp, the complexity is often baffling.

Written by: Dangerzone

ARTIST: Gentle Giant
ALBUM: In A Glasshouse
LABEL: World Wide Artists (WWA)
YEAR: 1973
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List

LINEUP: Derek Shulman – vocals, sax, recorder * Gary Greene – guitars * Ray Shulman – bass * John Weathers – bass * Kerry Minnear – keyboards, vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Runaway * 02 An Inmate’s Lullaby * 03 Way of Life * 04 Experience * 05 A Reunion * 06 In A Glass House



Often lauded as one of the key prog rock groups of the 70’s, this is for many the definitive Gentle Giant album and one that looked set to break the band massively in the US. Yet bizarrely it failed to be released in a country that seemed to appreciate the bands significant musical charms more than stodgy England, where the band hailed from.

This farcical turn of events cost the band much ground, a shame as this is an essential progressive experiment that highlights what a creative machine the band were. They displayed an exhausting range of fascinating musical twists which challenged the prog rock formula itself. It appears some fanatics of the band contend ‘Octopus’ to be the bands finest work, with Phil Shulman’s departure removing the previous quotient of saxophone from the bands sound.

The Songs

This is impossible to grasp in one sitting, as the complexity of the music is often baffling, even to a reasonably seasoned listener such as myself. The album was intended to be a concept album about people who shouldn’t throw rocks in glasshouses ostensibly.

One such theme is evident in the mysterious ‘An Inmates Lullaby’, taken from a mental patients point of view, set to some odd nursery rhyme keyboards and warbled vocals, pleasant on the surface but disturbingly so.

‘The Runaway’ is masterful prog, with ample keyboards dueling with flutes and guitar, never settling into one proper time structure, flirting with every off kilter key imaginable. The soft vocal harmonies are suitably dreamlike, and overall its a staggering workout.

More upfront is ‘Way Of Life’, which opens as heavy rock but soon descends nicely into medieval fare, before reverting back to the sort of prog Yes and later Starcastle made their own, blazing keyboard runs and interplay in other words.

Opting for a short folk direction is ‘A Reunion’, evoking images of the quaint English countryside naturally, and at two minutes was decidedly short opposed to mostly seven minute plus tracks.

The title track sees Gentle Giant toying with every musical direction at their will, one moment brooding and silent, the next second exploding into a hard rock haze, which genuinely takes the listener by the scruff of the neck. All in all its some of the finest musicianship you could ever hope to experience.

In Summary

This is not an album for everyone, and it’s amazing that thirty four years later people still, and never will fully comprehend what was being attempted by bands like Gentle Giant.They gallantly attempted to push the boundaries of what a band could do in a single song, by packing everything possible into it.

Suitably many have come around to this fact within the prog rock community, only it came far too late for Gentle Giant, who split in 1980 and have shown no desire to reunite. Some of Gentle Giant’s later albums, namely ‘King For A Day’ and ‘Civilian’ pursued more of an AOR direction, which predictably alienated the hardcore fan base, but are in fact very good attempts at the commercial market and worthy of review here also.

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