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Gentle Giant: The Power And The Glory (reissue)

Happy 40th birthday to a classic Giant album.

It says much for the way in which progressive music has embraced the 21st century that an album such as this has actually been given an extra dimension through the arrival of the 5.1 surround sound mix.

While this 1974 conceptual piece always impressed on vinyl, what Steven Wilson – who remixed this anniversary edition – has done is open up new horizons through his enlightened and quite brilliant reimagining of the music. Because, as a fan of the band, Wilson has brought his own imagination to bear in the lovingly creative work here and, in the process, leaves everyone in no doubt that this is an astounding work of art.

The concept here dealt with power and the way it can corrupt – nothing startling. Nonetheless what always made this one of Gentle Giant’s most revered releases was the way in which they combined a sophisticated complexity with an innocent accessibility. It always meant you were drawn into tracks like Cogs In Cogs, which has a majesty born out of aggression. The way in which Derek Shulman’s raw vocals clash with Gary Green’s guitar punch and Kerry Minnear’s expressive keyboards is given even more emphasis through Wilson’s new vision. Elsewhere, the quirkiness of Playing The Game provides a neat counterpoint to the upbeat, almost funky Proclamation, and No God’s A Man has a sinister atmosphere that creeps under your skin.

This spectrum of sounds makes The Power And The Glory such a joy, and it’s also this breadth of approach that comes through on the upfront new mix. There are moments when you really feel as if you’re right there in the studio with the band. And while they never had the success enjoyed by some of their peers, Gentle Giant always were among the best of the genre in the 70s.

Moreover, they also have a sly sense of humour, which is often overlooked. You can hear this on Aspirations and, especially, The Face. The latter has a hilarious interlude when Ray Shulman, having lost his way in a violin solo, suddenly shouts “Oh, no!”. The band kept this spontaneous outburst in, because they thought it was amusing. There are also fresh animations to accompany the 5.1 version of the album on DVD. Although these are no more than diverting.

The conceptual insights here really have transcended generations; they remain as relevant to 2014 as they were to 1974. The same is also most certainly true of the music.

It sounds as if it could have been written and recorded last week. It is timeless…