Reviewed by: Clayton Walnum, March 2001
In the year 1996, a star went out in the heavens. That was the year Kevin Gilbert left this mortal plane. I'll admit that, at that time, I didn't know about the star or even notice that the sky was a little dimmer -- but I do now. After finally hearing Gilbert's concept album The Shaming Of The True, I too join the ranks of folks who can only imagine the marvelous places Gilbert's career would have taken him in the future. The Shaming Of The True is one of those CDs that comes around oh so rarely, a flawless work of musical art.
Over his too short career, Gilbert worked with such big-time names as Eddie Money, Sheryl Crow, Michael Jackson, and Madonna. Closer to home for progressive-rock lovers is his work with Keith Emerson, Spock's Beard, and Mike Keneally, as well as services rendered on the Genesis tribute album Supper's Ready, the Yes tribute album Tales From Yesterday, and the Gentle Giant tribute album Giant Tracks. The official Kevin Gilbert Web site lists over 40 CDs in his discography. On some of these, he acted as engineer, while on others, he added vocal or instrumental performances. On some, he offered his services as a composer, and on others, he did everything. On The Shaming Of The True, he composed nearly all tracks and co-composed the rest, as well as played drums, guitars, and keyboards. Oh, yeah -- he also does the vocals. Other players include Spock's Beard's Nick D'Virgilio, who was instrumental in completing the album after Gilbert's death.
I suppose you'd have to say that The Shaming of the True isn't progressive rock per se, at least not prog rock as you'd expect it from someone like Spock's Beard, The Flower Kings, or Anglagard. It features plenty of progressive moments, though. One example is the astonishing a cappella track "Suit Fugue (Dance of the A&R Men)," which starts with Gentle Giantish counterpoint melodies, but goes places that the Giant never went. (By the way, this track also makes an appearance on the aforementioned Gentle Giant tribute album.) Several tracks feature plenty of meaty instrumental interplay, much that could be called progressive. There are guitar riffs and solos here that most guitarists can only dream of coming up with.
The album is a rock opera that chronicles the life of one Johnny Virgil, a guitarist who discovers a lot of nasty things about the music industry before he gives it all up for a life in the private sector. Musically, the album goes a lot of places, from the acoustic guitar of the opening track "Parade" to the hard-rock guitar of "Certifiable #1 Smash" (insanely great guitar work on this one, not to mention a wonderfully nasty funk section the likes of which hasn't been heard since Sly and the Family Stone's "I Want to Take You Higher" at Woodstock). Pulsing grooves on some tracks bring Pink Floyd to mind, while multi-part harmonies on other tracks would make Freddy Mercury grin.
"The City Of The Sun" is one of the proggy numbers, moving through a chain of musical ideas, some gently acoustic, others reminding one of King's X before falling into the kind of sound that Yes might have come up with in their 80s incarnations. "A Long Day's Life" (the longest song on the album) is another proggy number that moves from great pop melodies into Pink Floydish territory. The aforementioned Gentle Giantish track "Suit Fugue (Dance of the A&R Men)" is nothing short of a masterpiece. Although mostly a cappella, the track ends with the type of whimsy you might expect from Happy the Man.
And there's so, so much more. "Imagemaker" has Pink Floydish moments, but sounds mostly like Crack the Sky at their best. The drifting "Water Under the Bridge" captures the type of pseudo progressive sound that allowed Pink Floyd to cross into the mainstream and make a killing. "The Best Laid Plans," sounding like a supercharged Billy Joel, features a pounding groove that'll make auto drivers press the pedal to the metal.
I could go on. Stellar musicianship. Passionate vocals. First class compositions. Top-notch production. This album has absolutely everything.
Track Listing: Parade (3:44) / The City of the Sun (5:55) / Suit Fugue (Dance of the A&R Men) (2:24) / Imagemaker (3:38) / Water Under the Bridge (5:29) / The Best Laid Plans (5:38) / Certifiable #1 Smash (7:20) / Staring Into Nothing (5:51) / Fun (5:33) / From Here to There (2:11) / Ghetto of Beautiful Things (4:53) / A Long Day's Life (7:28) / The Way Back Home (4:55) / Johnny's Last Song (2:15)
Kevin Gilbert - vocals, guitar, bass, piano, keyboards, programming, sequencing
Nick D'Virgilio - drums, bass, percussion, guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Brian MacLeod - drums
Additonal Guitars: Tommy Dunbar, Rush Parrish, David Levita, Bill Bottrell
Backing Vocals: Robert Ferris, Jennifer Gross, Skyler Jett, Claytoven, Sandy Sawyer, John Rubin, Tommy Dunbar Horns – The Le Petomane Ensemble