Album Spotlight: Gentle Giant – “The Power and the Glory”


 

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1. Proclamation

The first track on this gorgeous Gentle Giant classic is called “Proclamation”, and, boy, do the lyrics still ring true today.  “You may not have all you want or you need/ all that you have has been due to my hand”.  Does that sound familiar?  Obama said almost that exact thing a year or two ago.  Scary?  Yet, it’s not just him.  You see the same naivety in leaders all over the world and throughout history.  For thousands of years, the ruling class have felt like they are benevolent in “allowing” the common people to have nice things, even if those nice things are nothing at all.  They pretend we should be ever so grateful.

These rulers blame everyone and everything else for the misfortunes of the nation, and they try to downplay problems they’ve caused. “Unity’s strength and all must be as one,/ confidence in you hope will reflect in me”.  He’s acting as if the people’s disunity is the problem that is keeping him from doing his job!  Only a fool would believe this, but, unfortunately, there are many fools out there.  The truth is: the ruling class doesn’t want unity in the common people.  They love things how they are.

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2. So Sincere

“Lies, he only tells the truth, for he means it/ Means, not anything he says, eyes unseen/ But everything is/ So sincere, so sincere, so sincere, so sin…” There is a noble lie that we tell ourselves. I find Americans are especially at fault here. We naively tell ourselves that our leaders are sincere, God-fearing humanitarians that want nothing more than to serve.  The whole right-wing, ultra-patriot Christian ideology is one of the most gag-worthy things in existence.  But the other side is no better.

This lie is part and parcel with the other lies, like “America is the greatest country on earth” or the “land of the free and home of the brave”. Lies, arrogance, and sheer stupidity drive these misguided goals and statements.

Our leaders seem so full, but they are empty. They try to seem so honest, but they are full of lies, and we all know it. Of course, they don’t even “seem” this way anymore, as they are getting bolder, expecting no one to care and no one to notice. We tell ourselves these lies, so shame on us for doing nothing about it.

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3. Aspirations

“If our times, they are troubled times/ Show us the way, tell us what to do”.  Gentle Giant, not necessarily the most serious of bands, continues their social commentary “The Power and the Glory” with a scene straight out of all of our lives.  In “Aspirations”, we experience a new ruler or politician being elected by the people.

The people cast all their hopes on him.  They have voted for him so that he can deliver them from troubled times and all their problems.  Their aspirations for him are gigantic, needless to say.  “In your hands, holding everyone’s/ Future and fate, it is all in you”.

They hope for peace and unity, prosperity and fulfilled dreams.  Their future seems so sure.  What they will receive, however, they are not expecting.  All those promises?  All the dreams?  Things will simply stay the same.

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4. Playing the Game

Now, we come to what is probably my favorite track on the album, “Playing the Game”.  This aptly named track explores the behind-the-scenes of the government.  With one finger always on the trigger, these people in charge always win because they make it so.

“All my games are won before they’re played for/ I have planned that no opposition can stage a fight/ I’ll play the game and never ever lose”.  Sound familiar?  These politicians enter office with very little, and then miraculously become filthy rich over night.  They set the rules, just so that they can get around the rules.  They are rich enough, in fact, to be above the rules in the first place.  Their goal is not peace or prosperity for the people, but they sure pursue their own ends at all costs.  Playing the game—the lives of millions of people are nothing more than a game to them.

“As I hold the key to the back door/ of the world I feel my/ Hand touching bounds never had before”.  They feel infinitely powerful and totally in control, and the people below them are like minions.  Just like the stories we create, power corrupts completely.  Every time.  There are no exceptions.  Mind games, lies, and sheer manipulation are all part of their game strategy, and, sadly, it works.  What can stop this?  Who will hold them accountable?

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5. Cog in Cogs

“Slow burning is the fire rising murmur breaks/ the old circle, the wheel slowly turns around.”  We’ve all experienced it.  We’ve all seen and felt the discontent of the people under a selfish, arrogant ruler.  What are rulers to do?  What is there purpose?

That slow burn that becomes rage and revolution is dangerous, but those in control often have no cares at all.  They often feel impervious. “No returns have been tasted/ or are they ever sent.”  Indeed, the ruler that hoards the prosperity for himself deserves to taste of the passionate hatred of his people.  He takes, but never gives.  He accepts, but never donates.  His mind is set on one thing: himself.

At last, though, the low murmur will turn into an uprising, and where will his riches be?  Where will his power be?  Most people simply want peace and to be left alone.  Tyrants, however, get rich off of war and have this insistent nature for bothering those under them.  Why can’t we just be left alone?  Why?

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6. No God’s a Man

No mere man is a god.  No man has the right to set himself up over another.  In this sixth track on “The Power and the Glory”, the band makes this statement.  No mere man is or can be a god.

“Truth is halfway true, the man is only a man/ who fails to know,/ the people shouting for him have turned now/ telling him to go.”  No matter what a tyrant says and no matter what he tries to pull, he’s still a man.  He’s still vulnerable to the people.  He’s still responsible to them.  But He can’t overcome his own nature.  Setting himself up for power and glory, he’s literally setting himself up for a fall of kingly proportions, sooner or later.  He’s not able to overcome the natural consequences that are built into this world.

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7. The Face

“Time to confess, clean up the mess,stand in the white, step in the light.”  Isn’t that what we all want to hear?  Don’t we all want to hear that our authority figures want to fix the problems they’ve created?  I sure anyone reading this  would like some laws repealed and such.  This is what we WANT to hear.  And politicians, they are good at saying what we want to hear when they are in a corner.  Their faces are suddenly sincere, and we start to feel those aspirations again of how the future could be.  Oh, that glorious face!

“Use the time, show the face that is sorry,/ for the day, questions leading to worry./ Hide your mask, show the face that is sorry./ Time to question, answering all their worry.”  They have a mission, though.  Their mission is to stay in power, and, for that, they will do anything.  They will show that sorry face.  They will admit they were wrong.  They will address our worries.  But will they change?  Will their priorities change?  Not at all.  It’s all a game to fool the masses and gain that ever so important favorable majority in the polls.  It’s sickening.  They will lie, cheat, and kill to remain kings.

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8. Valedictory

“Things must stay,/ there must be no change, anyway, time to rearrange.”  As we approach the end of the album, Gentle Giant are reassuring us that there is basically nothing we can do.  This isn’t a power of the individual album.  This isn’t a “together we can win” theme.  No.  This album is giving us the facts.  Things will never change.  Things will always stay the same.  The wheel goes on turning over and over again.

“Hail to power and glory’s way”.  This is just how things are.  Men have and always will lord it over other men.  They will always glory in their power.  They will always manipulate and lie and kill in order to keep power.  This game has gone on for millennia, and isn’t going to end anytime soon.

But, I have a question.  Is there anything innately wrong with this?  Is there anything inherently evil about a man enslaving the masses out of selfishness?  Is this wrong?  If so…why?

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9. The Power and the Glory

We’ve reached the end of this spotlight!  This bonus track on the album is one of the best, so that’s why I’ve included it.  It also solidifies Gentle Giant’s message:  This will never end.  “Move over now, and I’ll try to take your place./ Time to remember that I have won the race.”  Indeed, the power and the glory are over as the tyrant leaves office, but there is another one waiting in the wings to be able to start all over again.

What does this tell us, though?  Corruption and evil are innate to man’s very being, no matter how much we wish otherwise.  It’s not religion.  It’s not some sort of sickness.  It’s mankind and his depraved and greedy nature.  We can talk about making a better world, but the rulers over our world prove that it’s just not possible.  Remember the question I asked?  “Is it inherently evil for a man to lord it over another man?”  I daresay that it is not evil, not unless there is a greater power that rules us all.  Some call Him a tyrant.  Some call Him a brutal, bloody judge.  Still others call Him “love”.  One thing’s for certain, though:  He’d be the only one that has any right to rule anyone.

For now, though, let’s try to make a better world, even if it doesn’t seem possible. No matter what your belief about the supernatural is, pursue peace and the healing of your community.  Let’s support uncompromising, honest men and women.  Let’s live honest and upright lives right now, so that we will find leaders that can do the same.  As history can attest, the leader is certainly representative of the people he or she rules.

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