The Best Prog Bands You’ve Never Heard Of (Part Twenty): Gracious

An album cover designed by Roger Dean. A mellotron sound inspired by In the Court of the Crimson King. An opening suite reminiscent of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. this is…Gracious!! had many of the key ingredients needed for a superior prog album, but it didn’t sell, and the band broke up not long after their sophomore effort. Perhaps Gracious tried to be too much at once: prog, psych, hard rock, blues, space rock, etc. Sometimes this eclectic blend works; sometimes it does not. this is…Gracious!! lands somewhere in the middle. Here are some of my thoughts:

Unlike most of the albums I have reviewed, this is…Gracious!! includes a true prog epic, the four-part suite “Supernova,” which takes up the entire first side of the album. Clocking in at just under twenty-five minutes, “Supernova” had the potential to be a classic prog epic, but it suffers from some shortcomings. The first two parts of the song – the Floydian instrumental “Arrival of the Traveler” and the Crimsonian “Blood Red Sky” – are fine examples of prog’s “classic” era (although Paul Davis’s vocals may be an acquired taste for some). Anchored by drums and mellotron, the latter would have fit nicely on King Crimson’s debut album. Unfortunately, “Blood Red Sky” transitions rather awkwardly into “Say Goodbye to Love,” a romantic guitar ballad with saccharine lyrics that just feels out of place on this epic piece. The fourth and final part, “Prepare to Meet Thy Maker,” thankfully returns to the Floydian/Crimsonian sound.

“C. B. S.” opens with a catchy guitar riff courtesy of Alan Cowderoy, and stays anchored by Martin Kitcat’s clavinet and piano.

“Blue Skies and Alibis” also opens with a catchy riff and is by far the strongest and most upbeat track. Kitcat and Cowderoy share centerstage on mellotron and guitar, respectively. The rhythm section also holds its own: drummer Robert Lipson anchors the song with his pacing, and Tim Wheatley’s nimble fingers produce a hopping bass line.

It’s too bad Gracious never had a chance to develop their sound, as they may have ended up among the prog elite of the early 1970s. Alas, they are now instead part of the long but colorful list of obscure prog artists. this is…Gracious!! may be a diamond in the rough, but it’s certainly worth a listen: you may find it more polished than I did.

Stay tuned for number twenty-one!

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