Well, here we have Kevin Gilbert’s posthumously released “Shaming of the True.” With the greatly appreciated help from several talented musicians (primarily Spock’s Beard drummer/vocalist Nick D’Virgilio), this beautiful gem was polished and released to a very eager crowd of Kevin fans.
The CD has a concept that recall a VH1 “Where Are They Now” episode about Kevin’s alter-ego Johnny Virgil. It goes from Innocence (“Parade”), Temptation (“City of the Sun”), Greed (“Suit Fugue (Dance of the A&R Men)”), Success (“Imagemaker,” “Best Laid Plans”), Compromise (“Water Under the Bridge”), Sense of Loss (“Staring Into Nothing”), Decadence (“Certifiable #1 Smash,” “Fun”), Journey back to Innocence (“From Here to There”), Acceptance (“A Long Day’s Life”), Search for Truth and Answers (“The Way Back Home”), and finally Reflection (“Johnny’s Last Song”). And along this incredible journey you are treated to some of the most incredible singing and songwriting that surpass genre and categorization.
It all starts very simply with acoustic guitar and voice as Johnny sings of his talent and dreams on “Parade.” “I’ve been listening to Dylan, I’ve been listening to the Dead. I’ve been listening to the music that plays inside my head. Been listening to the Beatles, I’ve been listening to the Who. They don’t know it yet, but they’re gonna listen to me too,” he sings with dramatic longing.
“City of the Sun” is also very clever where he meets an ex-musician, working at a Texaco station who sings a line from his minor hit that Johnny doesn’t remember. Johnny, trying to avoid his stare sings “I didn’t want to see him see himself in me.” “Suit Fugue” is an homage to Gentle Giant, as several A&R executives try to lure Johnny away from his integrity and into a life of commercialism and sell-outs, all while singing in madrigal rounds.
He gets closest to his prog sensibilities with songs like “Water Under the Bridge” and “A Long Day’s Life.” He goes into the Zappa territory with “Certifiable #1 Smash” (You have got to hear the video pitch!) and “Ghetto of Beautiful Things.” Kevin is re-using many of his past songs to tell the story of Johnny Virgil like “Staring Into Nothing” from his first band, NRG; and “Imagemaker,” “From Here to There” and “The Way Back Home” from his Giraffe days. “Ghetto of Beautiful Things” sounds like it’s probably from the Kaviar sessions, Kevin’s experiment with heavy rhythmic guitars, strong percussion and angry lyrics spoken angrily. I wonder if this was Kevin’s plan all along for these songs, to be part of this rock opera theatrical piece.
Lyrically, Shaming of the True is a coherent and entertaining story. He even borrows one of my favorite John Lennon quotes with “Life is what happens while you’re making plans” on “Long Day’s Night,” which also includes Dream #2 which you must hear for comic value. Musically, it is close to flawless with memorable melodies and instrumental passages. Kevin had the ability to play pretty much anything he picked up, and he is ably assisted here by another talented multi-instrumentalist, Nick D’Virgilio.
Kevin had so many styles and faces, his talent really knew no bounds. It is a shame that we won’t be treated to any new music from this amazing performer. He was truly on the precipice of a long and prolific career. This is a solid work of art. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on April 30th, 2010