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Hard on the heels of King Crimson, the debut of Gracious! begins with the blandly but accurately titled "Introduction." One of the album's strongest tracks, it's a Nice-like combination of menacing Moog breaks and shimmering harpsichords, and it foreshadows the band's use of both heavy prog music and ghostly lyrics tinged with Catholic dread. "Heaven" is a gorgeous minor-key ballad of stately Mellotron and chiming guitar tones, with harmonies reminiscent of late-model Zombies. "Hell," not surprisingly, is another thing altogether: a descent into drunken declamations, clinking bottles, rowdy bar sounds, loopy piano riffs, and creepy phasing effects. From here, the album settles down a bit: "Fugue in D Minor" is a straightforward chamber orchestra piece, and the "Dream" ends the album with meandering jamming and overblown monologues. Still, it's a fine debut, and it presaged the superb second effort that was to follow.

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