Eric Gillette - The Great Unknown; An Album Review

Originally posted on The Neal Morse Forum on Facebook, May 5th, 2017

I've spent the last week with Eric Gillette's latest album, The Great Unknown. I ordered it from Eric's website while he was still in Europe with The Neal Morse Band. To make up for the delay, he sent it with some extras, along with the autograph that each CD that's ordered from his site has. But those things don't help me appreciate the album more. They help me appreciate him more.

From the first time I saw Eric in the audition videos on YouTube, I thought, "Who is this guy? Why isn't he more famous? Why don't I know about him?" From the first, I saw Star written all over him. I still do.

This is a great sounding album. Very well produced, recorded, and mixed. His vocals, in particular, are mixed right in the pocket. Not easy for a singer to do when mixing his own voice! Trust me, I know.

And can we talk about that voice? That voice, that voice. God, I love Eric's voice. It's all I can do not to swoon like a teenage girl when I hear that voice. If you love Eric's voice like I do, you need to get this album. As much as I love it when his voice comes in during The Neal Morse Band's music, and as much as I love their group vocals, the sound of three part harmony with Eric singing all of the parts is nothing short of glorious.

I'm a singer who's made a living with my voice, among other things, for the past 28 years. I've always made a distinction between "singers who play" and "players who sing." And I've always regarded a "real singer" as someone who can get a professional gig purely on the strength of their vocals. Even without Eric's incredible chops on every instrument, (EVERY instrument!) he's a good enough singer, not only to get a pro gig, but to become a huge star, just with that voice. In my opinion, anyway.

But for me, albums aren't about the players, or the vocals, or the production. They're about the songs. And Eric is not only an amazing multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer, he's also a great songwriter. After my first two listens, my favorite song was Runaway, because I feel like that song showcases his voice the best of all the songs on the album. Plus, the chord progressions in that song are just sick. The keyboard textures too. But that changed this morning.

For those of you who don't know, I'm a Stage 4 cancer patient. My cancer is very aggressive, and my prognosis isn't good. I've written here before how Neal Morse's music has ministered to me during this time in my life. This morning, as I drove to and from the grocery store, I was listening to Escape, which at eighteen minutes, is the longest prog epic on an album of prog epics. Normally, lyrics don't jump out at me while I drive, but this morning, this passage hit home for me, and makes me tear up each time I hear it, read it, or think about it.

In the end, you're finally free
The one you fear no longer speaks
The weight is lifted, the past is gone
You are not bound, the war is won

Driving faster toward the light
There's no depth, no sense of time
Now you're free from the beast inside
No longer captive by your mind

You were meant for more than fear and pain
You belong

I'm taking these lyrics out of context with the rest of the song, but the way this passage hit me as I drove this morning, it sounded like it was just for me. Free from the beast inside! For a guy with a terminal illness, these words have real power. Thank you for this, Eric. This was just what I needed today.

From a later post in The Neal Morse Forum; May 10th, 2017

I received a disconcerting test result today. My numbers are going in the wrong direction. My cancer seems to be growing again. But I still have Eric Gillette's The Great Unknown in my car CD player. It helped me get through the day. The line that jumped out at me today? From Runaway:

Even in the darkest night
You will know that it'll be alright

Again, I've taken these lyrics totally out of context with the rest of the song. But these two lines made a huge difference for me when I heard them, not the first time I heard them today, but the second time around. You see, this album has been on repeat for me for a while. Each listen brings new discoveries.

Sorry to gush. I'm on hormone treatment. I can't help it. Thanks again, Eric. This album is making a difference for me when I really need it.

This album, like Afterthought before it, is more than just a monster guitarist showing off. Way more. It's more than a killer band with amazing musicianship and a world class lead singer. This is music that comes from the heart. I think I'm gonna keep it in my car CD player for a while. #bearingwitness

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