The Shaming of the True
Peak: -- US, -- UK, -- CN, -- AU
Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)
Genre: neo-progressive rock
Click on a song title for lyrics.
Songs written by Kevin Gilbert unless noted otherwise.
Total Running Time: 67:27
4.551 out of 5.0 (average of 7 ratings)
Quotable: ”An epic, sweeping, complete work…from one of the brightest lights to emerge in the last 15 years” – Matthew Greenwald, All Music Guide
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
At the time of his death, Kevin was working on “a life-long dream – to record a rock opera” MO-PA “in the style of Tommy by The Who, an album gave him so much enjoyment in his childhood.” KF Even though such animals were “resolutely out…Gilbert clearly didn’t care. He was intent on venting his rage and self-loathing in a carefully circumscribed series of closely connected first-person vignettes.” JS00
“You know the story; it’s been on VH1’s Behind the Music a million times. A star (insert name here) comes out of nowhere and becomes the biggest thing since sliced bread. Everyone lies to him from managers, to agents, to promoters. The people can’t get enough, and the record company continues to push the artist to the limit. Finally, the artist has had enough and takes a break, but with that, the fans move on to the next pre-made star and the industry chews you up and spits you out.” EP
That’s the premise for Gilbert’s “concept/semi-autobiographical project” MO-PA which details “the rise and collapse” IO of Johnny Virgil, “a boy from the sticks who goes to the big city to become a rock star.” RSI “In Johny Virgil, Kevin Gilbert created the perfect vehicle to voice his own frustrations, naiveté, hopes, and lessons learned.” UB He “travels through the music industry sausage grinder” MG and “battles the demons of stardom” MO-PA because “he desperately wants fame” EP and “the quick buck.” IO He “compromises his artistic vision to produce what the record companies and fans want.” EP He “is stripped of his integrity, his passion, his art, and his soul, and so naturally rises to unparalleled heights on the charts” UB before his “rock-star dreams crash on the shoals of A&R men, hangers-on, drugs and the whole Hollywood scene.” JS00 He “finally comes to peace with his life at the end.” MO-PA
Unfortunately, Gilbert died before finishing the album. He left a “brief handwritten note describing the current running order of the songs at the time” SM-S and a “massive collection of tapes with songs in progress, some dating back to the 80’s,” SM-S ”scattered in studio draws and bins with quality ranging from full 24 track masters to cassette tapes.” IO “The story of how this fresh sounding album was, in some cases, literally rescued from the trash can would…make a book in itself.” IO
KG had “worked closely with Nick D’Virgilio on the project.” MO-KG Nick was a “long-time friend” SM-S and the drummer with prog-rock act Spock’s Beard. “At the beginning of their carreer, [Gilbert] was almost considered the sixth member of the band. [He was] a great friend, influence, and producer of their first two albums. The track ‘The Great Nothing’ on their…album V is said to have been inspired by Kevin’s story.” IO
Nick and others catalogued everything for Gilbert’s estate. Blair Lamb and John Cuniberti came in soon after to start work on the opera. D’Virgilio said that then “It was me and John C. going full bore…We re-recorded and mixed at the same time. It just depended on the song and how much it needed.’” SM-S Jon Rubin, KG’s “friend, ex-manager and executor of his estate” JS00 was also instrumental.
The “magnum opus” JS00 was completed in late 1999 and released in 2000 by KG’s estate and througwww.kevingilbert.com. MO-PA To no one’s surprise, it followed in the steps of its predecessor and paired great reviews with poor sales. However, it “won a Grammy for its elaborate packaging (the first issue of 1400 was in a beautiful 40 page hard-bound book).” MO-PA
As for the music, it “isn’t progressive rock per se,” CW but “several tracks feature plenty of meaty instrumental interplay, much that could be called progressive.” CW “There are guitar riffs and solos here that most guitarists can only dream of coming up with.” CW “The album goes a lot of places…pulsing grooves on some tracks bring Pink Floyd to mind, while multi-part harmonies on other tracks would make Freddy Mercury grin.” CW This is “anti-pop [with] grandly produced tracks and polished vocals that recall the prog-rock pop magnificence of…Genesis or Yes.” JS00 “Loaded with both pathos and humor as well as some rock-solid performances,” MG “this tortured masterpiece takes its place alongside other depictions of the cruelty of Hollywood such as Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust or Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard.”JS00
In the opening song, “Johnny Virgil’s desires are laid out.” EP “Johnny Virgil, perhaps sitting in his bedroom, [is] strumming his acoustic guitar singing a song full of hope and ambition.” IO “After a wash of orchestral keys that fade away, we just get Johnny and his acoustic guitar, a very self assured young man who knows he’s gonna be a star. The concept’s main musical theme is already present in this song.” KF
City of the Sun
“To reach his goal Johnny has to move to The City of the Sun (L.A.?). Here he moves through the regular ‘wanna be rock-star’ circles of dumps, sidewalks, bars to get acknowledgment.” KF There is “an excellent dialogue about meeting a would-be rock star gas station attendant.” EP This “is one of the proggy numbers, moving through a chain of musical ideas, some gently acoustic, others reminding one of King’s X before falling into the kind of sound that Yes might have come up with in their 80s incarnations.” CW
Suit Fugue (Dance of the A&R Men)
The third song “is a hilarious parody on how all these record executives are so phony.” EP This “Gentle Giantish track” CW appeared earlier on a tribute album for them. It “is nothing short of a masterpiece.” CW “The execution of the vocals is amazing,” EP showcasing “enormous talent in the studio, overlapping vocal after vocal to create the (mainly) acapella conglomeration of messages left by PR men, agents, and other musical lowlifes on Johnny’s answering machine.” SM-S “Johnny gets the advice to drop the band (they are in the way) and adopt an IMAGE: ‘No we need a sharper hook – like a scandal. Maybe you can rape a nun, or better still a priest.’” KF
In this song, Johnny “gets a makeover. The song is a punchy guitar driven track” KF with “Pink Floydish moments,” CW or, as Bryan Beller, the bassist of the live performance of TSOTT at Progfest ’02, says, “‘a Peter Gabriel type of tune because a) he inflected his own vocal with that kind of delivery; b) he used a gated delay effect on the vocal that emulated the production perfectly.” BB-JM It is “the first of three songs from Giraffe, Gilbert’s band from the late 80’s,” SM-S recorded here as “more rocky and less percussive (mechanical) than the original.” KF
Water Under the Bridge
Now “we see Johnny making his first compromises. He [asks] ‘What’s a drop of water in an ocean of compromise?’” KF “The song is one of the highlights, a beautiful ballad that brings out the best in Kevin’s voice” KF and “has an ear catching melody.” EP It “captures the type of pseudo progressive sound that allowed Pink Floyd to cross into the mainstream and make a killing.” CW It also “features some excellent drumming by D’Virgilio. Tommy Dunbar contributes a Beatlesque guitar solo to the song, giving it just the right touch.” SM-S
Best Laid Plans
Here “we get a glimpse in the kitchen of the corporate music business. Here careers are made and broken and you can sell your soul for thirty silver pieces.” KF This is “one of the best tracks on the record” EP – “another up-tempo rock song in Who style” KF with “a dose of note perfect Quadrophenia.” UB It could also be a “supercharged Billy Joel” CW or “early ‘70s Elton John.” SM-S Beller concurs that the song “‘sounds like it could be right off of a mid-‘70s Elton John record. Well, that’s because he got the exactly correct piano and electric guitar sounds.” BB-JM It “features a pounding groove that’ll make auto drivers press the pedal to the metal.” CW It ‘has ‘hit’ written all over it.” SM-S
Certifiable #1 Smash
It all pays off for Johnny when he lands the big hit – his certifiable #1 smash. The song is “a wicked look at the way stars will do anything to sell a record and get attention.” EP “Gilbert’s anger and discontent with the music business…is in full bloom here.” SM-S In particular, “the video idea section is quite hilarious,” KF “told from the narrative of a video director selling Johnny Virgil on his ideas.” EP With an obvious “poke at the video ‘Like a Prayer,’” EP “it appears Madonna is the target of Gilbert’s diatribe.” EP
Musically, “Smash” is “another guitar driven punchy track in the prog meets MTV era guitar rock mould.” KF In addition to the “insanely great guitar work, [there is] “a wonderfully nasty funk section the likes of which hasn’t been heard since Sly and the Family Stone’s ‘I Want to Take You Higher’ at Woodstock.” CW “It’s quite spooky with cool use of Mellotron” KF and, “once again, D’Virgilio’s drumming is spectacular.” SM-S Also of note – “since Gilbert died before he was able to lay down a vocal track for the song, his vocals…were lifted from an earlier performance at the Troubadour…You can still hear the crowd in places, but in the end, it just adds more character to the song.” SM-S
Staring into Nothing
This “brings us to the place where Virgil is now successful but is feeling totally empty.” EP “This sudden fame and continuous touring wears our hero out” KF “Success has not brought him happiness, and fame has made him miserable. He is just going through the motions, not caring about what is going on around him.” EP “It’s at this point in the story where we find that Johnny’s quitting the music business, due to exhaustion;” SM-S Virgil “is staring into the bright lights and feels lonely and empty.” KF
The song was “originally recorded with [KG’s] pre-Giraffe band, NRG. Parts…sound like your typical 80’s fare, but Kevin turns in a great, flanged bass line on the song.” SM-S It also “harkens back to the hypnotic sounds of early Genesis” UB and “there’s an obvious Yes influence permeating throughout the song, due in part to the use of the acoustic guitar and mellotron.” SM-S
At this point, “Johnny has a lot of time on his hand and a lot of dispensable cash. He dives heavily into the good life of coke, sex and other earthly pleasures. All he wants to do is have some fun. In passing, we get introduced to several celebrities Johnny meets on his partying, like Arsenio and Sheryl,” KF “all fictional, according to D’Virgilio.” SM-S It “is probably the darkest song on the album,” KF with “a groovy bass driven tune that’s very funky” KF and “an ultra cool arrangement, making it one of the best tracks on the CD.” SM-S
From Here to There
Then “Johnny has a moment of clarity, realizes what he has become.” UB He knows “that his lifestyle will lead to his destruction and he needs a way back home.” KF He is “in an emotional state where he feels like a robot” KF so he “withdraws from the machine that made him a star.” UB It is “a genuinely unsettling ballad” UB as “things get a bit eerie at the end of the song as you hear someone quietly say, ‘my mind is quiet and still.’” SM-S This “is Gilbert at his emotive best as he builds walls of lush orchestral sound that seem to come crumbling down around him, all set to a rhythm track of eerie footsteps.” UB “This is another Giraffe tune from the second album and fits in perfect with the concept.” KF The song also “is a sort of prelude to ‘The Way Back Home.’” SM-S
Ghetto of Beautiful Things
“The pure anger…gets its point across.” EP It “is an aggressive manic track that [is a] preview of…the Kaviar project,” KF which Kevin was also working on when he died.
A Long Day’s Life
Here we get a glimpse of Johnny as “a vulnerable character” KF “in a much more reflective state of mind, detailing recent dreams he’s had.” SM-S He “takes a look back at his life so far and finds that at the end of a long day’s life he is lost and all alone.” KF It is “the longest song on the album” CW and “one of the most complex songs on the album.” SM-S It “is another proggy number that moves from great pop melodies into Pink Floydish territory.” CW and “will be a treat for any fans of Genesis’ Duke album.” UB “It starts…behind the piano and leads us through the track with tortured vocals” KF and “builds to a climax with some great guitar work.” KF It is “one of the…most beautiful” SM-S and “best-penned songs” KF “Gilbert has ever written.” SM-S
The Way Back Home
“You can tell the end is near.” SM-S “The story shows us Johnny, who sad and disillusioned, crosses the path of a man who claims to be ‘Jesus’; he finally shows Johnny ‘The way back home’: it’s love.” KF This, “the final tune…from Kevin’s back-catalogue…is quite different from the original” KF Giraffe tune. “It’s a percussive track reminding [one] of Peter Gabriel’s later work” KF or “Tears For Fears alterna-pop.” UB”According to Cuniberti, the only things they had to work with on this track were ‘drums, piano and a guide vocal’…Knowing the importance of the song in the opera, D’Virgilio took it upon himself to finish the track. David Levita was called in to lay down the guitar solo at the end of the song, and did a superb job.” SM-S
Johnny’s Last Song
This wraps up the tale. As John Cuniberti says, “Kevin wanted this last song to sound as down and out as Johnny Virgil must have felt” JC-KG so he “recorded it outside the studio…onto a portable cassette player” JC-KG “with an old, beat up guitar; effectively capturing Johnny’s desperation at this point in his career.” SM-S “Old and wise, he gives his advice to young wanna-be-musicians: Believe in what you’re doing, remember who you are. And who knows where you’ll go.” KF “The wash of orchestral keys returns before it’s drowned by” KF “the sound of falling rain and train whistles in the distance [that make] the song that much more poignant.” SM-S As Cuniberti says, “Kevin recorded the wonderful rain track himself. The faraway train whistle…was another stroke of brilliance on Kevin’s part.” JC-KG
“When you consider the brilliance of Shaming as a whole, it makes you appreciate the insight that D’Virgilio and Cuniberti had into the mind of Gilbert. But first and foremost, it shows Kevin’s potential in no uncertain terms” SM-S – it is “a flawless work of musical art.” CW “This is one of those rare albums that grabs you the first time you hear it, and then keeps getting better with each listen.” SM-S “Stellar musicianship. Passionate vocals. First class compositions. Top-notch production. This album has absolutely everything.” CW Former bandmate Chris Beveridge says, “Kevin went through some intense personal and professional struggles after he moved to LA, and it sounds like he was able to capture the essence of his experiences and lessons in music and lyric.” CB-KG “While he may be describing his personal nightmare, Gilbert never falters in his assurance, his belief in his own talent, and The Shaming of the True is his testament,”JS00 his “reigning masterpiece.” SM-S It is “a bittersweet farewell from one of the brightest lights to emerge in the last 15 years.” MG
Some of these songs appeared in other forms on earlier Gilbert projects, including the groups NRG (“Staring into Nothing” - 1984), Giraffe (“Imagemaker” – 1987, “From Here to There” – 1988, “The Way Back Home” – 1988), Toy Matinee (“Best Laid Plans” – 1992), and Kaviar (“Ghetto of Beautiful Things” – 1996).
There are two other songs that may have been part of the rock opera but were pulled at the last minute by Kevin. They are The Best of Everything and Miss Broadway.” JC-KG The former wouldn’t officially surface until 2009, when the Nuts and Bolts collections were released. The latter showed up on the 1999 Live at the Troubadour release, recorded in 1995.
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First posted 3/11/2011; updated 8/19/2021.