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Gentle Giant - Free Hand  CD (album) cover

FREE HAND

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.27 | 1023 ratings

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el böthy
Prog Reviewer
4 stars What Gentle Giant created with Free Hand is their most accessible album (from their classic period, let's not bring Giant for a Day and Civilian into discussion.) without loosing their instrumental and vocal complexity nor their polyrhythmic compositions; what an achievement indeed! And to top it all, this might even be among their three best albums; again, what an achievement!

The album starts with finger snaps. no, really it does, with Minear´s keys dropping in a few seconds later to mark the counterpoints of the "finger snap beat" in a more than typical Giant fashion, a great way to open the album. Of course I'm talking about "Just the same". Minear shines here, not only for his counterpoints rhythms, on which Green´s guitar would also help latter on, but for his strange sounds in the chorus and that spacey solo. Among his best stuff, and in another great Giant fashion, it's complex, inventive but never in your face; what an achievement! "On reflection" follows and it brings us another characteristic Giant composition, maybe the one they are more famous for: the polyphonic, medieval multi vocals. Sure, this has been done before with the "head turning" "Knots" in Octopus, so the result might not be as surprising, but let me tell you, it´s equally as good as the previous mentioned one. Some might even say it's better, I know my friend and Giant fan-boy, Martinn, would agree. "Free hand" is in my eyes and ears the best track of the album. Again, Minear owns this one, but Ray Shulman is not far behind with his fantastic bass lines. The main key riff that could be taken as the chorus must be one of the best things the Giants have done in their career. Of course the rest of the band also delivers pure brilliance in every note, every beat. Strange as this might sound, one could even dance to this song; what an achievement! The second side of the album, for I have the vinyl version, kicks of with "Time to kill" which, at least for me, is the weakest track from the album. BUT, this does not mean it's a bad tune, no, no, no, no, no. it's still very, very good, specially Shulman´s bass lines, but the rest of the album is just way better. "His last voyage", the longest song from the album. which is still quite short if you compare it to other prog songs, is really interesting. Here the Giants take it down a notch; the song presents little drumming, just in some sections here and there, but other than that, it's a very calm song. Still, the instrumentation here (as usual) goes wild. It is rare for the Giants ´cause an instrument that is not usually used by them in other songs, prevails here as their main in the vocal parts. the acoustic guitar! Again the vocals are sung in their polyrhythmic fashion, but not as over the top as in "On reflection". Gentle Giant was one of ´70 strongest instrumental bands, yet they didn't do many instrumental songs, which is quite weird. But, here, in Free Hand, we get one. "Talybont", a short piece, constructed around a main key riff is as delightful as short songs come. Of course every instrument plays their own interpretation of this riff, full of variations, one almost wishes the song was longer, but no, it's short. and delightful. "Mobile" closes the album; an up beat song, again, full of what makes Gentle Giant Gentle Giant. Personally, I find this song to have Derek Shulman´s best vocal lines, at least from this album. Strong, direct, even happy, it's a good contrast to the complex background instrumentation this song presents. Now, this is not about the actual song itself, but about the album. I have, as I already said, the vinyl version and the CD version. Now, in the vinyl version once this song comes to an end the record plays on for a few more seconds, I would say 20 or so, till Weathers hits the drums on last time all alone. I always found this very cool, for it always took me by surprise. Now, this ultimate drum hit, does not appear in the CD version. or at least not in mine. strange indeed.

To summon things up: a classic, one of their best. Few if any weak point and some of their very strongest are here. A good starter too, very accessible, yet you can get something new out of it, every time you listen to it, what an achievement!

el böthy | 4/5 |

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