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Gentle Giant - Free Hand CD (album) cover

FREE HAND

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.28 | 1358 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review Nš 57

Gentle Giant was a band formed in 1970 by the three brothers Shulman, Phil, Derek and Ray. The group was known for the great complexity and sophistication of their music. The band had diverse musical influences like rock, jazz, classical music, blues and medieval music. They never were a huge commercial success but they managed to achieve a great cult of followers, while they still existed. I always saw similitude between the careers of Gentle Giant and Van Der Graaf Generator. Both wrote some of the best, most complex, original, creative and beautiful musical pages in the history of the progressive rock music. At the same time, and despite they're now being considered two of the best groups and that most contributed to the progressive music history, both had some problems with the record industry and both had also a small base of support fans, thought faithful and unconditional in the supporting of both bands.

'Free Hand' is the seventh studio album of the band and was released in 1975. Strongly influenced by the music of the renaissance and middle Ages, it became as one of the most popular and accessible studio musical releases made by the group. The lyrics on the album reflect the lost love and the damaged relationships between people. With 'Free Hand', Gentle Giant produced one of the most creative and complex recording releases in all the progressive rock musical history. However, despite the complexity of their musical arrangements, their music is very accessible and melodic and their vocal approach was really very revolutionary for those times. 'Free Hand' is unique and unpretentious progressive rock album that couldn't have been delivered by any other band besides Gentle Giant.

'Free Hand' has seven tracks. All the songs were written by Kerry Minnear, Derek and Ray Shulman, except 'His Last Voyage' which was written by Minnear and Ray Shulman. The first track 'Just The Same' is a song with one of the traditional beginnings of some of the Gentle Giant's tracks. The song opens with fingers snapping and curiously ends in the same way. It's a very slow rock song with good keyboard work that has also some jazz influences. This is a great song to open the album. The second track 'On Reflection' starts with one of the most spectaculars Gentle Giant's traditional trademarks, the polyphonic vocal inspired by renaissance and the cappella music. Musically, it's a very interesting track due to the changes between acoustic and electric instruments, but is essentially an acoustic song. It's clearly a song strongly influenced by the troubadour's songs of the medieval era. The third track 'Free Hand' is the title track song. It's a more elaborate and complex song than the two previous tracks. We may say that this is a traditional Gentle Giant's track with some dissonant parts and with constant changes of rhythm and tempo. It's without any doubt one of the best songs on this album. The fourth track 'Time To Kill' is the rocker song on the album and is also a song with other traditional Gentle Giant's overture, this time with a computer game. It's probably the simplest song on the album and it suffers also of some jazz influences. The simplicity of the song and the vocal parts are probably the main reason why this song is the least loved on the album. The fifth track 'His Last Voyage' is the most tranquil piece of music on the album. It's probably one of the most beautiful songs ever created by the band. It has good keyboard and guitar workings with particular emphasis to the way how Minnear sings it, which makes us feel the departure of someone to his last voyage to the afterlife. The sixth track 'Talybont' is another baroque song with the clear influence of the musical era of the middle Ages. It's almost a folkloristic instrumental medieval song very beautiful and agreeable, and seems that was composed for a sound track to a Robin Hood film, which I think never saw the light of the day. Anyway, Gentle Giant decided included it on the album. The seventh track 'Mobile' is a track that combines a nice acoustic guitar, keyboards and violin working, during the open of the track, with a perfect harmony. It's another song with some complexity and where each instrument seems to play free and disconnected of the other, but always with an excellent harmony. This is a song perfectly chosen to close this magnificent musical work.

Conclusion: 'Free Hand' is one of my favourite Gentle Giant's albums and is one of my favourite progressive albums too. 'Free Hand' is the last masterpiece created by the band and is also one of the most accessible of the Gentle Giant's albums. The combination of superb musicianship, dry wit, and creative compositions make of 'Free Hand' an essential piece and an historical recording. All of this proved that the band could write all type of songs that they wanted to do and that could be good, creative, complex and at the same time accessible and melodic. The album has great instrumentals, advanced vocal numbers, good ballads, acoustic and electric parts and exceptionally very well structured songs. Unfortunately, the future came to show us that this wasn't the route that would be taken by them.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |

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