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Gentle Giant - Gentle Giant CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

3.95 | 1254 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Review Nš 118

'Gentle Giant' is the self titled debut studio album of Gentle Giant. Their music tried the most daring fusion of jazz, classical and rock. The band was formed by Schulman brothers who had before joined some blues band in Glasgow. The major point of strength of the sextet were Kerry Minnear's electronic keyboards, the guitar playing by Gary Green and Philip Schulman's winds. Besides their complex scores, their sound differed from other bands especially for Derek Schulman's singing, so aseptic that in some way resembles Conservatory's solfege and Gregorian chant.

So, the line up on the album is Gary Green (backing vocals, lead guitar, 12 string guitar and flute), Kerry Minnear (lead vocals, backing vocals, keyboards, some bass, cello, synthesizer and some tuned percussion), Derek Shulman (lead vocals, backing vocals and some bass), Phil Shulman (lead vocals, backing vocals, saxophone, trumpet and recorder), Ray Shulman (backing vocals, most bass, violin, some guitar and percussion) and Martin Smith (drums, percussion and xylophone). Paul Cosh (tenor horn on 'Giant') and Claire Deniz (cello on 'Isn't Quiet And Cold?'), are additional artists that appear on the album as guest musicians.

'Gentle Giant' has seven tracks. The first track 'Giant' written by Derek Shulman, Phil Shulman, Ray Shulman and Kerry Minnear is a fantastic begin to the album. This is a truly classic progressive Gentle Giant's song very dynamic and creative. I love the way how the guitar is played and the great keyboard work made by Kerry Minnear. This is one of the best moments on this album. The second track 'Funny Ways' written by Derek Shulman, Ray Shulman and Kerry Minnear is a song completely different from the previous one. It's a mellow song more classic and acoustic with an extraordinary exploration of several musical instruments, some classic and acoustic which are fantastically married with the others, electric and more modern. It's also in my humble opinion a song with a relatively complex musical composition. This is a perfect example how these guys were absolutely unique. The third track 'Alucard' written by Derek Shulman, Phil Shulman, Ray Shulman and Kerry Minnear is, if you have noticed, 'Dracula' spelled backwards. This is an atypical song of the group because is more a hard rock influenced song. It's relatively complex and has some interesting and good instrumental musical passages and with disturbing vocals. However, this never was one of my favourite songs on the album. The fourth track 'Isn't It Quiet And Cold?' written by Kerry Minnear is a very mellow song that reminds me The Beatles and some stuff of early King Crimson's albums. The song is performed in an unplugged style with strange and delicious parts performed especially by violin and cellos. This is a song very simple and despite being a song with a very soft and nice melody this isn't one of my favourite tracks on the album too. The fifth track 'Nothing At All' written by Derek Shulman, Ray Shulman and Kerry Minnear is the biggest song on the album and is really a truly surprising track. This is another atypical song of Gentle Giant and it has practically everything. The song begins as a soft and nice acoustic ballad with melancholic harmonies, in the middle it grows as a hard and heavy rock song, then comes the curious drum solo by Martin Smith, so typical on the albums of those times, curiously with the piano of Kerry Minnear adding some nice melodies on the background and finally the song ends with the initial soft and beautiful acoustic ballad. This is one of the strangest, original, curious and interesting songs ever composed by the group, a real must. The sixth track 'Why Not' written by Kerry Minnear is in my humble opinion another high point of the album. This is a heavy Rock'n'Roll song a little bit dark and frantic with some calm and nice passages. It's worth of noting the appearance for the first time in their music, of the clear influence of the medieval music, which isn't surprising because this is a song of Minnear and he is a musician strongly influenced by those music. The seventh track 'The Queen' is a rock version of their national anthem 'God Save The Queen'. It's a short version arranged by Derek Shulman, Phil Shulman, Ray Shulman and Kerry Minnear. I've nothing special to say, unless that it reminds me Queen who did it five years later on their fourth studio album 'A Night At The Opera', a version that I personally prefer.

Conclusion: Who usually read my reviews on Progarchives, especially those who are about Gentle Giant, know that I'm a big fan of the group. Gentle Giant was one of the pioneer bands of progressive music and was also one of their biggest and best representatives. And about the album, 'Gentle Giant' is an excellent debut album. It's probably their less complex musical work and it's for sure their most hard and heavy rock album. But, we mustn't forget that this is an album of 1970 and therefore one of the first progressive rock albums in prog rock history. However, this album already have some of the main characteristics of their music like the avant-garde and experimentalism, the fusion of rock, blues and jazz, the influence of the renaissance and medieval music and the prolific use of the multi musical instruments.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |


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