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Gentle Giant - Three Friends CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

4.10 | 1120 ratings

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Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars Telling the story of three childhood friends who are treated differently by life and end up in very different places, the aptly titled Three Friends is Gentle Giant's third studio album.

Three Friends is a pre-Octopus album. I've got Acquiring The Taste, Octopus and In A Glass House besides this one, and Acquiring The Taste was a great first album for me, and I still hold it as my favourite, which can't be said for either Octopus and In A Glass House.

The point I'm trying to make is that there is a change of sound with and after Octopus, shifting Gentle Giant in a colder, more mathematical and technical direction. On Three Friends, the band is still like I prefer them. It's not much different when looking at the big picture: the weird, searching side, playful melodies and jumpy, spirited rhythms are just as prominent as they should be. But there is a noticeable change on the instrumental side, namely that there are a lot fewer ones present on the album. In effect this means that Three Friends isn't as deeply layered as for example Acquiring The Taste, and that the medieval, folk or with a wider word, "traditional" sounds and feelings are somewhat lost. The famed counterpoint melodies, wicked twists and turns and a lot of the vocal arrangements so associated with the band are somewhat left behind in favour of other musical ventures. It is a more relaxed listening experience, less demanding on ears and mind, but ultimately just as pleasing.

Instead this album is quite packed with various electric keys, vibraphone and quite noticeable saxophone, creating a softer, more easily digested soundscape. I wouldn't say that atmosphere is Gentle Giant's strongest side, but they manage to create quite a lot here, something that should be appealing for newer fans of the band. It's often a little nervous and twitchy; touching dark, slightly sinister bottoms but all so often it's just...secretive, for lack of a better word. Secretive in a provoking, but well-meaning way. Some would say ironic. Pieces of Schooldays and Mister Class and Quality? are excellent examples of this. Closing the album is the title track, and surprisingly it's almost symphonic in nature with its lovely soaring keys and choir-like vocals. Alongside this atmosphere, the band actually manages to add a lot of power, another oddity for them when it comes to the whole discography. Prominent electric guitar dabbling in most of the melodies or acting as a rhythmic backdrop together with the bass, or as on Peel The Paint actually leading a hard, chaotic segment of the song before a great, bluesy solo.

Much can be said about Gentle Giant, but they weren't afraid of testing out new directions. Instead of the more challenging and fascinating, but equally good, Acquiring The Taste, this album showcases another side of the band, perhaps an indication of that they really didn't have the firm direction in their music you often read and hear about. If you're more into the stereotypical side of Gentle Giant, this album sure might seem toothless and tired, but it really isn't. It's different, and as such just attractive in another way.

4 stars - a treat you shouldn't miss.


LinusW | 4/5 |


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