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Gentle Giant - Free Hand CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

4.28 | 1370 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Next to Octopus, this is Gentle Giant's best album, possibly a contender for that position as strongest release by the band.

Coming off the tails of the average The Power and the Glory, Free Hand simplifies the tracks just enough to turn them into cohesive songs. The same complicated structures and wild instrumental parts that the band demonstrated in other albums shows up here. The only difference is the energy of the band is absolutely very present in almost every track, giving the album a much more exciting and commercial sort of feel, even though the music is very much progressive. The experimental nature of the band has winded down by this point, but that does not mean that this album, though it does not venture into much territory that the band had not yet explored, is by any means a simple rehash of other Gentle Giant songs and ideas. What we have here is the culmination of the band's history, the peak of the band.

The fun and lighthearted track Just the Same opens the album, playing with some fun keyboards and a quality chorus. It may be one of the lesser songs on Free Hand, so if this does not inspire you much, continue on anyways. The next track, the wildly complicated On Reflection, features what is probably the band's most intense series of vocal harmonies and rounds. The middle section of the song slows down considerably and produces a very neat mellow melody. It ends with a full band reprisal of the beginning vocal interplay. The title track appears next, a rather upbeat and catchy song. The musicality of the interludes is astonishing here, with perfectly aligned yet irregular instruments playing to each other's strengths. Very much a recommended listen for a song, because I believe it to be the best and most representative song created by the band.

The other side begins with Time to Kill, a peppy sort of tune with fun keyboards and catchy melodies. Do not be alarmed, however. If the energy levels are starting to get to you and you are having trouble sitting still, the next song should calm you down. His Last Voyage is the album's soft ballad sort of tune, tying in lovely piano work and a lovely melody. The energy returns right after, however, with the Renaissance-esque instrumental piece Talybont. The music than reignites into the final track, Mobile, with more complicated songwriting and deeply inspired vocal bits. It wraps up the album with a tightly woven instrumental bit in the vein of Octopus's River.

In the end, this is one of Gentle Giant's strongest albums. It's a wonderful place to start for any listener, even if it may be a touch weaker than Octopus. This is a highly recommended release, one that shows just where the creativity was going when it started to get wonky in a number of other popular prog bands.

LiquidEternity | 5/5 |


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