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Gentle Giant - Three Friends  CD (album) cover

THREE FRIENDS

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.12 | 827 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Gentle Giant tells a story that we all know.

Up until this point in their career, Gentle Giant had always been attempting to make innovative and wildly complex music that people would have fun listening to, and having established their name with excellent records like Gentle Giant and Acquiring The Taste it was finally time to tackle the 'concept album'. While this is no grandeur rock opera that takes up several hours of your time and all your cranial capacity to listen to and dissect it still manages to be highly impressive, and a great leap for the band. Taking the rock/blues side of their first album and the subtle/experimental side of their sophomore Gentle Giant paints a picture of three school yard friends who grow up into three very different men. An objective look on people put to the complex and quirky music of one of the most eclectic artists in the scene makes for an excellent ride.

The concept itself is certainly something that just about everyone can relate to. We hear the prologue and the story of three friends meeting, then we skip ahead and see what they're doing later in life. Every person in their lifetime will no doubt experience this, as the people you once grew up with become laborers, artists and business men, and no matter how well you knew your school chums, if you met them again you wouldn't even know it was the same person. The songs are split between narration and personal storied told by the characters, something like the complex and amusing Schooldays with its Gentle Giant token harmonized vocals (soon to be considered legendary with Knots right around the corner) tells the tale from an objective and removed standpoint while Working All Day's industrial pace tells the story from a personal and subjective view.

The entire album is very impressive from a playing standpoint. People who have troubles getting into the band will also appreciate a more approachable side from this album. The quick and dirty Mister Class And Quality? features some keyboard noodling in the beginning which soon turns itself into melody and the string sections come in allowing for a highly melodic vocal line to shine through. People who found the silent/loud parts of the first two album slightly bemusing will also appreciate the fact that the album never lets up, and while the tale of the artist, Peel The Paint may feature some more downtime than the rest of the song it never becomes tiresome. This is likely one of the reasons why many consider this to be an all-time Gentle Giant masterpiece along with songs like On Reflection. A blistering and bluesy guitar solo in the middle of some unexpected vocal shouting makes for a pleasant and welcome surprise on this standout track.

Of course, what kind of concept album would this be without an intro and an explosive outro? This album features both, of course, Prologue kicks things off to a quick start with fast and fascinating keyboard parts which allow for impressive drumming hidden underneath. The tune is largely instrumental in its 6-minute duration and does a superb job of opening the story while providing a lush soundscape which both rocks and stays viciously progressive throughout. Three Friends closes the album and acts as an abrupt segue between the end of the album and Mister Class And Quality?, quickly switching to vocals and floating keys that bring the album to its end.

The original American remaster of this album was rather unfortunate. The album artwork is simply a reprint of the debut album's with a slightly more yellow hue and different wording across the top. Also, Mister Class And Quality is cut off around the 3.5 minute mark and is continued for the first minutes of Three Friends. Not that there's any of the music missing, but it's an irritating mistake anyways. Still, if you see a slightly strange version of the debut album and you're in an American record store then you might be looking at this record.

Ultimately this is probably the best Gentle Giant album of their first era (before the first Shulman left), depending on your tastes. Keyboard and violin heavy in parts this one has a unique feel to it which is still unmistakably Gentle Giant. A classic, this one gets 4 friends out of 5 for their conceptual tale of everyone's life and the people in it. Highly recommended.

Queen By-Tor | 4/5 |

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