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Gentle Giant - The Missing Piece CD (album) cover

THE MISSING PIECE

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

2.94 | 504 ratings

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VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Review Nš 167

Formed at the dawn of the progressive rock era in 1969, Gentle Giant seemed poised for a time in the mid 70's to break out of their cult band status, but somehow never made the jump, probably due to the complexity of the style of their music. Somewhat closer in spirit to Genesis, Yes and King Crimson than to Emerson, Lake & Palmer or the Nice, their unique sound melded hard rock, jazz/fusion and classical music, with an almost medieval approach to singing.

After the release of their previous eighth studio album "Interview", in 1976, which was more experimental, less commercial and less balanced than their seventh studio album "Free Hand" was, and also after the realize of the "Interview" live tour, Gentle Giant returned to the recording studio sessions and they made the decision of change de musical direction of the music of the group. They decided to explore different musical directions, including pop, new wave and punk rock on their future studio album. So, they included those new musical experiences on the first side of the album keeping the second side more in the traditional Gentle Giant's progressive musical vein.

"The Missing Piece" is the ninth studio album of Gentle Giant and was released in 1977. All songs were written by Kerry Minnear, Derek Shulman and Ray Shulman. The first track "Two Weeks In Spain" is a great song, very fun and enjoyable. It's a vibrant and quirky opener with insistent guitar licks from Gary Green and a charming vocal from Derek Shulman, as well as airy keyboards from Kerry Minnear. While lyrically and musically it's pretty light pop fare, and a big change from what you would normally expect from Gentle Giant, the song really works. It's a charming and energetic song with nice changes. Probably, it gave a great joy to Gentle Giant. The second track "I'm Turning Around" is a calm and beautiful song. This is a poignant song about forging a new life after a break-up, with strong vocals from Shulman and effective riffs from Green's guitar and Minnear's organ. It's a soft romantic ballad that reminds me the old Gentle Giant. The third track "Betcha Thought We Couldn't Do It" is my first problem with the album. This is a song influenced by new wave and punk. It's a rock song but it doesn't sound too Gentle Giant. Although an admirable attempt to keep up with the genre that was essentially responsible for putting an end to prog rock, hearing the mighty Gentle Giant pounding away here sounds a bit forced. The fourth track "Who Do You Think You Are?" is my second problem with the album. This is an uninspired pop song. I can't understand how a group so creative write a song like this. The fifth track "Mountain Time" is my third problem with the album. This isn't a bad song, but it should never have been written by the band. It has nothing to do with Gentle Giant. The sixth track "As Old As You're Young" is the return of Gentle Giant's sound. This is a good Gentle Giant's song with some complexity and with a good melody. It sounds like it could have come of "Three Friends", a warm little ditty with layers of vocals, Minnear's clever use of a myriad of keyboards, slippery bass work from Ray Shulman, and John Weathers' nimble jazzy drum work. The seventh track "Memories Of Old Days" is the the epic song of the album. It's probably the best song on the album, one their lengthiest songs and their last great song. Here, Derek Shulman pulls out all the stops for one of his most heartfelt vocal performances, and the dual acoustic guitar textures from Ray and Gary are just magical. Complemented by Minnear's sumptuous keyboards, this is just a stunning piece, easily the best song from the band from this era. This is a song in the memory of the good old days of the band. The eighth track "Winning" is a typical Gentle Giant's song. It has almost the complexity of the old material which transforms it as memorable as their best tracks. It sees John Weathers laying down all sorts of percussion and tricky drum signatures, while the rest of the band rocks out with searing guitars and Hammond for a quirky and rocking good time. The ninth track "For Nobody" is a powerful close for the album. This is another song in the vein of Gentle Giant. It's a driving rocker led by Minnear's raging Hammond riffs and Green intricate guitar lines. This is one the best songs on the album, plenty of energy and a reall delightful for the ears of all their fans.

Conclusion: I always liked this album very much. "The Missing Piece" is probably the most accessible studio album, with very good quality, released by Gentle Giant. If we could forget the really nightmare of the three songs, "Betcha Thought We Couldn't Do It", "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "Mountain Time", "The Missing Piece" would probably be, a much better rated album by most of us. Personally, I wouldn't have no problem and any doubt in to rate this album with 4 stars, if those songs weren't present on it. "The Missing Piece" is really the last studio piece of their music that deserves be finding and knowing, because, for my taste, "Giant For A Day" and "Civilian" are two albums that only deserve be purchased by collectors, fans and completionists. So, I rated this album only with 3 stars, because by the criteria of this site, it means that it's only good and not an essential album. However, I strongly recommend this album, without those three tracks. All in all, we are in presence of the last great album of one of the greatest prog bands ever.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 3/5 |

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