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Gentle Giant - Free Hand  CD (album) cover

FREE HAND

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.26 | 1021 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

infandous
4 stars While this is not my favorite Gentle Giant release, it does contain a number of great songs.

The opening Just the Same, as well as the the next two tracks, would come off much better in a live setting. However, they are sufficiently well developed and arranged here to give great pleasure to the listener. The only major difference being the somewhat odd and disjointed instrumental breaks that are used on the studio album, which don't really seem to work as well as the more seamless and different live instrumental breaks (especially in Free Hand, where Green does a blazing solo over a completely different backing that is missing here). But nonetheless these songs continue to demonstrate the compositional dexterity and cleverness of this great band. Free Hand is still one of my favorite Giant songs, in any form.

And who can fail to be impressed by the incredible vocal acrobatics of On Reflection. This is the kind of thing Neal Morse can only try to imitate, yet never approach the complexity and sublime melodic interplay of this single track. It's like a manifesto of all that makes this band great, as they repeat the madness first with a single instrument backing each vocal part, then doing the whole thing instrumentally. Incredible stuff.

Time to Kill is a bit less interesting to me, and comes off as somewhat disjointed. I'm not sure what they were trying to achieve musically with this, but for the most part it's lost on me. Still, not a bad song, and the ancient electronic sounds of old Pong game always make me smile (it was the first video game I ever saw when I was around 8 years old, and I was amazed by it at the time......how far we've come in just 30 years!).

His Last Voyage is one of my favorite Giant songs of all time. It features a lovely Kerry Minnear vocal over a beautiful 12 string guitar progression. This is offset by a somewhat typical (by this point in the bands career) counterpoint descending instrumental bit, which at first seems somewhat awkward in the context of the song, but later reveals itself as an interesting transitional device. This leads to a fantastic counterpoint vocal section, that is eerie and sublime all at the same time, and features some great drumming by Weathers. From here, we break into probably my favorite Gary Green guitar solo of them all. A gritty, bluesy affair with great tension and release. This resolves back into the counterpoint bit and back to the beginning vocals and 12 string to finish. A truly great piece of music if ever there was once.

The last two tracks are a bit of a disappointment after such a great number, but are not bad either. Talybont being a short instrumental similar to the song Acquiring the Taste from the album of the same name (and equally inconsequential), while Mobile is a more rocking number in the vein of some of the In A Glass House material, though not quite as good as those. Again though, not a bad song, and probably suffers more in comparison to the opening 3 tracks and His Last Voyage than it does because of any lack of quality.

So a few great songs, a few average to good songs. In short, a typical Gentle Giant album. That is actually how I think of this album at this point in their career. The next one would be a logical follow up, with a bit more experimentation (not always for the better), before they would make their ill fated attempt to be more accessible. So perhaps the last truly typical Gentle Giant album there would be. A solid 4 star album, probably even pushing up a bit above that. Not a bad place to start for the beginner to this band, but probably better to come to later. Essential if you are a fan of any of their other work and don't have this one yet.

infandous | 4/5 |

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