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Gentle Giant - Interview CD (album) cover

INTERVIEW

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

3.75 | 730 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars Despite having the reputation as one of the most varied, original and extremely talented progressive rock bands of the entire 70s, GENTLE GIANT was unfortunately a bit too eclectic and ahead of the pack to capture the attention of the average prog fan of the day, however it did mean that the few followers they attracted were absolutely obsessed with this band and for good reason. This band sounded like no other. From its exact decade long existence that began in 1970 and ended in 1980, GENTLE GIANT released an album each year and even a second for the year 1972 which ended up with a total of 11 studio albums in that decade long run.

The beauty of GENTLE GIANT was the fact that all the members were multi-instrumentalists and the band was considered the most complex of all prog bands of the era as they performed the uncanny musical alchemy that mixed prog rock, soul, jazz, classical and most importantly crafted some of the most incredibly bizarre yet beautiful vocal harmonies ever heard with the perfect unorthodox mixtures of melody, dissonance and angular instrumental workouts. The band has become legendary for good reason but despite the plaudits of being early pioneers, the band struggled financially to carry on. But carry on they did in prog fashion at least until 1976's release of INTERVIEW, the band's eighth studio album and indisputable last leg of their prog journey before adopting a more mainstream rock switcheroo.

The band had been building momentum up to "Free Hand" which was released before but that was really the last year prog was en vogue before the changing tides ushered in the new wave, disco and punk era. INTERVIEW did not fair well in these musical eddies and got panned both critically and suffered commercially but in reality, INTERVIEW is a fascinating development from "Free Hand" in many ways although it is in many ways the very continuation of its excesses. This collection of seven tracks was presented as a concept album that engaged in a faux radio dialogue and even incorporated a bit of chit chat in between tracks and at the beginning of the album. The lyrics reflect the band's experiences within the music industry and trials and tribulations of being an "outsider" band that existed on the fringe of what was popular.

INTERVIEW has been a divisive album amongst fans with some loving the bold new statements on board musically speaking and others who deemed the album as driving off the cliff from which the band would never recover. Personally i'm on the love it side of the equation. While clearly a slight detour from the magnanimous brilliance that graced the band's first seven albums that began on the self-titled debut and culminated with "Free Hand," INTERVIEW is hardly the waste of time that so many have made this out to be. In fact in many ways, GENTLE GIANT had created a business as usual sort of album replete with all those frenetically tight-knit progressive workouts that incorporated jittery time signature antics, wildly creative vocal harmonics, polyrhythms and those utterly unique pseudo-melodies that were part jazz, part rock and part who knows what it was!

While all those scrumptious GENTLE GIANT-isms are full abundance and at times on steroids with power organ swells, guitar riffs on fire, exotic scales interwoven into the fabric of the musical tapestry, many seem to dwell on the aspects that set this album apart from all its predecessors. Perhaps the most noticeable comes on the second track "Give It Back" which to the fans' chagrin committed the crime of implementing reggae into the mix and thus receiving the wrath of those who cried that the band was going contemporary and following trends. Oh for bleep's sake. The song is brilliant. Reggae is nothing more than a form of musical syncopation and GG wove it into the proggy musical canvas like champs. It offered a slightly contemporary feel that the band eschewed on earlier albums but so what!

Overall the album is chock full of tasty knotty musical workouts, some of the most daring and energetic of the band's entire career. Take the guitar soloing on "Timing" for example. Gary Green delivers some of the best guitar work on ANY GG album and the mix of polyrhythms that incorporate piano rolls, violin screeches and multi-layered percussive tracks is stunningly brilliant in its depth. It is true that one can hear some of the poppier aspects of the future albums like "The Missing Piece" starting to come into play but at this point everything is still decked out in an over-the-top prog frosting which makes the cake that much more sweeter. My guess is that INTERVIEW comes off as a lot more abstract than the album's prior and it fails to deliver the same emotional connection for all its technical excesses may be a little show offy for some. Personally i find this album every bit as compelling as what came before. The end of a long line of great albums where the train stops, the prog band disembarks and a new mainstream musical group boards.

I will go as far as to say i enjoy this one much more than "Free Hand." It has all the elements only amplified several notches. The times were a-changing and GENTLE GIANT, despite appealing to musicians and seekers of eccentric complex prog who worshiped this band like gods, had run out of time as even the popular prog bands were waning in popularity. As far as the classics of GENTLE GIANT are concerned, INTERVIEW is the last great album to emerge from this ridiculously gifted group of English rockers. True that three more albums would be made and they weren't all that bad either for what they were, but to my ears INTERVIEW is one of the most brilliant prog albums ever made and more than holds its own in relation to the seven albums that preceded it. I seem to be in a lonely room with that opinion but i personally love the extra elements that they added. I'm actually quite fond of the reggae and new wave elements tucked in here and there. The secret to loving the heck out of INTERVIEW is by NOT comparing it with what came before. It is its own unique little slice of heaven.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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