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Gentle Giant - Free Hand  CD (album) cover

FREE HAND

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.26 | 1012 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Isa
Prog Reviewer
4 stars |B+| One of the pinnacles of creative composition.

There are few bands with the kind of devoted and musically educated fan-base that Gentle Giant has, and for obvious reasons. Any open-minded musicologist, with an education in music theory and history, should go nuts for this band. Compositional techniques dating to the early Renaissance all the way up to the creation of the album are used, and all in harmony (pun not intended), to create the marvelously eclectic band, Gentle Giant. And this album, Free Hand, is probably among the most mature and precise works of their discography. I feel, though, it slightly lacks the freshness and almost youthful vitality of many albums preceding it, thus is ever so slightly stale yet still very vibrant and now experienced, like a person who has hit his early to mid-thirties. This album still borderlines a five star, one of those albums that just barely falls through the cracks of being a masterpiece of artistic music, yet for which I still of great reverence.

Elements typical (and brilliant) of Gentle Giant are prevalent, starting their pieces in unique and sometimes quite humerus ways, as the opener shows with the rhythmic snapping. We have tons of blending of various instruments, timbres, genres, influences, and compositional techniques from various periods of music history. Counterpoint everywhere, yet flowing wonderfully from track to track. Flawless execution of musicianship and recording techniques. All as usual, only in this album they all come together particularly beautifully.

However, this is by no means another clone of everything the band had done before. As great composers should, they keep variety in their work. Here we have some quite intentionally catchier songs, yet the sanctity of the composition was hardly compromised for it; in fact, ingeniously enough, the craziness and complication of the music adds to the catchy quality in a strange way, as evidenced by the album title track. On Reflection is the strongest track, and probably the band's best work of their entire career; in it, the band pokes fun referring to their own composition techniques with "all a round, all a round." The weakest track is Mobile, which in it of itself is a remarkable weak track.

I suppose in a way this album is virtually a masterpiece, but I never developed the sort of emotional attachment to it, as with all albums I rate as masterpiece status. I have high standards for my music, and this just barely doesn't meet the "epic" bar, as the music lacks the youthful vibrancy of such albums as Octopus and In a Glass House. Another one of Gentle Giant's fine works that every progger should hear at some point, and one of the best eclectic albums out there.

Isa | 4/5 |

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