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Gentle Giant - Civilian CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

2.75 | 410 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars Rounded up to the third star!!

12th and last (often forgotten about) album for GG, and generally looked upon by fans as a redemption for the previous and atrocious (for GG) Giant For a Day. While this is partly true, one can't help but hearing that the group is a spent force and the inspiration long-gone, and no matter how good the band remains as a whole, the spectre of GFAD is still overshadowing Civilian, even if they chose to avoid the now-overexposed GG head on the artwork, by choosing a faceless crowd picture. Recorded in the fall of 79 throughout the US with the same quintet line-up and released early next year on a small US label (I'm not even sure it got release in the UK) and in continental Europe. Clearly hindering the album's preparation phase was that some of the members hated to have to stay in LA, California, because the leader and manager Derek Shulman had relocated there during 79, which was basically an off year for the group. Indeed, brother Ray and the now-married and father Minnear did not enjoy their 5-months stay and didn't jump for joy to tour the US to promote the album, so they agreed to stay for the short tour before leaving the band. So this tour would be their last one. Obviously, Civilian is not remembered fondly by most of the GG members, except John Weathers.

Opening on an infernal drum and electronic noises, Convenience is probably better than anything on GFAD, but it's clear that the group won't return to the ultra-complex pre-76 songwriting of theirs; actually this isn't really a bad thing, but unfortunately the simplified tracks lack freshness. The following All Through The Night is named and sounds like an early-Foreigner track (again, not necessarily bad), but for GG?. It's quite a deception. Past the quiet breathing space of Shadows On The Street, we return to another Foreigner-sounding Number One, which happens to be drummer Weathers' favourite GG track.

Camera shutter noises open up the flipside as GG also makes a reference to that "tool" as Yes, Renaissance and Rush would within a few months, but like them all, it's definitely AOR-sounding with an atrocious synth sound in the middle solo. Underground is a bit better, but nothing transcendental either. Inside Out provides another breathing space, with a slower and more reflective rhythm and could be the album's better track with those good vocal harmonies. The very aptly-titled It's Not Imagination (no risk, they haven't got any left) is however returning with that AOR/FM sound and annoying my eardrums. The closing Heroes (a rare bonus track on the Cd versions) is just as annoying, as if it was a Perry-era Journey song, despite allowing some instrumental interplay, but nothing to save it from take a plunge, drowning the album with it. By the time your stylus lifts from the vinyl surface, I'm generally stuck with a slight headache (much less than with GFAD, though) because of the level of "noise" (partly caused by the vocals) is relatively close to that period's noisy radio-friendly FM rock that ruled the American airwaves.

Well, Civilian would be the last of the band at the dawn of the atrocious 80's, one of the major 70's pioneers, and also one that has chosen not to ever reform, therefore not damaging their legacy. The band would not survive the total indifference of the public and industry alike and call it quits soon after. Note that Soft Machine would also disband right around that time, with an atypical Cockayne album, the opposite of GG, that chose to remain a tad more faithful to themselves, even if sounding a tad AOR. So I might suggest that you don't get carried away by some other reviews made by forgiving fans and approach this album carefully, because it's only marginally better than its predecessor.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |


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