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Gentle Giant - Octopus CD (album) cover

OCTOPUS

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.26 | 1262 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars At the time of re-writing my GG review (they paled in comparison with newer reviews from my dear collabs) and after re-reading those, I decided not to spend too much time talking of the music itself, what happens and who they remind me off (no-one but themselves in this album), I have opted for a side route, explaining the background for this album.

By the end of the US tours for the Three Friends album (their first released there), most of the group were at each other's throats, with Phil Shulman (older by a few years than all of the other members-he was in his mid-30's then and was the only one married with kids) had grown particularly concerned about the band's lack of success and seeing his age, it was his one and only (last?) chance to the big times. This made him rather uptight and made him more authoritarian and enforcing rules of conduct and "chaperoning" the others, which of course did not sit well with the others. Funnily enough, Phil was caught at his own rules after a fling with a young groupie, and this weakened him as the central or leader stance, so much that his two younger brothers even wished him to leave, as he was undefendable and he would soon. The new drummer Mortimore being quite younger, (19 in fact and not virtuosi enough) was badly injured in a motorbike accident and replaced with a more permanent member Welshman John Weathers who actually was ideally suited for the band and he was no rookie either having played in Eye Of Blue, which metamorphosed into Big Sleep then Ancient Grease recording four albums along the way (all vaguely progressive) and also playing a stint for beat poet extraordinaire Pete Brown's Piblokto. The man also had played for Graham Bond, the Grease Band and had a stint with Wild Turkey (with ex-Tull Glen Cornick as leader), so he was a seasoned veteran. So by the time this quintessentially "English" album came out, the group consisted of three Scots (the Shulmans), one Welsh and two Angles. And IMHO, it is the crazy Welsh's arrival that helped GG to really go on to the next gear, his powerful playing really allowing much more options for Minnear and the Shulman bros to expand their playing. From the opening Rabelaisian Panurge to the medievalesque Troubadour to the incredible almost/mostly a cappella Knots (where each verse is sung by a different band member taking turns) and the more standard (for GG) Cry For Everyone, the first side is absolutely awesome in execution and inventiveness. The second side pales a bit in comparison with the middle two tracks being noticeably weaker, but nothing bothersome. The record ending with a fitting résumé of the themes developed in the album.

Despite Phil Shulman's great contributions to this album his subsequent departure did not cause much problems the sextet being reduced to a quintet where four members were multi-instrumentalists. This fourth album is certainly a peak for them , both artistically and commercially as it was their first (and almost only) record to sell decently.

Oh yes! This album also came out in the US with a much different but same themed artwork sleeve (the one you see above) with a slight cut-out around the cap of the bottle. Progheads tend to denounce this artwork but I find it at least as interesting as the Roger Dean artwork reserved for the rest of the planet

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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