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Gentle Giant - Three Friends CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

4.12 | 1261 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars A nice little album with a concept that I can relate to, music I can groove to. Gentle Giant's focus on Acquiring the Taste (to have an eclectic sonic palette by using many different exotic instruments and frequently swapping them) is here replaced by a focus on storyline, and on the development of a few decent melodies, with some stranger ones too. Not every structural or harmonic decision works on this record, from a musician's point of view; there are some moments of failure where the group has made a progressive decision but the result is just senseless. The majority of the music however, is wonderful to listen to, and as ever, it is particularly complex.

'Prologue' is too good to have such a peripheral name, but opens the album marvellously with hard riffs from the guitar and sax. In the middle, vocal bursts introduce the concept and there is an interesting organ, bass and synth break. Strangely, the piece fades out in an "end of album" kind of way. 'Schooldays' is more calm, with chromatic little interludes and a quirky chorus. The vocals are equally adventurous here, pushing syllables to their rhythmic limits. A problem with this album's production is that, on occasion, the various instruments sound like they are all being played in tiny boxes, very separate from each other, and this is none more apparent than on 'Schooldays'. By contrast, the graceful bridge section has too much reverb!

'Working All Day' showcases Phil Schulman's harsher vocal style for the first time on the album, conveying the frustrated labourer's life path effectively. The Hammond organ solo in 7/8 however, is the only really appealing moment in this otherwise predictable song. 'Peel the Paint' has more of a deceptive structure, with subdued verses and baroque interludes collapsing at the face of more hard rock, with a Hendrix-style guitar and drum solo and more shouting from Phil. The middle of this album is the weakest, if only for a lack of anything substantial. None of the good melodies hang around for long enough, and chords.... I'm not even sure if there are any!

Three Friends ends on a high though, with 'Mister Class and Quality?' and 'Three Friends' effectively being one song, and making for a heavily swinging, epic ending to a modest album. Here the lyrics are at their most profound, and the interruptions from various themes (new and old) make for a great thrill-ride as we hurtle towards the album's climax, after barely half an hour of music. I'm not even sure how these last two songs are divided, because at the point where my CD version changes to track six, we are then treated to the final verse of track five. The whole thing ends with a Led Zeppelin- esque riff cycle, accentuated beautifully by layers of Mellotron.

This album tells the story of my step-father, my brother, and me, being a dead-end worker, a white collar middle manager, and a failing artist respectively. It is a winner of a concept for being so accurate. Musically, things dip a little in places and may cause the listener the wrong kind of confusion (not the fun confusion naturally arising from listening to 'difficult' music, but just a general "What the fuck is going on?" feeling). Apart from that, this is another cracking album from Gentle Giant. Short but sweet.

thehallway | 4/5 |


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