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Gentle Giant - Interview CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

3.74 | 781 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Judging from its score here at Prog Archives this 1976 album remains an undervalued gem in the Gentle Giant discography. It may have been the last (and arguably least) of a consecutive quartet of classic recordings. But in what turned out to be their final, fully progressive effort the band put all their strengths on display, and a few of their weaknesses too, which one could argue only helps make it a more balanced effort.

Certainly the lackluster cover art and layout doesn't recommend it very highly. And the album concept itself is a little strained: apparently the group wasn't getting enough love from the music press, so they designed the songs here as answers to (and a parody of) an imaginary interview, conducted by journalist Phil Sutcliffe and heard briefly between some of the tracks.

After the success of "Free Hand" the band could have easily rested on their well-earned laurels. But the punchy title track and the entirety of Side Two (the last four songs, to all you digital kids) are quintessential Gentle Giant: clever, creative, challenging, diverse, melodic, obscure, and often all at once within the space of a few bars.

The opening "Interview" pushes the aesthetic envelope with its epileptic instrumentation and in the spastic near-atonality of Gary Green's guitar solo...but it rocks. And the finely meshed chaos (not a contradiction) of "Another Show" (recalling "The Boys in the Band", from the 1972 "Octopus" album) inaugurates what may in fact be the strongest single side of vinyl in the greater Gentle Giant catalogue, next to the first half of "Free Hand" and Side Two of "Three Friends".

Only the reggae-flavored "Give It Back" and the failed experiment of "Design" don't measure up to the level of craftsmanship heard elsewhere on the album. The former, despite its attractive herky-jerky rhythms, anticipates the dumbed-down pop of subsequent Gentle Giant efforts; and the latter is an inorganic facsimile of earlier, better vocal/percussion arrangements, composed piecemeal by Kerry Minnear in the studio basement while the rest of the band was busy recording upstairs.

The production is a little rougher around the edges than usual: a sign of the times in 1976 ("Anarchy in the U.K." would hit the airwaves a few months later). Otherwise the band was clearly still at the top of its game, in style if not in sales, as they would prove with the release of the double live LP "Playing the Fool" the following year. But from any summit the only available direction is downward, and within a few short years the album would be remembered, if at all, as little more than a poignant reminder of what Progressive Rock could aspire to.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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