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Gentle Giant - Free Hand  CD (album) cover

FREE HAND

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.26 | 1006 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Gatot
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Merry Christmas!

Background -- In recent discussion with my prog guru: Andy Julias, prog music producer (Discus) and Chairman of IPS (Indonesian Progressive Society) I was amazed with the topic we discussed. It was about choir and vocal harmony in rock music. We discussed about many types of vocal harmony from groups like Yes, Gentle Giant, Queen and Hamadryad (Canada). What surprised me was the fact that Andy gave an example of Gentle Giant's "On Reflection" by really emulating it very close to the original tune. It really struck me. I know that one of Gentle Giant strength is in its vocal harmony besides its complex and avant garde composition. Then I realized that I have not reviewed this masterpiece album.

Album Review.

It has been a great challenge for me to review classic bands with a music of their own identity. The difficulties rely on what sort of benchmarks should I use for review as they were pioneers of the kind of music they played. Gentle Giant is no exception. Can you compare it with Spock's Beard? Definitely "no" as they live in different time. But, for sure , Spock's Beard was influenced by Gentle Giant. Even though the band disbanded in 1980 but the soul of their music is still around us nowadays.

About this album, let me ask you: "How prog are you?" If you are a prog lover, this album is a must in your collection. If you are new to prog, you must buy this album. The band has inspired many bands on planet earth and no one has successfully similar to their original music. The music might be a bit complex at first listen but I'm sure it would grow significantly after 8 spins. But if you can enjoy the album before it reaches 8, you are blessed with good prog ears and you should continue your journey with all Gentle Giant's albums and other prog bands.

"Just The Same" kicks off with a staggering piano solo and great voice line followed with an avant garde beat music. The music relatively discrete at the opening and it turns continuous at the interlude with sort of spacey keyboard. The solo keyboard is really amazing. The solo ends up with electric guitar rhythm and returns back to the original tagline melody. The harmony of keyboard and saxophone is intricate. It's a superb music!

As I mentioned above "On Reflection" has a powerful choir / vocal harmony in a capella backed with some percussive and vibes during opening. This opening is really excellent! The choir is then continued with single voice line by Derek accompanied with discrete keyboard, violin and woodwind (flute) works. Some backing voice at the end of the bars accentuate the song. The keyboard sound augments the vocal line nicely. Dynamic drumming ends the song brilliantly. The compositional quality of this song is top notch even though it's complex in structure.

"Free Hand" starts off with a harmonious work combining keyboard sounds and bass line. The rocking vocal enters the music in upbeat tempo with continuous music. The solo keyboard and bass performed excellently during quiet segment of the song. The interlude part indicates the complexity of Gentle Giant music. No matter complex the music is, the band has successfully maintained the intricate harmony of multi instruments used.

The next track "Time To Kill" is even more rocking with its complex composition and dynamic rhythm and melody. The opening sound indicates a tidy harmony of bass, keyboard and guitar and a simple melody followed by a discrete guitar score. It flows with the music that brings vocal into main body. Some transitions have a quieter music with sort of discrete bass, keyboard, guitar and drums. Another excellent composition by the band.

"His Last Voyage" opens with an avant garde mood using bass, vibes (played wonderfully) followed by acoustic guitar that accompanies voice line. There are some influence of jazz and classical music. The beginning of this song is performed in ambient style exploring jazzy bass and vibes with relatively slow tempo.. The music then flows continuously in the middle of the track by the appearance of drumming. Piano at background is played in jazz style. The solo guitar is really stunning - it continues with a complex organ sound until the music returns back to original rhythm and tagline melody. "Talybont" is short instrumental with keyboard / clavinet and woodwind dominate the scene accompanied with percussive and bass. The woodwind and clavinet sounds indicate a classical music influence. It also reminds me to Rick Van Der Linden's Trace as they shared similar vein in this part.. "Mobile" combines acoustic guitar, keyboard, violin nicely during opening. Again, the band has proven their talents to compose this complex composition with perfect harmony. Each instrument seems to play different than the others but it still produce an excellent harmony.

Conclusion: This is a masterpiece and a highly recommended album. All tracks stand-out firmly as original prog tunes. There is no such thing as mediocre track in this album. Rating: 5/5. GW, Indonesia.

Gatot | 5/5 |

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