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Gentle Giant - Gentle Giant CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

3.95 | 1254 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars "He is coming; Hear him coming; Are you ready for his being?"

Thus sang Derek Shulman on the (unofficial) title track at the top of Gentle Giant's self- named debut album. It was a ballsy way to introduce the new band, but his challenge would go unmet for several years, arguably not until the release of the group's fourth album "Octopus", when they finally began to consolidate an audience.

In the meantime even a Giant feels some growing pains, and in 1970 the baby steps of the new band were awkward indeed. Make no mistake, this was a group of musicians with talent, ambition, versatility, and no lack of daring: in short, an ensemble with enormous potential. Making the leap from the mainstream (and commercially successful) pop stylings of Simon Dupree and the Big Sound to something as willfully off-the-wall as Gentle Giant must have been like learning how to fly by jumping off a gotta flap your arms awfully hard, and the effort can be a real strain.

Which is more or less what happened here. The album tries so hard to be eclectic that it comes across instead as somewhat stiff and forced at times (as in the song "Alucard", with its heavy studio effects and contrived backward title). But don't take my word for it; here's Derek Shulman himself, looking back with 20/20 hindsight: "We were babies on the first record...where it was going we had no clue."

At this early stage the weak link in the virtuoso line-up was drummer Martin Smith, a comrade from the Simon Dupree days but clearly out of his depth in the new band (hardly surprising, with such bizarre music). Listening to his clumsy accompanied solo in "Nothing at All", it's easy to see why the song required a polite veil of studio flanger effects drawn across it.

On the other hand, Gary Green was the band's secret weapon in its embryonic days: a traditional blues guitarist clearly not intimidated in the slightest by the decidedly non-blues format of the new outfit. The juxtaposition is weird (for example in the unexpected boogie conclusion to "Why Not?"), but it works, and his old-school efficiency helps to stabilize the flightier fancies of the Shulman brothers.

In retrospect it was a promising debut, but with plenty of room allowed for improvement. Quoting the album opener again: "The birth of a realization; The rise of a high expectation"...with emphasis happily on the latter.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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