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Gentle Giant - Gentle Giant  CD (album) cover

GENTLE GIANT

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

3.86 | 836 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

J-Man
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Formed from the ashes of Simon Dupree and the Big Sound in 1970, British progressive rock act Gentle Giant released their eponymous debut album later that year and broke down more barriers than we've come to expect from bands these days. A wildly creative and innovative observation indeed, this album combines dozens of styles into a brand of eclectic rock that can only be described as one-of-a-kind; whereas most progressive rock bands began focusing on a romantic, symphonic style by this point in time, Gentle Giant offered a style that was vastly different from their contemporaries. The compositions here may come across as a bit more embryonic than Gentle Giant's future masterworks, but this is still an immensely enjoyable listen, as well as a crucial one for understanding the history of early progressive rock.

Those only familiar with Gentle Giant's subsequent classics may actually be a bit surprised when going back to this 1970 debut; while their core mix of rock, jazz, medieval music, and avant-garde is fully in-tact, this album has a harder and rougher edge than the band's later observations. One listen to the fast-and-furious riffage in the opening track, "Giant", and it's clear that we're still dealing with Gentle Giant, however - the bluesy riffs, powerful vocals, and solid musicianship come together in a magical way that few acts manage to do, and this opener is easily the highlight of the album. Other tracks like the quirky "Funny Ways", the funk-infused "Alucard", and the epic "Nothing At All" also remain classics in Gentle Giant's catalogue. "Isn't It Quiet And Cold" sounds like it could've been straight from The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (not a bad thing, if you ask me!) and "Why Not" is also an exceptional heavy rock track with some cool medieval tendencies. "The Queen" (an obvious nod to Jimi Hendrix, I would assume) is an odd way to close out the album, but it's not horrible by any stretch. I find that this effort lacks some of the consistency that defined some of the Giant's later masterpieces, though it still remains engaging for its entire duration.

In spite of being only a debut album, Gentle Giant is also a masterful example of high-grade musicianship; the band would go down in the history books as one of the best playing ensembles in progressive rock for a reason, and it even shows at this early stage in their career. Almost the entire group is composed of multi-instrumentalists, many of whom also contribute vocals. Gentle Giant's ultra-complex vocal harmonies and avant-garde tendencies infrequently appear here, but they still offer up a level of sophistication that was almost unheard of back in 1970. The production is a bit rough around the edges, but it doesn't serve as a major hindrance; while it may not rival the sonic perfection heard on Free Hand or Octopus, the sound is still warm and charming.

Gentle Giant is one of the most innovative debuts in progressive rock history, and it also remains a captivating listen over forty years later. Although it is often overshadowed by the band's next six albums - which, admittedly, are more consistent observations - it is not something to be overlooked by any fan of eclectic progressive rock. I wouldn't recommend this as an entrance point into the world of Gentle Giant, but any more experienced listener should check out this seminal debut without hesitation!

J-Man | 4/5 |

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