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Gentle Giant - Gentle Giant CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant

Eclectic Prog

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5 stars One of the finest debut albums of all-time, and still my favorite from the giant. An essential album. As a recent devotee to their music I can find as much intricacy and musicality as with the other prog powerhouses that I've listened to for 20 years.
Report this review (#5980)
Posted Thursday, November 6, 2003 | Review Permalink
5 stars For me, the best GENTLE GIANT album. One of the great, original and creative bands, and their debut album is a very good example. Really, not too many bands in progressive music history could make so complex interplay between instruments and voices, keeping the beauty of each piece. Great musicians and superb compositions. Although many people doesn't consider this album as the best of GG, I think this is the mandatory start point to understand the band. A must have.
Report this review (#5984)
Posted Saturday, December 20, 2003 | Review Permalink
5 stars What can I say about this?. Perhaps this work doesn´t describe the music that GG brought later (except Alucard or Giant), but this is an EXCEPTIONAL document -absolutely unique in prog bands- on how can a "Nş1 Soul Band" -at least in the UK (Simon Dupree and the Big Sound) can transform in that huge and exceptional -and obviously non-commercial- musical exploration called Gentle Giant. The keyboard genius and multi-instrumentalist Kerry Minnear, with his subtle voice, brought to the Shulman brothers some exceptional pre-releases (Freedoms Child or Hometown Special), that introduce this milestone of prog music. These guys are the TRUE MASTERS of this genre as they split the progressive genre in a lot of different "Funny Ways", and this work shows their music skills on unforgettable songs like "Nothing at All". This could be their most accesible work of their early era, but for most of the people is the best of them all, as it shows a band with a sound ahead of their time. No contemporary band -even VDGG, Pink Floyd, Yes, or GENESIS-, could reach that level of maturity in the year 1970.
Report this review (#5985)
Posted Sunday, February 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars GG's eponymous debut album (also called Tall Tales) mixed bag of feelings as far as I am concerned, with some real strong points but also a few glaring weaknesses (I will not talk of flaws in a such a complex type of music), but the fact is that this album remains a classic debut - no matter what the purist will say. The three Shulman brothers (of Glaswegian origin) were the backbone of a 60's pop outfit before being completely disgusted from the music busness , stopping a successful venture by breaking up and they took the drummer with them before finding Minnear and Green on keys and guitar respectively. The great thing about this album is maybe the most immediate and sincere album, maybe also the one recorded with the most urgency. On the downside, when GG complicates things a bit, it appears like they do for no particular reason except maybe to complicate for the sake of it (more on this/my opinion in the third paragraph) but later when they will do this, it will be better concealed.

I will not spend much time writing description of the tracks (you got some 40 odd reviews coming for this) at the time of re-writing my GG reviews, but what you have to know is that this debut holds almost every element that will make their following albums classic prog albums. Here in this album their ideas sound FRESH, inventive and groundbreaking, some adjectives that I would not use to present you their sixth or seventh album (Power and Freehand) where they almost sound stale and less inspired.

Right from the fairly aggressive-sounding guitars of Giant to the Rigby-esque Quiet And Cold to the definitive Alucard , the first vinyl side sweats out their exuberance, their enthusiasm as if they wanted to avenge themselves from the years of forced hit-playing with Simon Dupree And The Big Sound by taking out their frustration on the studio magnetic tapes by torturing them to exhaustion. Then comes the pičce de resistance in the form of the 9 min Everything Is All (pardon the fun pun) with its absolutely orgasmic intro and developing into a wild track embodying one of the rare drum solo I find not boring - maybe because it is interrupted for a while by a jazzy Liszt-sounding KB. However the rest of the albums pales in comparison with this superb start, a bit like a rookie sprinting right from the start of the 1500 meter race , they seem to run out of steam. The needless Hendrix winks at electrifying their national anthem, being totally useless.

So this album is definitely where all the seeds have been planted, and the harvest to be sown later on!

Report this review (#5986)
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The most hard rock of the GENTLE GIANT albums. Progressive hard rock, but definitely hard rock. The guitar sound is near the best ones of hard rock bands of that period: the guitarist is often in the higher notes, showing us that he can make good solos. Drums and bass are quite good and elaborated. The more basic keyboards are less elaborated, maybe more floating, if we can really call it floating. It is obvious here that they did not find their sound and style, but "Isn'it Quiet and Cold?" Really shows us that they took this direction after: this song is less hard rock and has an impressive balanced instruments ensemble: piano, violin, string instruments.
Report this review (#5982)
Posted Friday, April 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Great album by a band that should have been real music giants. Alucard is just a fantastic track and isn't it quiet and cold? really can take you off elsewhere in time & place. It is the most rock orientated of their stuff that I've heard as they became more vocal based and folky, but never dissapionting. Get yourself a copy
Report this review (#5983)
Posted Wednesday, April 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Excellent debut album of one of 70s prog pioneers. Gentle Giant's music is explorative in nature and it has a blend of jazz, rock, blues and avant-garde components with the use of multi instruments. One identity that spells-out GG and differentiates them from other band is the type and quality of Shulman brothers (Derek, Ray, Phil) voices especially when they sing together. Their uniqueness is like when you listen to how Queen members sing together, you would easily identify that "It must be Queen!". The same is true for Ian Anderson's of Jethro Tull. Unique. No one has successfully emulated the way the Shulman brothers sing. As GG music, I have not been able to identify any group that compose their music similar with GG's. It's probably ET CETERA, but it's not as unique as GG.

"Giant" is a classic prog track that represents GG's legend, I would say. It's so dynamic and it rocks! I like how the guitar is played to accentuate the vocal at the end every line of lyrics. The music is "discrete"; this is what makes GG music different from others. There are parts of music that beat like a jazz big band music but in the vein of rock. This track is really prog to the corner. It's classic.

"Funny Ways" is a mellow track with an exploration of acoustic guitar, violin and cellos, great vocals. " Alucard" is an upbeat track with relatively complex composition exploring brass instruments, keyboard and violin/cellos. When vocal parts enter the music, it's a unique and enjoyable melody sung by the Shulman brothers. This track is dynamic with high and low points. They fill the low point with soft keyboard/ organ sound followed by brass instruments. It reminds me a bit of VAN der GRAAF GENERATOR. But it's different.

"Isn't It Quiet And Cold?" is a mellow track, performed with an "unplugged" style, with strange and nice composition especially on violin and cellos. The use of vibraphone is nice. "Nothing At All" is the best track that represents my favorite for this track. Oh boy .. the melody is so nice, touchy and memorable! It flows naturally and unlike other tracks, this track has a continuous flow (instead of "discrete" as usually GG music is). The music is soft, the vocal is really great. When guitar part enters the music, it starts slowly and accompanied by a soft keyboard sound. When vocal starts with high tone, the guitar part starts filling the music. The drum solo and piano in the middle of the track have enriched this track. "Why Not?" is also a cool track with stunning guitar.

If you claim yourself as prog lover, you should not miss this album. Buy the CD! "Why Not?" - Gatot Widayanto, Indonesia.

Report this review (#5995)
Posted Tuesday, July 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Have you ever read the story inside the cover? It's describes how the Giant is meeting and teaming with Gentle Giant. A funny story that shows that GG is both brain and brawl. And the cover is a giant holding Gentle Giant! Humor and good fun is present in their first record. For the brain side, the structure of the songs is less complex than Acquiring the Taste or Octopus. It gives a rougher and lighter side...more rock n' roll and a bit less prog. Giant is an all-time favorite in concert. It's maybe the song that captures the most what is to come for the band. The album focuses maybe more on a ballad-folk combination in Funny Ways, Isn't Quiet and Cold and Nothing at All. It could use more rythm or keyboard, but it's just a personnal taste. To me, it's a weaker album because of the lack of what made the reputation of GG...switching instrument and funny time breaks (keyboard weirdness, xylophone, oboe, vibraphone) that blow your brains with admiration.

Now, GG knows how to rock. And this album shows it on many occasions. Giant and Why Not? has their moment of rock n' roll. So when it gets down to buisness, GG knows what they are doing.

By the way, on a concert, Dekrek (?) said: " The band would like to thank everybody who came here to see us, and I would personnaly thank somebody....Preparation H. Because without him, I could'nt be here tonight...."

Aahh England....So irreverent.

Report this review (#5996)
Posted Saturday, August 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Behind the wonderful cover art, there is 37 minutes of dynamic, ecletic and varied music, promoted even further with the band's excellent instrumentation, showing both their song writing talents as well as their talents on the instruments. The music is very adventurous and diverse, containing all from blues, folk and hard rock, and gives strong hints of what to come later in their discography, though you also can hear that they were still searching for the right "sound" and form. It's a very impressive debut, despite a few weaker moments ("The Queen") and it can be compared to Jethro Tull and Genesis' more obscure works.

A very good album in overall. Get it if you are a fan or if you want some other interesting prog-rock to listen too, though their 1972-1976 works are even better, this one is still worth a try. 3.5/5

Report this review (#5999)
Posted Monday, November 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album has all the GG ingredients but their style was not fully crystallized at that point. Their counterpoint technique is not so complex and less used as in later albums. The symphonic texture is also less emphasized. However there are still hints of their future style: strange melodies, dissonances, vocal harmonies, use of acoustic instruments, heavier parts juxtaposed to pastoral folk ballad passages... Overall this album is one of the most progressive works of it's time but a lot of tracks are in the style of straighter hard prog and blues-rock and less original than their later works. Nevertheless a great debut album!
Report this review (#6002)
Posted Monday, April 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm not a big fan of Gentle Giant, and this album is partly to blame for that, the music is not bad, but it is lacking something for my taste, good passages are abundant, but so are the weaker passages. The music reminds me of a cross between VDGG and King Crimson, with some Jazzy sections thrown in here and there., with complex structures, lots of tempo changes, and pretty decent drumming.

The good parts about the album are mostly the interplay between guitar and drums, that complement each other well, and the slower/softer sections where they show they can not only really rock, but can also create a soft melancholic mood. Also there are no real big solo's, but rather a unique symphonic-sound, with all instruments adding to the total sound experience. Also the vocal harmonies are great on occasion, so enough good points to warrant a three star rating, and understand why some people rate it even higher.

1. Giant (6:22) Great opening track, and the reason I didn't stop my exploration of GG's music after this album. great drums, firm rock, with some jazzy moments, great bass line and lots of changes in tempo and sound, best song of the album. 2. Funny Ways (4:21) Great soft ballad, with very soft delicate classical sounding music to accompagnie the fabulous vocals.

3. Alucard (6:00) Like the song title is dracula spelled backwards, so seems the music to be played backwards at times, with frantic changes, it all sounds very complex. For me it never really gets off the ground. Some good moments though, especially near the end. 4. Isn't It Quiet And Cold? (3:51) A soft ballad, a bit faster and more cheerfull than "Funny Ways", with nice violin and keyboards, and again good vocal harmonies, gets a little boring near the end.

. 5. Nothing At All (9:08) Again great soft melancholic vocal harmonies, softly build up of the music, get's more heavy near the middle, and that's where it looses me, though I generally like the drumming of Martin Smith, he playes a completely useless, and not a very good drumsolo in the middle of the song, but the piano adds some nice melodies in the background, bonus points for Kerry Minnear, but it doesn't lift this song above mediocre. The end of the song however is again good though, a little reminiscent of the softer Genesis songs.

6. Why Not (5:31) This song reminds me very much of VDGG, dark heavy rock&roll, a bit frantic at times, with some softer passages, to good to be considered filler, but nothing special. 7. The Queen (1:40) God Save The Queen, like Queen did 5 years later, but not as good.

Overall I think it's a reasonable good debut, just short of 4 stars, because it doesn't hold my attention for the full 37 minutes. Listen before buying.

Report this review (#38435)
Posted Monday, July 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I started my acquiantancy with Gentle Giant by listening to this album. It was a wise move, because the band developed very well from this, and the starting point was very, very encouraging. In fact the opening track ("Giant") is the only one that I don't really like that much. "Funny Ways" turned out to become a sitter for their stage set, and after having seen "Giant in the Box" dvd, I appreciate this little tune even more, because the group's musicianship was on a very high level already on this debut album.

"Alucard" is the other of my absolute favourites from this record, the other being "Nothing At All". The former is genuine power-prog piece with vocal intervention that makes me shiver, and the latter's main melody is simply fantastic. The drum solo is a finished version of King Crimson's counterpart in the "Moonchild". The Franz Liszt quotation shows that the band really wanted to introduce something original here. "Isn't It Quiet And Cold" is a beautiful, folky song, where as "Why Not?" is another powerful piece with some nice blues guitar playing by Gary Green. "The Queen" is a good way to finish the album, as the band used to end their gigs abroad by playing the national anthem of the land in question.

"Gentle Giant" is a very promising album, and a suitable way to get to know the band. However, you should start listening to Gentle Giant only when you are looking for that extra artistic spice and that bands like Genesis or Pink Floyd lack.

Report this review (#43319)
Posted Thursday, August 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first work released in 1970 "Gentle Giant". Fine work where various ideas are included. It is a group with extraordinary individuality in a progressive rock band. It is a masterpiece of the British rock. It is an original rock that differs from the rock that is the main current.
Report this review (#44559)
Posted Sunday, August 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
Marc Baum
4 stars The debut of Gentle Giant is a remarkable album, original and by far the most accesible classic record the band did. The blues and hard rock influences in combination with avant- garde and symphonic prog is a unique observation by a band, which would set new levels in prog the followed years with masterpieces like "Three Friends", "Octopus", "In A Glass House", "The Power And The Glory" and "Free Hand". Their debut holds nowadays more important historical values for the prog scene and is not as highly acclaimed as their forthcoming records but IMO it has far more to offer than some people may think. Let's rate the tracks on "Gentle Giant":

"Giant" is an awesome opening track, the perfect way to start to discover the exciting world of GG. The part in the middle of this song with it's bombastic monumental choir arrangements allways gives me chills. Derek's voice sounds a bit dated in the recording, but it fits perfectly to the mood of this early symphonic prog classic track. If you never heard it, give yourself a favour and download it free on the archives! Track rating: 9.5/10

"Funny Ways" turns down the high volume and is a kind of a nice slow song with chilling voice-lines and nice instrumentation. I absolutely love the mood in this one, you can lose yourself in a dreamland, when you listen to this intensively. Nice song. Track rating: 9/10

"Allucard" is more hard rock influenced in the beginning, with good electric guitar and fantastic trumpet by Phil Shulman. Complex in the middle between the verses and highly enjoyable in the instrumental passages. The vocals are a bit disturbing, but that isn't much represantative for the quality of this track. Overall not the best track on the record but still very good though. Track rating: 8/10

"Isn't It Quiet And Cold" reminds on The Beatles with the nice vocal arrangements by the band and the cello and violins play a big part for the flueness of this song. Not spectacular, but there is much to like about this nice one, specially for Beatles fans. Track rating: 7.5/10

"Nothing At All" is the masterpiece of the album. I don't understand why this song seems so overlooked and forgotten in the catalogue of great songs by this band. The epic track starts with a beautiful quiet part and hunts forward in a fabulous blues part with excellent guitar work by Gary Green. The drum solo, which sets in in the middle part flues brilliantly in a nice piano part, where the piano seems to make a battle with the drums, simply stunning and something that you very rarely hear on a studio record, more something usual for a live album. The ending part repeats the quiet beginning of this track and ends it perfectly. Great lenghty song by Gentle Giant! Track rating: 10/10

"Why Not?" continues there, where the blues section of the previous track left off and rocks pretty well, the lead guitar is awesome and shows the roots of the band in a nice way, not very proggy but highly enjoyable! Why Not? Track rating: 8.5/10

"The Queen" is a bit difficult to rate, it's the brittish hymn in a cool packaged rock version and the outroduction of the record. It ends it pretty well and wants you to repeat listen to this highly enjoyable trip with Gentle Giant. Hm, a rating? Well: Track rating: 8/10

What is left to say now? I highly recommend this record to all prog fans, this is essential early prog and one of these records, which are extremely important for the genre. Definitely the most defining and important prog rock debut together with "Emerson Lake & Palmer" and behind "In The Court Of The Crimson King". If you don't already have it, get it!

Record rating: 9.5 + 9 + 8 + 7.5 + 10 + 8.5 + 8 = 60.5 / 7 tracks = 8.642857143 points = 8.5 points

Gentle Giant - "Gentle Giant (Tall Tale)": 8.5/10 points = 86 % on MPV scale = 4/5 stars

point-system: 0 - 3 points = 1 star / 3.5 - 5.5 points = 2 stars / 6 - 7 points = 3 stars / 7.5 - 8.5 points = 4 stars / 9 - 10 points = 5 stars

Excellent addition to any prog music collection

Report this review (#46313)
Posted Sunday, September 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars As far as prog debuts go this album is pretty fantastic. From the opening song "Giant" you can already hear Gentle Giants classic sound. Most bands on the first release haven't quite perfected their sound, or haven't found a good chemistry yet. Gentle Giant however was ready to amaze right away. This was the first Gentle Giant album I had ever bought, and while not my favorite by any stretch of the imagination, it remains a very strong album that I will put on every couple of months.

For 1970 this piece is some very advanced symphonic music. It utilizes all sorts of "classical" instruments, violin cello etc..., sax, and synthesizers. So you get very diverse sounds. It doesn't need to be said but Gentle Giant is one of the most technically gifted rock bands of all time, and it does come off in this recording. The one thing you can count on Gentle Giant for is complexity.

The biggest difference between this gentle giant album and the others is it is very hard rock oriented. As a result of this it is very fun to listen to. It keeps you paying attention, even if you don't want to be (in fact, I like to listen to the albums I review while I review them, and I've found myself trail off to listen to the album more than once). Also Gentle Giant (especially on this album I find) almost always have great lyrics. "Funny Ways", "Isn't It Quiet and Cold?", "Nothing at All", and "Why Not?" are all very well penned, usually bands with the instrumental talent of Gentle Giant cant write a good lyric to save their life. That's another thing I like about the album.

Despite the fact the album is filled with above average songs, only one manages to be at all memorable. Although the Gentle Giant style I've come to love is definitely present and also well put together, it still hasn't been perfected and comes off a little shaky. There isn't a conceptual or musical direction at all and it feels very loose as a result. The drum solo on "Nothing at All" is a little drawn out, and I find myself bored by the end of it.

The opening track "Giant" is easily in my top 5 Gentle Giant songs, and might even be one of my all time favorite songs. Its shifts from quiet to loud are amongst the most impressive I've ever heard. "Funny Ways" is a very good and strange tune, almost a nod to the bands outlook on music as much is it is a song about the way a person lives. "The Queen" is a stupid filler that runs at 1 minute and 40 seconds. Its completely unacceptable (IMO anyways) to include filler like this that has no conceptual or transitory purpose.

Overall this is not one of the best Gentle Giant albums, but is worth your money. A good place to start, and if your already a fan of these guys and you don't own this album you are committing heresy. 3 stars, and amongst the best debut albums of all time.

Report this review (#46987)
Posted Saturday, September 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This was the first album that i'd listen of this band. At the first listening session, i conclude that this is one of the best prog band ever. With an uncommon opus and logical music, Gentle Giant was built-up by music masters, with a musical sense highly developed. They deserve a place in the hall of fame of prog music, but they had not the highlight due.
Report this review (#51514)
Posted Wednesday, October 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gentle Giant's debut is probably the most accesible of their "classic" albums, and one of their best too. The first three tracks are the strongest. The opener, "Giant", finds GG mostly in the hard rock mode, with a quirky guitar riff carrying the majority of the song (unfortunately, it's repeated too many times throughout he track and gets tiresome fast, but the band manages to make up for that problem with the softer interludes). Following it is "Funny Ways" , for the most part a gentle ballad relying on violin, cello and acoustic guitar, with great melodies throughout , and although the waltzy piano-driven interlude is rather pointless, it's followed by a screaming electric guitar solo by Gary Green which once again makes up for the mishap.Then comes "Alucard" , GG's best composition ever, thanks to the superb main riff , a dark, dense combination of guitar, organ and brass instrumentation, although the unique vocal harmonies and powerful pentatonic riffing shouldn't be discarded. It's a timeless classic and a must-hear for those who enjoy unusual, complex music. From there, however, things get less enticing. "Isn't It Quiet And Cold?" is another ballad with acoustic guitar and violin playing the main role, but, although interesting, it's somewhat goofy and not as memorable as "Funny Ways". It's followed by "Nothing at All", which I believe is GG's longest number in their entire catalogue. If the main melody appears familiar to you, don't be surprised as it's created by using a major 6th in the context of a natural minor scale - this simple melodic device has been used countless times in all kinds of music by everyone from Vivaldi to Metallica. Trimming the song to 4-5 minutes wouldn't have hurt either - the track isn't an epic by nature in any way, but a simple song with pop-orientated structure extended to 9 minutes, with a drum solo thrown in somewhere in the middle. Next comes "Why Not" , a boring , hard blues-rock number - though parts like the short, classical organ interludes remind you that this is still progressive rock, it's little more than filler. The album ends with "The Queen", apparently an electrified version of the British national anthem. To be honest, I've never properly heard the original (at least I'm not aware of that), so I can't judge this track.

Overall, this is still a worthwhile listen. I find certain musical elements here that I don't hear much on their other records, where they often seem to focus on originality and complexity for the sake of it ( I love inventive music , but this tendency is primarily responsible for why I'm not a big GG fan). Either way, it contains a couple prog classics (namely "Alucard") and shouldn't be overlooked in terms of it's importance and influence on the future of prog rock.

Report this review (#59403)
Posted Wednesday, December 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars People underestimate the Gentle Giant debut, but in my oppinion it's one of their best albums ever! It can't be the most complex (and it isn't) but it has amazing songs to enjoy. I'd like to point my favorites out: Funny Ways - it has a strange but very nice melody, which makes it special. Very good song! Allucard - very dark song, with a frightening vocal melody and a heavy guitar and synthesiser riff. Amazing! Nothing at All - it's the longer song of the group, and it's very very nice! It has something to do with Wishbone Ash in it's principal and softer melody. Is has a great aggressive part too, and a drum solo. Isn't it Quiet and Cold - pretty ballad, in Beatles style. A delight! Why Not - it's quiet different of the another Giant songs, and in it's end, the band plays a great three-note-rock n' roll! Very good for rock n' roll appreciators! The Queen - a special version of the England Hymn to close the album. A must have!
Report this review (#64103)
Posted Tuesday, January 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars With this great album Gentle Giant appears on the theatre of excellent music. The CD is one of Gentle Giant's best. Though it is a little bit easier than most of the other Gentle Giant albums until the late 70's, it is full of atmosphere and some of the songs are able to make you cry.

The album is full of ideas and little musical decorations. There is for example a shortly played melody that you can find right at the beginning and at the ending of the songs "Alucard", "Isn't It Quite And Cold?" and "The Queen".

The first song "Giant", is a very rocky song with majestic fanfares who make you think that a Giant is going up to you. A very nice, bombastic piece, if you ask me.

The second song "Funny Ways", is a sad ballad which is played with cello and violins. This song is one of Gentle Giant's best. It is a bit sad, that the great vibe-solo that Kerry Minnear, the keyboarder of Gentle Giant, played live at gigs, is missing.

The third song, "Alucard" (backwards-spelled "Dracula"), is rocky again and has an own special atmosphere and a text that could be an abridgement of a fantasy-book. I like the whole atmosphere of this song because it has something frightening but also somehow a blithefull component, something, that usually would be contradictory but because of the great musical work of Gentle Giant it fits perfectly.

The fourth song, "Isn't it Quiet And Cold?" is a catchy tune. It has nearly the same stolidness as "Funny Ways". I guess both songs resemble in their style because in both songs cello and violin are applied.

The fith song, "Nothing At All" is one of my favourite songs. It is so beauteous... This melody really comes to my heart. This song has something that seems to decelerate the time... However, it has a rocky drum-solo which breaks out of the melancholic stolidness of this song. Before it ends and fates out into the melody that is also played at the beginning, Kerry Minnear plays a quote from Liszt's "Liebestraum no.3".

In the sixth song "Why Not?", Gary Green gives his best on guitar. He is rocking nearly the whole song. The rocky sound is abruptly adjourned by a mediaeval flute part. Kerry Minnear sings with his plaintive voice: "Why not climb a hill, with someone that hates you, why not hate someone, who climbs a hill with you". Beautiful! "Why Not?" shows, that Gentle Giant had not completly found their own style in 1970, the year, when this album was released. Excepting the flute-part, "Why Not" could also be a song of a hard-rock band.

The seventh song, "The Queen" isn't meant seriously, I guess. It is the rocky version of the national anthem and is the final song of the album.

"Giant" is worth to get 5 Stars. All the atmosphere, all the energy and all the ideas, makes this album to an outstanding masterpiece of progressive music. It is NOT usual that a debut-album is so good.


Report this review (#78962)
Posted Sunday, May 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars When I first listened to this from start to finish, which is what I like to be able to do with most albums, I felt really disjointed.

Still I feel the same, but I'm more used to the feeling and have a lot of appreciation for this good quality music.

The first track that really caught my attention was "Funny Ways", I wasn't sure what it was that attracted me to this song. It could have been the vocals which seemed odd and different to me at the time, although I do know I loved the acoustic guitars. I begun to realise that this was just unlike anything I had ever heard before.

And just after that I slowly began my journey to appreciating Gentle Giant. I never really had this as a first priority and usually this was one of my soundtracks I could call "background" music, which I'd put on if I was occupied with something else. I had put it aside as an alright listen, not really my cup of tea, but one day the track "Why Not?" completely took ahold of me.. You know I love it when there's straight rockin' out times, and I found this so accessible and catchy (still one of my favourite GG tunes to listen to!), so I became a little more intrigued and previewed some more tracks.. Only to find I basically knew the entire album! All that background listening had paid off!

My least favourite track would have to be "Isn't It Quiet And Cold?", because it gets on my nerves a little. But even still I don't loathe the thing, and that's no reason for anybody else too either.

One other negative aspect for me was the production, I think it is incredibly weak. When I listen to "Why Not?" I just wish the volume could be cranked up more than max through these headphones except it's not just that, the drums also sound really murky and the keyboards feel too mediocre in the mix than they should be.

"Are you ready for his being?" Well there was a time I wasn't but a "birth of realisation" came a "rise of high expectation" and made this a great introduction to GG and an "Excellent addition" to my prog music collection!

Report this review (#82215)
Posted Thursday, June 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3 1/2 stars

Maybe it's just me, but I always felt that the song "Giant" holds much resemblance to anything Blood, Sweat & Tears could have done if they were more progressive: Those great jazzy fanfares at the chorus and the vocals that sound a lot like Clayton-Thomas announcing the "Giant's arrival". But then they turn into King Crimson on the bridge with some tasty minimalistic mellotron notes until they reach the major fanfare with renaissance choral; If King Crimson certainly were the band that influenced the implementation of the polyphonic high-mediaeval or renaissance elements in rock music, these guys brought it to full life, although it would not be until around the "Octopus" album that they will exploit them along with the use of fugues and canons in the majority of the arrangements.

In this album "Giant" and "Why Not?" were the main glimpses of what they will become later on. Here, mostly, the album is a swell collection of ballads and rockers. "Funny Ways" and "Isn't it Quiet and Cold" have great usage of cellos, with the latter being reminiscent of the 30's ballads. "Alucard" sounds like a mix of early and late King Crimson, and also has the spookiest vocal harmonies of the album. The one song that I did not like much was "Nothing At All": it starts like another good ballad and then turns into a rocker monster (and they know how to rock without abusing it), but after the strong part of the song they insert a drum solo with electronic effects and a background piano put there for no reason; it's the weakest part of the album, since the tape tricks really spoil the average drum solo and the piano really brings nothing musically when put together with the rythm: it's just musical gibberish. "Why Not" would have been a great track if it hadn't been a reworking of the "Nothing At All" rocking riff, although the classical organ feeds really brings it up a notch, along with a breathtaking bridge featuring the pan flutes. Finally the album's coda is a re-arrangement of the brittish anthem "The Queen" (God Save The Queen), with a rock 'n roll ending; a very original closer, but musically it's just an average rock n' roll/blues song. This album may not be their quintessential, but certainly shows how versatile they can be, and even in this album Gentle Giant makes Yes sound like Led Zeppelin, even though Yes is very academic already; you couldn't imagine how complex their music would be on later albums.

Report this review (#94025)
Posted Tuesday, October 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am quite familiar with this album, but something happened to me last night while hearing it. I never fully realized just how good of a debut album this really is. It's safe to say that this is even one of Gentle Giant's best. Every single song fits a distinct level of enjoyment, which is what makes albums great to begin with. My personal favorite is Funny Ways. Starting last night, this album is easily in my top 3 favorite debut albums of all time.
Report this review (#97519)
Posted Tuesday, November 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars An excellent album from Gentle Giant. Maybe not their best, but certainly one of the best debuts in business.

I can't make up my mind which track is my favourite, the fact that speaks for itself. There are not so many bad moments here, really. "The Queen" is unnecessary (but not bad) and perhaps the opening "Giant" is a little bit outstretched.

There's a beautiful range of instruments on this album, and almost everything is on the right place: fiery synth solos, multivocal harmonies played backwards, gentle piano parts layered over the drum solo.

You can hear the hard rock elements on this album (an on the "Acquiring The Taste" follower as well), something that will be less present on Gentle Giant's album in the forthcoming years. However, I like that blend that they utilised here.

Perhaps the highlights of the album (I already said that I can't make up my mind, really) are, nice acoustic, almost-folksy ballad parts here. But don't be misguided by the word "Ballad", nothing is simple or static here. The track are well developed, with excellent dynamics and atmospheres. Personally, i think their later works are little bit TOO developed and complex (but not less enjoyable though). There's a good amount of everything here, and this highly recommended for everyone. However, their best titles will appear in years to came. Well-deserved four stars.

Report this review (#97521)
Posted Tuesday, November 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I am vaguely reminded of early Jethro Tull with this album, but perhaps it is just the muddy, early 70's production values. In any case, the beginnings of GG's unique style can be picked out of these songs. For the most part, this is probably the most accessable GG album, though that doesn't mean it is easy to absorb. This is probably most notable for being almost devoid of the complex counterpoint playing and vocalising that would dominate the next 7 albums. But that is not a bad thing.

Giant is a good opener, kicking off the album is a rocking style and featuring some nice dynamics. Funny Ways is a much simpler style ballad that would be expanded for live use and would remain in the live set for most of their career (don't let my "simpler" comment fool you though, it is still not a "simple" song). Alucard I quite enjoy for it's sinister backwards vocal treatments and interesting arrangements. Isn't it Quiet and Cold is a lovely little folky diddy with affected vocals from brother Phil. Nothing At All is the showpiece number, with a bit of an overlong drum solo that featrues some Liszt quotes toward the end, bookended by a minor key acoustic type number that is reminiscent of Funny Ways. Why Not? is a rocking song and probably the closest they ever got to blues rock were it not for Kerry Minnear's mideval interlude in the middle (with quite amusing lyrics as well). The Queen is something of a throwaway, but mildly entertaining and certainly out of character for the band (at least in relation to future albums).

All in all, a decent debut that meerly hints at that unique and impressive song writing that was to come. A solid 3 stars. If you like them you will get it eventually, but don't start here.

Report this review (#97526)
Posted Tuesday, November 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is "unfinished" Giant. If you love early, roughly produced albums in general (let's say, "Trespass" by Genesis) this might be for you. And of course you have to own this piece if you are a Gentle Giant fan. It's not a bad album, but remember, this is a debut so don't expect too much. The best song might be the ballad "Funny ways", the only song from this first release that GG played live on (nearly?) all tours until the end. "Nothing at all" is similar but the drum & piano solo in the middle is more chaos than art and does not really fit the rest. "Why Not?" is a rock song with some elements of later GG music. "Isn't it quiet and cold?" sounds to me like a children's song. I know some people listen to artrock for songs like this but to me it's one of the worst songs Giant made. If you don't know Gentle Giant by now you would better start with another CD from the "middle" of their discogrpahy, for example "The Power and the Glory", "In a Glass house", "Free hand" or, of course, the great live album "Playing the fool".
Report this review (#100581)
Posted Monday, November 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Giant beginnings.

This debut already has most of the items lined up for GG. While not up to par with albums like Octopus and In a Glass House, it's not that bad of a debut by the band and I'm sure was a sign for things to come. With the exception of Weathers on drums, all of the "classic" members are here.

Alucard is a nice tune with strong key presence. It also probably has the most memorable melody line of all the tracks. I don't find this album to be near as "rocking" as some of my other collabs look at it. Sure the guitar tone has that feel to it, and the ending of Why Not? comes to mind, but their are just as many soft and pleasantries to the album as on other works.

The Queen is a lame track, which I'm sure some considered fairly neat at the time (modernizing of political songs trend), but it really adds nothing to the work, other than some more time to the record. You can find bits and pieces of interesting material here and there, but relatively speaking this is one of the bands weaker efforts, although you must remember it's the debut album.

With few exceptions, their aren't many soaring melodies and intriguing vocal works as found on other GG albums. GG approaches soft sections differently, but it's calming and pleasant enough. We would have much to look forward to though, Gentle Giant being one of the more promising progressive rock bands of the era that really never stood out in the spotlight, but never because of musical quality and more for the opinions of the band themselves.

Report this review (#102528)
Posted Monday, December 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars This is where it all started for the band and what impressed me most about this record is how progressive it is.This was the first GENTLE GIANT album I purchased.

The first song "Giant" starts off with organ that builds then the vocals come in. I really like the way he almost shouts the lyrics, which are followed by the same melody played by guitar. It's almost like the guitar responds in kind to the vocals.This song also features some mellotron."Funny Ways" is a top three and it has reserved vocals with lots of violin as well as trumpet, piano and some scorching guitar. "Alucard" is dracula spelled backwards and is indeed a song about vampires.The guitar is good and the organ is great. "Isn't It Quiet And Cold" is a silly song with cello and xylophone.

"Nothing At All" is my favourite tune on this record. Opening with twelve string guitar it sounds like THE BEATLE's "Dear Prudence" from the "White Album". The song does get more aggressive including the vocals. The guitar is really good. "Why Not ?" is my second favourite. The vocals are great ! The organ and drumming are really well done too. We are then treated to some flute and some bluesy guitar.The song ends with what seems like a big jam. "The Queen" is really an instrumental of "God Save The Queen", UK's national anthem.

Some amazing guitar throughout this album and for me this is a low 4 star album that I quite enjoy.

Report this review (#110907)
Posted Tuesday, February 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gentle Giant, with each new release of theirs that I discover, continue to strike me as one of the greatest bands ever to come out of Britain, and their fabulous debut is no exception. While I would not call it their best effort, it is certainly quite good. From the opening notes of Giant to the closing strains of The Queen, Gentle Giant deliver a stellar album. Their penchant for strangeness and inventiveness can already be seen, as, with Gentle Giant (the album), they are, right from the start, challenging the very nature of traditional rock music. The songs are a blend of hard rock and art rock, and with that Gentle Giant touch that makes everything much better. Gentle Giant (the album) pounds away for its duration, not once letting up the great energy it contains.

This album is widely overlooked in the Gentle Giant discography, and there a couple of reasons for this. While it is stellar, it is not their "most" anything or anything-"est." It's not as fun and quirky as Octopus, it's not as bizarre as Acquiring the Taste, and it's not as boundary-pushing as In a Glass House. Nevertheless, as far as quality goes, it is on the same level as all of those. None of the songs are bad, and with the exception of Nothing At All (it's full of great ideas, but drags on just a bit) and The Queen (simply because it only really works in context, which it does splendidly), they all rank among Gentle Giant's best. Giant is a killer opener, pretty immediately accessible and easily among my top Gentle Giant songs. Funny Ways is nearly equally as great, with soft vocals, amazing violin work, and a blistering guitar solo as well. Alucard, like Giant, is another killer track, with a great opening riff, and it only gets better from there. Also like Giant, it is based generally in hard rock and has a ton of energy, but is still strange and different enough to please even the most diehard Gentle Giant fan. Isn't It Quiet and Cold takes the album in a slightly different vein, one similar to the softer Funny Ways, but with more strange Gentle Giant twists thrown in and even better violin work (and better vocals, too). This song is up with Alucard and Giant. Nothing At All opens and closes really well, but falters in the middle with the drum solo, where it tends to drag on too long. Like I said earlier, it's full of great ideas, but just doesn't pull them off perfectly (though it's still far from a bad song). Why Not? is another hard rocking track in the vein of Alucard and Giant, and just as good (especially, but not solely, in the vocals department). The album then closes with The Queen, a short closing-type track that only stands in the context of the album.

On the i-tunes review of Acquiring the Taste, it said that one of the main improvements of Acquiring the Taste(their sophomore effort) over their debut was the improvement in vocals. I'm not sure where the reviewer was coming from, because the vocals here are some of my favorite from Gentle Giant. The music, whether hard rocking or softer, is also among Gentle Giant's best. Often times, debut albums allow the listener to look forward and see the heights the band would reach in the future. With Gentle Giant, however, the debut stands up with all their best work. Definitely essential for Gentle Giant fans, and it truly belongs in every progressive music collection. Highly recommended for everyone who likes music.

Report this review (#115887)
Posted Wednesday, March 21, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gentle Giant's eponymous first album is perhaps one of the greatest debuts of any prog band. While it's not as progressive as some of their later works, it is certainly one of their most eclectic albums. Each song is done in a completley different style ranging from heavy jazz piece to slow 60s ballad. It's not an essential album, but If you like Gentle Giant, there's no reason to not own it.

The opening track, Giant, is arguably the proggiest song on the album with some good singing by Derek, and a nice instrumental part in the middle. Funny Ways is much lighter song, with a fantastic opening featuring Ray on the violin, and pleasent singing by Phil. I find the next tract, Alucard, to be a bit boring and repetitive, although the vocal effects are interesting. Nothing at all is my personal favorite track on the album. It starts off with soft, melodic singing in the style of a sixties ballad. With a bluesey guitar part and load, intense vocals from Derek, the song's mood changes sharply. The only thing I don't like about the song is the drum solo, but other than that, it's a classic.

Highlights: Giant, Nothing at all, Funny Ways

Lowlights: Alucard, The Queen

The Verdict: 3 stars

Report this review (#132078)
Posted Monday, August 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I cannot believe that I was so daft as to let the experience of Gentle Giant's music escape me for 37 years! However, since discovering them via "Acquiring the Taste" the turntable / CD player is seldom idle and I've become a GG bore like with no other band before. Every GG album I've purchased along the way suffers, initially, by comparison with my first love - "Acquiring the Taste" - and this album was no exception. Repeated listenings have shown me the error of my initial assessment. "Funny Ways", for example is a pleasant-enough, plaintive ballad until another dimension is added with the instrumental verse, with Gary's searing guitar, the brass and understated (sic!) Mellotron. "Isn't it Quiet & Cold " has a Palm Court Orchestra style about it, sashaying by divertingly with Ray's violin a highlight. "Why Not" rocks out as well, Derek's impassioned vocal distinguishing it from other bands of the era. But for me the highlight is the titular piece. The instrumental section, where the "choir" and brass take over and develop the melody introduced by the organ at the beginning of the song is simply awe-inspiring. Why can't other prog be this good?! As good as subsequent GG albums were, this is where the ground was laid for the bizarre masterpiece that was "AtT". Martin Smith's drumming is nimble and inventive and the band fires on all cylinders throughout, with the possible exception of "Alucard" which is silly and pointless and robs the album of a 5th star. My stock answer to the question "What do GG sound like?" is to say that they sound all at once like Jethro Tull, VdGG, Procol Harum and The Moody Blues with all the naff bits removed and yet, at the same time, nothing like any of those bands. The explanatory power of that statement being exactly zero, requiring them to listen for themselves. And that is the greatest gift!
Report this review (#153224)
Posted Friday, November 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Fine debut effort by one of the seminal bands of early progressive rock, this record falls short of masterpiece due to the roughness of the production and because of the fact that the band has not yet found a clear musical direction. Hard rock is clearly evident on this recording. Blues and folky elements are additionally heard. The musical virtuosity is apparent. Vocals are excellent. Much of what would make this band great on future recordings can be heard, however, it lacks the production and cohesiveness of much of that later output. Neither Gentle Giant's best recording nor a defining moment in music, this recording nevertheless is an fine contribution to the progressive rock catalog. It rates 3.25/ 5 stars.
Report this review (#153925)
Posted Monday, December 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Gentle Giant" is the self-titled debut full-length studio album by UK progressive rock act Gentle Giant. The album was released through Vertigo/Malibu Records in November 1970. Gentle Giant was started by the three Shulman brothers, Derek, Phil and Ray, keyboard player/vocalist Kerry Minnear, guitarist Gary Green and drummer Martin Smith. The Shulman brothers had been mildly successful with their soul/pop act Simon Dupree and the Big Sound (they scored a Top 10 UK hit in "Kites" in the autumn of 1967), but were increasingly dissatisfied with the musical direction their label was pushing them in and created Gentle Giant as an adventurous new unit. A unit with no boundaries to imprison their creative minds.

Listening to the album it becomes obvious right from the start that Gentle Giant are not only boundary pushers but boundary breakers. It´s amazing how many different musical styles and influences they are able to incorporate to their music. Several of the band members are multi-instrumentalists and we are therefore treated to the sound of electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, bass, drums, percussion, cello, violin, saxophone, trumpet, various vintage keyboards and in addition to "regular" lead vocals there are also several multi layered harmony vocal sections on the album. It´s all packed in a pleasant sounding and powerful organic sound production courtesy of Tony Visconti.

The music on the album is an eclectic blend of bluesy hard rocking riffing, semi-jazzy rythms, medieval and classical chamber music influences all packed into an light avant garde rock formula. Lead vocalist Derek Shulman has a powerful and hoarse voice which suits the music well. He is complimented by the higher pitched voice of Kerry Minnear who also often takes the lead. In addition to having two lead vocalists in the band both Phil and Ray Shulman sing backing/harmony vocals, so it´s not only the instrumental part of the music that is intriguing and varied. The same can certainly be said about the vocal side of the music. While Gentle Giant would produce much more complex material on future recordings, we´re still talking a level of complexity that few rock acts could rival in 1970. Tracks like "Giant", "Alucard", "Why Not" and "Nothing At All" are varied, technically and structurally challenging and not to forget just great fun to listen to.

"Gentle Giant" is quite the fantastic debut album. It´s obvious that while we´re talking a debut album, we´re not talking green inexperienced musicians. These guys can play and sing on a higher technical level than most. Add to their skills that they are also very skilled composers and this album damn near got it all. It´s lacking slightly in the consistency department and overall the album feels more like individual tracks put together to form an album rather than tracks written specifically to form a specific mood or atmosphere that would fit the concept of an album. The short closing track "The Queen" also serves as a bit of a clumsy ending to the album, so while the album certainly is great, it´s not perfect. A 4 - 4.5 (85%) rating is still deserved though. I find this one irresistably charming.

Report this review (#157437)
Posted Wednesday, January 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Regarded as the most complex of all the well-known progressive rock legends of the 70's,GENTLE GIANT were formed in late 60's/early 70's by three multi-instrumentalists brothers:Derek,Ray and Phil Shulman.From their early begginings GENTLE GIANT knew exactly what they were doing.They wanted to create the most original sound ever to be heard by that time.''Gentle giant'',their debut,was released in 1970 by Vertigo label.It was an album characterized by its originality,complexity and diversity.The band delivered a unique mix of classic/hard rock,jazz improvisations,contemporary classical music and experimental passages...and all these influences were geniusly coverd by unusual polyphonic vocal arrangements,setting the seeds of what was going to come in the near future.Words are rather poor,if we want to talk about the significance of this album for rock history in general.An absolutely essential release for fans of intricate music!
Report this review (#158491)
Posted Sunday, January 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gentle Giant - st (1970)

In the year 1970 the progressive movement explodes with massive releases like Tresspass, Third, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Lizard & Poseidon, H to He and this nice debut of Gentle Giant. Gentle Giant sounds original and fresh from the beginning with only minor influences in the compositions of Zappa, but that debatable. With the debut being the first of a string of eight brilliant albums Gentle Giant became one of the most important groups of the progressive rock genre. Besides being very productive, the band also proves to be highly inventive.

The members of Gentle Giant all play three instruments or more and their range of possibilities is almost limitless. The compositions are very intelligent, with the strangest of rhythms and distinctive atmospheres. Besides that, the band seems to be having fun making this kind of prog and isn't too serious.

The debut is a direct hit for me. Though some of the milder, less progressive compositions on side two have proven to be debatable, it still stands out has a very progressive album, mainly due to the first three tracks of side one an the first track of side two.

'Giant' is a brilliant and bombastic opening track with great wind-sections an original couplet theme (one line of lyrics and a long instrumental theme with plots). The instrumental sections near the end are all very well composed. 'Funny Ways' is Gentle Giant's signature ballad with a dedicated, serious atmosphere, whilst having funny lyrics "My Ways are strange! They'll never change!". The band now plays string instruments like guitar, cello and violin. 'Alucard', 'Dracula' the other way around, is another brilliant track with a very dark/atmospheric, almost Roman Empire like couplet theme with reverbs that come before the vocals. This gives the track a creepy feel, whilst the organ/guitar themes sound a bit like a freak-show. 'Isn't It Quiet And Cold?' is a song in the style of Mister Sandman, classy and well played on various classical instruments. The vocal harmonies are very strong.

On side two 'Nothing at All' stands out as one the most beautiful songs Gentle Giant ever recorded. A dedicated ballad with strong acoustic guitar parts. The instrumental parts are strong, but the drumsolo could have been a bit shorter here. 'Why Not' is a track on which the band plays a form of intelligent hard rock (perhaps a bit like Deep Purple) with some nice folky interludes. I must admit I'm not too impressed by the lyrics here. 'The Queen' is an instrumental rock version of the British anthem (I suppose..?). Again some nice Deep Purple-like guitar solo's.

Conclusion. Perhaps not the best way to start your Gentle Giant collection, but an excellent addition for every progressive rock collection for sure. No band would ever sound like Gentle Giant on it's debut. The band itself would even re-invent itself for their second offering, 'Acquiring the Taste'. This is innovation, this is originality, this is quality and that is what Gentle Giant is about. Four stars.

Report this review (#161015)
Posted Wednesday, February 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The debut album of one of the most distinctive, original prog bands of the so-called 'classic' era contains in embryonic form all the elements that would be developed in their later output. In the space of seven tracks, Gentle Giant run the gamut of styles, from hard-edged rock to exotic, medieval-influenced vocal harmonies. Each of the compositions has its own individual personality, and each is intriguing enough to create a keen awareness of the band's potential for genuinely progressive music. Moreover, the instrumental and vocal abilities of the six band members are so impressive as to leave the listener wanting more, though without giving the impression of 'art for art's sake' so frequent in more recent bands.

Gentle Giant's unusual line-up allows them to make use of a wide range of instruments, some of them not commonly used in any rock genre. That gives their music a richly orchestral feel, particularly evident in the haunting, string-laden "Funny Ways", which features also some superb, intricate vocal harmonies - soon to become one of the unique characteristics of the band's sound. In other tracks, the band explore different musical avenues, such as guitar-driven hard rock in album opener Giant; or lounge-style, languid jazz in "Isn't It Quiet and Cold?" - another song in which strings play an essential part, paralleled by the lazy, sometimes almost poppy vocal lines. On the other hand, "Alucard" (Dracula spelled backwards, for those interested in trivia) is jagged and even dissonant, punctuated by trumpet bursts and eerie, avant-gardeish vocal harmonies; while Why Not?, another hard rock-flavoured number enhanced by a brilliant guitar solo, features a surprise break in the form of beautiful, medieval-style vocal harmonies.

While short instrumental "The Queen" (GG's take on the English national anthem), definitely the least successful item on show, closes the album in a sort of anticlimactic way, the 9-minute-plus "Nothing at All" is undoubtedly the pičce de résistance. Unlike most of their contemporaries, the band never went too much for lengthy compositions, preferring to pack a lot of musical value in shorter, denser tracks. "Nothing at All" is one of their rare concessions to the fashion for 'epics' - starting out with a lovely, melancholy, acoustic melody that develops into a harder-edged ballad, suddenly interrupted in the middle by a drum solo. Though I am aware that not everyone shares my opinion of this song, which in a way is not as coherent as the other tracks on the album, I still find it a very intriguing, unusual composition for the band's standards.

Admittedly, Gentle Giant can be much of an acquired taste. For every person who worships them and thinks they are the best thing that ever happened to music, there are five (or even ten) who are left cold by their unique, highly intellectual take on prog. Personally, I am somewhat in the middle - not truly a dedicated fan, but definitely someone who finds the band's technical proficiency and seemingly endless supply of influences deeply fascinating. While not a masterpiece, "Gentle Giant" is an excellent introduction to the band's musical world, and a very rewarding, warmly recommended listen in itself.

Report this review (#162556)
Posted Sunday, February 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Perhaps the most underestimated of any Gentle Giant album, their debut is more grounded, less ambitious but still beautifully unique. Kerry Minnear emerges as the songwriting force; of course he would remain there for the duration of Giants existence. The multi-instrumentalism of the Shulmans is all there, maybe not to the extent of future albums, but that touch makes this album more or less moody. I noticed that the guitar work is more noticeable and driving, especially in Why Not. Funny Ways is a gentle and eclectic piece that picks up, definitely a Giant classic. Giant and Alucard are also note-worthy tracks, Alucard being a predominately synthesized song and Giant an energetic song that builds into a frenzy before emerging into an organ-dominated and somewhat epic interlude and finishing how it began. The Crowning glory of this album although is the somehow forgotten Nothing At All. A piece that sounds very much unlike any other Giant song, that's because it's very, well . normal. It goes from soft and picturesque, to bluesy with an impressive guitar solo from Gary Green. After this it goes into a drum solo and is pulled out by some classical piano, until a seemingly improvised piano/drum duet kicks in. Finishing chaotically this section sinks back into its beautiful beginning. "Isn't it quiet and cold" is whimsical and the "Queen" a traditional song arranged by GG is a showcase of guitar prowess. I thoroughly enjoyed the album; its songs were certainly interesting, although not the best album Giant has ever produced it deserves recognition and is an album of quality. From here Gentle Giant developed their style further, but this is still no doubt signature GG work.
Report this review (#163748)
Posted Wednesday, March 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars A Brilliantly unique album from an eclectic band. Being a fan of King Crimson when i first listened to this album i found it very good, good enough to continue and buy Aquiring the Taste (Which is Also good). The conection between the lyrics and the music is something I found very appealing. Every note is well placed even the solos seem very connected. There are some let downs in the music. I disliked the drum solos, but they werent bad solos I just felt that the song would have been tighter without them. Overall some really great tunes, a couple prog masters and a great introduction to Gentle Giant. I shall give it (just barely) 4 Stars.
Report this review (#165169)
Posted Thursday, March 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars The Giant's debut release. I won't go into a song-by-song breakdown, since that's already been done by several reviewers. I will simply say that even though some consider this to be a progressive effort, I consider it a pretty straightforward rock record; lots of blues and commercial sounding(for the era) rock. Sure, it has its progressive moments, but not enough of them to make this anything but an album for collectors and fans ONLY.

This record sounds like most everything hippie from that era and doesn't provide a true gauge of what GG would eventually become: one of the top prog bands of all-time.


Report this review (#167671)
Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Bluesy beginnings

Gentle Giant were one of the biggest driving forces in the classic years of prog, and this is where it all started. While the album is not as complex or experimental as later efforts would be (they would even experiment more on their sophomore effort, Acquiring The Taste), this one still shows the brothers Shulman starting off with good footing. For the most part the album sounds a lot bluesier than most people would remember the Giant sounding, and heavier in general. There's a lot of emphasis on the guitars and rough vocals on this album, with little room for slow segments (which they still manage to squeeze in anyways), the instrumentations are impressive as usual, and thanks to the large number of musicians/instruments available on the record they were able to come up with some very unique moments.

The album starts off rather surprisingly. While the soft organ may seem familiar to some who have heard some of Giant's later work the heavy guitar riff and aggressive vocals will be very new (yes, even if this is the band's first effort). Giant is a heavy track with a fun horn section and surprisingly aggressive tones throughout. In the middle we also have a slow section which is limited to cymbals and drums as well as a subtle bass section before it explodes back into full motion for the conclusion of the song. A classic Giant track already! More heavy moments come in mixed sections throughout the album, Alucard is driven by an impressive sax section and creepy harmonized vocals, a lot of distortion characterizes the song and the slow section in the middle makes for a great ending when the song picks up the pace once more. The incredibly bluesy Why Not? opens with familiar keyboards humming a tune before the guitars burst through the wall (as if to say, ''OH YEAH!'') and hard rocking blues riffs fill the air for a good five minutes. The screaming chorus section is also wonderfully aggressive.

Of course, it's not all 'heavy as hell'. Most of the other songs on the album are quite chilled, and many sound like the styles that Giant would later come into. Tones of Acquiring The Taste shine through on Funny Ways, a quirky little number with harmonized and soft vocals, not quite to the experimental point of, say, Knots, but impressive none the less. A pleasing violin guides the song through to the piano parts in the middle of the song, which then lead onto the end. Isn't It Quiet And Cold feels similar in vein, a light and bouncy track with more soft and quirky vocals. Vocal melodies in this one are quite catchy along with the wonderful violin section, plinky guitars and other instruments int he background enforce a very light hearted tune.

Most people viewing the track times on the album will also notice something unfamiliar with Gentle Giant, a 9-minute feature tune. Nothing At All brings Genesis quick to mind with it's soft opening, but those comparisons dissolve quickly when Giant starts moving. It's a slow tune, in contrast with the rest of the album, and the echoy slow drums in the middle make for a memorable moment.

A good but not essential album. Gentle Giant certainly got out of the gates running, but their later albums would be much more impressive. An over-use of the slow sections crammed into the middle of songs does seem a little bit out of place and makes for a craving for a song which doesn't lose momentum soon creeps in. While speed changes in a song certainly are 'progressive' it does become annoying when they change something that was otherwise 'a good thing'. Still, some great tunes on the album will please fans, and anyone who wants to see a more raw/aggressive Giant will not be disappointed if they look here. 3 funny ways out of 5! better moments to come from Giant, but a good start.

Report this review (#182788)
Posted Thursday, September 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars The coolest art rock album ever recorded !

Dynamic guitars, electric keyboards that actually sound like themselves ( ie not trying to imitate a full orchestra ) grooving blues rock sections, vocal harmonizations, string ensembles. trumpets, woodwinds, tuned percussion which became Gentle Giant staples as their career progressed from this gestation period on this audacious self-titled debut ( sometimes refererred to as A Tall Tale ) all the way up to their 1978 Giant For A Day LP. Not only did Gentle Giant prove that intricate music could be presented in a humourous light they could also rock it out. A blueprint for what was to become more esoteric from album to album culminating with their 1973 In A Glass House LP, which reached new levels of sophistication within the rock medium to the point where their record company deemed it too intimidating to be released to North American markets. Featuring lots of psychedelic beatlesque trippiness, jazziness, classicalness, studio experiments and even a drum solo accompanied by a brief excerpt of Franz List's Liebstram No. 8 Gentle Giant remarkably avoided any allusions of grandiose that other art rock bands seemed to be obsessed with at the time. A fantastical story entitled A Tall Tale is presented on the original gatefold cover which becomes believable after hearing this indespensible masterpiece of modern music from one of the most unusual bands on the threshold of a career that would set them apart from just about every band of the entire art-rock movement of the early '70s.

Report this review (#184759)
Posted Sunday, October 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars The debut album by one of the most original, unique, complex and groundbreaking bands in the world. Hard to write about them, really. Their departure from a pop/r&b outfit to one of the most innovative prog bands of the world (of not THE most innovative) in such a little time is absolute amazing. Still, this is the sole GG album that you will find some hints of their past (Aquaring The Taste, their second, is another story completely). So this is maybe the reason why I always recommend this album to the newbie. Their music was already incredibly unique, but it was also more accessible than a lot that was done soon afterwards. But don't worry, they never really went over the top and always menage to write something that has great harmonies and good hooks, no matter how intricated they were. That rare quality was the main reason behind so much fame and fair prasing.

There are great tunes in this album: Funny Ways, Nothing At All and Why Not being my all time favorites since I first heard them. The group had a superb line up even this early in their career, with everybody doing a fantastic work together. The chemestry worked from day one, although it was clear that Phil Shulman sounds a bit like the odd man out (his Isn't It Quiet And Cold? is a good exemple). Anyway, as a debut GG is a triumph of art over commercialism. They managed to produced something totally different and would eventually won the hearts of many progheads over the years.

They would make more revolutionary and/or successful albums in the following years, but this debut was already awesome and would assure them a place in prog history even if they did not deliver anything after it. So hail to GG! If you're new to their music, this the CD to start. 4,5 stars.

Report this review (#184911)
Posted Monday, October 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first of many to come.

A wonderful debut album with wonderful compositions.

A different approach than say Free Hand or In A Glass House. There's rock, jazzrockfusion and folk ingredients in the songs.

A lot of horns, wich will disappear in the latter albums of the band.

A definate highlight on the lp is the track Nothing At All, wich starts a beautiful folkish ballad and transforms into a sturdy rocker until the middlepart wich is a drumsolo accompanied by a beautiful pianopiece, simply brilliant.

Alucard is Dracula spelled backwards wich displays already the hints of humor by the band. If you have the original lp there's a story of the band (a fantasy of course) wich absolutely witty.

Enough said, 4 well earned stars!

Report this review (#189222)
Posted Friday, November 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars Gentle Giant with a little more bite, aggression and heart is just what everybody needs. Drop some of the meticulous composition and entangled melodies and bring on some muscle; more blues and rock altogether, with stable and propulsive bass, guitar and drumming further enhancing that.

The more traditional (yes, traditional is slightly wrong when talking about Gentle Giant) arrangements should please those who not yet have had the pleasure of loving GG's music, but the greatest asset of this album is that almost every aspect of the wide sound of the band is presented here in one form of the other. The traditional, partially folky, yet alluringly jazz-tinged composition of Isn't It Quiet and Cold, rich on string arrangements and delicate plucking and percussion as well as a laid-back, playful and quite a comfy atmosphere stand alongside the rougher Why Not; traditional, well-crafted good ol' fun British rock. Naturally, we get some great vocal harmonies, but the vocal experimentation is still very much a thing of the future, and something the band will come to master in an impressive way.

Just as on Three Friends, the band manages to add a pleasing amount of symphonic qualities, often quite bombastic, melodramatic pieces that reminds me both of the Beatles and on Giant even Ennio Morricone! Keys are rather incorporated in the sound, but still surprisingly humble, filling up holes and fattening up the soundscape more than anything else.

Now, I really like this album, and most songs fill me with that special Gentle Giant joy, regardless of style or atmosphere of the song in question, but I think I have a special place in my heart for Giant and Alucard.

Giant because of that sneaky, mellow beginning that explodes into a veritable feast of cymbal crashes, uncompromising bass and mini-soloing from the guitar. And then there's the building anticipation and proclamation of the refrain, set to a gradually building bass and drums, after a while joined by the keys. Like a wild animal trying to break its chains, and that is more or less exactly how I want my Gentle Giant. This song also features the spaghetti western orchestral interlude, adding some sort of climactic sense of conclusion to it all.

Alucard has a weird kind of break-the-rules sleaze-jazz character with wild saxes, spaced up by a swooping synth sound before it reaches the point of eerie vocal harmonies and a masterly executed atmospheric build-up climaxing with 'Terror fills my soul'. In between these two parts there's still a lot of room for mellower, 'jammier' parts; mysterious and playful as usual, first with a building organ, later with emphasis on a restless, pending-doom bass. Excellent brooding atmosphere all over the place.

I love the early stage of Gentle Giant's career, much preferring it to the later, stripped and calculated mad-genius albums that would follow (and in some way begin) with Octopus. If you're like me; this is essential. If you prefer later era; it's not. But I would heartily recommend this album to anyone interested in the band, or perhaps just ready to give them another chance.

4 stars.


Report this review (#190630)
Posted Thursday, November 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars I sometimes listen to a band's whole discography (if it's not too big) before I start to review their albums. I do this in order to get an overview of the band prior to turning to the specifics of each individual album. I have now heard all of Gentle Giant's albums. I started with this debut album a few years back and worked my way through their catalogue in roughly chronological order all the way up to their last album Civilian. But this very first Gentle Giant record is still one of Gentle Giant albums I listen to the most.

The powerful jazzy hard rock of opener Giant and Alucard stands out as the greatest songs. Nothing At All could easily have been the best Gentle Giant song ever if they hadn't insisted on including an unnecessary drum solo in the middle of the song. Having drum solos on a studio album is never a good idea! Still, even this cannot destroy the beauty of this song.

The music on some of these songs is rather heavy and not too far away from what Deep Purple and Black Sabbath were doing at the time. Also, Jethro Tull sometimes comes to mind. The silly Funny Ways and Isn't It Quite And Cold, however, would not sit too well on a Deep Purple or a Black Sabbath album. The lyrics also firmly put them apart from the early heavy metal bands. And the silly lyrics are the weakest link in my opinion. Indeed, Gentle Giant is often a pretty silly band, which is evident from the very band name itself as well as the cover art to some of their albums and the titles of many of their songs.

The album closer is an electric guitar version of God Save The Queen. About five years later Queen, one of my all time favourite bands, would end their album A Night At The Opera with a similar guitar version of this British national anthem. Did Brian May listen to Gentle Giant maybe?

Bearing in mind that this was released already in 1970 it is rather groundbreaking; remember, this was before we had Thick As A Brick, Selling England By The Pound or Close To the Edge, and the same year as Deep Purple In Rock and Black Sabbath's debut. In that perspective this deserves a high rating despite its few flaws. I will be less gentle on some of the bands following albums.


Report this review (#195404)
Posted Sunday, December 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars The debut album of the great band Gentle Giant. This album sets of a chain reaction of outbursts within the progressive rock scenario of 70's in England, with the fantastic sound that comes from the creative giants the Gentle Giant are. This band, throughout the history of it's discography add a magical touch to their music, making it exquisitely unique in many ways, that must be mentioned before a detailed description of each album is made, so that one can understand the musical dynamics of these works of art.

When listening to any album Gentle Giant has produced, one notices immediately something very particular about the sound. It sounds, first of all, strange. The melodies are erratic. They jump, twist, shout, whisper, wriggle in all the weirdest ways, even in the debut album, which shows less of this strangeness compared to the later albums. The rhythms too, have bizarre variations, showing frequent changes in tempo that can even remind us of Math Rock. Such musical complexity is unseen within rock music until the early seventies, being, therefore, a tremendous step forward for progressive rock. Another thing that must be pointed out, are the mood changes, and this is one of the things that make it, even within the parameters of progressive rock, absolutely unique. Typically, songs of all kinds generally focus on a particular emotion or mood. However, Gentle Giant ignores this standard and with all the wild and spontaneous variation that they show in their music, produce a different mood, giving it a very, above all, rich feeling.

This musicians in this album, show us all this, but they seem to stick to a solid form of music instead of letting the wild imagination take over the music completely. Long solos, typical song moods, recognizable forms of music added into the mixture make it sound like typical progressive rock, but with a slight touch of the striking abnormal musical creativity that developed in the later albums.

Report this review (#200948)
Posted Wednesday, January 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is not a bad debut for Gentle Giant, but nowhere near their best. This is not a good place to start if you're just discovering them. To my ears it's more a Hard Rock record than a Prog Rock record. Still it's highly original and inventive Hard Rock.

Giant begins the album on a strong note with a heavy Hammond Organ / guitar riff. The music is good here, and quite intricate, but the song gets repetitive and dull after awhile. The band obviously had very fresh and original ideas, but their songwriting wasn't quite developed enough on this first album. Giant feels too long.

Funny Ways is a much better composition. The song is slower, softer, more moody and melancholic and has an amazing rainy-day atmosphere. Sad acoustic guitar strumming and beautiful violins mesh with excellent vocals that actually remind me of Paul McCartney at times. The style displayed on this song would be further developed and perfected on their second album, Acquiring the Taste. There's a nice middle-section with one of the band's better rock guitar solos as well.

Alucard is my favorite song on this debut. It starts with an excellent dirty and acidic-sounding Moog synth riff. After the heavy intro the song morphs into an absolutely creepy verse section with startling backwards-reverb vocal harmonies that still send a shiver down my spine every time I hear them. It's the most experimental the band would get this early in their recorded history and it's the highlight on their entire debut! More heavy/dirty syncopated synth riffs follow mixed with sweet brass and a few good organ solos... parts of this song could belong to the Heavy Prog genre.

After the very imaginative opening three tracks the band seem to lose the plot and the rest of the album is quite a generic 70's Hard Rock record interspersed with a few softer sections. The second side does nothing for me sadly.

I would suggest listening to their more advanced later works first (from Acquiring the Taste 'to Interview) before giving this one a listen. It's not a total wash thanks to 'Alucard' and 'Funny Ways' but this is only essential listening for Gentle Giant maniacs.

2.5 stars... the best was yet to come, but their future brilliance is definitely foreshadowed here.

Report this review (#201763)
Posted Thursday, February 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Innovative debut of this magnificent band - Gentle Giant! Gentle Giant are one of the godfathers of the progressive rock as whole and probably the best art rock band of all time - lets say a candidate of this title! They established their own style, that have influenced a thousand of bands and the birth of that own style was founded exactly from the homonymous debut album. All band members are true multi-instrumentalists and created unique style based on very saturated and varied sound, full of complex ideas.

An important thing I want to share with the listeners is, that here we have one calm album without so much dramatical parts. It can be found here different kinds of genres. From medieval to jazz, blues rock, psychedelic rock and, of course, art rock. And yet it's strongly jazz and blues rock-oriented debut album for Gentle Giant; such as Camel's debut. When I listen to Gentle Giant's Gentle Giant it strongly reminds me of Camel's Camel. Especially the sound of Nothing at All (one of the milestones of the album).

I'm not a fan of pure blues, but here the band offer this interesting mixture of blues rock and art rock. One of the less progressive releases from GG. All songs are pretty cool and everything here is excellent addition to your prog collection. 4 stars!

Report this review (#208365)
Posted Monday, March 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Truth
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars This is an excellent piece of music right here! Gentle Giant somehow found ways to mix an almost medievel type of music with hard rock that almost resembles Led Zeppelin yet they have their own style of music! Nothing At All is the best track on the album in my opinion as it starts off as a soft folk ballad but twists and turns into a hurricane of musical wizardry! The bass guitar totally rules as it shifts into the rock oriented part of the song! Isn't Quiet and Cold shows that medievel type of music I was talking about perfectly with the fiddle ruling the show. The Queen is an excellent way to end the album almost as good as Jimi Hendrix rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. This would be a masterpiece but I really don't like stating that when I don't really like the song Funny Ways. Other than that this album is perfect!
Report this review (#212462)
Posted Saturday, April 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This debut album from Gentle Giant, while not an absolute masterpiece, is still a very worthwhile addition to any prog-listener's collection. As the band's biography (as well as several of the other reviews) say, Gentle Giant's music is a melting pot of styles and themes. This album is a bit less varied than some of their later efforts, feeling closer to conventional rock, except for a few songs.

The album starts off with a fairly good piece, in my opinion, Giant. The song starts off simply with some quiet organ, then builds up to the full band putting in their efforts. It incorporates horns and some unusual song structuring, giving the listener a fairly tame idea of things to come, though better examples can be found later on the album. 4/5

Next on the bill is Funny Ways. This song starts off with acoustic guitar and a string section, a nice, soft bit after the high-energy opener. The vocals on this song are very nice, the harmonies once again hinting at future works with vocal experimentation. The song then goes into a fun, upbeat section, and ends again in the softer style. A very excellent track from the band. Live performances of it really shine. 5/5.

Alucard comes next. This song is another of the strongest tracks on the album. It has a darker sound to it, with some eerie harmonization on the vocals and saxophone/distorted organs. 4.5/5

Up next is one of the most fun songs on the album, Isn't It Quiet And Cold? The song seems to accurately represent a lonely walk through the streets of a city, with a bit of a bouncing beat and some good string section playing. Some of the backing vocals bring the Beatles to mind, but beyond that this band is a completely different animal. We're treated to a xylophone solo part way through the song as well. Another excellent track, and one of my personal favorites from the album. 5/5.

Then comes one of the most hard-rocking songs on here, Nothing at All. The acoustic beginning brings to mind some of Boston's softer pieces, and as it builds it sounds more like what Black Sabbath could have done at the time. The drum solo near the halfway mark is an interesting way to break the song up a bit, and the sort of spaced out piano fits in well. The piece ends up on a softer note again, and leads into the next. Once again, very good song. 4.5/5

Why Not? seems to be a sort of continuation to the previous song. It continues on in the hard rocking style, with some excellent guitar and strong drums. The guitar solo is great, and shows off Gary Green's bluesy abilities. 4.5/5 again.

The last track on the album is the only one which I think is lower quality than the otherwise consistently great album. It's the group's hard rocking rendition of their national anthem, titled The Queen. While it's not a bad song really, it doesn't seem as if it's coming from the right band. 3.5/5.

(4+5+4.5+5+4.5+4.5+3.5)/7 = 4.43/5

Report this review (#213721)
Posted Monday, May 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I'm confused as to why there are claims that this album is simple hard rock; it's far from it with the exception of perhaps one track. It's true that here is a harder, rougher, and more frantic Giant, but I see more in common with King Crimson than I do Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple. The album starts of with the heavy "Giant", a slightly Crimson-esque tune with some great brass usage. It's an awesome song; my only complaint is that it should have ended differently, instead of reprising. Next, the album goes light and medieval with the alternately mellow and hard-rocking "Funny Ways." Many will recognize this one from Playing the Fool. I really love Kerry's cello, as well as the abrupt switch from medieval, to upbeat rock, then to a more doom-laden almost metal sound. Next, is perhaps one of my favorite GG songs, "Alucard." It combines elements of Avant-Garde Jazz, with hard-rock and R&B to make a really unique punchy sound. It is possibly one of the most accessible inaccessible songs ever made. Next, "Isn't It Quiet and Cold" brings us back to the quirky medieval Giant, although here, I kinda of hear a little bit of Beatles as well. Perhaps, imagine crossing "When I'm 64" with "A Dog's Life" off the Octopus album. "Nothing At All" is the only candidate here for non-progressive music; it does sound like something Led Zeppelin might have come up with circa LZ3 or LZ4. Still, not a bad tune, but this is really the only smudge on this excellent album. Finally, the album's last real song (discounting the rendition of God Save the Queen b/c it's just them goofing off for a minute and a half) "Why Not" really ends the album with a bang. Think "Wreck" with a harder edge and more organ. This one is my second fav on this album (behind "Alucard.") Overall, this is one of the Giant's strongest albums, with only one slightly weak link. Maybe, Shulmans and Co. are slightly less refined than they would be later, but they also seem even more adventurous and daring. That makes the rating 4.5 stars.
Report this review (#214618)
Posted Saturday, May 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Where should one start exploring the Gentle Giant discography? Well, why not start from beginning and work it all the way to the end (or most preferably to Free Hand)?

One thing that has separated this band from all the others for me was the solid seven album in-a-row streak that hasn't actually been surpassed by any other artist that I can think of. This comment is based on my rating system that ranks all of them somewhere between 4,39 and 4,62 (out of 5). That's a pretty solid result indeed!

The early Giant has traces of Rock & Roll, Blues and some Beatlesque qualities. Just listen to Isn't It Quiet And Cold? and you'll see what I mean about the latter! Funny Ways is the stand out track that has become a notorious live number, just look it up on YouTube! The band also makes a self-statement with the strong performance of Giant, just like King Crimson and Black Sabbath did at the time.

A great debut that should not be missed by all fans of Progressive Rock!

***** star songs: Giant (6:22) Funny Ways (4:21) Isn't It Quiet And Cold? (3:51)

**** star songs: Alucard (6:00) Nothing At All (9:08) Why Not (5:31) The Queen (1:40)

Total rating: 4,40

Report this review (#214703)
Posted Sunday, May 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is the perfect example of how progressive rock started. Given a rock-blues band basis, adding experimentation, and there you have one creative little band. With a debut album.

Gentle Giant has both the blues, the experimentation and, why not say, classical music experience (both XVIII th century and modern). And with some medieval - court music - elements... This album is very interesting, altough for some kinda hard to digest. The opening song is very very prog indeed, superb song. I also like, "Why Not" , a bit more rockish, but still the musicianship is very good.

Overall the album is a fairly good one, though, the follow ups were much better.

Report this review (#233170)
Posted Thursday, August 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
2 stars One thing a person must learn is when to stop, until a couple of weeks I hated GENTLE GIANT, despite the fact I tried for decades, there was nothing I could rescue from this band, but the miracle happened, when I listened "Three Friends" and "Acquiring, the Taste", liked both albums and even reviewed them with high ratings....I should had stopped there, being that I was already familiar with the rest of their discography.

But then I believed it was the moment to listen again their 1970 debut, all the problems that made me dislike the band previous to the last two releases I reviewed returned, I can't find head or feet in almost any track, some ate boring and tedious, others are faster but with no coherence, seems that GENTLE GIANT forgot the meaning of melody when releasing most of this album.

Maybe this guys wanted to revolution the music and made an extremely complex album, but they also required a quota of sense and feeling, the album is cold, lack of expressiveness and boring from start to end.

"Giant" opens the album with energy, but I believe they didn't knew what they wanted to do, every section is contradictory with the previous, the vocals are so extremely dissonant that seem created for another song, but what is worst, they go nowhere, when I believe they are playing a Hard Rock, they loose the path and play some sort of Jazz hybrid, simply can't stand the track.

If the previous track lost me after a couple minutes, I lost the interest for "Funny Ways" after a few seconds. in very few opportunities I heard a less melodic violin and such a boring singing, when Derek seems to be getting somewhere, he starts to wander around the universe except where he should be, not even when a good piano is added they succeed, because the rest of the instruments are playing something that seems to be another song.

"Alucard" has an interesting start, a contrapuntist duel between keyboards and winds is worth to listen, but when the choirs enter, any good start is forgotten, this is complexity for no reason, I can't find any rational structure or idea, by this point I want to put the CD in the box and sell it, something very hard in my country where few people know or care about GENTLE GIANT...The psyche Hammond performance is magnificent, but not even penicillin can save this song.

"Isn't it Quiet and Cold?"....No, I believe it's silly, monotonous and boring, I wonder why everybody criticise songs as "The Sheriff" or "Harold the Barrel", but are afraid to say anything about this anodyne attempt of being versatile....QUEEN played similar songs years later, but with class, intelligence and taste.

"Nothing at All" has a beautiful melody, not even the vocals ruin it, but the problem is that we're talking about GENTLE GIANT, an icon of Progressive Rock and you should always expect something innovation, in this track the band goes to the opposite side of the musical spectrum, if the previous songs are too weird and complex, this one is nothing special....Hey there's a drum solo....But as the name says "Nothing at All", at least nothing special, but in their defence, can be listened.

The album is closed with "Why Not?, some sort of Bluesy Hard Rock that morphs into a Medieval Folk song, but again they get lost in their own contradictions and unnecessary complexity, despite this, "Why Not?" is the best track in the album for me.

After this experience I decided to stay with the second and third GENTLE GIANT albums which I enjoy a lot and forget the rest of their discography...I was tempted to give 1 lonely star to the album, but being that the two final songs are pretty decent, I believe that 2 stars is the perfect rating......For me of course.

Report this review (#238915)
Posted Saturday, September 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars This is a fantastic debut from a fantastic band. While not the masterpiece that some of their later albums would be, the pieces are all here. The experimentation, the intricate harmonies, the varied song styles all show up on this album, albeit not as intricate and varied as the later releases. And there is more hard rock played on this release than any other Gentle Giant record, although only Why Not? is a pure straight ahead rock tune.

And there is plenty for a progger to enjoy. Giant plays joyfully around the edges of it's time signature. Funny Ways and Isn't It Quiet And Cold? show the band's skills with string arrangements (and xylophone). And Alucard has a delicious, backwards sounding vocal track.

But beware of the 1989 release on Line Records. It has an annoying break inserted between Nothing At All and Why Not?. Those two songs are supposed to flow from one to the other. The space (after the first note of Why Not?) wrecks the effect.

Report this review (#256627)
Posted Thursday, December 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars Odd rhymes, twisting melodies which, even melodic, is full of barriers that prevents it from being symphonic. After all, this is famous, mysterious Gentle Giant. It's even soaked into folky elements. I suppose that it's what Eclectic is like, it's multi-everything. Weird time patterns are there I suppose (they should, we're talking about prog here). Is it just me, or this debut of theirs is weak ? Showing some flashes of their later work, but still, it's not so consistent and firm, as it could be. As first album it's OK, but when compared to their later ones, it somehow disappoints. To beat it even lower in my opinion, I don't have nostalgic memories from 70's as some older people (than me) can, so I'll not lie to you. It helps to rate higher sometimes, when other means fails.

4(-), going lower wouldn't be fair, as this is quite important album for understanding whole band. You know the stuff, it's debut, it's like losing virginity, it's just once in your (band's) life.

Report this review (#259133)
Posted Sunday, January 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars This will have to be my second embarrassment with a review of this famous progband. Instead of being familiar with them for ages I only discovered them a few years ago never ever having heard from them. Strange ? Maybe but not that strange if you realize I have never been on the eclectic side of progworld and my first encounter was pretty traumatizing. My usual category is neo prog, the subgenre I grew up with since 1983 and love now for more than a quarter of a century. When I first heard Gentle Giant I didn't know what to think of it and had only one impulse: turn it off ! But last few years a slight change in my attitude has occurred and I kinda grew used to the band. But a fan I'll never be.

Three Friends was my first review and I quite like the album by now but already stated then as if I had a presentiment: this will be their best suited album for my taste. And after hearing this debut I still believe in that statement. This album is also nice and quite accessible but less brilliant than Three Friends to me.

Giant is the song I know longest of this album because it's a streamsong for a long time now. I'm still not sure how much the weirdness of the bands sound is caused by Derek Shulman's voice. I'm almost used to it by now but I will never really love it. The lyrics are very nice though handling about a giant who is looking at the world from the palm of his hand. Nice, I can say no less. But I will not go that far to call this a great song. 3*.

Funny Ways has a different lead vocalist and this voice is totally different, more soft and gentle than the rawer sound of Shulman. The song creates an interesting atmosphere but again: this is not really my idea of a great song. A little bit better than previous: 3,25*.

Alucard is kind of a rocky song but in a peculiar way. The vocals sound special and give the song a sinister impression. Pretty dark song this. 3*.

Isn't it quiet and cold ? is another proof we're dealing with a versatile album here. Violin and vocals give a roaring twenty's feel to the song. Nicely done. 3,25*

Nothing at all is another versatile and complex track with lots of shifts for a 9 minute song. It starts quiet with gentle vocals. Halfway some original drumming make it sound like a live drum solo on a studio album. Quite original to say the least. I guess this is also one of the better ones. 3,5*.

Why Not is another one in a totally different style. Great guitar is shining on this one. Sounds like an early Gary Moore song to me. Nice stuff but not per se proggy. 3,5*

The Queen is the British national anthem played to GG standards. So slightly weird and a little bit funny but as a real progressive significant effort it fails completely. 1,5*.

All in all not a bad debut really and that is heard through the ears of a non fan. Gentle Giant is indeed a band one can get used to at least to a certain extent. This could be second favorite for my personal taste but I still have to discover Acquiring the taste. Then maybe one or two more and then I will call it a day. I will leave the band to their many fans. Three stars for this debut.

Report this review (#259224)
Posted Monday, January 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Right from their debut, Gentle Giant created an entirely new & original blend of music, a quirky mix of prog, hard-rock, blues, classical music, Beatles, King Crimson and boundless eccentricity.

Gentle Giant wasn't love at first sight for me, together with Zappa they managed to introduce themselves either at the wrong time or with an album inappropriate for the novice. Spurred on by the piles of raving reviews on PA, I've been giving them another round during the last year. The outcome this time is a pile of albums scheduled to be hailed with raving reviews! As it turned out, a recommended way to approach the Giant is by taking one step at the time. Not in random fashion but by starting from the debut and continuing from there, one album at the time, waiting with growing anticipation for each new acquisition, as if the albums were being released right now.

Like the best of progressive rock, this is liberated rock music; there are no limits to how a song may develop. And while Gentle Giant mostly write short tracks, the possibilities they explore are endless. A five minute piece from them easily has more twists and turns and adventures then other artists manage in an entire career. They also excel at keeping things tight and rigorous, allowing no room for excesses or indulgencies from any particular member of the band. Each of the first 4 songs are great examples of their huge competence and inspiration. The remaining 3 sound less accomplished to me, the extensive Nothing at All has lots of compelling moments but loses focus due to an ill-fitting drum solo, the 70's blues-rock of Why Not? sounds a bit aged to me and pales against the more original music around it. The national anthem imitation of The Queen doesn't sound all that exciting neither.

Judging this album as the starting point that it was, it's been a most pleasant discovery. I might downgrade it to 3.5 stars when I work my way further down their discography, but for now, it's a gentle 4 stars.

Report this review (#266386)
Posted Monday, February 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars My first review of a GG recording, must go to this 1970 masterpiece. Gentle Gaint (The Album) is born in the earliest melting pot of Prog. and in that perspective its stunningly progressive, with a lot of Jazz, Folk and Chamber/Classic inspiration, combines with a Heavy Blues and even Rock-n-Roll (on "Why Not"). With an instrumentation spanning as unlikely instruments (at the time) as: cello, sax, trumpet, xilophone, tenor horn and violin. All track are destinct Gentle Gaint and even though there is a lack of those "1 track masterpieces" that you will find on those famous later Gaint records, this recording in my mind comes out more as a unit, than recordings like "Three Friends" and "Interview" If it was the only recording by Gentle Gaint, it would easily get 5+ stars, and it is a masterpiece of prog, and a must have. But in the light of ,"Acquiring the Taste", "Octopus", "In a Glass House" and "Free Hand" that we now know was to follow, it may seems more Appropriate to give it a 4,5 star rating rounded down. Not because it dosent deserve 5 stars, only to keep in mind that even better records was released later.

Fantastic cover by George Underwood, couldent imagine a more perfect image of the Giant.

Report this review (#268457)
Posted Friday, February 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars What an awesome debut. I really can not believe this album is ranked as the worst of their "classic era" on PA. Even with lower rating than Interview. Hopefully my review will do some justice.

Allow me to be honest with you. I'm certainly not a Gentle Giant die-hard fan.I do own most of their records up to Interview and I do find a lot of intersting elements to rescue in almost all of them. But when it comes to classic eclectic prog I'd rather go with Van Der Graaf Generator, the mighty Crimson, Gnidrolog or Bubu all the way.

That being said, I firmly believe this debut album is one of Gentle Giant's best on their catalogue. And diverse as well. It is hard rocking when it proposes to be hard rocking (Why Not?). Soft and gentle in tracks like Funny Ways and Isn't It Quiet And Cold?. Experimental in Alucard, and it even has the longest Gentle Giant track for the delight of us prog fans on Nothing At All, which is memorable.

Each and every single song on the album is wonderful, and the whole album on itself is ideal to understand what was about to come in following years. An excellent addition to any prog rock music collection, really near to the masterpiece status, and surely the perfect place for starters.

Report this review (#268659)
Posted Saturday, February 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Just adding my two cents worth of opinion on an album, already well reviewed by more intelligent people than myself.

I am very impressed by their live albums, but I hardly know any of their studio albums. A discovery of their the studio albums is therefore in order.

This album and their career starts with a big bang in the form of the two opening tracks in the shape of Giant and Funny Ways. These two tracks has everything I love about GG from the live albums. Quirky melodies who works and really makes me sit up and take notice. The album then descend into a more Beatles territory before it ends up with heavy blues. And it is not heavy blues as in Led Zeppelin. It is heavy blues as in boring, unimaginative heavy blues. There are still some rather good, quirky melody lines included here. But not enough to prevent me from nodding off now and then. For me, this is a debut album where GG tried and tested their formula. I believe they later got rid of the things I do not like about this album. Hence a three stars album from me.

3 stars

Report this review (#282386)
Posted Monday, May 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's 1970. You're in a record store, holding an album with a craggy, illustrated giant on the cover. You know nothing about the band yet. Do you pick up this album?

(I wasn't alive back then, but I DID find myself in record stores facing similar conundrums...unfortunately more often about bands such as Phish. You do the best with what you have, I suppose!)

I'm not sure I would have taken the leap. And I would of course have missed out.

Musically, I think this is more a 3-star album, but I'm rating this an excellent addition for three reasons: 1.) I love the cover, 2.) this is a debut, which can tip the scale, and 3.) like most Gentle Giant albums, this offers a side of the band that you won't see again.

This side is a bit more rock--not all the way through--but particularly on Why Not. Here the band does their blues boogie thing, with the standard bass chords, guitar solo and organ work, but they just do it better than most blues bands. I get the feeling they could have made a name for themselves just doing this kind of song, but of course that's just not the Gentle Giant way.

I also enjoy the creativity and craziness of Giant and Alucard--particularly the jazzy instrumental break in the latter. Nothing at All is very unfocused and perhaps rambling, but of course that's nice in some ways because you don't hear that from the group anywhere else.

An interesting--but not great--debut from what would of course end up being a great band.

Report this review (#285304)
Posted Sunday, June 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The most unfortunate mistake that the band made on its fine debut was making it a bit too similar to In the Court of the Crimson King a bit too soon after the release of that prog-defining masterpiece. Though the band largely had its own sound worked out from the very beginning, there are nevertheless a few aspects where the band was still using Court as a crutch. Aside from the obvious comparison of the album cover to Court, the extensive use of saxophones and mellotrons certainly calls up the stylistics of that album, not to mention that "Funny Ways" can be seen as a sort of analog to "I Talk to the Wind" or "Alucard" to "Pictures of a City" (which wasn't on Court but was already part of Crimson's live show). That said, the resemblences to Crimson are not as extensive as some make them out to be (I certainly wouldn't agree with the assertions made by some that there are no resemblences, though; that's just completely irrational), and there are enough great ideas to distinguish this as a fine album unto itself.

Of course, sometimes even the good songs have aspects that probably could have been thought through a little better. The opening "Giant," unfortunately, doesn't rock anywhere near as hard as it could in the hands of (you guessed it) King Crimson; the effective basslines, the organ swirls, the good guitar lines and the bizarre vocal melody are all fine contributions, but they're undercut by (a) Derek Shulman's decision to not put any oomph (or a growl or anything) into his vocal delivery and (b) production that minimizes the impact of the aforementioned positive characteristics. However, the mid-song instrumental passage, with a bunch of lovely minimalist organ and mellotron lines overlaying a nice bassline, intertwined with nice vocal harmonizing and majestic brass, is definitely unique in mood to the band, and makes the song incredibly worthwhile to me.

The "good-but-flawed" category also inclues "Nothing at All," one of the few instances in the GG catalogue where the band goes for an 'epic' time-length (over 9 minutes - mid-length for Yes, but an eternity for GG). The opening two minutes are one of the most beautiful two minute stretches the band ever put out, with amazingly lovely vocal harmonies over a perfect pop ballad melody and mystical acoustic guitar lines, and then after that builds into a more 'rocking' version that would work just fine as a climax to the piece ... but then it turns into a nastily ugly electronic drum solo (with some piano tinklings under it near the end). ARRRGH. Yeah, it ends up going back to the original lovely melody, but man that solo leaves a nasty aftertaste. And it's unfortunately not helped tremendously by the more 'rockin' "Why Not?," which has good basslines but nothing else particularly crunchy or rousing about it (though the softer sung parts are lovely). And come to think of it, the closing 1:40 "The Queen" (a totally random cover of "God Save the Queen") doesn't seem particularly necessary, though not particularly nasty.

Fortunately, the other three tracks, sandwiched between "Giant" and "Nothing at All," rule immensely. "Funny Ways" is a magnificent ballad (mostly sung by Phil Shulman, whose voice is lovely beyond words and a good contrast to Derek), with the band making good use of its versatility by mixing the regular acoustic guitars with cellos (remember, all instruments are fair game with this band). Plus, the song eventually becomes amusingly upbeat, driven by neat piano lines with trumpets on top, then becomes majorly anthemic by combining these trumpets with a fabulous guitar break. Not bad for four freakin' minutes.

Where "Funny Ways" shows off the band's strengths in more delicate material, "Alucard" shows how great the band can be in the instances where it ups the intensity. The main synth riff is absolutely KILLER, both in notes and tone, and Kerry does a great job of augmenting it as necessary to make the accompanying saxophone and guitar parts that much more powerful. Add in a lot of great organ parts and a bunch of distorted vocals fading in and out during the sung parts, and you have the first GG song that ever made me sit up and go "WOW, these guys are really cool!"

Speaking of 'cool' (or in this case, 'cold' - whee, I love stretching for segues), the final part of this glorious trifecta is a moody, playful ballad entitled "Isn't it Quiet and Cold?" Phil's back on lead, singing a delicate vocal melody while bunches of violins (plucked), cellos, electric piano and glockenspiel do their thing underneath. This song actually passed me by the first couple of times I heard it, and I guess I dismissed it because it was so relatively unpretentious, but I hope you won't make the same mistake. Anybody seeking proof that GG didn't just use all these instruments just because they could, but actually had a purpose and focus to what they were doing, should use this track as exhibit A.

So anyway, it's a fine debut, and my #2 for the band overall. There are problems, but the brilliant stuff is no less so than the brilliant stuff on later albums, and that should be enough.

Report this review (#286608)
Posted Tuesday, June 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Since I started my reviewing process on PA, I have always been doubtful about GG. Should I review their work or not? To be honest, I am not a huge fan of their music but here we go anyway.

This first album is well in line with what will come later in their production and as such it might be considered as a good debut album. I would even say that the first two songs are quite symphonic and enjoyable.

The so special vocal style that they have developed is already present, but not too much. The jazzy angles are only appearing somewhat later in the album ("Alucard" and "Nothing At All"). The later is the longest piece from the album and is quite diversified: melodic vocals (almost Crosby, Stills & Nash oriented), some hard and hypnotic guitar riffs on the plus side.

On the minus one, the loose drum solo and the jazzy instrumental part appearing during the second half is not so pleasant to my ears (although it is combined with some delicate piano). The whole is not very cohesive.

The closing track (if you accept the version of the English anthem) "Why Not?" also offers some good moments: combining symphonic prog with heavier parts. The finale is a wild combo of blues and jazz. It is very dynamic.

Seven out od ten. Three stars.

Report this review (#308500)
Posted Saturday, November 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gentle Giant by Gentle Giant

The most charming album in my collection but also among the most charming albums in Progressive Rock, and you have to look far and wide to find a more charming album art work, that giant is so cool (it frightened me at first but now).

NOW to the music, the music on this album is so special and the rough sound of it makes it the most hard rock of their albums, but not traditional hard rock BY ANY MEANS. The album starts with the mighty giant with a wall of organ, bass and guitar. It moves on its way like a lumpy giant on its way home. In the middle is a mellotron part with a saxophone and crescendos (or something in that manner). A hard prog rock song with a dark mood, next is a folksy/English acoustic bard music in its feeble beginning, then we are introduced later on to a rock part with electric guitar, loud drums and a groovy bass line by Derek Shulman (i think sins Ray plays the violin), and trumpet/French horn fanfares, it ends in a melancholic mode with sad message. Next song is the jazz/fusion, avant-garde frenzy of a rock song with the title Alucard (Dracula), the most original song in Gentle Giants discography, no other song by them sound anything similar to this (maybe some way Wreck on the next album but not much), lovely small jazz guitar solos appears three times during the song (the same line repeated) really haunting guitar solo. And the moog synth on this song are AGRESSIVE

Isn't it Quiet and Cold are the title of the next song, which is sort of a mix of soft jazz and folk rock, Brittan meats American styles and the merging are working, it is a slow peaceful, but positive vibe beautiful song. Nothing at all is the next song and it is Gentle Giants longest song, it is a classic hard rock/heavy prog track, with a haunting guitar riff (and wind effect) in the middle which play unison with bass and picks up more power and loud drums and Dereks vocals are energy laden, then comes the drum solo which to some are a bit tedious, while it might also give the song more interesting character which it gets with the filter effect and the impressive avant-garde piano solo by Minnear. Why Not is a hard rock song with a folksy middle part and solo by Gary Green, and the last song is the English national anthem spiced up a little. OK experiment.

This album deserves no less the 5 golden stars, one of the true hidden gems of progressive hard rock, with enough of jazz, folk, classical, and avant-garde spices to make it tastefull.

Report this review (#345195)
Posted Monday, December 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here, with this excellently done album, starts Gentle Giant, the legendary cult band that became one of the most important and influential prog rock bands, as well as one of the most original, creative and exciting. Adjectives that can perfectly describe their debut album, a brave and innovative work of art, that gave the band a steady start.

Even in this first album we here GG's unique and utterly original taste in writing and arranging songs; the influences are various, from Celtic, Medieval folkish music to hard, but somewhat cheerful melodies, classical, blues, jazz; from complex vocal harmonies to intricate and eclectic instrumental passages. These will be the main elements of the Gentle Giant's sound. We can imagine then how talented these musicians are; The three Shulmans (Derek, lead vocals and guitars, Phil, sax, trumpet, Ray, bass guitar and violin) are the true buck of the band, all three equally very skilled. But I'd like to mention Martin Smith, on drums (who also does a solo on "Nothing at All"), and Kerry Minnear, with his crazy and truly inspiring synthesizer.

"Gentle Giant" is an album full of cheerfulness, as well as of a somewhat creepy tension and preoccupation, something that occurs a lot less, further in their career. However, archaic beauty and mythic strength raise the album to a completely different level, thanks also to the bravery of the whole. The music is beautifully alternated, different moods flow fluently like rarely albums do.

Songs like "Funny Ways", "Alucard" or "Nothing At All" will give hope to the band for a bright future. These songs represent fully the spirit of the Gentle Giant, and will always, unlike some think, while considering albums like "The Power And The Glory",be main chapters of this band's career. This debut is unforgettable, for so many reasons, and truly is a very important collaborator for prog rock evolution, like it or not.

Report this review (#385843)
Posted Monday, January 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Review #8 Gentle Giant's1970 self-titled debut album.

I find it a pity that Gentle Giant (GG) only have approximately 200-400 ratings for each of their first half a dozen albums or so AND they do not have any of their albums in the PA top 30 studio albums of all time. Surely this must change. Come on you guys and gals, give them a listen!

Their debut album is eclectic and all tracks are superb except IMHO the opening track "Giant" . However, all the other tracks have a place in the heart of one BarryGlibb.

Funny good is that? "Isn't it Quiet and Cold?" simply superb. "Nothing At All" and "Why Not?" not overly progressive tracks as would become evident on their 2nd album but all in all well above the average rock of it's time.

A very solid, refreshing debut and it signalled the start of something extra special on the prog horizon.

Report this review (#393663)
Posted Friday, February 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The gentlest music I've ever heard apart from thunderstorms

Personally I prefer the first part of Gentle Giant career, where together with customary virtuosity, there is also a great emphasis on the melodies and great romantic atmosphere: I find that latter aspect of their style over time has failed, in the name of a certain technique arrogance emerged after the release of "In A Glass House". This debut album is without doubt a masterpiece, just a little below "Acquiring The Taste", which remains in my opinion the best album ever in the entire career of the band. The band's style is certainly clear from this first work. I think that the most important aspects that we can find in the music of this first album are:

1) extraordinary blend of voices with solo parts divided among several singers who have different vocal timbres (the band choose the lead vocalist depending on the dynamics of the songs). 2) using many instruments comparing to the canons of rock music with wind instruments, violins, cello and vibraphone. 3) complex arrangements and extraordinary rhythm variations, but without compromising the harmonic structures. 4) great balance between "hard" and "soft": hard rock moments that alternate with others more melodic, and references to medieval music.

All songs are great. Giant starts with an organ introduction and evolving into a hard rock song: the great instrumental fanfare before the last verse of the song is really amazing. Funny Ways, which shows the beautiful sound of the violin of Ray Shulman, is a sweeter song and one of the most beautiful of '70s english prog. Isn't It Quiet And Cold? is probably my favourite track and is absolutely a gem: the use of unconventional instruments like cello, violin, horns and vibes build a beautiful melody embellished with delicate vocals. Nothing At All is another highlight: it start soft, acoustic, with gradual inclusion of electric instruments; then a final preceded by a frenzied drum solo, during which we can hear the Liszt piano sonata "Liebestraum No. 3", that ends with a free arrangement. Why Not? is another hard rock number that includes a blues variation in the end.

Highly recommended to anyone. Rating 9/10.

Best song: Isn't It Quiet And Cold?

Report this review (#403110)
Posted Friday, February 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars The debut, self-titled album by Gentle Giant is exactly what is to be expected: early sounding Gentle Giant. The music here is still complex and interesting, but not nearly as much as it would later become on subsequent releases. The vocals are not as confident and the songwriting is definitely not as strong as on later releases either. But this is the debut album, after all. This music seems mostly like slightly medieval inspired blue-rock. It's not terrible by any means, no, but definitely isn't essential and definitely not recommended for Gentle Giant beginners, who should probably start with In a Glass House or The Power and The Glory.
Report this review (#429410)
Posted Friday, April 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gentle Giant is one of the best discoveries you will make as a prog fan. Their music is extremely technical, highly complex and strictly non-commercial. Every prog fan's wet dream! After starting with 'Octopus', I found their debut album in a CD shop, and bought it without hesitation. Since this was their debut, I was worried that this would not be as progressive as 'Octopus', just like how Yes's debut is not as progressive as 'Fragile'. I needn't have worried. 'Gentle Giant' not only surpassed my expectations, but I liked it even more than 'Octopus'!

In fact, I own the Repertoire reissue, which comes in a great LP-replica sleeve. When you open the gatefold (vertically, not horizontally), the iconic giant's face becomes linked to his lower half and a drawing of the band in his hands. The artwork is done by George Underwood, who also did the amazing album cover for the UK version of 'Shine On Brightly' by Procol Harum. On the inside there is a printed story about a gentle giant, written by Tony Visconti, the legendary producer. As on most of the Gentle Giant CDs, there are problems with the remastering. The sound quality is crystal clear, and all the track markers are in the right place, but this version is missing a couple of the synthesizer riffs heard at the end of a couple of the tracks. With help from a friend who owned a different version of the album, I was able to piece together a better version of the album.

The album starts with Giant, which is something of a prog rock classic. The song is perfectly complex, and amazingly played. The See the world in the palm of his hand. section is flawless. The instrumental is brilliant. Perfect song.

Funny Ways is extremely different. The song has an old-fashioned feel to it. The middle section changes completely once more, and there is an epic section with a fantastic guitar solo. A lot less complex than Giant, but still excellent.

With Alucard (which is Dracula backward), we return to the complexity and progressive nature of Giant. Most of this is instrumental, but there are two verses. The highlight of the song comes at 4:38, where each member of the group play their instruments seperately in rapid succession. This song shows just how far the band could themselves and technology in the studio.

Isn't It Quiet And Cold again has the old-fashioned feel of Funny Ways. This song is even less complex, but feels very sophisticated, and is not a dull song at all. Some good instrumentation here.

At only 9 minutes long, Nothing At All would turn out to be Gentle Giant's longest song. This of course is very surprising for such a good prog band, but it goes to show that prog rock doesn't need to be sprawling suites to be good. Nothing At All is a timeless classic. A truly epic song indeed. It's not extremely complex, but the opening to the song is fantastic and plays like a great rock song. Half way through the song changes into an epic 3 minute drum solo which is augmented by the rest of the group occasionally, before coming to the coda. This is one Gentle Giant's most epic songs, and is a wonderful composition.

Why Not? is a brilliant fusion of prog with rock and roll. There is nothing unenjoyable about this track. Of course the highlight of the track is the guitar solo in the outro. If you need to air guitar, then this is the song for you! Gary Green you legend!

The album closes with Gentle Giant's own interpretation of the British national anthem, The Queen. This version is not only better than Queen's God Save The Queen, but was also released earlier. A fine tune it is too!

All in all, this is a stunning debut album. It's not quite as complex as the work they'd release in the future, but the compositions speak for themselves. It's incredibly easy to give this album the five stars it deserves.

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Posted Monday, April 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gentle Giant burst onto the scene with an astonishingly well-developed and innovative album comparable to very little else on the scene at the time (aside from perhaps some parts of King Crimson). The incorporation of medieval-inspired harmonies add a novel twist to the music, and the band's command of mood is masterful - Funny Ways, for instance, changes from a quiet folk ballad with trumpet flourishes into a jazzy workout at the drop of a pin.

Although the opening and closing tracks are a bit goofy, look between them and you'll see a big firm slice of early prog that at the point of its release was simply leagues ahead of the competition. Proof positive that Gentle Giant deserve to be considered amongst the top tier of innovating prog bands from the era. Early CD editions suffered from a slightly muddy sound that more recent remasters have greatly corrected (the version on the Unburied Treasure - which I hope gets an individual release - is absolutely superb), teasing out a plethora of hidden details which Gentle Giant were slipping into their music even from a very early stage.

Report this review (#466472)
Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gentle Giant emerged on the music scene in 1970 with their eponymous debut. Growing from the ashes of Simon Dupree and the Big Sound, and a desire to not be swayed so much by the trends of pop music, we find a band doing exactly what they wanted to do and already showing a lot of chops doing so - and somehow, they found a record deal!

They were never hugely successful as a band commercially, but now, over 40 years after this album was recorded, their sound is hugely famous in progressive rock. Hear a medieval influence, some counterpoint, complex vocal harmonies, or (lord forbid) 2 or 3 of those in the same song by a modern band, and you can almost hear the reviewers and fans typing out the phrase "Influenced by Gentle Giant" in their reviews.

How did this infamous band start? Well, quite well, actually!

The influences of rock music are the most apparent on this album. The busy vocals are not really utilised, counterpoint isn't quite so evident as it would be in the later part of their career, and they even have a hard rock song (Nothing At All), yet despite these facts the idea that any band other than Gentle Giant could have been responsible for the music contained in this album is a laughable one.

Assured, precise, talented, emotionally evocative - Gentle Giant is all of these things. Giant starts the album off with a bang, with excellent drums and bass really propelling the track foward. Funny Ways demonstrates the more somber, reflective mood of the band that would also give strength to their future prog ballads (and this track would grow to be one of their live favorites as well). Alucard, by contrast, is dark and spooky, with ethereal vocals and aggressive organ and guitar. Nothing At All is the closest to a traditional rock song Gentle Giant would do until their 9th album, when their prog glory days were behind them. Even "The Queen" at the end, a cover of "God Save The Queen" tacked on to the end almost as a joke, shows a band in fine fetter.

A standout track that I rarely see praised but that really helped this album grow on my is the middle track, "Isn't it Quiet and Cold", a playful string-based track with great melody and a distincly british feel to it.

I can only imagine what it must have been like in 1970 to hear this album and not already know that these guys were going to be known - to discover them and hear this music for the first time. To anticipate their later releases and follow this band through their career. To all you who have not yet heard this band but are about to - I am excited for you! This band is one of the best known journeys in progressive rock, and for very good reason - they are a very good band. And their debut is as good a place to start as any (if not the best), for it is chock full of a great variety of music.


Report this review (#472380)
Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Before writing any thing, I would like to say just like bands as YES, GENESIS, RUSH, KANSAS, EL & PALMER etc.... I put GENTLE GIANT in the highest place, as even creativity as of virtuosity, in the story of the progressive rock. Proceeding in the analysis of the disk , they already begin in great style, although in this album, his sound l is not clearly delineated in the characteristics that did of the band a true one prog "sacred-monster " , this first work bring to us pearls as "Funny Ways" (what does get to put "side to side" a clearly t classic and baroque music theme with elements of the jazz and blues), "Alucard" (a type of hard or heavy-prog with a brass section), "Isn't It Quiet And Cold? " ( a inspired theme in the Stéphanie Grapelli & Django Reinhardt's style), "Nothing att All" (that seems to "open doors" for his second work "Acquiring the Taste"). In short, a great debut, and in my humble opinion one of the best disks of 1970. My rate is 5 stars!!!
Report this review (#502597)
Posted Saturday, August 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars "A truly unique and progressive experience with a large number of influences from a wide number of other musical genres this album encompasses the eclectic nature of progressive music"

This seems to be one of the first albums that I can really associate with the "Progressive Rock" of the later 70s. It has a wide range of instruments and a lot of keyboards, Songs with no distinguishable structural pattern, a longer length of songs, deep and often philosophical lyrics and of course complexity for the sake of complexity.

All the songs on the album really capture the true essence of progressive rock starting with "Giant" a song about a large humanoid creature being birthed and walking around. The amount of keyboard that is included in this song was almost unheard of and not to mention how you can't really call one part a chorus because there is no repetitive lyrical part. The song itself progresses.

I can really see the progressive music influence on "Alucard." In the intro/main riff there is wide variety of instruments basically just showcasing the skill of the musicians involved. And again the keys. But in the vocal part, the incredible and trance-inducing echo of a choir knocks me out every time.

There are some obvious folk influences on "Isn't it Quiet and Cold?" "Nothing at all" seems to be the mainstream tie of this progressive album. It's not bad but I'd have to say the beginning and end softer parts are the weakest points of the album. The middle heavier and later I'd have to say jazz influenced section is a lot better.

"Why Not?" is great. I love how the guitar and vocal part blend together so well and the keyboard just to jazz it up a bit. The chorus is has a very big sound. This song also seems to have a lot of ties to mainstream rock despite the soft and flutey middle section

The final track makes the album for me the British anthem done Prog Rock is so funny. It just feels so natural. I think I even hear someone laughing in the middle. I do not blame the one laughing. I do not think that is supposed to be a serious homage to the British anthem but more of a "what a common song could sound like."

Overall this album is one of the first prog albums that I can call prog. I like how original it is and I like the amount of sheer talent that had to be involved in making this album. This is a good album to get for someone who is a fan of progressive or otherwise eclectic music.

Report this review (#566397)
Posted Friday, November 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars

I have to say that Gentle Giant's debut album is actually probably my least favorite from them (pre-Giant For a Day). The album very distinctly sounds of a band still trying to find their way; the quirky diversity that pervades most later albums from Gentle Giant here is more of a confused and disjointed muddle. The sound quality also occasionally leaves something to be desired. That being said, there are some very good songs on here, and I would be doing this album wrong to suggest that just because of its formative quality it is lacking in good music.

The first track, "Giant", is not all that great, but it is fun in parts. The main guitar riff is an excellent one, and it's interesting to notice how the theme shows up as a quiet synth flourish in most of the other breaks between tracks throughout the album. But in the middle, the song suddenly stops, and starts over again with Derek singing solo and accompanied by brass, gradually building back up to the main theme again. This is somewhat of a clumsy insert.

The next, "Funny Ways", is a ballady track which remained a staple of their concert performances for most of their existence. However, I don't really understand the track's popularity. I don't really find the theme to be all that interesting, but it's nice enough; once again, the middle of the track sees a sudden change, as the song breaks out into a hard-rocking portion that soon falls into a harder repetition of the main theme. This is a better transition than the first track, but it still seems unfitting overall. Nevertheless, I like this track quite a bit.

"Alucard", the third track, is one of the album's 2 1/2 great successes, in my view. It's a very powerful and energetic song, with a dramatic ascending riff on saxophone and synthesizer which is intertwined with other parts well as the song goes on. The song has quieter parts, but they transition well through dramatic buildups, which are assisted by the application of some sort of filter to the vocal parts which causes them to suddenly crescendo, almost like a reverse fade, and these buildups are connected into the song well through more saxophone/synth transitions that have an almost sort of "demented circus" feel. The song produces a very powerful and menacing atmosphere as a result. (I've heard it said that Gentle Giant is very similar to In The Court of the Crimson King, which came out soon before. I can certainly see how "Alucard" is comparable to "21st Century Schizoid Man" in this regard, and although I don't think it's better, it provides worthy competition.)

"Isn't It Quiet And Cold?" is another one of the excellent tracks; a relatively subdued and peaceful piece after the previous track, mostly for a string quartet. It also produces a nice atmosphere, and there are some quirky, jazzy parts for the violin and cello to keep it interesting throughout. Phil Shulman's voice is also excellent here (well, his voice is excellent everywhere, but particularly here).

If "Alucard" is this album's "Schizoid Man", "Nothing at All" corresponds to "Moonchild", in that it starts as a folky ballad and is marred by an overlong, arbitrary improv section. But "Nothing at All" is, I think, a lot better than "Moonchild", for a couple reasons. First of all, the bizarre and arbitrary drum/piano solo in the middle only lasts for about 3 minutes. And secondly, the opening and closing theme is one of the best parts of the album (thus accounding for the fractional portion of the "2 1/2 successes" mentioned above), a beautiful, calm, and slightly sad song with complex guitar lines and vocal harmony that gradually metamorphoses into a harder, almost anguished tune, and then returns at the end to wrap things up. Without the solo in the middle, this would easily be the best song on the album; as it is, it's still really good.

After hearing "Alucard", "Isn't It Quiet and Cold?", and "Nothing at All" in a row, "Why Not" kind of pales in comparison. It's just a dull, bluesy number that has a recorder ensemble in the middle; while this foreshadows their use of recorders in the future, the appearance here is not sufficient to make the piece interesting.

Finally, the album is capped off by their own rendition of "God Save The Queen", which is more of a joke than anything else. It's very short, and not particularly interesting in any way; they could have left it off the album and it would not have made a bit of difference, in my mind.

Overall, while this is a good enough album with 2 1/2 standout songs: Isn't It Quiet and Cold, Alucard, and Nothing at All. Gentle Giant nevertheless improved greatly from here. It's clear that it was an early effort. So it's good, but not essential.

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Posted Friday, January 27, 2012 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#630070)
Posted Saturday, February 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars It would seem that Gentle Giant was either developing a style or just lacked enough solid material to make a full LP; the record does seem laden with filler, be it mediocre acoustic silliness or drum soloing or avant-garde piano. However, they managed to offer a few exceptionally good songs that, weak production aside, could have fit on an album like In a Glass House. This is not the place for someone new to Gentle Giant to start, but for fans, it's an interesting look at their evolution knowing what they would do moving forward.

'Giant' A regal organ leading into an exhilarating raucous riff and Derek Shulman's unrefined voice begins a decade of musical quirkiness from Gentle Giant. Midway through, the music becomes jazzier, almost Zeuhl, with a rare appearance of a Mellotron and symphonic embellishment. 'Giant' is my favorite from this debut album.

'Funny Ways' The much softer Kerry Minnear makes his first appearance on lead vocals here in this eccentric acoustic song. The halfway mark sees the song becoming a piano and organ-led jaunty jam. Gary Green enters with a penetrating guitar solo.

'Alucard' Dracula backwards, this is a blues-inspired rocker with a huge variety of instruments in tow. In stark contrast to the zaniness, the vocals fade in eerily.

'Isn't it Quiet and Cold?' Here is a carefree acoustic number with cheery fiddle and giddy tuned percussion.

'Nothing at All' Twelve-string guitar and hushed vocals opens the longest piece like a creeping dawn. The second section features a groovy blues riff, while the consists of a drum solo from Martin Smith. After this ill-fitting interlude, the beautiful music from the beginning returns.

'Why Not' 'Why Not' juxtaposes Gentle Giant's hard blues rock with the soft pastoral music they would fuse more credibly in the future. It concludes with a standard blues jam.

'The Queen' The final track is a disappointment- a rather boring rock rendition of 'God Save the Queen' ('America the Beautiful' in the US).

Report this review (#755617)
Posted Sunday, May 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
Moogtron III
4 stars The first of the Gentle Giant albums is already an impressive release. Most of the Gentle Giant sound is already here in a more than embryonic state. The complexity, the medieval / renaissance touch, the almost gritty guitar sound sometimes, beauty next to strangeness, the almost lo-fi production sometimes, but on the other hand a powerful, effective sound, the many instruments that are being used, the harmony vocals as well as some unsettling solo vocals ... It's all there. The compositions are well crafted too. The lyrics are already fascinating. Sounds, spheres and imagination. This album has it all.

Still, this is not the ultimate GG offering. It's hard to put the finger on why that is not the case. One could say that GG would sound dreamier and more other-wordly on "Acquiring The Taste", more eclectic on "Octopus", their complex sound brought more efficiently on "Free Hand"... In general, the parts don't gel together as a completely unified sound, not like on most of the six studio albums that would follow after their debut. Although the album is a real treat, the band would bring their talents into full blossom on later albums.

But the debut album is nevertheless a classic album in itself. Songs like "Funny Ways" and "Alucard" are reason enough to check the album out, but there are quite some other moments which are enjoyable. Still, the real breathtaking GG sound is to be heard to full effect on some of the later albums.

Report this review (#843771)
Posted Tuesday, October 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Through the years you gather a few albums of certain, unrivalled importance. Gentle Giant's debut is one of them. At the time of purchase I thought it to be something other than it actually was. I can't recall what I was thinking, since it's now 25 years since that time, but I was pleasantly, to say the least, surprised. I've always loved the album but I have also almost always skipped the first song, Giant, since I don't really feel it's an appropriate track for the album as a whole. Now, I may be wrong in other people's eyes but I'm right in my own.

The album is comprised of beautiful, intricate, dreamy, sometimes hard rocking songs, each one of them (bar Giant) capable of producing goose bumps and placing the songs (and the listener) in prog heaven. I cannot pick out any favourites of the songs, since I find them all enchanting and magical. The songs strike a chord with me which alot of the early prog bands seem to do. It's music before everything went too intricate and challenging. This album is quite easy to get into, probably their easiest and IMHO their best.

Being partial to british prog of the early 70's I find the album just as quaint and charming as Trespass, In the court of the Crimson king or say Khan. Still I'd like to point out that all things that made Gentle Giant stand out in the crowd can be found here. It's a great place to start if you're interested in the band specifically or prog as a genre.


Report this review (#844976)
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars 1970 was a pioneer prog year and Gentle Giant were progenitors of the style. The members at the time became legendary over time; Gary Green on lead guitar, 12 string guitar, Kerry Minnear on keyboard, some bass, cello, lead vocals, backing vocals, some tuned percussion, Derek Shulman on lead vocals, backing vocals, some bass, Phil Shulman on sax, trumpet, recorder, lead vocals, Ray Shulman on most bass, violin, some guitar, percussion, and Martin Smith on drums. The band reached higher heights on albums to come but this is a start in the right direction.

Gentle Giant's self titled debut opens with 'Giant' that signifies the signature sound of one of the most revered and influential artists in prog history. The album boasts some of the most beloved songs such as 'Funny Ways', 'Alucard', yes, that's Dracula backwards, and the labyrinthine lengthy 'Nothing At All'. This is a rather short album but does the job before it wears out its welcome. As an early prog album it still has some refining required, but it is nevertheless an important album for the band paving the way for all that made Green, Minnear, Smith, Shulman, Shulman and Shulman great.

You might say, this debut was a start in the right direction, but Gentle Giant was yet to show the masses how acquiring the taste of their music is so essential, and they will soon have three friends, including their record label that would become entangled in their progressive style like an octopus. Though it would be like throwing stones in a glass house, as the label and music industry would desire the power and the glory of the popular mainstream sound rather than allowing the Giant a free hand in their own style. The band gained popularity and received many an interview and found the missing piece in how to create unique and incredible music that was labelled pretentious for the sake of it. However, playing the fool, they decided on becoming nothing more than a giant for a day, complete with cardboard masks, leading them to be scraping the barrel becoming mere civilians again. Then the Giant came stumbling totally out of the woods, toppled from the beanstalk, and as he crashed to the ground, cried in horror "I lost my head! "

Report this review (#854107)
Posted Saturday, November 10, 2012 | Review Permalink
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!

Report this review (#856197)
Posted Sunday, November 11, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gentle Giant's "Gentle Giant", the first album of this brilliant band was released in 1970 when Gentle Giant were still a new group, and their sub-musical genre was moving from progressive rock to hard rock. In this album Gentle Giant haven't used a lot of advanced and strange instruments, but this album is very creative, new and exciting.

The artwork shows a big head with a bearded bald ginger. When you open the album you can see that the head is actually a giant that holds the band members in his gigantic hands and makes a move like he is about to give the observer the Gentle Giant members and that's how you can understand that he is a very gentle giant, as the name of the band says.

The album starts with a fantastic track which is called "Giant" it starts with a quiet organ melody which reminds us of the works of Jon Lord from Deep Purple, bass playing gets us to the verse which really reminds us of hard rock but it has some prog elements too. You can't see the really big change of the band style which comes only at the second album "Acquiring The Taste". The track is very creative and has some very interesting bass lines and organ parts which all are carefully crafted into one beautiful masterpiece. I like the instrumental part in the song as it includes some drumming and bass at the front and organ only at the background, making a beautiful harmony which is very Deep Purple-like but it has its own twist, the instrumental part continues to a very dramatic part with some choir singing with the organs and the beautiful instrument playing that you can see in the whole song. The song ends a quick break of the verse.

"Funny Ways". One of the songs that really got me into prog, starts some violins and acoustic guitar playing a strange riff then continues to a mellow, soft singing. This song has a dreamy yet beautiful atmosphere especially at the chorus "My ways are strange" which gets to a pretty heavy point compared to the rest of the song. The atmosphere of this song is pretty sorrowful, at least in my opinion but it is very joyful at the same time, especially at the part which starts in the middle which is very happy, and includes some drumming which sound very Hawaiian, gets us to a fantastic super emotional guitar solo, it includes very much of the soul of the one who wrote the solo, it gets back to the beautiful verse that is played with some African drums this time instead of regular drums it fades out then plays some more notes then ends pretty fast.

"Alucard", Dracula backwards, it starts with an interesting riff by organ, bass guitar, and electric guitar, it heats to a certain point with an organ solo then breaks to a quiet verse, with a spooky atmosphere which is hard to describe, the chorus has this creepy atmosphere especially in the organ and bass part after the singing which is very heavy and creepy. All the song has the semi-haunted atmosphere which is very dreamy and very heavy. Introduction is playing again with some breaks and guitar, organ, bass and drums ending which breaks in a certain point, then some organ notes come for a few seconds that get us out to the next song.

"Isn't It Quiet And Cold?" a very nice, quiet and atmospheric song, which makes you feel like you are walking in the street at the night, it has some violins which make the atmosphere really "Londony", it gets to a part which sounds very similar to The Beatles, a quiet amazing masterpiece. The tracks in this album are pretty short and it is not a long album.

"Nothing At All" starts with some beautiful acoustic picking, with some bass guitar notes entering, the vocals enter "Now she sits by the river..." this is a very nice atmosphere, it makes you sleepy but very awake at the same time. I can't really describe this song too much. It has a lot of prog elements and it is very emotional, it has some parts which really remind me of Simon & Garfunkel, it reminds a lot of David Bowie's works too. It enters a heavy hard rock riff in the middle of the song , the singing is matching this heavy guitar part in a very good way. The track has a beautiful drum solo with some classical piano playing in it, fantastic, a feeling that is hard to describe and a strange element, drums with a classical piano piece (?) it gets to a more jazzy point especially from the piano point of view, it fades out to fade into the verse again which is beautifully singed, ends with a break of the chorus with the phrase "Nothing at all" as the name of the song is. This track is very long compared to the rest of the album, it persists for 9 minutes.

"Why Not?" starts with some quiet organ notes playing, then entering a heavy riff with some electric guitar and bass guitar, the vocals are high and match the hard rock atmosphere perfectly, this track really reminds me of Deep Purple, it has a lot of elements that are combined together to create one more masterpiece. The track is very heavy but emotional, it has multiple vocals in some parts and it makes it very beautiful, it has some Pink Floyd-like sound at the middle-end with a short guitar solo which has its own feel, it is emotional and not very technical, it creates a fantastic hard rock atmosphere which ends with two chords then some drumming and organ.

"The Queen", well, it is the UK anthem in the version of Gentle Giant, which is more progressive and hard rock styled, it starts with the original anthem played by them then enters a quiet more heavy atmosphere. it is a very short track with a lot of dramatic breaks, nice guitar playing and it ends with a short organ almost unheard part.

Gentle Giant's very first album is an amazing, creative and hard rock styled album. It was of course one of my first prog albums, I couldn't stop listening to it for weeks, it reminds me of some very good times. I would give it 100/100 it is just brilliant, of course not my favorite album of Gentle Giant but it is surely one of the favorites of me in Gentle Giant and in prog at all. Thank you Gentle Giant for the album.

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Posted Monday, March 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars In my first sentence I can only slightly repeat what one of the respected reviewers (namely, Marcelo) had already written. The best. For me this is absolutely the greatest of their albums where you just see no flaws (apart from too long drum solo, surely). It listens on one breath, one wink of an eye.

This is to me the greatest debut rock album ever released (with Queen's debut being next, more flawed, more immature).

I totally love the neverending diversity of hard boogie, progressive rock ballad, touching neo classic/neo music hall, progressive title song and the wind horror tune put into one pack of 37 minutes duration. It would take a few albums of Yes to deal with such abundancy, actually.

This is an ideal example of what must the ideal progressive rock sound like. It must sound respective, respectable, humane, humouristic, complex and well played. The friendly face of a kind-eyed giant (as well as the concept of the gentle giant) matters much more than any morbid unnatural sick muzzles the world was yet to see, or whatever... Or whatever...

Report this review (#1057987)
Posted Thursday, October 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gentle Giant is one of the most amazing bands I've ever heard. Every men involved in this musical project is a musical genius! Everyone sings, writes and plays more than one common instrument. I have to admit that this record is absolutely awesome, although the band had not found their true identity yet. My favorite songs are "Giant" " Nothing At All" and "The Queen". Every prog lover should own this record and know it well, since it has a great complexity and skill levels, something that many other bands (we must admit it) can't do.

Pros: +Amazing Songs +Great Vocals +Memorable artwork +Perfectly executed

Cons: +A little unstable

Verdict: Great album, must-have for pure prog fans, but not for casual or dummy fans. I have to add that, of course, the best will come in later albums.

If you like it, look forward to Acquiring The Taste, all the way to Free Hand, all of the albums are outstanding.

4 stars - An excellent addition without a doubt.

Report this review (#1088079)
Posted Monday, December 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars What an outstanding debut by one of my favorite bands of all time. GENTLE GIANT didn't waste anytime after their pop stint as SIMON DUPREE & THE BIG SOUND ramping up the creativity and creating some seriously addictive fusion that takes everything from the pop sensibilities of their previous musical incarnation to Renaissance music, jazz and classical infusion in their unique construction.

The thing that has always impressed me the most about this band is it was a total democracy of geniuses who took part in every part of the creative process whether it be the songwriting or even playing the instruments thus earning the notoriety of being considered complex even by progressive rock standards. The amount of musical instruments used on this album is also staggering. They manage to keep an extremely accessible sound despite the complexity.

Although this album is rated lower than the several following ones, I simply cannot see why this album deserves a lower rating. I love every single track on here as much as the other more popular ones. No, it isn't as musically developed as the apex of their later stuff but taken for what it is, it is a near masterpiece in its own right. 4.5 rounded way uP!

Report this review (#1092106)
Posted Wednesday, December 18, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Before I move on to reviewing more of the huge hits the band developed in the coming years, I thought it appropriate to take a closer look at Gentle Giant's stellar self titled debut.

One large thing that caught my ear was the general cohesion that the album retained that was different to a lot of other prog debuts from 1967-1970. For instance, I found it more interesting than In the Court of the Crimson King, more complex than Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and much more prog than From Genesis to Revelation (although it usually isn't called their "debut" due to how much it's disliked). The quality on this little gem is unmatched by the big six of the 70's progressive rock bands that paved the way for the genre. And the funny thing is, all of those other bands were far more well known than this obscure group of brothers, and yet their still able to top them all in my book.

Although the band doesn't acknowledge this release as much as the more mainstream hits of Interview and Free Hand, they still like to catch people off guard by playing tracks like 'Funny Ways' and 'Alucard' at live performances. Another big thing this album has that the others in the discography don't have as much (or in some cases at all) is the entirety of the Shulman brothers playing to their best. It's true that when Phil Shulman left after Octopus, the band continued with their best effort yet. So with this we can't assume that all of them together is better than when they aren't as a whole, because that's clearly not the case. Anyway, onto the songs.

One of my top picks is 'Funny Ways', which takes the brothers at an a Capella standpoint with some genius avant-garde rocking interrupting it at the right times. 'Alucard' is a jazzy, keyboard ridden piece. Even though it has a slightly droning beginning, it does pick up with reversed vocals with a soft melody where the band quietly jams until it's broken by more guitar slamming and keyboard synthesizer. 'Isn't it Quiet and Cold' is a bit stranger, using less traditional instruments as well as coming off with a cello-led folk beat. 'Nothing at All' is a space rock jam with large acoustic segments taking up most of the first three quarters. 'Why Not?' and 'The Queen' are funkier bits that sound almost Dark Side-esque, albeit with less space rock vibes.

So, as a whole, Gentle Giant's s/t debut is quite something to behold. Compared with other bands on the market that sounded like it (except for some things King Crimson put out), Gentle Giant was unique in every single way. Great album for anyone's collection.

Go give it a listen.

Report this review (#1344980)
Posted Monday, January 12, 2015 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Gentle Giant' - Gentle Giant (83/100)

It is baffling that I've gone so long as a fan of progressive rock without giving Gentle Giant the time and attention their work rightly deserved. The Shulman bros and co. have become virtually synonymous with prog and all it's entailed for good and bad. Fortunately I recently took steps to rectify this gap in my progressive education, starting with their self-titled debut. By all accounts, I'm glad I did.

As early on as 1970, Gentle Giant were making music that bridged the gap between the 'warm prog' of pastoral contemporaries like Genesis, and the coolly calculated machinations of technique-oriented collectives, namely King Crimson. The result was a sound that confirms a great many of the expectations modern-day fans would have for the genre's heyday. The quaint British-isms that fuelled the first golden years of progressive rock are here in tandem with the byzantine instrumentation that would give it lasting appeal. The style of Gentle Giant is hinted at on the album's iconic cover; the face-centric art recalls In the Court of the Crimson King (from the year before) but while the King Crimson debut's visage was contorted and expressionistic, the 'gentle giant' seen here is heart-warming and friendly. It's not unimaginable that he'd probably want to invite you in for mead and venison if your paths crossed.

Although the more experienced Gentle Giant listeners tend to indicate 1971's Acquiring the Taste as the point where things really started to get going for Gentle Giant, it's clear that these guys already had a firm grasp of what they wanted to do and how to do it from the very start. While Yes and Genesis' respective debuts both struggled to find their style (Yes wouldn't find it until their third, Genesis with their second), Gentle Giant is confident and precise from the first song to last.

I've referred to 1970 in several reviews as the year prog and blues rock were most popularly conjoined, and it's certainly true with Gentle Giant. Given that progressive rock was a fairly novel advent (and American blues was all the rage in Britain at the time) it's little wonder Gentle Giant has its bluesy undertone. Gary Green (coming from a predominantly blues background) delivers crunchy blues riffs that would rival anything Cream or Taste were doing. While the sound of fuzzy blues guitar was far from alien in 1970 (even in so-called progressive music) Gentle Giant managed to integrate the blues undertones without losing the air of sophistication and challenging arrangements with which they would become synonymous. Take a gander at "Why Not?", a great track that doubles seamlessly between straightforward blues riffage and angular prog passages. The fusion's even more successful in the album's would-be epic "Nothing At All", which brilliantly manages to maintain the impression of ambitiously intellectual composition simultaneously with that of the straightforward blues rock energy. It seems as if every band in '70 was trying to accomplish this sort of stylistic cross-cut, and Gentle Giant are among the very few to have ever convincingly pulled it off.

Possibly even moreso than some of the better-regarded masterpieces in Gentle Giant's career, the self-titled offers excellent vocal work. Derek Shulman's voice isn't entirely unlike Peter Gabriel's; there is a consistent warmth to Gentle Giant's vocal delivery, which plays nicely with the occasionally daunting instrumentation they were pulling on this debut. Although Gentle Giant already had their hearts set on making use of atypical ingredients on the debut (the set of instruments is nothing compared to what they'd try later on) Gary Green's blues guitar possibly stands out to me as the most impressive instrumentation on the album! However, the full extent of their arrangements feels apparent in the parts where Gentle Giant is taking it easy and mellow. "Funny Ways" favours beauty over fireworks (this album's "I Talk to the Wind", anyone?) and does so with a layered arrangement of vocal harmonies and recorder. As much as Gentle Giant excelled with the straightforward rock, they fare just as well with the album's pastoral moments. "Isn't it Quiet and Cold" replicates the warmth of "Funny Ways" with an added sense of Medieval nostalgia. The contrast between the hot and simply warm moments on Gentle Giant keep the album engaging and dynamic.

Of course, no talk of Gentle Giant could go without noting "Nothing at All", which binds together the lively prog, the blus and pastoral acoustics together under one satisfying banner. It doesn't quite strike me as an epic so much as another would-be softer piece with some welcome extended passages to boot, but the fact that Gentle Giant were able to wield their horn of styles simultaneously here without appearing contrived is a testament to their skill. In fact, the only song here that doesn't give me that impression is "The Queen"- while it's obviously intended as a sort of one-size-fits-all finale for the record, it's a pretty undercooked footnote. I'd have imagined Gentle Giant could have mustered more to cap off their debut than that. All's well in any case- "The Queen" serves its purpose well enough, and doesn't really serve to diminish the album's effect.

Gentle Giant's debut seems to get overshadowed by the grandeur of its (admittedly more adventurous) successors, but I don't think it's a fair legacy to what is easily one of the strongest debuts in progressive rock history. Smite me for saying so, but I think it's an even better debut than In the Court of the Crimson King. Even though the following years would prove Gentle Giant had bigger, bolder places to go, it doesn't reduce the impression of the self-titled as a work of effortless character and confidence.

Report this review (#1353344)
Posted Sunday, January 25, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars How can Gentle Giant's debut LP not be considered anything other than an essential entry in any prog collection? I'm not just talking about the music, I'm talking about that album cover. That dorky, smug Scottish giant, with those happy Keane-ish eyes. It's like he knows something you don't. They say to you, "yeah, this band is called Gentle Giant. I'm a big, cuddly Scot. I enjoy mandolins and Punch & Judy shows. You think that sounds lame? Joke's on you, little guy!" It's an image that, like King Crimson's schizoid man or Rush's star man, has become representative of the genre. Even before I ever listened to Gentle Giant, the cover of this record was what leaped to mind whenever I thought of seventies progressive rock. Not owning it is like not owning "In the Court of the Crimson King" or "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway." It's like loving gangster movies, but not having seen "Little Caesar." It's not the best gangster movie, but it's an iconic one, goddammit!

Okay, enough about the cover, what about the music? It certainly is GG's heaviest record, with more of a blues rock influence, but it has the eclectic elements in place that would bloom on their subsequent releases. I must admit that after hearing albums like "Acquiring the Taste" and "Octopus," I didn't spin this one again for awhile. "Acquiring the Taste" is such a quantum leap from "Gentle Giant" in terms of musicianship and progressive songwriting, that it made "Gentle Giant" seem like an album where a band is simply hammering out their sound. And yet, I missed the heaviness of the album, which is why I always feel compelled to return to it, and I always listen from "Giant" all the way to "The Queen," which is actually the only throwaway on the album, but it always lets me know I've reached the end.

This self-titled debut is nowhere near the finest work that Gentle Giant put together in their brief-but-prolific career, yet it's still a must, a perfect starting point for getting into one of the finest bodies of work progressive rock has ever offered.

Report this review (#1372768)
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the album that got me into progressive rock. I remember having a weird image of prog rock - very medieval and in a way much more theatrical than it really was, a different medieval world of witchcraft in a strange, forgotten land. This album was a perfect foundation for that image. One of the moodiest albums in the history of progressive rock. A very renaissance, European feel with some blues, jazz and chamber music influences.

Gentle Giant were formed by three Shulman brothers: Derek, Phil, and Ray. They were all multiinstrumentalists and had previously played in a psychedelic pop band Simon Dupree and the Big Sound. In 1970, the siblings teamed up with a guitarist Garry Green and a classically-trained keyboardist Kerry Minnear. They also took a drummer Martin Smith onboard, previously also of Simon Dupree and the Big Sound. The very same year, the sextet signed a contract with Vertigo label to record their self-titled debut album.

The multiinstrumentalist abilities of Gentle Giant are to a high degree reflected in the music. The band's sound is varied and diverse, characterized by incredibly clever musicianship. The influences include European art music of the middle ages and renaissance, chamber music, jazz, soul, blues, and folk to name a few. All of these combined with bright sophistication create a distinct musical extract that only Gentle Giant were capable of creating.

The album opener, "Giant" is a fast-paced very melodic with influences of jazz and soul as well as a hint of English folk. "Funny Ways" is a chamber-influenced ballad, which features a cello and a violin, showing band's renaissance art music influence. "Alucard" has a heavy rhythm a la Manfred Mann's Earth Band with great horns and synths (read the title of this song backwards). "Isn't It Quiet And Cold" is at times similar to "Funny Ways" with chamber music influences being put at the first plan. "Nothing At All" is perfect in every aspect. The main theme is a beautiful, feminine, folk-esque love song with a very proggy movement in the middle with classical piano playing "disturbed" by heavy drumming. The song resolves into "Why Not?", which fuses influences of dry blues rock with intricate English folk parts. "Queen" is the shortest track of the album, driven by majestic horns. There is a rapid synthesizer passage that appears all the way throughout the album on different occasions, sometimes in the middle of the songs, sometimes at the end of the songs, giving the album a very mystic touch.

All in all, Gentle Giant's self-titled debut is an exceptional work characterized by excellent musicianship, eclecticism, and diversity. Perhaps not a must-have, but definitely a must-listen for every prog nut. Five stars!

Report this review (#1534671)
Posted Wednesday, March 2, 2016 | Review Permalink
Magnum Vaeltaja
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars Somewhere in between the pop stardom of Simon Dupree and the Big Sound and the ostentatious prog pinnacles of the post-Phil bi-Shulman era, Gentle Giant cranked out one of the most solid, consistent and unique debut albums in all of rock music.

The band's debut often gets criticized by prog fans because it's "not as complex" as the group's later works. In all due respect, though, who cares? "Gentle Giant" is a vicious blues-fused prog attack that sounds like the bastard child of Deep Purple and Genesis. Who doesn't like Deep Purple and Genesis? All seven songs on this album are classics. "Giant" is the perfect opener, with its hard-hitting horn arrangements and drums-bass-mellotron groove that almost seems like a precursor to the Yes classic "Heart of the Sunrise". "Funny Ways" is the first indication that Gentle Giant is capable of compositional greatness, though. This seemingly awry tune manages to churn out more quality musical ideas in under 5 minutes than I've ever heard, from mystical bard-style acoustic sections to boogie woogie funk to heroic battle trumpets, "Funny Ways" has it all, and a little extra.

"Alucard" is classic early Uriah Heep-style horror prog, with an extra dose of jazz and "Isn't It Quiet and Cold?" offers some nice breathing room after its predecessor's train wreck ending. "Nothing At All" is truly a testament to how incredible the Shulman brothers are. One minute you'll be shivering and tearing up from its absolute pastoral beauty and the next minute you'll be air drumming to what is probably the only drum solo in a ballad. The album finishes off with two great blues rock numbers, including a rendition of God Save The Queen that makes what is debatably the most boring national anthem on the planet into a bombastic, no-holds-barred rock and roll fanfare, because why not? (pun intended)

"Gentle Giant" is the absolute gem of the Gentle Giant discography. Though it may not be as over-arranged and needlessly busy as "The Power and the Glory" or "Free Hand", it is still subtly complex, and more importantly, it has SOUL. This is absolutely essential listening for anyone who likes quality progressive music and isn't too worried to listen to something with slightly muddied production. THE quintessential Gentle Giant work; 5 stars.

Report this review (#1586039)
Posted Friday, July 8, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars A gentle baby giant

3.5 stars

For their debut album, the least that we can say is that GENTLE GIANT had already built a strong identity on their own. Never before a pop-rock group went so far in musical complexity and arrangements. This is mainly due to the Shulman brothers' musical past in their former R&B pop band SIMON DUPREE and to classically trained multi-instrumentalist Kerry Minnear, who incorporated advanced composition techniques. The songs are an adventurous melodic mixture of pop, rock and medieval music, with many changes and a wide palette of instruments, such as violin, flute or saxophone. Elaborated, but yet accessible. Progressive, but yet still with sixties' psychedelic elements.

With its keyboard introduction, "Giant" is a powerful and catchy hard rocking opener. The soft and enchanting "Funny Ways" possesses a medieval feel immersed in a sauce of 60's psych-pop. In contrast, despite its jazzy accents, "Alucard" is rather oppressive, even a little dissonant. This track is quite repetitive and may be my least favorite of the record. Then comes the gentle "Isn't It Quiet And Cold?", a charming and typically English ballad. Pleasant.

Longest composition of the disc, "Nothing At All" is surprisingly not the most progressive. Supported by delightful acoustic guitar and chorus in the vein of SIMON AND GARFUNKEL, the song is finally a more conventional pop-rock, calm and mellow. The drum solo is good but honestly superfluous. Accompanied by a flute, "Why Not" alternates hard/bluesy rock and some medieval passages. The album concludes with "The Queen", a pretty pompous and useless cover of "God Save The Queen".

Although short and containing less interesting moments, this self-titled debut already displays the members' talents and personality. Clever and original, "Gentle Giant" was already one of the most sophisticated progressive rock release in 1970, due to the used classical music writing techniques and instruments. Not as complex as than some of their later works, this opus is probably GENTLE GIANT's rockiest. An ideal entry point if you want to discover the band, alongside the spacey "Three Friends".

Simply essential in the development of progressive rock...

Report this review (#1595891)
Posted Monday, August 8, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars The birth of a realization, the rise of a high expectation: 8/10

KING CRIMSON triggered a devastating revolution with its magnificent debut in 1969. Phil, Derek, and Ray Schulman failing to attain commercial success through pop singles, decided to embrace that rising musical insurgency creating their own project. As they were proficient multi-instrumentalists, their search for equipollent musicians was arduous. After gathering the graduate from Royal Academy of Music Kerry Minnear, the semi-professional but flexible Gary Green, and Martin Smith, the Schulman brothers decided they assembled a sufficiently talented gang.

Legend foretells that a Somersetian giant, upon listening to an uncommon tune, scouted through all of Britain for its source, ultimately meeting "six dedicated musicians tearing off a rendition of 'Why Not?' at a thousand watts". The mythical being befriended them and they all even took a picture together, which is the album cover. Flattered by the creature's tenderness, the band was named in its honor: GENTLE GIANT.

This album, GENTLE GIANT, is a mammoth release with unpredictable experimentation that took 1970 by surprise. It suffices to demonstrate the band's stratospheric ambitions and potential, even though it is not in any way nearly as mind-bending or brutally complex as their later works.

Roughly, GENTLE GIANT offers an amalgam of blues, jazz, classical and baroque music, rhythm & blues and folk. This comprehensive diversity was a consequence of differing habitats and aptitudes of the band members: Derek Schulman brought the R&B; Phil Schulman, folk, and jazz; Kerry Minnear exhaled classical influences and Gary Green outputted bluesy lines. Worth mentioning, too, is that both Derek and Minnear were vocalists contributing, respectively, with their energetic and delicate voices.

Giant is a hell of an opener: with audacious self-describing lyrics, they succintly express their manifesto and pretensions.

Alternating between bombastic and symphonic sounds, it is the perfect demonstration of the album's hard-rocking vein whilst still maintaining some unpredicted influences such as jazz or classical music. Funny Ways is the 'gentle' part of this equation; Minnear's soothing vocals, acoustic guitars, and violins contributes to a sweet medievalist atmosphere. Isn't it Quiet and Cold? is a short folksy song, its heartwarming vaudevillian tone does not fit with the pessimistic lyrics. However, it does fit the xylophone solo.

GENTLE GIANT unleashes its claws in Alucard, the album's most complex and perverse track. Brutally distorted - and rather funky - synthesizers with virulent bass boost; agonized, desperate acapella vocals; a frenzied multi-instrumentalist section, all conjured together to construct the imagery of a meeting with Alucard - or Dracula, backward. Definitely avant-garde for 1970. Rather creepy even for today's standards?

Another interesting track is Nothing at All, GENTLE GIANT's clearest mixture of folk, blues, and smooth jazz. Clocking at almost nine minutes, it is one of GENTLE GIANT's longest songs due to the midsection. Recorded with an electronic device no more potent than a sugar beet, Martin Smith's echoed (ugh, the mixing is terrible) drums madly solos for a few minutes until an emotional classical piano joins the fun. Perhaps seduced to the drums' ecstasy, the clavier abandons its pompous posture, goes berserk, and frantically jam along the percussions. An unconventional duet that symbolizes GG's unconventional preferences.

This debut's eclectic hard-rocking style is abandoned as the band members opted for a more symphonic and less guitar-oriented sonority. GENTLE GIANT might not be the band's definitive sound, but it still means everything GG represents: to break boundaries as vividly and boldly as possible; and to be a gentle giant. Gentle, because seldom is their music aggressive; giant, because seldom is their music not colossa.

Emerging successful, defiant, together the parts make a Giant.

Report this review (#1693297)
Posted Wednesday, February 15, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Review Nş 118

'Gentle Giant' is the self titled debut studio album of Gentle Giant. Their music tried the most daring fusion of jazz, classical and rock. The band was formed by Schulman brothers who had before joined some blues band in Glasgow. The major point of strength of the sextet were Kerry Minnear's electronic keyboards, the guitar playing by Gary Green and Philip Schulman's winds. Besides their complex scores, their sound differed from other bands especially for Derek Schulman's singing, so aseptic that in some way resembles Conservatory's solfege and Gregorian chant.

So, the line up on the album is Gary Green (backing vocals, lead guitar, 12 string guitar and flute), Kerry Minnear (lead vocals, backing vocals, keyboards, some bass, cello, synthesizer and some tuned percussion), Derek Shulman (lead vocals, backing vocals and some bass), Phil Shulman (lead vocals, backing vocals, saxophone, trumpet and recorder), Ray Shulman (backing vocals, most bass, violin, some guitar and percussion) and Martin Smith (drums, percussion and xylophone). Paul Cosh (tenor horn on 'Giant') and Claire Deniz (cello on 'Isn't Quiet And Cold?'), are additional artists that appear on the album as guest musicians.

'Gentle Giant' has seven tracks. The first track 'Giant' written by Derek Shulman, Phil Shulman, Ray Shulman and Kerry Minnear is a fantastic begin to the album. This is a truly classic progressive Gentle Giant's song very dynamic and creative. I love the way how the guitar is played and the great keyboard work made by Kerry Minnear. This is one of the best moments on this album. The second track 'Funny Ways' written by Derek Shulman, Ray Shulman and Kerry Minnear is a song completely different from the previous one. It's a mellow song more classic and acoustic with an extraordinary exploration of several musical instruments, some classic and acoustic which are fantastically married with the others, electric and more modern. It's also in my humble opinion a song with a relatively complex musical composition. This is a perfect example how these guys were absolutely unique. The third track 'Alucard' written by Derek Shulman, Phil Shulman, Ray Shulman and Kerry Minnear is, if you have noticed, 'Dracula' spelled backwards. This is an atypical song of the group because is more a hard rock influenced song. It's relatively complex and has some interesting and good instrumental musical passages and with disturbing vocals. However, this never was one of my favourite songs on the album. The fourth track 'Isn't It Quiet And Cold?' written by Kerry Minnear is a very mellow song that reminds me The Beatles and some stuff of early King Crimson's albums. The song is performed in an unplugged style with strange and delicious parts performed especially by violin and cellos. This is a song very simple and despite being a song with a very soft and nice melody this isn't one of my favourite tracks on the album too. The fifth track 'Nothing At All' written by Derek Shulman, Ray Shulman and Kerry Minnear is the biggest song on the album and is really a truly surprising track. This is another atypical song of Gentle Giant and it has practically everything. The song begins as a soft and nice acoustic ballad with melancholic harmonies, in the middle it grows as a hard and heavy rock song, then comes the curious drum solo by Martin Smith, so typical on the albums of those times, curiously with the piano of Kerry Minnear adding some nice melodies on the background and finally the song ends with the initial soft and beautiful acoustic ballad. This is one of the strangest, original, curious and interesting songs ever composed by the group, a real must. The sixth track 'Why Not' written by Kerry Minnear is in my humble opinion another high point of the album. This is a heavy Rock'n'Roll song a little bit dark and frantic with some calm and nice passages. It's worth of noting the appearance for the first time in their music, of the clear influence of the medieval music, which isn't surprising because this is a song of Minnear and he is a musician strongly influenced by those music. The seventh track 'The Queen' is a rock version of their national anthem 'God Save The Queen'. It's a short version arranged by Derek Shulman, Phil Shulman, Ray Shulman and Kerry Minnear. I've nothing special to say, unless that it reminds me Queen who did it five years later on their fourth studio album 'A Night At The Opera', a version that I personally prefer.

Conclusion: Who usually read my reviews on Progarchives, especially those who are about Gentle Giant, know that I'm a big fan of the group. Gentle Giant was one of the pioneer bands of progressive music and was also one of their biggest and best representatives. And about the album, 'Gentle Giant' is an excellent debut album. It's probably their less complex musical work and it's for sure their most hard and heavy rock album. But, we mustn't forget that this is an album of 1970 and therefore one of the first progressive rock albums in prog rock history. However, this album already have some of the main characteristics of their music like the avant-garde and experimentalism, the fusion of rock, blues and jazz, the influence of the renaissance and medieval music and the prolific use of the multi musical instruments.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#1716464)
Posted Tuesday, May 2, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gentle Giant's self-titled debut album is a creative and emotional statement supreme. If this album doesn't give you chills and move you to tears every step of the way, then the morgue might need to be called.

From the minute this album opens with "Giant", it is very clear that this is something truly special. "Giant," the group's namesake composition, indeed is a towering masterpiece. A better written, more deeply developed and expertly performed track would be hard to find. Atmospheric organ sets a mind-expanding tone, soon underscored by the arriving bass guitar. Then the vocal line bursts in. And what a melody it is, in a tension-building seventh chord and a configuration of notes that is completely fresh and startling, but at the same time soothing and entrancing. Then the woodwinds enter in perfectly premeditated fashion as to frame and accentuate the vocal melody just rendered. The particular woodwind style used gives the song both a slightly Renaissance and jazz feel, the jazz a direction only touched on and not consumptive of the song; that is a good thing for us rock people. The woodwind line and for that matter, the song as a whole, is so beautiful and original as to transcend any style or category. Something truly brilliant usually stands on its own rather than being genre-serving.

"Giant's" middle section is sparse and pensive, an understatement making by contrast a perfect grand entrance for the band's glorious coming out. That is marked with a stimulating new vocal line: "He is coming . Are you ready ?" Drums deftly herald this unveiling. Then back to the verse, which is now far more spirited. The instrumental section is a celebratory jam out between organ, mellotron and the occasional woodwind, waxing symphonic but grounded by punchy rock drums.

The next track, "Funny Ways," couldn't be better to follow the "Giant's" romp. It is as introspectively melancholy as "Giant" was haltingly festive, and contains some of rock's most original opening lines. A sultry, pensive violin or cello serenades the lovely intricacies of a twelve-string guitar. Then the most haunting of vocal melodies unfolds. The violin continues to flavor the vocals. In the next iteration of the verse, skillful banjo strumming heightens the exquisiteness of the melody. Then a more forceful statement is laid down with the vocal "My ways are strange.," all the while the strings dramatizing. The instrumental solo is virtuosic if not dazzling, more important in rock annals for organ giving way to a hot blues guitar interpolated by snarly sax, and not in the slightest jazz-indulgent. The song closes with the melody revisited accapella, save for bodhran or toms in an echoey production.

The next track "Alucard," if not as original melody-wise as the first two tracks, is a head-banging riot of raucous organ spiked with memorable sax and synthesizer lines. It's a bit reminiscent of King Crimson's rocking sax patchworks. The vocal is textural in this song, rather than dominant. The lyric melody wafts in dreamily and quickly becomes joyfully weird. Instrumentation also becomes wacky and experimental, alternating between rowdy and wistful moods. This is a motif that Gentle Giant will revisit many times in their career. It is rarely as fresh, delicate and well-rounded as on "Alucard."

"Nothing at All" is a stirring orgy of 12 string and vocal beauty, probably one's of art rock's finest and most memorable creations. The rarified atmosphere is heightened by the band's delightful harmonizing and well placed bass guitar accents. Gary Green's heavy, heavy distorted guitar lines, if not particularly creative, are extremely moving and memorable and fittingly lead into the louder vocal section. The structured part of the song so ends for the time being and is built on by an excellent drum solo and then the most bizarre but endearing of piano, the soloing on that instrument running the gamut from honky- tonk to avant garde, the whole transition completely fluid and engaging. The spaceship makes a smooth landing and the song closes with the delectable vocal theme.

The Gentle Giant debut's last full track, "Why Not," would be a welcome addition to a Deep Purple album. It's hard rock hijacked by organ .. or is it? On closer examination, an unrelenting funky vibe engulfs the listener. Then there's the recession of the organ into the most sensitive and recorder-festooned of secondary melodies. And lest one think the song's new mood lies in this space, another funky guitar-oriented section erupts, leading back to the heavy, main melody and guitar soloing galore. Art rock is generally unfairly labelled devoid of guitars. "Why not" is the clear negation of that stereotype and a statement continued into the closing track, a hard rocking, undoubtedly satirical cover of "God Save the Queen," as if to announce that the Shulman family and friends have joined Robert Fripp, Keith Emerson, Pink Floyd and the Moody Blues in an even merrier remaking of Old England. And Gentle Giant, more than their art rock associates embody an incredible, inexplicable joy.

Report this review (#1918147)
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2018 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gentle Giant debut is a beautiful surprise for the world of rock music.

1) Giant (vote 8,5/9). Great rock-blues piece. Powerful attack, hard-rock, with a sung that looks like Roger Chapman of the Family. Then it changes style and rhythm, arrive keyboard and bass solos then start meditative passage that end with epic and majestic effect; finally the piece returns to the initial rock rhythm. 2) Funny Ways (vote 8,5). First song masterpiece of that genre with the strings that will be present in almost all their major albums. This piece will remain unmatched for the beauty of the melody and for the beautiful insertion, as an intermezzo, of an instrumental part in tribal boogie style, which then becomes a triumphal march with the winds. 3) Alucard (vote 8+). Mostly instrumental piece, at the King Crimson / Pink Floyd of Atom Heart Mother style, with almost excessive production. Remarkable sound impact, powerful and threatening, with the winds, which meanwhile allow the insertion of strangers choruses. In the middle, reflexive pause, then return of the menacing tone, then new choirs, then dissonant final. 4) Is not It Quiet and Cold? (vote 7,5) Second classic piece with bows to dilute the heavy and threatening sound of the previous song. It has a relaxing, light effect: it has no instrumental crescendo, it maintains itself on the initial classical tonality, resulting slightly monotonous but is embellished with a vibraphone solo. End of the first side.

5) Nothing At All (vote 8,5/9). One does not end by amazement. Here comes the longest piece of all the good Giant discography, with excellent initial melodic part, first Genesis style acoustics, then with growing rock. There follows an instrumental jam with a large drum solo, while Minnear plays Liszt in the background. Final with return of the acoustic melody. It is a song that will have no equal in the remaining production of the group. 6 Why Not? (vote 8+)Hard-rock and blues, with Green's guitar in great dust. Medieval intermezzo with the celestial voice of Minnear, and then powerful jam rock of guitar and drums, which face each other with great rhythm. From this piece originate the following pieces of powerful rock with medieval intermezzo: Wreck (Acquiring) and Working All day (Three Friends), but they are much inferior (especially Wreck, which seems like a bad copy). 7) Queen (vote 6,5). Distorted English anthem: actually quite negligible closure.

First album and absolute masterpiece of the Gentle Giant, which will never be so powerful and epic as in Giant and Alucard; they will never be so wonderful and creative in pieces with violins like in Funny Ways; they will never be so improvised and jammed in long pieces with symphonic rock solos or rockblues as in Nothing At All and Why not. These are the only ones and the only Gentle Giant without bridle, natural, that explore every musical style without setting limits or rules. From the next album they will become less and less spontaneous and more and more harnessed in a valuable rock but very attached to formal self-imposed rules.

Vote 9+. Five stars.

Report this review (#2077605)
Posted Thursday, November 22, 2018 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars For their first album, Gentle Giant wanted to establish the fact that this was going to be a different kind of band, nothing like the band that they grew out of the ashes from, Simon Dupree and The Big Sound. The sound on this album is a world apart from that band, however, it was not exactly the sound that they would eventually acquire (pun intended). It is very true that you can hear a lot of what they would soon become, but this album is no "Free Hand" or even "Acquiring the Taste" for that matter. This one is based quite a bit more upon the blues-based rock that was prevalent at the time than most of their albums, but with a lot of the progressive sound they would call their own.

This is mostly apparent in the first track "Giant". In fact, you can almost say this sound more like one of their more mature tracks, complex with odd time signatures and cool non-traditional harmonies. The following track "Funny Ways" is a bit more typical, but still a bit "left-of-center", however it doesn't quite stand out and actually gets a bit lost between the album opener and the following track "Alucard". Featuring some really nice keyboard work, it emphasizes the instrumental prowess of the band, however, there are still vocals. This one, like the first, is more on the progressive side of things, but does rely more on the rock-centered side of things.

Side two tends to drift away from the progressive sound and centers even more on the blues-oriented rock, yet it is still full of originality that would become the band's signature sound. The Beatlesque "Isn't It Quiet and Cold?" starts things off and is followed by the lengthiest track on the album "Nothing at All". This one teeters between folk and rock quite comfortably and even hints around at progressive stylings. Even with this progressive feel though, it still lacks a bit at the GG signature sound that would come later. Still, it's a good track worth the price of the album. The album gets rounded off with "Why Not?" which is a fun rock track that shows a less serious side to the band and then everything gets closed off by "The Queen" which is a short instrumental with the band interpreting "God Save the Queen".

Two things work against this album: the weak ending and the not-so-great production. The original copy of the album seems to be lacking in quality in the sound, not in the performance. This can be forgiven because it was the band's first album and they were also experimenting with their overall sound and place in the overall rock picture. Fortunately, it won't take long for the band to find their sound and their place, but at least with this album, we still end up with something that is worth while when it comes to progressive rock. It's pretty good and all, but it's not as good as it will get.

Report this review (#2447418)
Posted Saturday, September 12, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars Review #88

Since I started listening to Progressive Rock and discovering the bands that fit under that label two bands became my favorites and they're still my favorites nowadays; it's really hard for me to choose one of these bands over the other so I just interchange the first position between these two groups over and over again; these two groups are KING CRIMSON and GENTLE GIANT.

I've been listening to all of GENTLE GIANT studio albums since I was 15 years old and (with the sad exception of the last two albums) I believe every single one of them is amazing; the debut album was extremely innovative even in Progressive Rock: all the members of GENTLE GIANT were multi-instrumentalists, capable of creating very interesting musical compositions outside the monotonous guitar-bass-drums-keyboards classic rock band type.

GENTLE GIANT emerged from the ashes of SIMON DUPREE & THE BIG SOUND, an R&B group from the late sixties with occasional psychedelic moments in which the three SHULMAN brothers (Ray, Phillip, and Derek) were the main musicians; after breaking up the band in 1969 (because none of the SHULMAN brothers really liked the kind of music that the record label wanted them to play) they formed a new group with a completely different musical style featuring Kerry MINNEAR, Gary GREEN, and Martin SMITH.

Once I read that BANCO DEL MUTUO SOCCORSO cited GENTLE GIANT as one of their major influences, I can't find the article right now but I can find a lot of this album in several Italian Progressive Rock bands of the early seventies such as PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI, AREA, and LE ORME, so I don't find that really hard to believe.

1.- Giant (06:22): The opening track is very intense and concise; a very consistent guitar riff accompanied by powerful bass lines and a jazzy organ is the main instrumentation of the first part, then the song has an instrumental middle section that changes the rhythm with a majestic organ solo that reminds a lot to THE MOODY BLUES' "Days of future passed" and then the song comes back to the initial sung structure.

2.-Funny ways (04:21): The most recognizable song from this album: GENTLE GIANT played it in most of (or maybe every single one of) their live performances. The medieval instrumentation under the leadership of Phil SHULMAN's violin changes to a jazzy middle section with a frenetic trumpet solo played by Ray SHULMAN.

3.- Alucard (06:00): This is a more moved rock piece with nice keyboard arrangements by Kerry MINNEAR; it is also a great example of how well synchronized the members of the band were to play vocal roles, something that would become characteristic in every GENTLE GIANT album. Jazzy at some moments, rocky and even obscure in others

4.- Isn't it quiet and cold? (05:51): This is a beautiful medieval stylized tune with string instruments; once again the medieval essence is interspersed with jazzy elements. The xylophone in this piece was very original for its time: probably Frank ZAPPA and GENTLE GIANT were the first musicians to incorporate this instrument to Progressive Rock.

5.- Nothing at all (09:08): As I said before: several Italian Progressive Rock bands sound similar to GENTLE GIANT in some moments whether it was intentional or not; I hear a lot of this song in PFM's first two albums. The middle part is actually the one that contains the hardest rock with a very powerful riff and a wonderful drum solo played by Martin SMITH.

6.- Why not? (05:31): A nice Hard Rock piece with the very classy touch of the giant; the riff played in this tune is easy to recognize. This is probably the heaviest song of the album, almost reminds me of ATOMIC ROOSTER or WISHBONE ASH.

7.- The queen (01:40): The instrumental short piece that closes the album is an arrangement of "God save the Queen", UK's National Anthem and it is played quite great.

The debut album of one of the most beloved and respected Progressive Rock bands of all time is probably not their best job, but still, it is a really amazing one.

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Posted Saturday, January 16, 2021 | Review Permalink

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