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Gentle Giant

Eclectic Prog

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5 stars I must beg to differ with the way voting has gone on this album. If you listen to this album with preconceived ideas about what a GG album should sound like then you won't like it. But if you listen to it for what it is > a prog rock lp released in 1980, it really is a good album.
Report this review (#6284)
Posted Sunday, January 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Many people will write this one off without giving it a chance, or even a listen. Granted, Civilian doesn't feature the in-your-face complexity of their earlier masterworks, and the sound is certainly different (1980, man), but this is Gentle Giant we're talking about here! In no way does it suck. These guys were far too intelligent to release a stinker, at any point in their career, and if you accept Civilian on its own terms you have yet another classic on your hands. Many of the songs have a hard edge; the drums and guitar are way loud; and, for 1980, the arrangements are still (relatively) thick. "Inside Out" is a particularly ominous track, with vocal work that shows GG could write in a more direct style and not sacrifice any of their potency. If you can't hang with Civilian, it's your loss.
Report this review (#6285)
Posted Monday, January 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
1 stars While die-hard GG fans will say anything by GG is great, don't believe it! By the time this one came out, they have very little that is new to offer, and their vocals were never that great anyway (nice harmony accapella stuff, but it was special due to the degree of experimentation, not the aesthetics of their voices).
Report this review (#6286)
Posted Wednesday, February 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars Considered to be an unmitigated disaster by both the fans and band members alike this was Gentle Giant's last offering before packing it in after 10 years. Drummer John Weathers actually liked this work so this in itself must hold some water. At the very worst it is a great rock album despite how the other members felt about it at the time although gone are the medievalisms, point counter point and other complexities in favour of smoother song formats. The album is without a doubt far superior to some ofthe real duds released by other prog rock bands in the soul searching period of the 1970's with the highlights appearing towards the end of the work in the form of Underground, I Am A Camera and It's Not Immagination. While anything by this unique band is recommended, the uninitiated should check out earlier material before delving into this simplified version of Gentle Giant.
Report this review (#6287)
Posted Friday, April 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars The last GG album is excellent compared to the direction music took in the 80's. Granted, it's not overly complex and syncopated like the Power and the Glory, and is more "rocked out" but the feel is really great. GG wrote albums based on themes and the theme for this one says much about the common man.
Report this review (#6288)
Posted Friday, July 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Well well well . as for the musical style of this album, this is like the "90125" (Yes) for Gentle Giant. Why? Almost all tracks in this album are straight forward rock music, unlike any previous albums of Gentle Giant. This is not truly prog album, I would say. However, I like this album very much because it rocks! Never mind this album is not prog at all!! I never imagined before that Gentle Giant would ever produce an album like this.

"Convenience (Clean And Easy)" opens the album with dynamic solo drumming at intro part followed by punchy keyboard style. There is a bit of prog component at the end of this track. This upbeat track indicates overall theme of this album as the music is typical with other tracks. "All Through The Night" is my favorite track. It has no such component of prog music at all. The music is straight forward rock, simple structure with great melody, some gutar riffs that are rarely used by the band. This is the kind of track you would like to elevate your emotion as the music is upbeat. This track flows seamlessly to the next track "Shadows on The Street" with a slow tempo. The transition to this track is done smoothly. This track has a unique voice of DEREK SHULMAN, typical to Gentle Giant.

"Underground" is another upbeat tempo track. The dazzling bass guitar and keyboard sound flows dynamically to accompany great voice of DEREK. The way keyboard is played reminds me to unique keyboard style of SAGA. It flows nicely to next track "I'm a Camera", another upbeat track in the vein of straight rock. It continues to a slower tempo track "Inside Out". Again, this is a wonderfully crafted track with excellent melody and vocals. I bet you would like it whether you like prog music or not. Even non rock lovers may enjoy this ambient track. Overall, this album is excellent. This is one of the best music that I keep playing it overtime. I'd rather listen to this album than any other hard rock album such as Deep Purple. GENTLE GIANT has a vocalist with a great voice that I really love. Highly recommended. An excellent addition to your collection. Gatot Widayanto, Indonesia.

Report this review (#6289)
Posted Sunday, July 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars As bad as GIANT FOR A DAY was, one would have thought GG would never have been able to climb out of the hole they dug for themselves. YET, this is a great album. It's almost like they had finally figured out how to do Prog Pop. Too bad that was to be their last studio album, because I think if they would have continued down this road their next album would have been a 5-star effort.
Report this review (#6290)
Posted Tuesday, November 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Much better than the awful "Giant For a Day", "Civilian" is closer to regular rock with a more modern feeling to it. Still no special hints from their glorius past on this one either, except for Keyboardist Kerry Minear and Vocalist Derek Shulman's notable vocals. However, the tracks are all from OK to pretty good, with the best one beign "Inside Out". This is not a recommended starting point to Gentle Giant at all, but if you like the band, this one may be enjoyable in spots. 3 stars.
Report this review (#6291)
Posted Sunday, November 28, 2004 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
3 stars It's hard to say what to give this album. It is really not progressive, at least not what we are used to (but i still say its more 80s pop/rock). For that fact it is hard to give it three stars. Prog-wise it should be two stars or even one. But, then you have everything eles about the album. With that said, i'll start the review.

First of all, I love the cover. It is one of thier best, and one of the best in all of music. It is really clever. Now the music if deffinately different from what we are used to (as i said before). Now even though it is not prog, it is still good music. Some of the songs are really good, and others are not (just like a good pop album should be ;-)). Anyway, Conveinence is a great song. Nice beat and good sound (minus the drums. I have never liked the 80s drums). All Though The Night is another great song. Unfortunatly, after that, the album gets slow and very poppy for the time. It picks up again with Underground (great effect in the beinging with the subway), and I Am A Carama (again nice effect). I also like the ending of the album. Very clever and very fitting, as it is the last "true" work by Gentle Giant.

Even though this album is as it is, it is still Gentle Giant and still worth getting (esp. if it is cheap). I'll say the true rating lies around 2.5, but with the stipulation that this really isn't a prog album, but it would probably appeal to more than just fans, but just slightly.

Report this review (#6294)
Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Gentle Giant is here for the first time with a hard rock new wave style. The first element that retains the attention is the electric guitar: it can be absolutely razor like on "All through the night". The record is a well structured hard rock music without really being progressive: there are no more violins, percussions, horns and woodwind instruments. There are many smoother bits with not bad keyboards. The less vintage keyboards give a new wave dimension to the album. The lead vocals are very good, and the bass-guitar ensemble give the songs a pleasant dynamism and a rather impressive "bottom". The drums are really present too.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Report this review (#6295)
Posted Sunday, May 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Ok this AOR/Mainstream music with hints of hard rock (almost Journey-like) is more suitable for such a "radio-friendly" mood of the early eighties (this latter rather inadequate in comparison to their usual complex arrangements), but it symbolizes a necessary radical change: as a matter of fact the trend of the music market was so different at that time, especially if you compare their 70's polyphonic/baroque music-style to the present easier and more accessible approach (typically of the eighties). As for this reason naturally G.G. were almost obliged to change radically route, even though the production was very good and the songs quite powerful anyway.ok this music-genre cannot be "labelled" as prog music, nor represents the true style of G.G., but after all it's well arranged and performed, being interesting enough to make it an acceptable issue, in any as "AOR music" it's worth checking out at least!!
Report this review (#46092)
Posted Friday, September 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars I bought this album on vinyl for 2 dollars at a record store. I would say it was worth it. As for my intial reaction when I finished listening to the album, I was a litttle disappointed. I was kind of in the mood for some deep '70's progressive rock, and this album did not really satisfy that mood. However, after I listened to it a little more, I found it is a pretty decent rock album. I had fun turning up the volume and rocking out in my dorm room. Derek Shulman's vocals really stick out nicely and I find myself singing the songs on the way to class. The harmonies are just cool and consistent throughout the album. Civilian is just one of the albums that has to grow on you.
Report this review (#59345)
Posted Tuesday, December 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars This is not a prog rock that the Gentle Giant played for years. It is, however, we can enjoy some 'tricky' Gentle Giant flavors anywhere in this album, although the play here sounds a very straight forward rock'n'roll superficially. Maybe this album is for the very much fans for Gentle Giant, not for every prog fan.
Report this review (#62481)
Posted Friday, December 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Fortunately I am not only into hard-core prog- as this album grew to be one of my favorite rock albums of the era after a couple of listens. I think it is better than "The missing piece" overall but it has a darker hazy feel to it that almost predicts the end of the band just by the overall tone of it. I cannot wait to get another copy of it again, a solid rock-pop album from one of Progs greatest bands ever. 3 3/4 stars
Report this review (#64663)
Posted Saturday, January 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars After a couple of weaker albums in which the band moved towards a more conventional form of rock, they came up with Civilian, their last and most "conventional" or "non- prog" album. Prog purists may hate it, and GG fanatics may find it hugely disappointing, but I tend to think of this album as a major improvement over Missing Piece and Giant for a Day, the band sounding like they had finally gotten their act together again, even though it was mostly a new act. Judged on its own merits, Civilian is an enjoyable album, although a bit on the short side. Shadows On The Street and Inside Out come closest to the old style GG. Especially the former is a pure, intense beauty. It's a shame the band quit after this album, I would have loved to hear more from the reborn GG. If only I could give it 3,5 stars.
Report this review (#75761)
Posted Friday, April 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Civilian is the last album before Gentle Giant broke up. It sounds completely different to all the other albums. It is not as complex as the albums from 1970 to 1976 and it is not as soft as the other both later Gentle Giant albums. You can clearly hear the typical 80's-sound.

Civilian is a concept-album about the downfall of the individual in the rank and file. It also criticises the increasing monitoring per states and superficiality of the media that came up at the time the album was released. So topics that are still up to date.

Most of the songs on this CD are very rocky, the beautiful, calm "Shadows On The Street" and the psychedelic "Inside Out" excluded. Though this album rocks a lot, I have to annotate that the complex and squiggled elements which form Gentle Giant's distictive style, are missing. This album was not made for a listener who wants to be astonished about all the little ideas and intricacies. It is made for a listener who wants to dance to the music or wants to hear it in the background. Alltough it is a nice pop-album!

Anyhow it is no more progressive rock. However, I give it solid three stars!

Report this review (#79032)
Posted Monday, May 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars It took me quite some time to think over an elaborate view regarding this one and a keen, correct definition of what it is, where it stands and what does it represent. Without having ended my perspective issue, I can define Civilian as a good album, one that resembles quite some interesting characters and one whose music doesn't defy anything and stays in a comfortable place. About the connotations of this album, I don't think it is necessary to elaborate the description too much. It's the end point of Gentle Giant, as the burning out effect, one that become prominent ever since 1977, if not even 1976 (though I could get many complains by saying this), takes its final burst and moves towards the silences of a most remarkable musicianship and a most impressive history of progressive rock history. In a leisure, unsophisticated, but centered way, Civilian is a final word, one that expresses in reasonable amounts both the general meaning and the overall passion of Gentle Giant, but also the decrease into quality that stands shakes and impression that tends to forget its assets. As last part of a symbolic fading trilogy, the style redeems from the disaster that was Giant For A Day and pronounces even better than The Missing Piece message, making an acceptable (if not more) moment of reflection of the memory. For from this moment we gathered upon the greatness that was the past, the more deceiving flavor that was the contemporary, the silence that marks the end and the thing beyond end, and the significance remember phase that will arise later, into the 90s, but that will keep everything still and, here in there, shallow. Civilian, short sentenced, is far from the best and the most complete form of Gentle Giant music, but the damage of the compromise is very little in comparison with many others.

Short as essence, sharp as hit, relatively illuminated, voiled as echo. Civilian settles on a very easy meaning, still works its way towards at least an attitude of optimism, Cause the album is optimistic, despite everything, and present an image of good and of enjoyable. As character, few are new or are even told, still the defined moment of the album will surely please the auditory. It's not a strangled voice, nor a pushed pedal, but a decent output from something that has already became unpretentious. It is the simple will of making music in a motive and a motivation of unexpanded views. Dynamic that does shatter, but not abrupt or deep. It's not a slice, it's a touch after all. The charm and a little from an authentic Gentle Giant serves as scent in key points, though overall it is very clear how nothing impressive is even conceived. More on to the emotion or the word of thrill that to the point of quality and perspective, Civilian manages a speech that encounters the convenience of the script and the passion of a still wave. Low(ered) range, still intuitive thinking. Music of a standard sphere and a mixed reflection. In overall context, the shape is benefic; in detail focus, it's a thing of subjective impression and goes to the latitude of one's opinion. Calm, striking not towards the non-conformism or the wild energy of once pure brilliancy; effective, throughout a harmless flow. A compromise indeed, but one that could very well the compromise, the album that in its lowered shape affects all aspect and gives benefit to the ones more important. However simple it is, I think a moment of thinking, regarding what ideals should be preserved and illustrated onwards and what is really neglectable and forgettable, is to be considered. and to be made. Personally, I see both factors notable enough. Counting on a clean support and on a smooth sensation.

Report this review (#84874)
Posted Thursday, July 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars At the ending of the decade (70's) most progbands went through a more comercial 'simple' straight forward rock phase, and Gentle Giant was no exception. The music on this album has more in common with Rainbow, Whitesnake, Asia and such bands than with progressive rock. But that doesn't make this a bad album, far from it. It's highly enjoyable.

The typical GG style with frantic sudden changes is abandoned and has made place for traditional rock song formats, with some nice quieter ballads, dominated by guitars and good vocals.

Good music from a great band, just nothing in common with their earlier albums, so approach with an open mind, you might just like it, as I do.

Report this review (#98529)
Posted Monday, November 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Tom Ozric
3 stars GG's final offering from 1980, and it is miles better than the lame 'Giant For a Day' ( an LP which I relegated to the scrap heap years ago). 'Civilian' contains some dynamic rock songs with hints of prog, and, whilst a really short album (32.36 - vinyl format), is entertaining and showed potential, surely, continuing in this direction, who knows what they may have come up with, had they not called it a day after this one....

Starting with a blast, 'Convenience (Clean and Easy)' is a fast paced, intense little song with a catchy chorus, a composition co-written by Gary Green and Derek Shulman, and displays the Giant's ability to go with the times. The overall sound is pretty decent, Ray Shulman's dexterous bass playing (possibly a tinkly Rickenbacker ?), a heavy drum prescence, some unique synth sounds and Jon Lord-like organ playing from Kerry Minnear and Gary Green's guitaring is usual high quality. Derek's vox are excellent. 'All Through the Night' is an out'n'out rocker, not the best track on the album, but a fine performance regardless. 'Shadows on the Street' is a song sung by Kerry, and is more atmospheric and moody, with some thoughtfully arranged keyboards - one of the best songs on the album. 'Number One' is quite a generic and commercial song, offering little for Giant fanatics and prog lovers, nice electric piano though. Side 2 greets us with 'Underground', an amazing track, bursting with energy, and excellent bass lines, it never lets up. Great melodies, interesting synth sounds in the middle. Superb. 'I am a Camera' (not to be confused with Yes or Buggles tracks) opens with, well, a camera taking photos (an idea which opens up the under-rated Renaissance album 'Camera Camera' and many others around this time) and is another vibrant track. 'Inside Out' is the long- ish track here (5.50) and has a kind of epic feel to it without being anything complex, but a well arranged composition - great harmonies, mid-tempo rhythm but without soloing or an instrumental passage. 'It's Not Imagination' is again similar to '...Camera' with that amazing bass playing and crackling energy.

I'm glad they redeemed themselves with this release, as their previous album would've been a woeful way to go out on. 3 and a half stars.

Report this review (#109184)
Posted Saturday, January 27, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I still have a soft spot for this album. I was fortunate enough to see them on tour for it, according to the record, they did just a few shows after that before calling it quits. Too bad this wasn't more of commercial success. They did a better job of blending prog and pop than Giant For A Day. Still a notch below The Missing Piece.

Best track on the original release is Inside Out. Still gives me the chills to listen to it. Heroes No More, the bonus track on the One Way Records CD is also fairly decent. It probably was excluded from the original album because they were trying to put out a more commercial effort.

Report this review (#123650)
Posted Monday, May 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Civilian is the eleventh and last album from Gentle Giant. Gentle Giant had with their previous album Giant for a Day hit the bottom. It was a bad mistake to release that album. It alienated almost everyone of their original fans and allthough I´m not sure about this statement I don´t think many new fans came as a consequence of Giant for a Day. Civilian is a bit better without being outstanding like the first nine albums from the band.

On Civilian Gentle Giant employ a more hard rocking AOR approach compared to the somewhat soft rock on Giant for a Day. It suits them well IMO and there are even some very decent songs on Civilian. The mood is a bit darker too which is best heard in a song like the opener Convenience (Clean And Easy) but certainly also in other songs.

The musicianship is great as always but Civilian like Giant for a Day totally lacks the virtuosic playing of the past which means that a very important part of Gentle Giant´s sound is missing.

The production is good. It´s easy to hear that Gentle Giant is now influenced by the new sounds of the eighties. The bass and drums still have that nice soft seventies quality though. It´s more in the choice of keyboard sounds and use of choirs that I hear this influence.

Civilian is actually a good album IMO and if you like AOR rock this album will probably rock your world. I can´t say that I´m a big fan of that particular genre, but I find an album from that genre that I like now and again and Civilian is a good example of that. Good but nothing more. 3 small stars is deserved for this album. Too bad a great band like Gentle Giant didn´t go out with a bang.

Report this review (#176048)
Posted Friday, July 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Gentle Giant - Civilian (1980)

I got a vinyl copy of this album from a friend who was lucky enough to buy a GG album I didn't already have. Normally I might have skipped on the last three GG albums because of the fact I already own the big GG8 (their first eight studio albums) and Playing the Fool Live. The reputation of the their last three effort is like that of the later Genesis albums: Great musicians who start to record pop-music in order to survive the ugly eighties. Some of the band-members didn't like the material at all and this album became the last Gentle Giant effort.

This record had not real surprises for me. There are six pop-songs and two interesting tracks for people who like progressive music. Some of the pop-songs are nice. Convenience (Clean And Easy) has some interesting parts and an up-tempo feel I like. Furthermore the fast key parts are interesting. Some other pop tracks are plain boring or too simple.

The two track that might be of interest to the fans of the early Gentle Giant period are Shadows on the Streets and Inside Out. The first one is a very gentle piano track that has a strong emotional feel and some beautiful musicianship. The latter of the two is an impressive atmospheric rock track with Queen-like vocal harmonies that give it a spacey feel. Both tracks are enjoyable at least.

Conclusion. This is pop-rock record. For it's genre it might be actually quit good, but for the fans this is a real pity. No complexity, no silly time signatures, no epics, little great musicianship and no experimentation can be found on the record. But then again, it's a nice pop-record. I'll give it two stars because of the two nice tracks it has. Recommended to curious hard-core fans and people who like crossover-prog.

Report this review (#260797)
Posted Thursday, January 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars The new decade offers new sound on Gentle Giant's last album - Civilian. They correct their mistakes from the last two albums - The Missing Piece and Giant for a Day, and produce nice album with hard rock flavour. The album carries the new tendencies of prog bands. They are no more progressive bands, but mainstream sounding bands. It's the same with Gentle Giant. They took another way, just before their break-up. Civilian is surely better than the last two albums and shows some fresh ideas. It's generally not prog music, but it's recommended for Gentle Giant fans and for 80s mainstream rock music. 3 stars, because it doesn't contain special moments. Gentle Giant finished their career with honour!
Report this review (#266355)
Posted Monday, February 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
2 stars Well, small wonder they decided to call it quits after this one. I really don´t understand why so many people are so critical to Giant For A Day and so full of praise (ok, kind of) for Civilian. GFAD was far from being one of their best, but at least it had some fine pop songs on it. Civilian on the other side dropped the explicit pop format for a more hard edge commercial approach (for 1980) which was clearly not their forte. Hearing the CD today it sounds like they were just too eager to please. Most songs seemed forced, boring and/or uninspired.

Granted. Gentle Giant is one fo those very rare bands incapable of recording a bad album: their unbelievable musicanship is intact, and Derek Shulman is an extraordinaire singer. As weak as the songs were, GG was still able to squeeze life and energy from it. It is ironic that the best track, Shadows of The Street was sung by Kerry Minnear. It reminded me, briefly, of how good GG could be. The remaining songs have the loudest guitars and drums ever heard on their albums, ever. But that was not enough to save Civilian.

In the end I guess they had to do something in order to survive in a totally different musical scene of the late 70´s and early 80´s. But, sadly or not, it didn´t work. Thank God they had at least left several brilliant prog albums for future generations to rediscover their outstanding and groundbreaking art. Civilian is not among them, of course, but it is not crap either. Just be sure you have all their previous CDs before you tackle this one, and have in mind what kind of musical scene they were facing at the time it was released.

Report this review (#284810)
Posted Friday, June 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Rounded up to the third star!!

12th and last (often forgotten about) album for GG, and generally looked upon by fans as a redemption for the previous and atrocious (for GG) Giant For a Day. While this is partly true, one can't help but hearing that the group is a spent force and the inspiration long-gone, and no matter how good the band remains as a whole, the spectre of GFAD is still overshadowing Civilian, even if they chose to avoid the now-overexposed GG head on the artwork, by choosing a faceless crowd picture. Recorded in the fall of 79 throughout the US with the same quintet line-up and released early next year on a small US label (I'm not even sure it got release in the UK) and in continental Europe. Clearly hindering the album's preparation phase was that some of the members hated to have to stay in LA, California, because the leader and manager Derek Shulman had relocated there during 79, which was basically an off year for the group. Indeed, brother Ray and the now-married and father Minnear did not enjoy their 5-months stay and didn't jump for joy to tour the US to promote the album, so they agreed to stay for the short tour before leaving the band. So this tour would be their last one. Obviously, Civilian is not remembered fondly by most of the GG members, except John Weathers.

Opening on an infernal drum and electronic noises, Convenience is probably better than anything on GFAD, but it's clear that the group won't return to the ultra-complex pre-76 songwriting of theirs; actually this isn't really a bad thing, but unfortunately the simplified tracks lack freshness. The following All Through The Night is named and sounds like an early-Foreigner track (again, not necessarily bad), but for GG?. It's quite a deception. Past the quiet breathing space of Shadows On The Street, we return to another Foreigner-sounding Number One, which happens to be drummer Weathers' favourite GG track.

Camera shutter noises open up the flipside as GG also makes a reference to that "tool" as Yes, Renaissance and Rush would within a few months, but like them all, it's definitely AOR-sounding with an atrocious synth sound in the middle solo. Underground is a bit better, but nothing transcendental either. Inside Out provides another breathing space, with a slower and more reflective rhythm and could be the album's better track with those good vocal harmonies. The very aptly-titled It's Not Imagination (no risk, they haven't got any left) is however returning with that AOR/FM sound and annoying my eardrums. The closing Heroes (a rare bonus track on the Cd versions) is just as annoying, as if it was a Perry-era Journey song, despite allowing some instrumental interplay, but nothing to save it from take a plunge, drowning the album with it. By the time your stylus lifts from the vinyl surface, I'm generally stuck with a slight headache (much less than with GFAD, though) because of the level of "noise" (partly caused by the vocals) is relatively close to that period's noisy radio-friendly FM rock that ruled the American airwaves.

Well, Civilian would be the last of the band at the dawn of the atrocious 80's, one of the major 70's pioneers, and also one that has chosen not to ever reform, therefore not damaging their legacy. The band would not survive the total indifference of the public and industry alike and call it quits soon after. Note that Soft Machine would also disband right around that time, with an atypical Cockayne album, the opposite of GG, that chose to remain a tad more faithful to themselves, even if sounding a tad AOR. So I might suggest that you don't get carried away by some other reviews made by forgiving fans and approach this album carefully, because it's only marginally better than its predecessor.

Report this review (#297110)
Posted Thursday, September 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
2 stars The last studio album from Gentle Giant is not very different than its predecessor "Giant For A Day".

Several songs are on the rocking side, but I have to say that just like their previous attempts to sound like a rocking band; the soufflé falls very flat indeed ("Number One", "I Am A Camera").

You can experience the same sort of easy listening music: "Convenience" as well as "All Through The Night" just sound AOR stuff; nothing more. Once in a while there is some improvement, like during the decent and soft ballad "Shadows Of The Street". Somewhat mellowish though?

The longest track from this "Civilian" saves the bill and provides some good moments. But what's next is again rather weak ("It's Not Imagination").

If you fancy basic rock or AOR music, you might well find some interest in this work. But it is hardly my case. As such the funky "Underground" is not of great help either to raise the quality level.

The bonus track available on the CD version is quite alright: melodic, pleasant and dynamic. As far as I am concerned it is the best one of the whole.

Two stars.

Report this review (#308525)
Posted Saturday, November 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Civilian is the third album in Gentle Giants largely uninspired pop foray, but luckily this album is better than the previous two. Though not complex in anyway, this music has far better songwriting with generally catchy melodies. Still, no more stand out musicianship is present and the interesting instrumentation is still a thing of the past as is the medieval influence. Most of these songs have a fairly decent rock song flow, which is fine. This album is overall much better than Giant For A Day, but still isn't recommended to anyone looking for great progressive rock. If you're looking for truly remarkable stuff, definitely check out the earlier albums first.
Report this review (#429420)
Posted Friday, April 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
1 stars Most people consider Giant For A Day to be the worst Gentle Giant album. For me, it is definitely Civilian. This album does absolutely nothing for me. At least Giant for A Day had some good tracks like "Words From the Wise", "Giant For A Day", and "Spookie Boogie". There isn't a single song on Civilian that I consider any better than mediocre. This is not progressive at all, and should not be remembered when thinking of a band as amazing as Gentle Giant. Avoid this hard/pop rock album by all costs, and go listen to The Power and the Glory, Octopus, of Free Hand again.
Report this review (#441294)
Posted Sunday, May 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars Since this album came out after "Giant For A Day", I can't say I was disappointed. But really, this was hardly an improvement over the previous record.

There are tiny glimmers of the old Gentle Giant here. Underground, the best song on the album (faint praise at best), could have squeezed it's way onto the tolerable "The Missing Piece", but would have been one of the lesser songs on that album. And here and there, you can hear bits of arrangements that let you know that this is Gentle Giant.

But the best I can say about this album is that it is no worse than those dismal 1980s genesis atrocities.

Report this review (#442332)
Posted Tuesday, May 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gentle Giant's last studio album showed a strong rebound from the desperate sell-out of 1978's "Giant For a Day" (which isn't saying much, admittedly). But it still completely negated the original vision statement offered by the band on their sophomore album "Acquiring the Taste" in 1971. To refresh your memory, and put this final effort in perspective, I quote:

"It is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular. We have recorded each composition with the one thought - that it should be unique, adventurous and fascinating. From the outset we have abandoned all pre- conceived thoughts of blatant commercialism."

Well, a lot can happen in less than a decade. But don't blame Messrs. Shulman, Shulman and Minnear for the epic erosion of their youthful idealism. The entire music industry was going down the drain in 1980, and bands like Gentle Giant were simply caught in the undertow.

Still, if it ain't exactly (or even approximately) Progressive Rock, the new sound of the band was still solidly, simply Rock. There really isn't a weak track on the entire album, and more than a few songs show real muscle: "Number One", "Inside Out", "All Through the Night". The album opener "Convenience" is an admirable stab at mainstream Rock-Moderne, especially if you ignore the anachronistic synthesizer burbles, an unfashionable indulgence in New Wave 1980. And it's tempting to read an ironic self-awareness in the title of the final song (on the album and of the band's recording career): "It's Not Imagination".

Drummer J.P. Weathers has gone on record calling it "a fantastic album", which only makes me wonder where his head was at during the studio sessions for "The Power and the Glory" and "In a Glass House". The rest of the group was a little less generous in their praise. "I don't have particularly fond memories of any of it", recalled Kerry Minnear. Ray Shulman added, "I had a horrible time...even now I just can't listen to it." Brother Derek was even more succinct: "really contrived" was his blunt evaluation of the band's final three albums.

So, who are you gonna trust: the founding members of the original group, or a drummer nicknamed 'Pugwash' who liked to wear an Oakland A's uniform on stage? (As a fellow Bay Area baseball fan I appreciate his taste, but historically I've always been a National League supporter...)

The truth is probably somewhere in between those two poles of opinion, much like my own Prog Archives rating. The album may not have been the ideal swan song for one of the most inventive rock groups of the 1970s, but they were at least smart enough to call it quits before doing something really hiring The Buggles as a back-up band, or something.

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Posted Sunday, January 8, 2012 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Hang on a minute. Gentle Giant had a 1980s album? Curiously this is not all that bad. Certainly it buries "Giant For A Day" and in some ways is more entertaining than "The Missing Piece". Shulman's vocals are terrifc, the melodies are strong, the music is excellent and there are some wonderful moments to feast on. The problem is it's not prog.

In any case the album was not half as bad as I had heard it would be. I received it really as a free with the excellent "Playing The Fool Live" album. On these double Gentle Giant releases there is usually a great album with a mediocre album, however "Civilian" was quite good, especially for its release date when prog was declining. Tracks such as 'Convenience', 'Underground', 'I am a Camera', and 'It's Not Imagination' are well worth checking out. Not so much prog master tracks but just solid AOR with attention to very accomplished musicianship. It is not the complex quirky Gentle Giant but a consistent melodic 80s commercial sound.

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Posted Sunday, April 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
2 stars Good God. Very hard to comprehend that this is the same band that just a few years earlier had produced a string of seven incredible progressive rock treasures. Barely better than "Giant For A Day" but still pretty bad. Turd is still turd. To me this record sounds slightly better than a demo. The songs are simple without being memorable. Straight forward rock and not the good kind either. A very little percentage of GG fans will like it. It's not prog. Boring and unimaginative. How the Giant had fallen. One and a half stars. Only buy if you got to have every GG album.
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Posted Thursday, August 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
2 stars 'Civilian' - Gentle Giant (40/100)

While it's not entirely unlikely I get this sense from having recently watched William Wyler's 1946 Oscar-winner The Best Years of Our Lives, Gentle Giant's Civilian says a lot to me from the title alone. I get the mental image of five prog-weary soldiers, coming home from the frontlines of experimental rock. Perhaps they suffer shellshock from the explosive instrumental fireworks they were handling for the better part of the decade. What's more likely; they became disillusioned by war, er, prog, and decided they'd had enough of it. Unfortunately, as every veteran of war will tell you, home is never as you left it. The world had changed, and Gentle Giant had entered the pop world with little of the vital skills necessary to thrive in it.

Civilian is arguably the most grounded and 'professional' of the three pop Gentle Giant albums. It's also, by turns, the most tedious and uneventful. While the glossy production and peppy synth-bolstered pop rock fits the early 80s zeitgeist like a snug mitten, Civilian once again proves that, as pop songwriters, Gentle Giant were more sure to miss than hit.

Comparisons are often made between this and Yes 90125. While both are examples of progressive heavyweights realigning themselves for the new decade with a recognizably '80s' style, that's where the similarities begin to end. I personally love 90125 for what it is; I even think some of Genesis' pop stuff was great. The thing that Gentle Giant lacked compared to the others is that they never had a member whose talents really worked with pop. There were no Phil Collinses or Trevor Rabins in Gentle Giant; as profoundly proficient as they are musically, there's a different skillset required for proverbially good pop, and as they had struggled in the absence of those skills with The Missing Piece and Giant for a Day, Civilian feels like a nicely executed album with little of the substance to keep me interested for long.

While it's easily the most consistent of the GG pop trilogy, that may have only served to make the album less interesting. The Missing Piece and Giant for a Day failed to leave much of an impression on me, but there was something to be said for the way they surprised me with the kind of eclecticism Gentle Giant brought to their music. Not surprisingly, these experiments brought plenty of flaws (the AOR ballad "I'm Turning Around" off The Missing Piece is particularly unforgivable), but I must admit there were charming moments as well. "Memories of Old Days", "Two Weeks in Spain" and "Friends" are all choice cuts from Gentle Giant's latter era, and though the albums as a whole felt too contrived to recommend, there are songs that stuck with me. Civilian is the first and only Gentle Giant album that doesn't have some sense of eclecticism to it, and given that the songwriting does little to provoke me one way or the other, I think Gentle Giant shot themselves in the foot when it came to streamlining their sound.

No, there is nothing truly awful to bear on Civilian. "I Am A Camera" is a pretty decent pop rock tune too, though I can't altogether recall any of the hooks after listening to it. After a bit of struggle, Gentle Giant finally settled into a style of pop they were comfortable with. They toned down their instrumentation for a kind of ineffectual verse-chorus-type manner of composition that makes no attempt to capture my attention. To their credit, it's a good thing that Gentle Giant called it quits when they did. Three albums is more than enough time to see if a style is working for a band, and the divorcement from wacky prog insanity was a death knell to virtually everything that made Gentle Giant interesting in the first place. I have a soft spot for pop when it's done right, but good pop requires the same amount of inspiration as good prog. Gentle Giant seemed to overlook that fact here. If there is any lasting pleasure to be gleaned from Civilian, it's to think what the Gentle Giant circa Acquiring the Taste would have thought of this. If this sort of declawed New Wave-y pop rock wouldn't make their past selves scoff, I'm not sure what would.

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Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2015 | Review Permalink
2 stars Review Nş 56

Gentle Giant was a British group in activity for a decade, between 1970 and 1980. The Gentle Giant's music always was considered very complex and sophisticated even by progressive rock standards. They were musically influenced by many styles like folk, soul, jazz, medieval and classical music. Unlike many of their progressive rock contemporaries, their influences elements range from romantic music, medieval music, baroque music and modernist chamber music.

Mainly because of that, Gentle Giant was never a very popular group at the time. On the other hand, the band never made major concessions on their music to the public and to the media. So, there has always been a certain difficulty of relationship between the group and the media. Because of that Gentle Giant always thought that only few critics seemed to have an idea, about what the band really was and what were the things that they seemed to care about.

In the late of 70's, since the end of 1976, it emerged and developed the punk rock movement and the new wave. That new musical phenomenon was specially created as an opposition to the progressive rock movement, because they considered that the progressive rock music was very complex, elitist, bombastic, sentimentalist and soft. Those new musical changes, that took place at the time, affected the musical careers of all progressive groups, in a way or another. The progressive rock has become discredited, and many of those bands were considered old dinosaurs. The media and the record labels ceased to be interested on progressive rock and adhere to this new musical fashion.

Some progressive rock bands were more affected than others, and obviously Gentle Giant was, in my humble opinion, one of the bands that were most affected, due to the complexity of their music. It's true that Gentle Giant never was a band with great popularity, but with the beginning of punk, for Gentle Giant cessed definitely the possibility of can be recognized as a great band. They lost definitely the possibility of the big recognition for that they'd worked so hard to achieve and that so they richly deserved. Gentle Giant, like other groups, consciously moved the patterns of their music towards to a less complex and more direct style pressured by their record labels and the media. So, it was in that difficult musical context that Gentle Giant created their last studio effort, this album, 'Civilian'.

'Civilian' is the eleventh studio album of the band and was released in America, in 1980. Gentle Giant, relocated the centre operations of the group to Los Angeles, California because they hoped that a change of scene probably would help them at the American market. It seemed to them, that it was the better chance to can improve the sales and therefore be supported by their record label. In short, it would be the way to survive in that new musical reality.

'Civilian' is an album with nine tracks. Let it be said from the beginning that 'Civilian' isn't a classic Gentle Giant's album, neither in sound or style. Most of the songs on the album are written much to the taste of a kind of the American hard rock new wave musical style. Some of the songs remind me the music of Foreigner, one of the most famous American rock bands of the 80's. I'm talking about the first track 'Convenience', the second track 'All Through The Night', the fourth track 'Number One' and the sixth track 'I Am A Camera', although the last of them, has a Gentle Giant's beginning. In reality, the songs are pretty good. I also like some Foreigner songs. The fifth track 'Undergroud' has also a Gentle Giant's beginning, but sincerely, the rest of the song reminds me Yes. However, this is still a good song. The seventh track 'Inside Out' is a song that reminds me Supertramp without saxophones. It's also a good song. The eight track 'It's Not Imagination', despite be a song with a simple American rock beat the keyboards remind me Gentle Giant. Finally, the third track 'Shadows On The Street', I may say that this is a very beautiful ballad that sounds a little beat to a Gentle Giant's song. It remains to me as one of the best tracks on the album.

Conclusion: We can say that 'Civilian' would be a good album if it was released by any other band and that it would to be rated with 3 stars. However, I cannot rate it with 3 stars, but only with 2. Why? Because, this is a Gentle Giant's album that doesn't sounds to a Gentle Giant's album and it has nothing to do with a progressive album. Where is the originality, the complexity, the sophistication and the diverse influences which were the foundation of their music? The main problem with 'Civilian' is that Gentle Giant changed so much that they lost their charisma, identity and their unique footprint in the world of progressive rock, to the point of being a band completely unrecognizable. 'Civilian' can reminds me everything, but very few of Gentle Giant. Even some band's members disliked the album, which caused the end of the group. So, when I listen to this album, I listen to it as if it was released by another band. Anyway, despite "Civilian", Gentle Giant is, and they will remain for the history of progressive rock music, as one of the biggest, original and interesting bands to emerge in the 70's. Even today, their music remains as refreshing as it was then.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

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Posted Wednesday, February 10, 2016 | Review Permalink

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