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Gentle Giant

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4 stars Not as good as "In a Glass House" but a close second. Gentle Giant are clearly gifted and adventurous but suffer from inconsistancy. "Octopus" has some classic moments and the Roger Deane gatefold cover made it a must have album at the time of it's release. Unfortunately, it contains a few filler tracks which fail to excite. Gentle Giant are the only prog band from which I have burned a personal best of CD. They are too good to ignore but need a bit of weeding. If you like Jethro Tull you might find some common ground in Giant's music.

Report this review (#3724)
Posted Saturday, January 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of my all time favourites.Had the luck to see them live in Stockholm 1975 and 76 Splendid music.It´s difficult to say what is the best album by Gentle Giant. Octopus is absolutely up there in the top.
Report this review (#3719)
Posted Sunday, January 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars If some person were to ask you, "hey, what is this prog rock stuff?" you could start telling them about this rock music that's adventurous, ambitious, beautiful, challenging, complex, etc. etc... or you could just throw on "Knots" from this album. I'm glad to exist in this universe where the creatures join together and cook up something as wildly genius as "Knots". Positively the most intricate, head-spinning, disorienting vocal arrangement ever (revered and imitated by such bands as Spock's Beard), rivalled in complexity only by a few of Gentle Giant's other compositions; as well as one of the most magical and timeless endings I've ever heard (with the multiple vocal layers, and frenetic drums...) -- this is far beyond songwriting, this is "musical architecture". Beyond "Knots," the entire album consists of masterful music making, and is a perfect place to get acquainted with GG's delightfully skewed sense of musical logic -- actually, not everyone likes this stuff the first time they hear it. Actually, more typically, most everyone DOESN'T like this stuff the first time they hear it. But what good things in life come without effort and appreciation? One of the best albums ever made (...followed by even "better" best albums ever made).
Report this review (#3712)
Posted Friday, February 6, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars At the time of re-writing my GG review (they paled in comparison with newer reviews from my dear collabs) and after re-reading those, I decided not to spend too much time talking of the music itself, what happens and who they remind me off (no-one but themselves in this album), I have opted for a side route, explaining the background for this album.

By the end of the US tours for the Three Friends album (their first released there), most of the group were at each other's throats, with Phil Shulman (older by a few years than all of the other members-he was in his mid-30's then and was the only one married with kids) had grown particularly concerned about the band's lack of success and seeing his age, it was his one and only (last?) chance to the big times. This made him rather uptight and made him more authoritarian and enforcing rules of conduct and "chaperoning" the others, which of course did not sit well with the others. Funnily enough, Phil was caught at his own rules after a fling with a young groupie, and this weakened him as the central or leader stance, so much that his two younger brothers even wished him to leave, as he was undefendable and he would soon. The new drummer Mortimore being quite younger, (19 in fact and not virtuosi enough) was badly injured in a motorbike accident and replaced with a more permanent member Welshman John Weathers who actually was ideally suited for the band and he was no rookie either having played in Eye Of Blue, which metamorphosed into Big Sleep then Ancient Grease recording four albums along the way (all vaguely progressive) and also playing a stint for beat poet extraordinaire Pete Brown's Piblokto. The man also had played for Graham Bond, the Grease Band and had a stint with Wild Turkey (with ex-Tull Glen Cornick as leader), so he was a seasoned veteran. So by the time this quintessentially "English" album came out, the group consisted of three Scots (the Shulmans), one Welsh and two Angles. And IMHO, it is the crazy Welsh's arrival that helped GG to really go on to the next gear, his powerful playing really allowing much more options for Minnear and the Shulman bros to expand their playing. From the opening Rabelaisian Panurge to the medievalesque Troubadour to the incredible almost/mostly a cappella Knots (where each verse is sung by a different band member taking turns) and the more standard (for GG) Cry For Everyone, the first side is absolutely awesome in execution and inventiveness. The second side pales a bit in comparison with the middle two tracks being noticeably weaker, but nothing bothersome. The record ending with a fitting résumé of the themes developed in the album.

Despite Phil Shulman's great contributions to this album his subsequent departure did not cause much problems the sextet being reduced to a quintet where four members were multi-instrumentalists. This fourth album is certainly a peak for them , both artistically and commercially as it was their first (and almost only) record to sell decently.

Oh yes! This album also came out in the US with a much different but same themed artwork sleeve (the one you see above) with a slight cut-out around the cap of the bottle. Progheads tend to denounce this artwork but I find it at least as interesting as the Roger Dean artwork reserved for the rest of the planet

Report this review (#3715)
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars GENTLE GIANT have been responsible for so many great albums, but I feel that "Octopus" rises to the top of them all. "Octopus" delivers their unmistakeable GG sound with strong vocal harmonies throughout orchestrated with some of their best song writing ever. Musicanship is high here and vocals and instruments seem to blend-in perfectly giving the listener a stong feeling of cohesion and not necessarily the precision from other albums.
Report this review (#3716)
Posted Saturday, March 13, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Discovering Gentle Giant was for me, a huge step. I moved from symphonic grandeur (Yes, Genesis and Pink Floyd) to a more underground progressive rock. Lucky for me, the first GG album I purchased was this one. I was strucked immediatly by the 'mathematical' sound . I also discovered in me a fondness for 'medieval' sound (which brought me to Gryphon and then further to Amazing Blondel). Raconteur Troubadour explores the middle age stuff and so is The Advents of Panurge, based on the french litteracy of Rabelais. Gentle Giant is like listening to maths in music (Knots is definitely a good example). It takes a while to like it, but after, you find bands like Yes pompous (and perhaps pretentious?). I mean, when you hear violin or flutes, it's actually them. It's not your basic guitar-bass-keys-drums. Also, humor is very present in their music. Yeah, I like the HUMBLE side of this band. Never we get the feeling that they say :"Hey dudes, preach peace and I love every one of you!" (sorry Jon Anderson but you do sound like Cheech & Chong in 'Up in Smoke'). Great album, but try Glass House and Acquiring The Taste also. Wonderful threesome that is!
Report this review (#3717)
Posted Tuesday, March 23, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the most accessible one, among the best albums by GENTLE GIANT, without any excess of virtuosity, except on "Knots", one of the best vocal performances ever (listen also to "On Reflection" from the album "Free Hands"). Besides it's one of the best recordings in the course of the early seventies!! I like indeed this balanced use of Mellotron keyboards and other typical "jazz" instruments! "The Advent of Panurge" is an immortal classic, a fantastic imprinting of their own, often played live... moreover the strange mix of hard rock with some unplugged wood instruments (without regarding of a strange flare, reminding me of such "troubadours era") could represent the best example regarding their style... Recommended!!
Report this review (#3718)
Posted Thursday, April 1, 2004 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
3 stars This is a very folky cd. Actually, it has sort of a medieval kind of feel to it in my opinion. I like the first three tracks but the whole cd feels a little slow. You reallu have to be in the right mood to listen to this one, a chill kind of mood because I like the faster paced cds (Genesis/Colesseum) and the darker ones (Van Der Graaf/King Crimson). Still, this is good considering what these guys were trying to do. If you like Tull, pick this cd up.
Report this review (#3726)
Posted Monday, April 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Octopus" is a fitting title, since the band is playing here like they've got extra arms. I have yet to hear any GG album so skillfully wrought as "Octopus"; if you're approaching the band from the outside, this is definitely the right appetizer. When describing the band's music, words like "medieval", "madrigal", "complex" and "counterpoint" usually find their way into the text, and all of them would apply here. But the album's real achievement is delivering all of these qualities in a remarkably soft sell. They're not out to dazzle you, their genius is simply a natural outcropping of the individuals involved. "The Advent of Panurge" sets the stage for this, introducing all manner of music in as natural and organic a setting as possible so that listeners don't gag on the amount of substance crammed into a single song. Elsewhere, the humorously bleak "A Cry For Everyone" (which seems to poke a little fun at brooding acts like BLACK SABBATH and JETHRO TULL) and playful experiments like "Knots" and "Dog's Life" reveal a band maintaining a sense of humor in a genre (progressive rock) known for being self-consciously serious. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention how good Derek SHULMAN's voice sounds on this record; Derek can sometimes come across as an acquired taste, but he's as smooth as butter on "Octopus". New drummer John WEATHERS also adds some wonderful touches, like the xylophone solo on "Knots."

Coming on the heels of having listened to GENESIS' Trespass, I'm reminded of how the word "sublime" is overused in musical criticism. To call "Octopus" "sublime" is perhaps to miss the point, since the band works hard to keep their heavenly arrangements earthbound.

This is quintessential GENTLE GIANT, inspired at every turn, their sticky genius on display from any angle.

Report this review (#3727)
Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars [ANALYTICAL REVIEW] Gentle Giant's unique and crafty approach to making music guarantees one thing: that this band will always have a following. Their 1972 disc, "Octopus," features a wide variety of pieces, from ballads to experimental electroacoustic riff-raff to comments on other styles of music and poetry. Their willingness to have a lot of simultaneous musical events give a layered effect to their music: the listener has some choice what to listen to at any given time, and to hear something new each time they lay the recording. Cheesy instrumental solos occasionally make their way into the otherwise unique sound of the band, particularly in "The Boys in the Band" and "River," but are only a small percentage of the music on the disc and serve in any case to set off the more interesting moments.

The first track, "The Advent of Panurge" falls into the ballad category, but with a lot of twists. The first is one that permeates all of their songs: an innovative use of stereo for musical effect. Here, two singers singing at different times are accompanied each by a guitar, one at the far left, and one at the far right. We get the idea of a conversation here, even though both singers share the same text. Other twists that will come back include the alternation of time signatures, here between 4/4 and the jarring 11/8. The last twist is the virtuosic use of electronic devices from the time. Here, signal processing to change the sound of the singing voices give them a surreal quality, while different types of distortion at the same time give the listener many options what to listen to. As with most tracks on this CD, the end is not very satisfying, here not because of any musical deficiency, but because of a reticence to put enough silence between the tracks to clear the palate. The end of this song and the beginning of the next suffer both from this.

Raconteur Troubadour does a great job echoing different types of music, then blows it by announcing in their notes "we have tried to capture something of the medieval English troubadour..." The fiddle, while effective, is not a medieval instrument in the least, while the music after the second verse, the English processional, sounds like Edward Elgar, the late 19th-Century English composer, and not medieval in the least. I enjoyed this track for its tongue-in-cheek references, but when I got to the end and Gentle Giant's tongue came out of their cheek, I gagged. In terms of the actual playing, the trumpet playing on this track is very good indeed, though the fiddle can get thin sounding at times. I am not sure if this is the playing or the recording (or amplification?), as the string playing on all the tracks have a similar, bodiless sound. A rounder sound might have brought out better the clever mix of two main themes towards the end. I felt it a pity that with so many acoustic instruments and references to the troubadour's lute, that Gentle Giant didn't experiment with a more acoustic guitar sound. On the other hand perhaps the slightly distorted guitar was instead an effort to marry the old and the new into one song. I would give them this benefit of the doubt if only it weren't for those silly liner notes...

A Cry for Everyone is the first instance of text that is hard to make out - the balance is a little off on this track, with the instruments a little louder than the singer. The strongest part of this tune is the call-and-answer musical interludes where again we are treated to clever stereo effects. While there is a lot of rhythmic diversity, I felt that a bit more fooling around with unexpectable rhythms would have been appropriate. As it is, A Cry for Everyone is slightly overshadowed by the more sophisticated The Advent of Panurge, which uses similar techniques.

Many composers experimenting with new sounds on synthesizers fall into the trap of thinking that the sound is interesting enough in itself to center the piece around. Not so with Gentle Giant, who weaves their electroacoustic experiments into working musical lines, and provides enough variety of sounds that we can appreciate them in contrast to one another.

Knots is described by the notes as "something of a musical jigsaw." It works! Little segments of music and text repeated over and over again create a kaleidoscope of different events, highly distinguishable by their rhythms, different instruments and ranges.

What is especially neat is that this jigsaw puzzle idea not only involves the tiny little segments, but the sections of the piece. In fact the very same music from the little contrasting bits are expanded to become sections in their own right: the xylophone that punctuates the opening finally takes off for a solo that moves back and forth through the speakers, while the longer lines become large intense blocks. These sections are most often marked by striking changes of time and rhythm, echoing a little the jazz "half-time" idiom used by artists like Dave Brubeck not long before.

Knots shows also that Gentle Giant is willing to play around with dynamics more than other bands - the extreme quietness and loudness serve to provide even more musical interest. I only wish they would have done more in their other pieces.

Normally I like instrumental tracks a lot, and even skip over the vocals to get to them, but The Boys in the Band, the only instrumental number here, unfortunately disappoints. The rapidly changing characters of the piece don't really compare to Knots, and the solos border on cheesy. The ensemble is tight, but I would have sacrificed it for a bit more improvisation. The electronics would have been interesting here, but for once in the whole CD, Gentle Giant loses control and there's so much stuff going on its hard to pick out even when we try.

Dog's Life, on the other hand, revels in its own musical simplicity - a very poetic link to the lyrics. The instrumentation here is very appropriate: the extremely out-of-tune regal (like a cross between bagpipes and organ) also has semantic value: the dog doesn't care for little flaws, and why should we? The xylophone and regal in the middle is very creative, but again the strings sound a little bit too much like hired extras who normally play in some second-class orchestra somewhere. While the music enjoys its simplicity, its no reason not to have a little bit of soul.

My favorite track on Octopus is Think of me with Kindness, though perhaps I am biased since I've heard its beautiful tune so many times before as the later Star Trek: Voyager opening theme music. Again, this pieces loves simplicity (as it redundantly points out in its notes!) The singing is honest, with not a lot of technique (he runs out of breath in places), but a lot of sincerity and overall good musicianship.

As a trombone player, I can only laud the trombone solo half-way through, trombone solo, though I would have kept the energy down a little to keep the beautiful simplicity that opens the work. For the first time on this CD, we have an effective ending, with the words "Think of me" echoing past an unfinished musical phrase.

River came across as more of a collage than a piece of music, a lot of experimentation in electronic sounds, the most interesting of which was the flanging "wind" noises that moved from speaker to speaker creating the illusion of space. The music for the lyrics is extremely drab in contrast to the poetry, however, and the purely instrumental section falls back into standard-issue rock now and again with a not-varied-enough drumbeat and drum and guitar solos that are not particularly special. The ensemble lacks a little bit between the guitars on occasion, bits of feedback left in distract from the more purposeful electroacoustics, and everything has a veil of distortion that, while looking into the future, reminds us how bleak the music of the 80s really was!

While the quality shifts from track to track, overall Octopus makes for an excellent listen, one step up from the 1971 album Acquiring the taste, which also experiments with electroacoustics, simultaneous musical events, and interesting orchestrations, but to less of a degree. I sometimes feel that Octopus' tracks would be better served as miniatures - breaking into something a little more upbeat/standard-issue in the middle of most pieces risk taking away from the uniqueness of each work. Overall, however, Gentle Giant excels at never losing our interest by providing constant variety of sounds, effects, lyric style, texture and dynamics both within and between pieces.

But do ditch some of the liner notes - they take what was clever and make it redundant...

Catherine Motuz M.Mus (McGill)

Report this review (#3736)
Posted Saturday, May 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album reminds me to the early period when I first knew a kind of music which was later be called as progressive music. I still remember that I got this album about the same period I was listening to PINK FLOYD "The Dark ..", JETHRO TUL "Minstrel In The Gallery", "Thick As a Brick", YES "Tales .." "Relayer" "Fragile" dated bak in 70s. Each band has their own identity. and most importantly almost all of them are enjoyable. "Octopus" was probably the only exception as I sensed at that time that their music was harder to digest and had diverse beats and tempos. This albums was the first that I knew about GENTLE GIANT.

This album then generated my attention when parts of "A Cry for Everyone" were (intentionally?) used by our local band GOD BLESS in their song called "SETAN TERTAWA" (The Laughing Ghosts). At that time I loved SETAN TERTAWA very much but when I found a kind of plagiarism (?), my appreciation to GB had lowered a little bit. But my appreciation to "Octopus" had increased as I thought that this album must be powerful. Indeed, it is.

"The Advent Of Panurge" is a track with varieties of melodies, full of energy, and diverse singing styles. All instruments seem like being played in different directions, heavily influenced by jazz improvisations, but at the end it results in an excellent harmony. The piano is explored in a unique way. "Raconteur Troubadour" is a ballad song performed unconventionally by the band. The violins / cellos are used intensively in this track and they guide the overall music composition. It has great violin solo at interlude and excellent vibraphone / piano. "A Cry For Everyone" is an energetic song with excellent melody, stunning vocal. This track I consider as a legendary track. (When our local classic rock FM radio station aired a GENTLE GIANT special in its program, this song was used as a tagline for the program). This track is very enjoyable. It has interesting interlude, organ solo, lead guitar fills. The part that GOD BLESS used in SETAN TERTAWA is located exactly at minute 2:30 - 3:00 of this track. It's a dynamic part.

"Knots" is a repertoire with an acapella vocal style at intro part; it has an avant-garde component in its composition where it can be seen on how vibraphone / percussion are played. The music flow is "discrete" or at least it's not as continuous like other tracks. "The Boys In The Band" is relatively a complex composition with great organ style; violin is used to accentuate the melody. The music suddenly shifts to slower tempo with a controlled melody using a soft keyboard sound and come back again to complex one.

"Dog's Life" is an explorative composition (violin and cello) that you should enjoy seriously as this is not the kind of music you listen to at background. "Think Of Me With Kindness" is a composition that is more easy listening than previous track. It's a nice mellow track with good melody. "River" is a melodic and fascinating track with a double lead guitar at intro, followed by excellent vocal with organ at background. The lead guitar solo at the interlude is really stunning. It's a brilliant decision by the band that this track is positioned to conclude the album.

To conclude, this album is a masterpiece as it has strong songwriting, great composition, musicianship and overall performance. The production quality is excellent. It's a classic and. it's HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Gatot Widayanto, Indonesia.

Report this review (#3740)
Posted Tuesday, July 27, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Octopus was the first Gentle Giant album to be added to my collection and it still remains my favorite, not because of nostalgic reasons but because despite listening to the album around 250 times I kept discovering new things about it. It's really a rollercoaster of moods and structures focusing heavily on medevial elements and experimentation (bordering avant-garde sometimes), it's probably Giant's most daring album when it comes to inspiration. The avant-garde vocal workout "Knots", one of the bands signature songs, is easily the most "far out" piece here and it's odd structure is as memorable as the piece itself. Great stuff! John Weathers is introduced here on drums and works splendidly as a solid backbone on this otherwise complex and highly adventurous music. This was also Phil Shulman's last and you can easily hear his absence on later GG albums.

The strongest cut here have to be "The Advent of Panurge" which is easily in my GG top-three, a very inventive piece that set the standard both for this album and later Gentle Giant albums. It's a very refreshing song that is heavy on the rhythm section but so wonderfully eclectic, adventurous and playful at the same time and will surely provide hundreds of great listening experiences alone. This album is for the adventurous listener, and while you might not like it as much as I do you'll surely enjoy it in some strange way nevertheless.

Report this review (#3755)
Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hi fellas. I'm 14 years old and from Brazil (unfortunately)

GG strikes again with marvelous music. Though ACQUIRING THE TASTE it's better, OCTOPUS is even more complex, but not with the same charm and atmosphere. "Advent Of Panurge" it's perfection at its top. Lock at the time division on this track! This is probably the craziest composition of GG. "Knots" contains an unique vibraphone - extremely well recorded and executated - and an unique vocal harmony - just with three or four voices! I mean, on the Giant In A Box DVD, they did that live on stage ( ! ) "The Boys In The Band" it's one of the best GG instrumentals ever. You can't even say what they are exactly doing... The not-so-famous "Raconteaur Troubador" it's an excellent track. Ray's violin it's just so perfect!!! "A Cry For Everyone" has an tremandous fast keyboard-guitar work. Who says OCTOPUS it's a bad album (as nobody here did) shoul listen it again, and again, and again.

Report this review (#3745)
Posted Saturday, December 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Octopus" is the first album on which GENTLE GIANT really found their sound and style: less hard rock, extremely rhythm changing, very progressive and rather nervous, full of pauses. You also have many pleasant & unbelievably charming melodic & dissonant moods. Everything is perfectly synchronized and VERY structured. There is a perfect balance between the NUMEROUS instruments involved: electric & acoustic guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, vibraphone, cello, saxophones, trumpet, mellophone, bass violin and xylophone among others: no one wants to steal the show. All the tracks are at least excellent, and you do not feel the tracks are redundant, given their originality and variety! "The boys in the band" is VERY nervous, fast and loaded; this track sets the pace for the next album orientation. "Think of me with kindness" is the relaxing moment of this album: a beautiful, catchy & tender song, rather sentimental; the horns arrangements are really poignant! Finally, "River" is the more hard rock one, having the style of the earlier albums.


Report this review (#3749)
Posted Tuesday, February 1, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Probably the best of their golden age records (together with the Power and the glory), starting off with the wonderful "Advent of Panurge", steeped in medieval harmony, inspired by Rabelais. The vocal parts are out of this world on that one.

The first part of the CD is absolutely peerless, with some less impressive parts towards the end. When I say less impressive, please consider Gentle Giant to be the best band by far in this most complex of musical categories. My favorite tracks are "Knots" (of course), "Raconteur, troubadour and "the Boys in the band" with "River" coming in close competition. Recommended to every right-thinking musical person on earth.

Report this review (#3754)
Posted Thursday, April 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Very good music that twists and turns and changes tempo here and there and everywhere. Intruiging and well performed the least to say. Anyone never heard Gentle Giant but into prog should get this album. Raconteaur Troubador is a musical gem in my opnion. Maybe their best album and deserves it place in any musical collection.
Report this review (#3758)
Posted Tuesday, May 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars An hour of pure genius crammed into one 35 minute disc. There aren't any long songs here, each being around the 4-minute mark, but these short songs might as well be, given the amount of material in them. Gentle Giant has been drooled over by many a prog fan, and not for nothing. They have to be one of the most innovative bands in history, mixing medieval vocals with pre-metal, symphonic rock, and any number of other styles.

"The Advent of Panurge" begins with a very spacey but intricate and medieval vocal part, leading into a funky, complex main groove. Then there's a short horn section and softer, weaving vocal part followed by a reprise of the main groove with some echoed, gibberish vocal parts, then the intro again then the main part, all in the space of 4 minutes. The story is fairly inconsequential, about a giant meeting a creature from hell and becoming friends with it.

Most of the medievalness of the album comes from "Raconteur Troubadour," which actually doesn't sound that much like a medieval troubadour. Instead, it uses some violin for a vaguely medieval 11/8 main part and some stranger instrumental parts which occaisionally become reminescent of a big band because of their use of a horn. Again, excellent, and absolutely wonderful stuff.

The proto-metal aspect of Gentle Giant comes from "A Cry for Everyone," which is on the surface simpler than the other songs, but if you really listen you'll hear just as much complexity as "The Advent of Panurge." It goes through many sections and moods, but keeps within the range of being dark. The lyrics are almost humorously bleak, but you really can't tell if they mean it or not.

"Knots" is every bit as complex and woven as it sounds. This is by far the least accessible song here, and must be listened to many times before it can be appreciated. It is sung almost acapella, with all four vocalists complimenting each other to create an impossibly intricate vocal arrangement. The instruments are present as well, and generally the whole thing builds as instruments are added. The lyrics are just as confusing as the song.

The instrumental "Boys in the Band" consists of an arranged theme and some excellent solos by the keyboards, guitars, then saxophone. Again, magnificent.

You can hear a slight drop in the quality of material in "Dog's Life," which is basically a snide tribute to their roadies, and coincidentally to stray dogs. They use a weird honking instrument here, I'm not really sure what it is, but it's unique to say the least.

Many people accuse "Think of Me with Kindness" of being out of place or too simple, but really it isn't. The theme is beautiful, and it features mainly keyboards against a darker atmosphere than the rest of the album. If you listen closely you'll hear a quick theme in 7/8 dart by, but overall it is a bit less complex than the others and somewhat more pop- ish, but not at all bad.

"River" is the longest song, at around 5 minutes, and is a general sum up of the album, twisting its way through different themes. They use a lot of studio effects here, giving it a strange and experimental quality, especially with the drums.

Absolutely essential. It goes beyond symphonic prog, but not quite as far as avant-rock. The band is as tight as everyone says they are, which I think is a byproduct of half of them being brothers. Sooner or later you have to buy this. If you don't like, stay away from Gentle Giant, but if you do, by all means get the other albums by them, which are great in their own right.

Report this review (#3762)
Posted Wednesday, May 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gentle Giant's followup to Three Friends, this album lets down the hard rock sound and goes into more complex territories. The songs aren't that long, but all the more appealing in the way they are constructed. The mood are incredibly well made, starting with ''The Advent of Panurge'', constructed around the great bass work from Ray Shulman and the guitar of Derek Shulman. The album is influenced by the medieval period, as the rest of Gentle Giant's music, but this is no fairy music. Jazzy at times, this album is also probably the band's most accessible. Highlights count ''Knots'' a vocalistic tour de force, and The Boys in the Band, a song about, well, the boys in the band. You can listen to every insturment alone here, and it will still make great music. This is probably Gentle Giant's album that stood the test of time in the most untouched way. Still today, the melodies are fresh, the moods inspiring, and the playwork magnificent. An quasi-masterpiece. 4.5/5
Report this review (#37054)
Posted Monday, June 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gentle Giant's Octopus is a great album, covering everything that's great about Gentle Giant. Magnificent vocal harmonies, fabulous drum patterns, good bass-play, great symphonification of the sound. Gentle Giants sound is comprised of rock music, fused with classical music, medieval music, and jazz, and even some folk here and there, all in the typical, frantic, Gentle Giant style. Octopus is a great record to have, but it takes several listenings before you have heard everything that's going on in the music.

The music on Octopus changes franticly, almost fluidly from one segment to another, with each segment hardly ever longer than 30 seconds or so. Gentle Giant doesn't need time to develop a tune, they jump right in the heart of the matter, and before you've grown accustomed to the rhythm and the melodie of a segment it changes into something faster, slower, or just completely different. A great feature that keeps listening to Gentle Giant, and this album in particular, a surprising experience.

Unsurprisingly, Octopus has eight opuses on the album, beginning with 1. The Advent Of Panurge (4:40) starting with a great soft vocal part, the song soon changes into a jazzy affair, with great intricate piano play, and two vocals intertwining, great song. 2. Raconteur Troubadour (3:59) Again great vocals, accompagnied by great keyboard play, fabulous 'classical' segment with violins and some horns give it a little medieval atmosphere in the middle.

3. A Cry For Everyone (4:02) The first real rock song, with a great guitar riff, good vocals, and the organ playing some great solo's, a very energetic rock song, fabulous. 4. Knots (4:09) complex almost accapella piece, with several vocal lines running through each other, augmented with instrumental pieces and parts, a great piece of music.

5. The Boys In The Band (4:32) Fast Jazz-rock piano play, with frantic rhythms and structure underneath, great guitar, and fabulous interplay from the boys in the band. 6. Dog's Life (3:10) A fun piece, with classical orchestration providing the core of the song, alternated with a short accoustic guitar line and beautifull vocals. My favourite track on this album, a great song about man's best friend.

7. Think Of Me With Kindness (3:33) A soft piano based ballad, not as complex as the other songs, some nice moments, but aside the piano play not all that great. 8. River (5:54) A mix song, mostly rock, but in a weird way, evoling gradually from intense to abstract and back to intense, with some experimentation with sounds, moving from speaker to speaker. Strange song, and certainly not immediatly likeble.

It's amazing how Gentle Giant manages to squeeze so many different styles and elements into four minute songs, without the songs losing cohesion, or becoming too abstract. a great album, and very much recommended to all who love music that's somewhat challenging, and who are willing to give an album several spins before finally judging it.

Complex, Challenging and great Fun. despite my strong recommendation I will not give the album more than four stars, for a couple of reasons, being, the last two songs, both are good songs, but not very good compared to the other six songs. the difficulty factor, it took several spins before it really appealed to me, a masterpiece requires no effort, and is immediatly recognised. And because I listen to Gentle Giant very rarely, I have to be in the mood, and have the time too listen to the music and concentrate on it, for else the beauty eludes me.

I think Octopus is a good start into Gentle Giants music, and everyone should at least try Gentle Giant once, to see if it appleases them. Recommended, but not for everyone I think.

Report this review (#40407)
Posted Tuesday, July 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
Andrea Cortese
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars All the five stars are well justified! This album is inspired by Rabelais and reminds me of Teofilo Folengo's "Baldus", a great poem in false-latin language that tells the story and the adventures of giant friends. They spend the time togheter eating in the pubs, wasting the same pubs, and receiving all the pleasure that life can give us. This is the vein of "Octopus". In particular I love "The advent of Panurge" and "Think of me with kindness", but the others are of a so highest level that it's impossible to find anything wrong. Only greatness from Gentle Giant!!!
Report this review (#41474)
Posted Wednesday, August 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars An Album I fail to understand. The melodies are strange and don't captivate me, instrumentally, it is very strange and The album is painfully short.

1. The Advent Of Panurge 6/10 : A solid weird track that doesn't irritate me. The musicianship can't be described ... it is extremely unique and strange.

2. Raconteur Troubadour 5/10 : An ok track with nice melodies, and is probably the most normal track of the album. 3. A Cry For Everyone 4.5/10 : A gentle Giant Style rocker, and unfortunately it is not very good.

4. Knots 2/10 : It is an experiment, but it sounds horrible, silly, and irritating at the same time.

5. The Boys In The Band 5.5/10 : A jam with a great riff, but unfortunately the music is poor if that riff is excluded.

6. Dog's Life 2.5/10 : A weak simple track with a terrible clavichord driven section.

7. Think Of Me With Kindness 5.5/10 : A pretty good track that sounds very positive. Mellow, and easy to like it.

8. River 4.5/10 : A track with a great riff, but unfortunately drags for 6 minutes and it is strange, and somewhat confusing.

This is a very experimental medieval-folk like music in which you have to have the right mood to listen to it. It is still my least favourite gentle giant album of the ones I have, and I do not understand it at all. (I listened to it about 10 times)

My Grade : D

Report this review (#42589)
Posted Friday, August 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The fourth work released in 1973 "Octopus". A chorus work and dazzling performance is a masterpiece to surpass the former work. This is because an extreme change in an exact performance and the tempo becomes possible by the joining of John Weathers. The tune is powerful more than before. The ensemble keeps evolving at the same time, too. It is a content to which it listens to each tune easily. The content can be exactly called a masterpiece wonderfully though it is a work of about 35 minutes.
Report this review (#44667)
Posted Monday, August 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
Marc Baum
5 stars It's somehow painful to choose one Gentle Giant album of their early period ('70-'76) to call their best, because any single record between these years was and still is something special on it's own way. My personal favourite Gentle Giant album is "Three Friends", which was my introduction to them and still is the one to beat in my personal point of view out from the whole work of GG, even I consider "In A Glass House" as their overall best, followed by "The Power And The Glory" as their "peak" and "Free Hand" as their "zenith" ("Interview" was also very good, but doesn't count in this matter). I simply fell in love with that record, specially the melodic attitude (remember "School Days" or "Three Friends") was more foundable than on every other GG record.

The album before these mentioned records, "Octopus", shows at the first time ever the perfection of the typical & unique Gentle Giant prog-rock, for what they became famous for and they really found their own niche after the more accesible, blues/hardrock (mostly on the debut) influenced first three albums. This album is nothing short of a perfect Gentle Giant observation, but sometimes seems closely sterile, specially the sound quality in comparison with their previous efforts is so much better and with one perfect clear sound. This record is the most loved GG release by many fans and progressive rock listeners, who adore the band and their unforgettable classic-period material. "Octopus" seems flawless, and IMO it's perfect for what it is - a essential masterpiece of progressive music, even it may be hard to understand the attitude of complexity on here, so if you're new to the world of Gentle Giant, I recommend to start up from the beginning - so you understand the maturity-process the band went through at best. It's useless to review or rate the single tracks on "Octopus", all would receive the high score from my side, I still can't find one misplacement on here, all fits perfectly together, which is a big statement, specially on the look of complexity. The great Roger Dean cover is the i on the cake, what more is left to say about the perfect job of the Gentle Giants? Short: One of the best and unique progressive rock albums ever recorded - a total prog-masterpiece!

10/10 points = 100 % on MPV scale = 5/5 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 = 5/5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music

Report this review (#50179)
Posted Wednesday, October 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Feels strange to be reviewing a Gentle Giant album as a relative newcomer to them. I can say that I have no preconceptions or bias. I claim no knowledge of when they were at their best or what led to their demise. I have to say that one track on this album makes it worth buying alone. The opening track 'The Advent of Panurge' is,to my mind,a CLASSIC. Excellent lyrics, and superb musicianship, and the kind of timing that reminded me of how I felt when I heard 'Dance on a Volcano' many years ago. Its up there now amongst my prog favourites. 'Raconteur Troubadour' seems typically English to me, the type of thing morris dancers listen to whilst watching cricket on ye olde village green. I'm unsure whether its really my thing though. 'A cry for everyone' reminds me a little of Jethro Tull,but I feel Anderson is the better singer of the two. Its a great track all the same, but not the best on the album. 'Knots' is pretty different by any standards. I know it inspires lots of people on the PA,and I have to agree that it is appealing in an eccentric way. The middle section of the song borders on Zappa/early Yes. 'The boys in the band' starts with the sound of someone tossing or spinning a coin on a table and then gets down to business. Its a nice instrumental,but seems to be missing something. 'Dog's Life' is a musical ode to mans best friend. Pink Floyd's 'Seamus' was also,I believe,an ode to a dog, however Gentle Giants canine-tribute is simpler and more to the point,and humorous to boot. The penultimate track 'Think of me with kindness', is pleasant enough without really DOING very much. The album closer 'River' is pretty bluesy and a grower. The whole album pays you back the more you listen to it. Its certainly not an immediate gratification that Gentle Giant offer. I'd say this album is well worth having.
Report this review (#55419)
Posted Tuesday, November 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
Tony Fisher
4 stars I like this album; not a lot, but I like it, to coin a phrase. It is the first fully developed GG effort, full of quirky rhythm changes, complex vocal harmonies and a huge variety of instruments. It was the last to feature the third of the Shulman brothers, Philip, and though his contributions are worthwhile, his loss was not terminal. GG are never easy listening and this album is challenging in the extreme. There are many great moments but a few lows as well, which is typical of the band and these can occur within the same track. Catherine Motuz's review hits the nail on the head except for the rating in my opinion. I prefer Free Hand overall, so this is a 4* effort.
Report this review (#56019)
Posted Saturday, November 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars At one point, Gentle Giant was one of my favorite bands. But my enjoyment of their music did not come naturally at first listen. In fact, I distinctly remember my first listen to this unique band and my thought was "What in the world is this crap?" That was my first impression of Gentle Giant and the album I was listening to was Octopus.

But after about three of four listens, tracks like "Knots" and "The Boys in the Band" caught my ear and grabbed me. It wasn't long after that I bought Free Hand and In a Glass House, and my love affair with Gentle Giant had begun.

While I really like all of the early albums, I sincerely believe that this album is truly the best of the bunch. Gentle Giant's signature sound is put on full display from the opening track "The Advent of Panurge," a haunting number with a quirky blend of vocals and instruments which builds in a dramatic fashion all the way to the final note.

"Raconteur Troubadour" immediately follows creating a rich medieval atmosphere with an appropriate storyline. "A Cry for Everyone" is a rocker with various instruments providing some nifty solos.

"Knots" is one Gentle Giant's most famous songs as it establishes a type of sound that will forever be linked to them as multiple vocal parts are sung alongside music which initially seems to clash, but works in a dizzying array of musical complexity. This is one of those songs that you hate the first time you hear it, like it on second listen and then fall in love with it the third time.

The rest of the disc is more prog goodness with "The Boys in the Band" being a fun instrumental, "Dog's Life" and "Think of Me with Kindness" being gentle ballads and finally "The River" as another quirky Knots-like number. This is Gentle Giant's finest hour and strongest album from start to finish. Definitely a must-have for any collector of prog.

Report this review (#62878)
Posted Monday, January 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars I consider "Octopus" to be GG's most adventurous and varied album, albeit not their best. While there is plenty of experimentation going on, this diminishes the quality of the compositions somewhat , although overall, it remains a solid album. The experiments begin with the very first track, "The Advent of Panurge", which hardly ever relies on traditional rock arrangements, even if we are talking about progressive rock; neither does the "Raconteur Troubadour", which features prominent use of stringed instruments - both of these compositions are interesting, but not outstanding. Things get more straightforward with "A Cry for Everyone", a pretty simplistic rocker, but the band quickly dives back into unexplored territory with "Knots", the most unusual track on the album, "Knots", which focuses mainly on the Schulman brothers' vocal arrangements. Once again, the number is worthwhile, but not particularly remarkable. The main theme in "The Boys in the Band" is also quite strong and interesting , but is unfortunately repeated too many times, thus loosing it's effect quickly; nevertheless, taking into account that the rest of the track features some great moments too, this instrumental is the best on the album. "Dog's Life" relies primarily on an acoustic guitar figure, with some violin thrown in along with weird noises, making for a likeable if unremarkable track. "Think Of Me With Kindness " is a light piano ballad with peaceful vocals and an overall pleasant atmosphere. Finally, in "River", the band returns to their experimental tendencies, with strange harmonies and more electronic weirdness popping up throughout the track; it's mostly a likeable colser.

Overall, this is an interesting and innovative prog rock album, especially as it came out back in 1972, and quite a good one too. There are no brilliant compositions like "Alucard" or "Pantagruel's Nativity" ("The Boys..." comes closest), but as a whole, it's an enjoyable record.


Report this review (#62930)
Posted Tuesday, January 3, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I might say this is my favourite album from them. Everything is good music. And the others are good, beetween '71 and '75 the best period. A true prog band. Try to listen to the beautiful Think to me with kindness, superb, like the instrumental one. A must for every prog lover.
Report this review (#63121)
Posted Wednesday, January 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Octopus was the first GG album I was exposed to and it left a lasting impression for certain. This album was an explosion of creativity that few prog bands have ever matched IMHO. I find that treating the album as one whole song while listening helps you to flow along with it better; like a good movie. After years of listening to this CD I no longer need to skip any songs; it seems to get better with age! I think that those who are not immediately thrilled with "Interview" should give it more listens thinking of it as one big song as well, it is now one of my very favorites from GG! This band for many people is an "Aquired taste" and I am for the most part-alone among my peers in my passion for this bands music; even among my circle of fellow prog-lover-friends. I am sometimes seriously mocked for digging this band. What most fail to see in this unique band is the pure GENIOUS and skill they possesed. An honest person doesn't have to like a style of music to recognize the skill required to execute it. This band in my opinion stands right at the top of this genre we call "Progressive Rock"; they truly were - one of a kind.

Report this review (#64656)
Posted Saturday, January 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars An old school friend of mine back in the 70s was a huge Gentle Giant fan but at the time I couldn't get into them at all. Since discovering this site last year, I've "matured" and seen the light. Of the various Giant albums I have listened to so far, this is the best, although I know that some people will disagree. Opinion on the best Giant album does seem to be divided.

Although very short, this album has four prog classics - The Advent Of Panurge, Raconteur Troubadour, Knots and Think Of Me With Kindness.

The Advent Of Panurge tells of the meeting of the Rabelais giants Panurge and Pantagruel and is a fairly rocky, even a bit funky, track. Raconteur Troubadour is my favourite Giant track so far. A great vocal and the backing track is superb. Listen to the way the violin plays a variation on the verse melody underneath the chorus. The verse melody also features again on the stately instrumental section before it all breaks down and a hand running down the piano keys takes us back into the last verse. Wonderful stuff.

Knots is a much-discussed track, featuring stunning 4 part vocal harmonies and a great xylophone solo. Think Of Me With Kindness is a gentle and thoughtful number, featuring a fantastic piano "riff", nice vocal and a very effective brass solo.

Of the other numbers, A Cry For Everyone is another rocky number, The Boys In The Band is a clever instrumental, Dog's Life is dedicated to their roadies and River has some interesting effects. All good songs but it is the other 4 that, for me, make this album a prog classic. This is the sort of album that you really have to listen to in order to appreciate how skilful the arrangements and the musicianship is.

Report this review (#74100)
Posted Wednesday, April 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Octopus" - a perfect title for an album with 8 opuses! Their unique style totally matured with this album. No other prog band integrated medieval elements, modern composition techniques and colorful instrumentation in their music in such an effective and original way as GG. Just listen to vocal polyphony in "Knots" for example! They can make very complex but playful music. Their gentle side can be heard in "Think of Me With Kindness". Despite many interesting twists everything sounds unforced and perfectly structured. The tracks (and the whole album) are short but they can say a lot also in a shorter form...

This strange witty music is not easy to grasp at first if someone is used to more conventional prog but it really pays off when you start enjoying it. GG are real giants of prog and "Octopus" is just one of their many masterpieces! Essential!

Report this review (#75973)
Posted Sunday, April 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Add another half star.

I've always thought of this as their most accessable album. Though with a song like Knots, I'm not sure why. I suppose we need to face the fact that Gentle Giant never really had an "accessable" album. Anyway, this is a fine example of their style and a good intro to the band I think.

The last album for brother Phil, it was also the start of their harder rocking and more angular style that would characterize every album up to and including Interview. This one retains a good bit of their midieval flair that was all over the previous albums however, in songs like A Dog's Life, Raconteur Troubadour, and parts of The Advent Of Panurge. The latter is one of, if not the best, songs that GG ever created. A fantastic example of their mastery with counterpoint melody. A less successful, but still highly enjoyable, example is found in the vocal lines of Knots. For as much flack as this song takes, a great many recent prog bands certainly seem to have adapated this style for their own use. The Boys in the Band shows where they would be going with a fantastic progression supplemented by some rather weaker breaks (this song would work far better in the live context). River is something of a studio experiment which features a very nice guitar solo from Gary Green, but does not succeed as well as other song on here.

In fact, I think this whole album is much better represented by their various live renditions of Excerpts From Octopus, where they link several of the songs together in a kind of medely. This is not one of my favorite GG albums, but is still quite enjoyable. I give it 3.5 stars, but don't see it as an essential album by them.

Report this review (#78603)
Posted Thursday, May 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I picked up this album about 6 months ago having never heard Gentle Giant before (except for the song Wreck). My first impression upon hearing the opening verse in that soft renaissance-like style: "There coming over Charaton Bridge. Look do you see the man who is poor but rich. What do you wish; and where do you go; Who are you; where are you from; will you tell me your name? Rest awhile; call me your friend. Please stay with me I'd like to help" was simply... What in the world is this crap? Note that I have traditionally been a metal fan.

Then, at 00:50, the song just took off. The bass and piano interplay was captivating. Trying to follow the counterpoints in there had me intrigued. When the vocals came back in, they were much stronger: "Then said he fair Pantagruel, my name is Panurge and I have come from Hell." I knew at this point, I was in for an interesting ride. The atmosphere had been laid.

Raconteur Troubadour was even better song with its waltzy character. The absence of downtime between these tracks and maintainence of the energy and flavor of the first track told me that this band knew how to construct an album. As track 2 had more renaissance leanings (and lyrical content), track 3 (Cry For Freedom) brought in the hard rock style. For 1972, this track was keeping pace with anything Led Zeppelin ever wanted to do while blowing them out of the water with the added instrumentation and interplay. Knots is simply a magnificent, daring work of vocal ingenuity. The contradictory riddle in the style of a 4 part vocal fugue is something you'll hear few bands attempt. Note that this track obviously inspired Neal Morse a great deal. "He tries to make her afraid by not being afraid." What? There's even a xylophone solo here done by the drummer that will make your head tilt.

The Boys In The Band is an instrumental track with alot of busy sections that feed off each other and mix very well. It's clear the musical knowledge of this band is quite strong by this point. The positive here is that no instrument dominates the others. It's clearly balanced and very well mixed. A Dog's Life is the weakest track on the album but maintains a quirkiness that fits in with the other tracks. The lyrics alone are allegorical of a tale of the band's roadies in the context of a faithful pet. Think of Me With Kindness is a slower ballad that shows GG can display some real emotion in their writing. While the other songs are over-the-top and quirky, this track gives the listener a break from the insanity and weirdness for a moment to be a bit introspective. This track doesn't reek of sappy sentimentality but comes off fairly honestly--something hard in rock ballads. Concluding with The River at 5:53, Octopus's longest track, GG bring back the varied instrumentation with an interesting melody on violin.

All in all, we have an album under 40 minutes that never gets boring, offers some great lyrical creativity, interesting quirky melodies, varied instrumentation (sax/moog/strings/trumpet/xylophone), strong vocal delivery, varied song dynamics, and an overall cohesiveness that bands today seem to lack in their album structure. This is definitely a must have for everyone.

If you have young kids, they will live this album as much as you.

Report this review (#79633)
Posted Sunday, May 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars what i like about gentle giant most among other things is how they can make progressive music without having a 10 min + song on there album and still have more ideas shown than any other prog band in a little over 30 min. only one sogn on this album passes the five minute point and after listening to this album straight through it's so hard to remember everything that went in your ears. every song on this album buggs me out. this is a classic in progressive rock music no matter what anyone says. no one had the balls to do what gentle giant did and besides free hand this is their best record.
Report this review (#79926)
Posted Wednesday, May 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars My second favorite Gentle Giant album, (Freehand is my fav, btw) it's also probably their most medival. The first side of the album is out-and-out classic Gentle Giant with "Raconteur Troubadour" and "The Advent Of Panurge" a firm base of medival prog. Nobody can match their muscianship, but when it comes to singing acapella, "Knots" proves it. Just flat out awesome! The brother Phil's horn work gets little play on this album, but when it does as in "The Boys In The Band" it gives the music that extra little kick of color and besides, it's a showcase for the band whenever they played it live. "A Dog'e Life" gets little respect, but if you listen carefully, the boys try alittle electronic music with a game show tick tock beat, (if you grew up watching game shows in the US, you'll understand) Kerry uses a weird synth sound that's very sparse, but it enhances the song brillantly. "Think Of Me With Kindness" is the pretty ballad. The band usally have one on every release and it's as good as all the others. The only song that falls a tad below excellent is "River". It just seems a little out of sync, especially Ray's singing. It's almost like he's trying to catch up with the band. What saves it is Gary's bluesy guitar solo in the center. You don't get to hear him wail like this too often. All in all, a masterpiece of prog from a band that pretty much is all alone when it comes to originality. You absolutely can't go wrong with this album. Just plain stunning!!
Report this review (#80336)
Posted Monday, June 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Octopus might be the most medieval-sounding album that Gentle Giant had ever produced. It was the first time that John Weathers played the drums and the last time brother Phil Shulman recorded a CD together with the band. Octopus contains rocky songs (A Cry For Everyone, The Boys In The Band), classic-sounding titles (Raconteur, Troubadour, Dog's life), very beautiful, calm songs (The Advent Of Panurge, Think Of Me With Kindness), psychedelic tracks (River) and of course the masterpiece "Knots" in which Gentle Giant shows again their brilliancy in several voices chant. Indeed Octopus is full of alternation and brilliant musical work but somehow the ambiance is missing a bit. Anyhow this album is very good.
Report this review (#80578)
Posted Wednesday, June 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A good album, but I don't see what the big deal is. Gentle Giant are a band that redefined the term complex. They don't have sprawling side long epics, instead they make up for it by having complex, challenging, and quirky shorter songs. The musicianship and creativity in this album is unsurpassed, but they main problem I have is that this album is on the shorter side and some of the pieces just lack that cutting edge. From the great groove of The Advent of Panurge, to the gentle fugues of Knots, this album is varied, it has substance, and it has some great grooves. The musicianship is quirky, complex, and catchy, the vocals range from searing to hypnotic, to even, regrettably a bit contrived, but there still is a lot to like about this album.

The Advent of Panurge opens with album with a great bass/organ riff that goes through many different ideas. It may just be one of Gentle Giant's catchiest/grooviest riffs, and it's one of my favorite pieces on the album. Superb playing on Minnear's part on this track. Raconteur Troubadour has more of a medieval feel to it with an interesting violin line and some mystic vocals from Shulman. Great percussion and keyboard can also be heard on this album as well as some interesting vibes from John Weathers. A Cry For Everyone has pounding chords from Green as well as some interesting bass riffing from Ray Shulman. My main problem with this song (and the album in general) is the drum sound, the hi hat sounds awful, even though the drumming is spectacular.

Knots is one of the group's first uses of the multi-layered vocal style known as the fugue (and it's their most popular song using it). It has some interesting riffs as well as some interesting percussion and violins in between the vocal laden sections. Another one of my favorite songs on the album. The Boys in the Band begins with the dropping and spinning of a coin or something to that extent on the ground. It then breaks out into a strong organ based riff with some interesting saxophone and precise drumming behind it. An interesting guitar solo is featured but it goes by too quickly to be really enjoyed. Dog's Life is probably my least favorite track on the album, I just can't get into it as much as the other tracks, maybe it's because of the bland main motif.

Think of Me with Kindness features a passionate vocal from Philip Shulman as well as an uplifting horn arrangement during the instrumental breaks. Another one of the better tracks on the album. River ends the album with some catchy riffing, but Derek Shulman's vocal line doesn't really fit with the riff. Generally I really like his voice, but here it just doesn't fit. Besides that, though, it's a good closer to the album.

In the end, I think Octopus is a good album, just not as good as everyone cracks it up to be. My main gripe lies in the drum sound, it's just too in the mix and the hi-hats sound awful (that's only my opinion, though). And there are some songs that could have been better written and refined. But other than that, there isn't much to dislike about this album. If you're a fan of Gentle Giant, this is a must have, but I don't know if someone who is just getting into the group will enjoy this album much, they may like later albums like The Power and the Glory and Free Hand more. 3.5/5.

Report this review (#81940)
Posted Sunday, June 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is an excellent album, the best of GG in my opinion.. The skill of these guys in can be seen all through the album.. the lyrics on each song are quite good.. even though the concept is kinda hard to get if you don't pay very close attention to the lyrics.. musically this album has very intense moments, being THE BOYS IN THE BAND my favorite instrumental section in the whole album...(its an instrumental song, btw)... As in most GG records, they use a wide variety of instruments, and all of them are played with remarkable skill considering that they are also even good when it comes to singing... IMO this is the band with the most complete musicians ever! (this doesn't mean i think they're the best)... My favorite tracks on the album are the ADVENT OF PANURGE (just hearing the opening vocals put me on a good mood), THE BOYS IN THE BAND, RACONTEUR TROUBADOUR (good musicalization and "tricky" stuff all over the song).. the great KNOTS (with one of the most amazing vocal arrangements ever!) and RIVER (which has a main riff that I love...)

I think this is a must for any prog collection... this is a complete album.. it has great musicianship, good lyrics, a good concept, great production, and over all it takes music to a new level exploring an intricate of writing and vocal arrangements... I can't give this great album less than 5 stars.. :D

Report this review (#82858)
Posted Wednesday, July 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is the only record that I have of this band. As you can see I was not a big GG fan, but to be honest since I heard Octopus they became one of my favorite Prog Rock groups. This album takes you to another time...when I heard it, I can think about how it was to live on the 'medioevo' with all those fantastic stories about knots, giants, beautiful girls taking bath in a river...well, you may think that I'm high but i'm not, it is just that this album has magic in every note. Excellent art work. A must have if you love prog rock.
Report this review (#84721)
Posted Tuesday, July 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Octopus is an album I have trouble rating, sometimes I can listen to it back to back and enjoy every second of it, and, other times I cannot stand it. It's strange but this circumstance occurs regularly with me with many albums. There is one song I can always enjoy on Octopus and that song is, A Do's Life, it brings me fond memories of my little Scottish terrier who fits the description perfectly. This is quite a strange song and the harmonies of the violin and synthesizer (I think it's a synthesizer) clash. It amazes me that these clashes still sound good, probably due to the fact that Gentle Giant are very igneous.

I suppose they got this inspiration from early 20th century composers who experimented with clashing dissonances and such. I also identify that the band went back to the Middle Ages and picked up church modes. Something which 20th centaury composers also did, they experimented with the Lydian, mixolydian, Dorian ( there are several more modes I cannon remember) and most of all the pentatonic scales. These experimentations changed the course of modern music in my opinion. Gentle Giant also use these modes.

Even some of the instrumentation is similar to that of the Middle Ages, but when comparing to actual instrumentals from the Middle ages the difference is huge. That my seem like a big contradiction but I understand it, haha. Certainly there were Troubadours around back then, so there are influences from said times. Anyway back to the album.

Octopus is a fantastic album and borders on the masterpiece level, but as I said earlier it is more enjoyable at certain times. This depends greatly on what type of prog fan you and what mood you are in. There are some subtly beautiful sections on Octopus, particularly Think of me With Kindness which is a short, but effective song. There is a wonderful horn solo at the climax of the song. Knots is a masterpiece of Gentle Giant music, the vocals on this song are of an almost inhuman quality. If you listen to closely to all the part then you will wonder how difficult it would have been to record, and to perform live. The Piano theme on Knots is very jazzy and cool, while the glockenspiel solo in the middle of the song is freakishly fast.

One thing I am certain of in this album is that the instrumentation is at the highest level in all prog. Very few bands/artists could compare to the skill of Gentle Giant, and Octopus is a very real example of how good they are. I like the fact that Gentle Giant isn't as guitar dominated as many other bands are. The guitar solo on River reminds me greatly of the song Statbrough blues by The Allman Brothers, just a thought. I have to comment on the cover picture which is very cool in my opinion; I mean an octopus in a Jar, you couldn't ask for anything more.

1. The Advent Of Panurge (4/5) 2. Raconteur Troubadour (4/5) 3. A Cry For Everyone (4/5) 4. Knots (5/5) 5. The Boys In The Band (4/5) 6. Dog's Life (5/5) 7. Think Of Me With Kindness (4/5) 8. River (5/5) Total = 35 divided by 8 (number of songs) = 4.375 = 4 stars Excellent addition to any prog music collection

Octopus is a tiny bit off being a five star album as I have already stated, it isn't quite there. To be correct it is exactly 0.625 off being a masterpiece according to my method of rating. Gentle Giant isn't everyone's cup of tea but if you were to start anywhere with them, I'd recommend Octopus first. It is the easiest album to listen to by the band, for me anyway. I hope this review has made sense to the readers as I have sort. droned on about nothing for a while.

Report this review (#85327)
Posted Tuesday, August 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Octopus is for many fans the album, where Gentle Giant had grown up. After the highly promising debut album, the reaching-another-levels Acquiring The Taste, and the band's first theme album, Three Friends, Octopus is probably the most consistent album Gentle Giant ever recorded between 1970 and 1976 - and the rest doesn't really matter.

Octopus is a remarkable work for many reasons. In my opinion, their writing was at that point as excellent as it had been on my biggest favourite, ATT. The other thing is the general sound, the perfect combination of the basics: Kerry Minnear's keyboards, Phil Shulman's saxophones and Gary Green's guitars formed together a compact and tight basis for great and highly individual overall sound - not to mention something like 25 other instruments used! GG's vocal works - spearheaded by Derek Shulman's incredibly strong voice - had always been second to none, but in "Knots" they reached a new level in using vocal polyphony in rock music. Bands like Queen were only happy to follow their example... One more thing in the sound was of course the inclusion of the new drummer, John "Pugwash" Weathers, who made his debut as the band's member on Octopus. His powerful drumming gave Gentle Giant another, higher ladder to stand on and look downwards at their contemporaries.

The song-writing is really strong. The fact that for years on the band used to play a medley called "Excerpts From Octopus" only proves that they knew themselves the power and strength of the music on this album. What is a bonus is that the songs on Octopus are easily approachable by Gentle Giant's standards (i.e. Think Of Me With Kindness), and that has always made it easier for a wider audience to admire this truly fantastic compilation of songs.

Report this review (#85772)
Posted Friday, August 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Definately the easiest Gentle Giant album to 'get'. Definately got me into the band as the first time I heard it, it went on repeat all the way through 8 times :o Highlights inclued the funky Advent of Panurge, Knots with the amazing a cappella voca harmonies, probably my favorite instrumental ever: The Boys in the Band, and Think of me with Kindness: a simply breathtaking song. This is one of those albums that is just awesome in every way, and there isn't many of these. Everyone should hear this album.
Report this review (#89027)
Posted Tuesday, September 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Octopus manages to captivate us without going overboard with a concept, and trust me, that's a good thing. Gentle Giant have created a very fine album here, incorporating quirky antics with some smooth melodies, taking advantage of their instrumental talents to give them a broad symphony like sound.

All the tracks manage to resist that tendency of wanting to write a 20 minute epic, giving us some very fun and whimsical tracks. More competent as songwriters than most of their peers, GG allows us to relax and just enjoy the music on Octpus. Highlights are 'Raconteur Troubadour,' an instantly memorable song that is perhaps the star of the album for many. My personal favorite is 'The Boys in the Band', with a killer opening that many musicians themselves would enjoy.

Overall, an awesome record from a very capable and under appreciated band. Not quite up their with some of my favorites, as it lacks some of the redeeming qualities I find in those albums. Nevertheless, this album is essential for understanding and appreciating the band Gentle Giant.

Report this review (#94331)
Posted Thursday, October 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I rented this album from the library about a month ago. Prior to this, I'd given up on Gentle Giant since I'd bought Free Hand in late 2005/early 2006 and couldn't get into it. Fortunately, after reading a fair amount concerning this wonderful band, spotted this album at the public library where I live and decided to pick it up. One very common theme of the reviews of this album is how inaccesible the music is. However, I found the melodies on this disc memorable after one spin! The arrangements and musicianship are wonderful, and overall, I found this to be a great album. I enjoy every song except "Think of Me With Kindness", which I happen to find a bit boring and sappy. "Knots" never fails to amaze, "River" has stunning meter changes and a great guitar solo by Gary Green, etc., etc. Luckily, I now wish to continue pursing the catalogue of Gentle Giant.
Report this review (#94646)
Posted Sunday, October 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Eight opus: octopus!

The medieval music, the variety and inventive music that really give birth to a cult, 'cause they are probably the first or the better of their own style!

They build all their music around 4 or 5 minutes. The solo was short BUT intense. No dull moment. AND the VOICES!!! So GOOD!

The important medieval litteracy take an important place in all first seven album (1970-75) of GG .

This giant consider their fan to be intelligent enough to understand their style.

The problem is that they change too much their style after Free hand. Take a step everywhere else after this one (FH).

(Their shows was so good that i will buy the famous GG dvd)

Report this review (#95466)
Posted Sunday, October 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Octopus is one of Gentle Giant's finest albums. All classic Giant elements are present, and in abundance. Musically, this is arguably one of the most complex albums made. "Knots" is a classic Giant track, highly revered. It is the perfect track to show what Gentle Giant is about. But on this album, Gentle Giant also showed they're softer side with the beautiful (a word rarely used with Gentle Giant) "Think of Me with Kindness". The piano and brass on this track really just get you. I think "River" (which has cool percussion) should have been bumped up and the album should have ended with "Think of Me", becaue it is so good. "A Dog's Life" has very interesting guitar, and the boys in the band is a nice, but repedative, instrumental song. All the other tracks aren't overly good, though.
Report this review (#96055)
Posted Saturday, October 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars "The Advent of Panurge" was the first Gentle Giant song I knew. Believe it or not: I heard it on the radio in the 80s! Though I liked the song I didn't know that I was about to discover my very favorite band for many years. So "Octopus" will always remain a special album for me. Unfortunately, it contains the boring "Think of me with kindness", so I can't give five stars. Generally said, "Octopus" is one of the more experimental releases of the band. No song is like another and some of them can hardly compared to anything else you know from progrock music. "The Advent of Panurge" soon was not my favorite anymore (maybe I simply listened to it to often). Nowadays I love the excellent and extravagant vocals on "Knots" as well as the instrumental "The Boys in the Band", both part of the Octopus medley that you might know from live recordings. But there are even soon less known tunes that are remarkable like "Dog's Life", "A Cry For Everyone" and last not least "River" - listen to the keybords in the verse...
Report this review (#100661)
Posted Monday, November 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars By this time, Giant had already released four albums in the short space of two years. Octopus is one of the stronger ones. Phil Shulman at this point had been replaced by the lunatic John Weathers.(Look at this guys expressions live! Jeez!)

Most songs are short, but pack a big punch when they have your attention. Multi-instrumentalists Kerry Minnear and Ray Shulman showcase their talents greatly on this album, electric violin, cello, recorders galore.

Only Giant Could Moment: Knots. Superb harmonizing of vocals and crashing instrumentation.

Report this review (#101427)
Posted Saturday, December 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars A bit strange... When I've heard the first track I felt like listening to some Medieval music. Later it vanish somehow. It's a strang release. Complicated tracks, very uniqe melodies. Only Gentle Giant plays like that. And this album is special. There is no bad track here. Complicated, virtuos, but also a light listening is this album. The most accesibe album of Gentl Giant. 4,5 stars it is.
Report this review (#104467)
Posted Monday, December 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Octopus is the album that got me into Gentle Giant, ever since then I acquired all other albums by GG, with the exception of The Missing Piece, Giant for a Day, and Civilian. Unlike many others, I was completely fascinated with it the first time I listened to this gem. All songs fit perfectly into this album. The name Octopus actually means "Octo Opus," being there are 8 songs on the album. Octopus starts off with The Advent of Panurge, a "sequel" to Pantagruel's Nativity on Acquiring the Taste. It has awesome vocal harmonies from Kerry, Phil, and Derek. The next song, Raconteur Troubadour, has a nice Medieval feeling to it because of the musical style. (This is what really got me interested in GG's music, their ability to combine true classical-era music into their own.) A Cry for Everyone is a little heavier than the first two, and it is about a person that reflects life and the virtues of it. It has some great keyboard work from Mr. Minnear, who is extremely underrated IMO. Knots is the 4th track of the album, and the standout song. Knots has perfect vocal harmonies from all the members except John Weathers. The lyrics don't come across straightforward for me, but it seems to be about some kind of relationship gone bad. It conveys the tension that the group were going through. The Boys in the Band is an excellent instrumental by the group, a nice and complex one at that, with changing rythyms all over the place. Dog's Life is the shortest song on the album, but it's a good one, being about man's best friend. It is actually an indirect lyrical reference to the roadies of Gentle Giant. Think of Me with Kindness is a good song about a close relationship. River is the last song on the album, and is about a metaphorical relationship between a River and music.

Two words two describe this: Amazing and Complex. A Must have 5/5

Report this review (#105080)
Posted Sunday, December 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album is yet my only encounter with this popular band, and it didn't impress me very much. I bought an used copy of the vinyl just on basis of the neat Dean gatefold cover, but I believe that the feelings which this group create aren't dramatic and powerful enough to match my too demanding and limited taste. The melodic ballad "Think of Me With Kindness" was the most pleasing track here for me. The vocal harmonies and arrangements are technically great, so the appreciation here is probably just a question of preferred style.
Report this review (#119612)
Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars I was very surprised that I didn't love this album, I mean look how highly rated it is. Of their first four albums this is the one I like the least. "Acquiring The Taste" and "Three Friends" are amazing and their debut is one I enjoyed a lot. I just found the sound to be really dense on this one with little in the way of emotion or power.

"The Advent Of Panurge" opens with fast paced, reserved vocals and keys. The song does get heavier and more complex. Some great piano and the dual vocals are a nice touch. "Raconteur Troubadour" features some violin and vocals to begin with.The electric piano and trumpet melodies are quite amazing. "A Cry For Everyone" is an uptempo rocker. I like the guitar/organ melody half way through the song. "Knots" has some unique, robotic style vocals to open followed by some complex vocal arrangements. A xylophone solo works well. Pounding piano trades off with the vocal melodies. The drumming is fantastic !

"The Boys In The Band" is my favourite song on this album. It's an instrumental that opens with the sound of a guy laughing followed by the sound of a coin hitting the floor. The instrumental work to follow is incredible. "Dog's Life" is apparently a tribute to their roadies. It's a silly song with funny lyrics, but the instrumental parts of the song I don't really like. "Think Of Me With Kindness" is sung by Minnear and has some good piano passages. This song is ok, nothing special. "River" is a bit of a mixed bag. I like the violin and guitar though.

Overall I feel let down by this recording, but i'm in the minority. Did they call it "Octopus" because there are 8 tracks ? I've never been a fan of the octopus.

Report this review (#120078)
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album was my first approximation to GG. And it was an enjoyable adventure. Gentle Giant is really an original band. I think this album might be included on symphonic rock. The diversity of sonorous fountains is probably the most distinguishing characteristic. Besides, there are a large symphonic influence in this music. The composers are qualified; the musicians are skilled. So, the result is a refinated rock with many ways, journeys and climaxes.

I have to say I like the contrast between some parts of 'reverence worthy of a British Court' and the rock'n'roll colours in another parts. Always, the melodies are great.

(1) "The adventure of Panurge": beautiful 'counterpoints'. A symphonic rock piece. ****

(2) "Raconteur, Troubador": a strange song. It has many condiments like the complete album.*****

(3) "A cry for everyone": somewhat more 'rocker' than the previous tracks. Nice keyboard's solo. Great coda.***

(4) "Knots": well... what a great voices and xylophone! The strongest part is awesome.*****

(5) "The boys in the band": probably this instrumental is the most symphonic-rock theme of this album. I really like it.****

(6) "Dog's life": music of Renaissance... maybe from a Court... Nice song.****

(7) "Think of me with kindness": I love this ballad. Really, I enjoyed this emotional song every time I've heard it. This is my fav song of this album. This is a simple composition but really inspirated.*****

(8) "River": at first the r'n'r influence appears, but then the song becomes in a complex- harmony song. In the middle part, there is a bluesy part.****

Average Rate: 4.25 stars

I think this album is conceptually original because of the diversity of sounds and sonorities. This condition add to this album. Then I put this album as a masterpiece.

Report this review (#123114)
Posted Tuesday, May 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars That is the album that started it all. Usually, you have to wait for the third or the forth album in order for a band to make a big break. Octopus truly cemented Gentle giant in prog rock fame. I discovered the band with this album because when i was interested in listenning to Gentle giant, my father told me that it was their best work.

Knots is the highlight of the album. That is one song that is just impossible to sing. The song was perfectly crafted and the voices that slowly graduate makes the song really special.

The advent of parnurge is a good opener, as it begins softly and grow harder. I think that river is a pretty funny song. The way it sounds is just like all the guys were dizzy the time they played.

It's definitely a must-have!

Report this review (#123275)
Posted Thursday, May 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I think this is much more inspired than their next two albums, my favourite tracks are Knots (the proto Bohemian Rhapsody, the quirky instrumental Boys in the Band, The River, and A Dogs Life - I love the oompa loompa (reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate factory) part in that song very unique. The rest of the tracks are quite enjoyable. This album is a little more folky and soft than their next albums nevertheless very eclectic, quirky and unique. A four star album, a worthy purchase for any serious prog collector.
Report this review (#123279)
Posted Friday, May 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars well, I had written a long and descriptive review of this album, but in my idiocy, I clicked to a different page and it was erased! damn it all! well, that's okay, but i'll have to shorten my review. sorry. Advent of panurge is a solid opener. A highlight of the album. Raconteur troubadour is awesomely medieval. One of my gentle giant favourites! A cry for everyone is a weak point in my opinion, I dont feel it's up to par with the rest of the album. It's okay at best. Knot's is one of the greatest gentle giant songs of all time. Perhaps the greatest example of their sound, and certainly the best example of their unique vocal arrangements. the boys in the band is an instrumental reminiscent of cogs in cogs from the power and the glory. It's a highlight for this album, a real good track. Dog's life is full of character with a real catchy guitar part. This song has dual meanings between a dog's life and that of gg's roadies. It's a real playful song, very gentle giant. Think of me with kindness ins reminiscent of a reunion from in a glass house. It's an excellent ballad to balance out the other 'colorful' textures in the album. River for me is another weak point, though not as weak as a cry for everyone. The intro to me sounds a bit sloppy, not as tight as it could be. This displeases my ears. This song does however have a very catchy melody once you get past the mediocre intro. It's slightly sub par compared to the rest of the good songs here. All in all, this is probably gentle giant's best album. If not this, then glass house. If a cry for everyone wasn't here and the sloppy intro from river wasn't there, I would give this one a 5, but in all good prog reviewing consciensce, I can't. This is an essential album though. this is the best of gentle giant and it is awesome indeed. Besides a couple of minor blemishes, it really is practically a perfect gentle giant album! Do yourself a favor and buy this one! 4.5/5.
Report this review (#124303)
Posted Friday, June 1, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars As someone who was introduced to the prog phenomenon through yes in the 1970s I was a late comer to Gentle Giant. My loss. In some ways it's odd reviewing albums you've known for over 25 years (for some people they'll have listend to this album 35 years ago!!)

Prepare for a mix a tight harmonies, an impressive display of musicianship across a broad range of instruments.

Side one has a dramatic and memorable opening: the advent of panurge and the raconteur troubador present a medieval vocal theme which is captivating.

Knots is marvellous but I find it a bit too difficult at times: if I'm in the modd it's fantastic but not a song for all seasons.

Dog's Life is charming, beautifully paced, complex: irresistible. Think of me with kindness is just about the perfect balance between sentimentality and charm.

I find Gentle Giant the most accomplished interesting and articulate prog band I have had the pleasure of listening to. I enjoy this album more than any other.

River is another complex number: at times quirky, then sublime, it moves around from theme to theme, mood to mood. Glorious. A love the guitar sound: sounds cliched but it's so 70s.

It's not just 5 stars it's a desert island disk.

Report this review (#126857)
Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars GG´s music output is very addictive in deed. their imagination is flying everywhere and all around, making you eager for extra listenings and more albums to discover, a lot more. They are the kind of artists that gladly can sing a-capella in front of the cornershop in their neighbourhood the first thing they the studio mm well i think how many strange instruments could be found there; ha! mainly soft "Pointillist" style keyboards and precise strings take the lead.

the medieval dispatch they give us in Octopus makes all this even more curious; this being the most commercial of all albums probably is the first place to start with. hopely you wont regret if you get hooked after listening, so, find some free-time alone and do it..

Report this review (#127340)
Posted Monday, July 2, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Octopus was released in 1972, against prog staples like Foxtrot, Thick as a Brick, and Close to the Edge. It holds its own against those masterpieces, but in its own way. Whereas Yes, Tull, and Genesis released albums fll of grandeur and epic tracks, GG opted for shorter, more personal sounds. The result is one of those rare prog classics that is defined by its restraint, not its technical display. That is not to say that the music is simple. Quite the contrary, it has some of the most complex arrangements you'll ever hear. However, the complexity works in a way that makes the songs sound simple.

The music flows beautifully fro song to song. Every mood that music can convey is thrown together to make moments of soft whimsy to dark heaviness. The Advent of Panurge features great dual vocals that are spaced to sound more like a duel than a duet. Raconteur Troubador has a great brass section. A Cry For Everyone is a rocker that adds some power to the mix. Knots is my favorite song on the album, as it perfectly condenses the band's vocal, instrumental, and lyrical powers into one four minute song that feels like a jorney through music itself. The drums in particular are incredible.

The Boys in the Band has a killer organ riff plus the best rock sax playing I've heard on a non VDGG album. Dog's Life shows the band's capacity for humor as they compare roadies to pets. It's probably the weakest instrumentally, but the lyrics are great. Think of Me With Kindness is another ballad that is much more emotional than the opening track. The album closes with River, another rocker that has a great guitar solo that is trumped by a better xylophone solo. River is kind of like the slightly less complex and accomplished version of Knots.

All in all, GG craft music of incredible complexity, but they don't rub your nose in it like many prog bands do. In fact, this is the most pleasant complex album I think I've ever heard. Lyrically, the album isn't great by normal standards, but it is the apex of GG's writing. The music is just so wonderful, and it takes several listens to fully appreciate just how deep the arrangements really are. I cannot recommend this album enough and even non-proggies could easily fall in love with the beauty of this album.

Grade: A

Report this review (#130278)
Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars Quirky the best word I can use to describe this album, which features interesting rhythms, vocal patterns, instrumental usage, and a genuine sonic inventiveness which is worth listening to... a few times. Gentle Giant did not capture my attention with any seriousness because, creative though they may be, their sound is boring. The vocals are soft, usually emotionless whispers (or are just loud and goofy) and I the smart instrumental moments (such as in mostly good "Boys in the Band" and the bluesy "River") are over very quickly, and just don't muster enough memorable enthusiasm to warrant more than the occasional spin. However, after several good listens I do respect what Gentle Giant is expressing, as well as their influence to prog-rock in general. Of course, that doesn't mean I have to become a fan. 3 stars for historical significance and a fun play from time to time.

Songwriting 3 Instrumental Performances 3 Lyrics/Vocals 2 Style/Emotion/Replay 3

Report this review (#130834)
Posted Monday, July 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
Fight Club
4 stars Strange at first, but ultimately rewarding

I keep being strangely reminded of this album lately. A friend of mine was interested in hearing it (via his dad) and a guy I work with mentioned it again today. So, I felt compelled to listen to it again. After all, it's a very interesting piece of work.

At first listen, one might describe this music as "strange". I thought it was bizarre the first time I heard it too. It's pretty normal to feel that way though, the music is quite dissonant. However, I urge you, listen to this album carefully over and over again and eventually you will "get" it. Once understood, this album stands out as a work of genius in the world of music. If you want to achieve this understanding, however, there are a couple things you need to know about Gentle Giant!

Their style includes significant use of counterpoint. For anyone who doesn't know, counterpoint is basically the use of multiple voices that are completely independent in rhythm and harmony. To pull this off successfully is quite a feat, and Gentle Giant does it better than most artists out there. It's really impressive.

Their music is always polyphonic and uses a significant amount of rhythm and chord changes. The chord structures end up falling much closer to those used in classical music than rock music. The complexity of the harmonies, and sudden twists in chord and key changes are a couple of reasons the music can come off sounding so strange to an untrained ear =P

Another reason everything can sound so strange is due to the complexity of their timing. Half the time their song lines feel in the wrong place as they do not start at the beginning of a measure and sometimes go for longer or shorter than what feels normal. The vocals sometimes go one simple note behind a down beat playing quarter notes while the bass plays the same note, but starting at the downbeat. This makes it very hard to follow along with. A lot of the time, the vocals alternate between different singers as well, two singing different syllables of the same line, with a third singer doing a different syllable in a different beat. Just listen to "Knots".

All this can be absolutely fascinating to a musician and completely boring to an average person. Personally I find myself wondering how the [%*!#] they think of this stuff, and it makes me very jealous haha. So, if you're up for something with unbelievable musicianship and an extremely unique sound I URGE YOU LISTEN TO THIS ALBUM.

Report this review (#142434)
Posted Saturday, October 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a masterpiece of technical prog rock that will do your head in.

I'd never really gotten into GENTLE GIANT the music never appealed to my tastes and appeared overly bombastic and it just felt like it would require too much effort to get into and I didn't really have the time or inclination to let it all sink in. I recently gave Octopus another chance and everything just seemed to click, the super tight vocal harmonies, the complicated and often dense instrumentation, the cheeky intelligent sense of humour, it all seemed to form this cohesive mass of amazing prog and it made me sad that it had taken this long for me to realise how good this album really was.

Pretty much every song on this album is absolute gem but there are one or 2 songs that stick out from the pack. 'Knots' is schizophrenic with it's flowing complex vocal harmonies and crazy timings it's a real pleasure to listen to time and again for it's unique approach to progressive music. 'Knots' is followed by my favourite song on the album the instrumental 'Boys in the yard' with some amazing melody and frenetic pace, it's amazingly written and executed even better.

The instrumentation on this album is top notch, very technical and virtuosic as a collective, this is one of those albums where every member just slots in perfectly and interplays with one another to create a kind of unified musical consciousness with no one member in particular standing out. I'm particularly partial to the bass and the organs though if it has to be said and the sax on 'Boys in the yard' is amazingly melodic.

Octopus is an amazingly rich and complex work of progressive rock that is essential for any fan of 70's prog.

Report this review (#146080)
Posted Saturday, October 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars A band of six musicians who together were capable of playing thirty instruments (and play them well), the musicianship of this band has never been in question (although some of their aesthetic choices can be scrutinized a bit more justifiably). Definitely an acquired taste (acknowledge by the band in essence with the title of their second album Acquiring the Taste), sometimes this reviewer wonders if this band made idiosyncratic and bizarre music simply for the sake of being idiosyncratic and bizarre. Highly unusual rhythmic meters, instrumental choices and medieval singing reinforce this. Classical and jazz influences are heard, and the music ranges from soft ballad to hard rocker. Octopus is composed of eight different tracks (hence octo + opus = Octopus) that serve as an excellent document of the band's stylistically unique sound and is a great starting point for anyone looking to learn more about Gentle Giant's music. Listen with an open ear and an open mind and formulate your own conclusions regarding the cohesiveness of the musical concepts and aestetic choices and don't be unduly influenced by my review or those of others. From my own perspective, however, this recording rates about 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Report this review (#151724)
Posted Monday, November 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gentle Giant, seriously catchy band. That sounds weird, but it's true once you get used to the music. At first it might seem like the most overly-complex music ever conceived, but (and the cliche works for this band) after repeated listens, the brilliance of it is revealed. Every noise that seemed abrasive at first becomes a necessary part of the whole. Octopus is probably the finest example of GG's music, and also the hardest to get into. The Advent of Panurge is one of the most twisted (musically and lyrically) songs ever recorded. The instrumentation goes from noodling acoustic guitar to heavy piano riffage and the lyrics are some of the weirdest ever. A Cry for Everyone is a great catchy metal track with an epic riff and some good keyboardage too. The Boys in the Band is an instrumental with great melodies. River, possibly my favorite track on the album, has a mellow keyboard melody and some very relaxing vocal melodies and lyrics. One of the greatest classic prog albums, highly recomended.
Report this review (#151925)
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gentle Giant are one of my favorite bands in a couple ways. first, they go back to the roots of music, medieval music, for their influences. Nothing else has really influenced them, making them an incredibly unique band. Second, they use many many instruments, overdubbing them all to make a large sound that plays well with me. Enough about them, lets get into Octopus, which is easily the best album.

Advent of Panurge: Starts off quietous and mysterious, it soon moves into a hard rocking section with good piano and keyboard fills. the guitar is outstanding, as Gary Green always is. Theres a more spacey section that follows the short trumpet interlude which is very good. My favorite on the album

Raconteur Troubadour: Nice violins accompanied by a narration type thing from Phil Shulman, the whole song seems to have come right out of King Arthur's Court, complete with tambourines. when the xylophone enters, its gorgeous, followed by an even more beautiful violin solo accompanied by organ. i just LOVE the sound this group makes!

A Cry For Everyone: A tough rocker with distorted guitars and hard pounding drums. then some guitar/piano shared lines come in, and the keyboard soars into the stratosphere. Kerry Minnear is a highly underrated keyboardist. He can even make the synth solo halfway through sound good. it moves into a more upbeat, bongo section that is even more amazing in terms of overdubbed riffs.

Knots: The amazing vocal harmony/odd instrumentation song. the xylophone and sax notes are perfectly placed to make the main riff seem like its coming from all sides. the vocals of course are complex, even though theyre all saying the same words with different melodies. I especially like when the drums begin pounding, and the guitar and keyboard take the dark, heavy melody. a very complex song overall. and of course the xylophone solo is the first of its kind.

Boys in the Band: This is by far the most complex instrumental ever in the history of prog. the main riff takes 8 seconds to fully complete, and the whole song is filled with prog goodies and many keyboard overdubs. you have to hear it to believe it.

Dog's Life: Starting with a curious acoustic guitar riff, the violins and classical melodies soon kick in. the middle part has some odd keyboards and percussion, and theres an instrument that im not quite sure what it is. it sounds like an oboe, but i dont think it is.

Think of Me with Kindness: classical melodies and piano, this is the closest gentle giant ever came to a ballad during their prog period, and its gorgeous. they should do this more often! the piano is great, and the drums are good but not too much.

River: Nice opening riff with keyboards and xylophone, soon kicks it up with violin, guitar and drums. the vocal part sounds strange and a little evil almost. the keyboards and guitar make nice background riffs while phil sings about "danger coming".the middle part with soft keyboards and soft vocals sounds almost jazzy in its feel. then it kicks up again with some amazing drumming, and one of the few actual guitar solos by Gary Green we ever hear, and it is quite good.

Overall, their most inventive album, their last with phil shulman, saxophonist extraordinaire, and the set up for a slightly more serious stage of their musical career, starting with in a glass house, and a MASTERPIECE of the type of prog gentle giant has invented.

Report this review (#153239)
Posted Friday, November 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars I was initially confident in my 3-star rating of this album, but I have to admit that I simply wasn't doing it justice. The creative energy and general irreverence for traditional (generic) popular music on Octopus is refreshing and worthy of respect. Octopus is not consistently great, but it certainly contains enough highlights to merit a 4-star rating in my book.

The Advent of Panurge, A Cry for Everyone, The Boys in the Band, River. These four are the musical equivalent of crack, and they all rock. Why is that? It's because the Giant manage to cram an absolutely incredible amount of variability (instrumentation, time signatures, melodies, etc) into such a short space. If you like concise, constantly shifting music, you can't get much better than this. Prog rock for those with attention deficit disorder, if you like! I have to respect the creativity, songwriting and musicianship, and I also flat-out love the music, because it is undeniably good. There's plenty to be found, from the herky-jerky groove of The Advent of Panurge, to the heavy breakdown that is A Cry for Everyone, to the varitable free-for-all that is The Boys in the Band, to the spacey, guitar-driven River. This is the Giant that I love.

Raconteur Troubadour, Knots, Dog's Life, Think of Me with Kindness. This is the Giant that initially turned me off. Here we have a medieval, folksy track, a brilliantly complicated mess (not necessarily in a bad way though!), a relatively worthless ditty, and a quite listenable ballad, respectively. It's all very creative and diverse, and ultimately quite enjoyable.

Special mention must be made for Knots, as it literally took over 50 listens before I liked it. Most great prog will catch my ear the first time and keep bringing me back, but Knots was certainly a grower for me. Now I love it and often have to laugh in appreciation of the sheer creativity and bombast.

I have to admit that I was properly warned from the ProgArchives experts, and now you have been too! When Gentle Giant set to rocking out, their style is tough to beat and impossible to imitate. When they focus more on being creative and playful, I sometimes lose interest. Overall, Octopus has something to offer nearly every progressive rock fan, although it's so varied that it's tough to be equally enthused about each song.

Report this review (#157323)
Posted Monday, December 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Unquestionably one of the most important prog-albums, though many people often overlook it as a genre-definig record, among Close to the Edge, Seling England by a Pound and others. I find especially Octopus' folky and medieval bits appealing. They give a sense of freshness to Gentle Giant's music. Besides fresh or joyful Octopus can definitely be described as quirky or tricky, because GG's instrumental experimentality and complex polyfonies etc. are quite over the top, but it really doesn't matter 'cause after all that's what prog is all about.

In my opinion the stand-out tracks on Octopus are the happy and interestingly polyfonic The Advent of Panurge, stunningly beautiful ballad Think of Me With Kindness and most of all Knots, the bizarre modern time madrigal. As a major fan of classical music i especially like the way, that Knots uses human voices. It's clearly largely influenged by 20th century choir-tradition.

Sum: If someone asks you: Just what is progressive rock? I recommend you to play him/her Gentle Giant's Octopus.

Report this review (#159429)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars For most people, this album characterizes the Gentle Giant sound. I would agree that perhaps it represents some type of cumulative average of the band, but I still prefer Three Friends and In A Glass House. Octopus is almost pushing the hard-prog label at some points, and at other times it is very mellow. For the most part, listening to this album is like tying an Octopus into Knots. 5 brilliant stars!
Report this review (#163187)
Posted Tuesday, March 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The fourth album from Gentle Giant is another masterpiece album from the masters. Octopus has all the ingredients that make every Gentle Giant album so exceptional. Great intriguing melodies, polyrythmic structures, time signature and tempo changes and outstanding musicianship. And on top of that some of the best composed songs ever in prog rock. What makes Gentle Giant so great in my eyes is that they are their own. They make use of influences from several genres including hard rock, classical chamber music, mideavel music, avant garde and jazz. They mix them all and out comes the progressive wonderchild Gentle Giant.

The music has changed a bit since their previous album Three Friends. Their style is the same though it´s just minor changes that makes it exciting to listen to a new Gentle Giant album every time. You can feel that they have challenged themselves and that is exactly what I like to do myself with music.

The Advent of Panurge starts the album with a very powerful rythm, a bit funky really, it´s just such a great song.

My favorite is Raconteur Troubadour where the classical and mideavel sounds really emerge. It only last for 4 minutes but try and listen to how many different parts and moods that are in that song. Just amazing is what I say.

A Cry for Everyone is the only hard rocker on Octopus, but Derek Shulman really gets his rocks off here.

Knots is a pretty avant garde like song with another of Gentle Giant´s trademarks the multilayered polyrythmic vocal harmonies.

The Boys in the Band is a jazz/ rock instrumental. Very powerful.

Dog´s Life is a great intricate mellow song, with some twist that makes this a very progressive song.

The most commercial song on Octopus is definitely Think of Me with Kindness as it is kind of a ballad. Don´t worry though it is very beautiful and not pop at all.

River is the last song here and it starts with Ray Shulman´s folky violin playing and becomes pretty psychadelic in the mid section. This is a very progressive song and it takes a couple of listens before it reveals it´s beauties. Just like a fine wine. A clear favorite of mine. The song also spouts a bluesy Gary Green guitar solo.

The sound quality is very good. Clearly the best production Gentle Giant had up til then.

The musicianship is outstanding as I mentioned. The Shulman brothers and Kerry Minnear are some of the best musicians I have ever encountered. Gary Green and John Weathers are absolutely fantastic too. There are no weak links in this band. I´m alway speechless when I have to explain how fantastic Gentle Giant are as musicians, you´ll have to listen for yourself. Their compositional skills are beyond my comprehension too, how did they make this music ?

This is another prog rock classic from maybe the best band in the genre and it will be my fourth consecutive 5 star rating of a Gentle Giant album. This is beyond highly recommendable, this is a must if your into progressive rock.

Report this review (#163412)
Posted Saturday, March 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars The music of this group is impresive: Purely progresive music with renaissance- medieval like touches. For sure they are pretentious but at least they have a little humour ( see if not adquiring the taste,s cover). They did a fantastic music work , they unravel little melodic gems , some section are little medieval progresive diamonds in fac,t mixed perfectly with dark jazzy progresive sections, like in the "Advent of Panurge". "Raconteur Troubadour" is medieval like with vocal harmonies, to repetitive for my taste, it seems so insistent with the same litle medieval piano melodie. A cry for everyone is good rocking progresive with a lot of changes. Knots is crazy, well crafted song, with a great vocal composition, but over it is dark full of strangely naive xilophone sounds.....Really a highlight in progresive music. The boys in the band really great with a indescriptible begining rock kind latin-jazz kind medieval and a central motive close to newage but really well managed inside the song, very strange and progresive. Dogs life Is simphonic and folkie, strange, satiricall but with a serious rigorous clasical tone with wich sometimes i have some problems ( but other times i can enjoy pretty much). Think of me with kindness Im sorry but for me that one is a bluff, horrible beggining in a upperclass musical style with a horrible falsete( fake high-pitched) voice , the chorus could be from the badest musical really. River is good rockprogresive with a good dark progresion an optimist leif motiv, the second phase is aerie and floating, with amazing synths and a laid-back blues section. Indeed is a very good song but before the bluff of the previous one, it seem like having to fix the disc. Maybe if i focus on the lyrics ill get a diferent impression , but thats what i think by now...... 3.5 stars
Report this review (#163823)
Posted Thursday, March 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of becoming very unpopular. This was Gentle Giant's vision and goal. And wow did they ever do just that. Especially with Octopus (1972). This album to me is the pinnacle of progressive music. I sometimes wonder why In the court of the crimson king got such good publicity in terms of being the first example for prog rock. Had Octopus come out a couple years earlier, it probably would've gotten the same recognition Crimson got. Nonetheless, it actually should have far more recognition than it got but I guess that's the way it happens sometimes. Anyway, if I were to explain the prog genre to someone, this is the album I'd use. It's all there, the melodies, time changes, odd rhythms and not to mention excellent musical solidarity. The only unusual thing about this record is the song lengths which are rather short in time. However, don't let this fool you as Gentle Giant can take a 20 min song and put it into 3-4min of intense progressive music. I highly recommend this album to anyone interested in taking a walk into the world of progressive music.
Report this review (#164365)
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars NOT ESSENTIAL between 1972 -- 2008 I bought this album , impressed really by it's cover , in 1974 during a layover in london as Pilot , from hmv music stores in oxford street . I still have this vinyl album up till now . But , unfortunatly my Lenco turntable had the pleasure to play it only for four times . once in 1974 , 1982 , 1996 & today after reviewing your reviews in progarchieves . To be clear & honest with myself first , then with you proggers . I'm in fact a collector , my job with an airline gave me the chance to be always updated with bands , concerts , releases ETC...... the brothers Shulman has gone so far in exploring the underground of progressive music , in fact by mixing between musical instruments , using a new tech , surely without mentioning the classical - jazz spirit involved in their play . BUT ..., unfortunatly & certainly there was no impact (from my point of view) not either in the 70's , & not surely now . as far as i'm concern , i'll try to replay this so called essential in 2020 , maybe at that time i'll have the mood to discover its magical effect on you (Surely , reviewers )

N.B = this album & cd are surely in safe hands ,, mybe , for the future generations .

Report this review (#164440)
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album definatly deserves a much wider audience! It mixes Medievil into rock into odd time signatures with effortless ease; shifting from such folky song like Raconteur Troubador into a hard-hitting piece like A Cry For Everyone. This album definatly has some of GG's more interesting and complex songs, and I, as many might agree, think this is GG's best album. In some sections you might here some Yes influences, in some sections a touch of ELP, and so on and so forth. This album never goes stale, as some might, and always challenges the listener to hear new, interesting sections within the piece. Definatly a 4 for this, or perhaps a 4.5! Ultimatly, this album deserves more attention from the prog. rock community.
Report this review (#164486)
Posted Thursday, March 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Does music can change a life? Ohhhh Yeeahh! This album helped me pass my teenage years. I remember my father hesitating to buy this, saying it was a little bit to crazy for me. I was about 13th. Hey! I was able to judge what could cause me brain damage or not. Then we got home, and Knots started to play in our living room. I just started to laugh. You know, this kind of nervous laugh that shows you don't really know what's going on in your head. I can confirm now that this album caused me bad bad brain injuries. This was the first prog album I listened to and this was pure magic in my ears. I 've had never heard anything like this before. I got hooked by the song's complex architectures, each tune was different and intrigating. Gentle Giant is definitely my favourite rock band. They're the summum. I can hardly describe my inner feelings when I listen to their music. So, before I completely loose my mind in deep emotions, let's talk about Octopus more objectively. ....eum ....To be honest, I just can't. It's delicate and hard-rocking. Many many instruments come surrounding you as the album begins, sax, piano, moog, vibes, violin and other weirdies. And what about the voices! Wonderful! ''Flaburgasting! Gentle Giant at they're top!
Report this review (#165102)
Posted Thursday, March 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ah, Octopus! A quirky and controversial album that will get the prog heads debating for hours!

First of all, let me say that GG is my favorite prog band, sharing that top spot with Genesis. However, I am NOT fanatical about their work and do recognize their shortcomings; and Octopus has a few.

The record opens with one of GG's most well known pieces: The Advent Of Panurge. An absolute masterpiece showcasing Minnear's funky keys and the boys doing some of their very best vocal harmonies. Sadly, the rest of the album doesn't come close to the quality of the opener.

The second and third songs, namely Raconteur Troubadour and A Cry For Everyone are very good and don't do a whole lot to diminish from the opening track. But, from the fourth piece, the HIGHLY overrated Knots, onward the music gets very gloomy and downright depressing. I'm a big fan of Jethro Tull and Renaissance and enjoy the folkier side of English Prog, but this GG record is not on par with the best of that sub genre.

Another knock I have against Octopus are the length of the songs: 8 pieces in 34 minutes and 15 seconds. Doing the math yields an average of four minute songs! You may say that the length of a song has nothing to do with its worth and that is true. But, in the case of Octopus the songs don't flow very well after the third piece. IMO, the album is downright difficult to listen to beyond the third song. The record would be much stronger had the band created a longer song, with more energy at the fourth spot and carried that energy toward the record's conclusion. Contrary to many opinions I think that Knots is a silly song that tries to be a bit to artsy and fails miserably. GG did much better vocal harmonizing in later albums.

Octopus suffers from weak, experimental compositions that don't add much to the listening experience. I'm having a really hard time deciding what rating to give this CD. It certainly does not merit five stars since it's far from a masterpiece. Three stars would put it in that category that tells readers of this review to pass it up. I don't want to do that. So, I will give it FOUR STARS since the first three songs are excellent with the opener being one of the best songs in the history of prog.

Report this review (#165787)
Posted Saturday, April 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
Italian Prog Specialist
3 stars Octopus really didn't surprise me much. After listening to Acquiring The Taste and really enjoying it, it feels like this album is a repetition of that, but with a lot of emotion and fun moved out of the way. Gentle Giant seem to be polarising in that you either love them to pieces or acknowledge them for their amazing musical talent, but can't force yourself to be emotionally attached to their music. With this album I must join the latter group.

It's full of wild experimentation, a great number of instruments, strange vocal arrangements and a bunch of guys who obviously know how to handle their gear. It's in other words all that a prog lover should like, at least on the technical side of things. On the other hand it just feels cold and almost contrived at times. Overdone xylophone parts, abundant counterpoint melodies and pure strangeness seem to loose me as I listen to the album as a whole. I try to like Knots, but I still prefer Gibberish by Spock's Beard when it comes to the use of fugues and as Gibberish can be seen as a tribute, it's hardly a good thing.

Gentle Giant has a way of creating heaviness in an odd way, and they do it successfully here as well. The same goes for their way of creating some kind of medieval feeling to many of their songs. All well and good and one of their greatest strengths according to me, even if I miss the more obvious blues-rock influences found on Acquiring The Taste. This is hardcore progressive rock with the sole exception that there isn't a single epic to be found. Instead we're served a palette of assorted goodies filled with quirkiness and elaborated arrangements. I guess this is one of the reasons that the album feels very compact, like a really dark piece of chocolate it's not always easy to stomach. But I miss the elaboration of ATT once more, where atmosphere found its way into the music in a better way, smoothing out and highlighting the complexity in a much more enjoyable way than on Octopus. Funny uses of the keys with sounds that border on funny (or silly) from time to time lighten up the otherwise mathematical music.

Varied to say the least, some favourites do emerge from the mix with the first one being Raconteur, Troubadour. A great showcasing of the up-tempo classical/medieval feeling the band creates with a fantastic violin over the rest of the music. Now that's counterpoint for you! Cheerful and even an atmospheric part in there somewhere. Dog's Life is number two, an interesting, shifting instrumental with a touch of Kansas (seriously!) to it and finishing the trio is Think Of Me With Kindness. This last one really sticks out as it's a surprisingly mellow, piano-laid track for being Gentle Giant, soaring at times with a triumphant brass pseudo-crescendo. A little like a slightly happier VdGG song.

If a more mathematical approach to your classic prog makes the interest alarm go off, this is an essential listen. No doubt. But for those of you who demands a little more emotion there really is no point getting the album for its 'essential' status. An interesting and demanding listen from beginning to end, but for me it leaves something to be desired.

3 stars.


Report this review (#169889)
Posted Sunday, May 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars In particular, this album from Gentle Giant is one of the most complex on his carreer. Is a priceless material that must be recognized in the progresive music world. The style of one of the most originals band of the period reach his limit in this production of 1971.

The songs provide a singular travel on the mind of his principal composers, the Shulman Brothers and Kerry Minnear; is a record that with the exception of the ballad Think of me with kindness any other band of the progressive fo the 70´s cannot create. Is a beatiful album, faithful - yet - to the goal of the band; compose complex, sincopated and polyrythmic melodies that create the perfect ambient to hear this great band.

And if we agregate the ballad, before mencionated, we have the most round material of the band. Is a relax that remember us that the hearts exist for love this music, this kind of bands and this albums.

Report this review (#171199)
Posted Friday, May 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is an amazing album. Very funny melodies, great instrumental passages, good skills, Inspired vocal games. And the most important thing here is the diversity. Gentle Giant mixed a lot of rythms with great coherence.

The sound is very happy almost Carnivalesque, sometimes one could imagine derek Shulman dressed like a jester or something. And the variety of instruments makes this a very ludic album, with catchy melodies, that keeps turning around in your mind for a long time.

Maybe an Epic is missing here, something bigger, but in general lines is a great piece of Art.

4,4 Stars Really

Report this review (#172796)
Posted Sunday, June 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Troubadours of rock and roll

Octopus is often seen as the pinnacle of the Shulman Brother's careers with Gentle Giant, and while the band certainly came into a niche with this album it really doesn't make it quite to the top of every list. Interestingly enough, this album is heralded as one of the masterpieces of progressive rock, even if it doesn't have any very signature pieces on it. Still, the album flows well, even as a collection of short songs, and each song is structured so well that this is one of the rare examples of when a prog album made up of short rock tunes actually works well, and an even rarer case of when that album is widely accepted by then the most 'elite' prog head. This is a very good album, but is it the one essential album from this band? No, not really.

The short songs on the album really work for and against it at the same time. On the one hand you have the brothers attacking some very unconventional song writing techniques, especially on the very skillful Knots with its crazy use of vocal harmonies and instrumentation, but you also have more simple rock songs like the heavy A Cry For Everyone with it's heavily distorted guitar. While the songs do move into one another very seamlessly the album still has a feel to it like they could have spent more time on any one particular track and developed it over a longer period of time. There's an itching the back of the mind when The Advent Of Panurge comes to an end that says, 'no, don't end! More! More!" However, that's also a great thing to have on the album since it always has you coming back for more, so it's kind of a love/hate thing.

Of the two sides the first is the stronger with the song being consistently strong and very rock oriented. The second side is good as well but a little more inconsistent. The Boys in the Band is an excellent instrumental (one of the better in the prog universe, in fact), and probably the biggest standout on the album, but then all the seriousness of the album gets shot away as Dog's Life starts in it's quirky manner. A good song that's somewhat out of place this one leads into the somewhat obligatory slow song, Think of Me With Kindness which has a certain amount of beauty to it, and is well introduced (speed wise) with the preceding track. Following that is River which codas the album strongly as the most typically 'progressive' song on the album (and the longest too). This song takes all the elements of the other songs on the album and mixes them (including a touch of quirk in the keyboards) to make for a very fun and unique track.

This is a very good and enjoyable album, but not completely essential. Gentle Giant has better moments in them, but this is still quite good. 3.5 stars out of 5, recommended, but other albums by this band may quench the progressive thirst more than this one.

Report this review (#178742)
Posted Sunday, August 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Possibly the best album by Gentle Giant, which is possibly the greatest band of what is possibly the greatest era of prog music. So, this is possibly the greatest album of all time. Hard call to make, but it is undeniably one that should not be ignored.

With this album, we have a wonderful mix of the weird and the wild, the crazy and the calm. I suppose that's why the name Gentle Giant is supposed to induce such a paradox. Because here, the band plays whatever they want to, and they create some of the most oddly energetic tracks right next to some of the most beautiful songs to be found on a record. This the first true taste of the rock side of the band, drawing casually away from the bluesy leanings of previous releases by the band. Terrifyingly intense vocal harmonies drive a bunch of songs, with seemingly impossible rounds and other sorts of vocal interplays that I have no clue what the names are. And even still, the music is not lost. This is not some terribly complex album that will take you years to digest. Many dig straight in on their first listen, while others might take a couple of tries. Even still, considering what it takes to be rated really highly on this site, I think this is one of the more accessible and yet still deep albums to garner such a consistent and high rating. After this album, the band focuses less on avant-garde sounds and samples, but here we have a band of nerds in full techno-glory when they want to be.

The album opens with The Advent of Panurge, a song that right away showcases the band's complex style of composition. However, above the complicated nature of the instruments, there rises a catchy vocal melody. The album moves on with the mostly acoustic minstrel-feel Raconteur Troubadour (a wicked title to type, let me tell you). This might be the weakest track on the album, though that's still not very much of a detraction from it. The music then segues into the energetic rock tune, A Song for Everyone. This is a particularly catchy song, somewhat less complicated and proggy compared to the first two, but still is a wonderful track to rock out to if that's your thing. It might not really be a song for everyone, exactly, but it's certainly a song that more people would be able to enjoy were they not so into prog. And then, the first side ends with the mind-bending track Knots, featuring some of the most complicated vocal parts short of classical opera. The point and counterpoint in the vocals here are truly inspiring, and when the band pulls together for the chorus, it sounds truly remarkable. Also, the drums in the finale blow my mind every time. The drummer's got fast hands, let me tell you.

The second side kicks off with the peppy instrumental The Boys in the Band. Very much a fun and semi-complex song from the band, it moves the album forward fairly effectively. Coming off the tails of that, though, is the only contender with Raconteur Troubadour (I didn't want to have to type it twice, but oh well) for the weakest album here. It's a heartwarming sort of tune about a dog (surprise), and the music is pretty average by Gentle Giant standards. Oh well, a perfect album has yet to be found, as far as I'm concerned, though Octopus is rather close. The next track more than makes up for this lack, as Think of Me with Kindness brings out a heartwrenching melody with a single vocal that has never seemed stronger. This is a softer song, the softest on this album, and it really moves in a different way from the rest of the music. Finally, comes the violin and guitar rocker River, reminding me somewhat to something like Kansas, though it is in truth nothing at all like a Kansas song. There is a wild drum solo in the middle jam session, showcasing more of those impossibly fast hands, before segueing into a strong guitar solo. The album closes with a bang.

If you like prog at all, buy this. It's a wonderful place to start with this band. The complicated nature is sure to impress and probably entice almost anyone, from a fan of Zappa to one of Yes to one of Cynic to one of Dream Theater. As strong of a recommendation as I can give goes here.

Report this review (#184996)
Posted Wednesday, October 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars Don't look here for a masterpiece? Try 'Free Hand' and 'Three Friends'.

My interest in Gentle Giant began here with this eclectic blend of 20th-century classical chamber music, mediaeval vocal music, jazz and rock. It came highly recommended from a revered prog magazine so I indulged in getting hold of it at the first opportunity. What I heard sometimes inspired me, and at other times I was completely turned off. It just did not appeal to me in the way that other prog does because it is for the most part quite inaccessible and boring.

Shining lights include 'Knots', 'A Cry For Everyone' and 'The Boys In The Band'. But there is little else to recommend it.

On the other hand other Gentle Giant material has absolutely impressed me such as 'Free Hand' and 'Three Friends'. I am glad I did not let 'Octopus' put me off this band of important proggers, but despite all the 5 star reviews and ravings by respected fans here, there is something about 'Octopus' that turns me off. It is a nice album but nowhere near their best. It just does not have enough substance to give it merit. Even some bonus tracks would be nice but no, 34 minutes and it is over. I found myself scratching my head wondering what the fuss was all about...

Report this review (#185174)
Posted Friday, October 10, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars Probably Gentle Giant's best all around album. Their creativeness and energy was at their peak. The clashes between Phil Shulman (who saw himself as the leader fo the pack) and the rest of the band would eventually end with him leaving the group and thus finishing this first phase in Gentle giant's career. But what a closer! It combines the best of their early career and hints what GG would became later (i.e. a little more accessible). This was also the first album to feature permanent drummer John Weathers. Wheaters, a fine and seasoned musician, had a more heavy style and would ensure the band a more prog rock sound than its precedors.

The musical parts are as complex and elaborated as anything they have done before, and yet they seem less dense and darker than, say, Acquiring The Taste. The vocal parts are really strong and the center piece of this album is the unbelievable Knots: this great piece of canon and counterpoint vocals, with some real clever lyrics (anyone who thinks rock is dumb should listen to some prog's works and specilly GG's). The album has no fillers and the variety of styles and moods is proof of their great combination of musical expertise and fine songwriting. Those guys could easily fall in the long jams/endless nooding trap, but they escaped all that concentrating in making good, strong, not very long compositions that few artists could match, even in 20 minute suites. GG members were maybe the most accomplished musicans ever to grace a 'rock' band, but they didn't have to prove it at the songs expenses. They were a rare case of complexity meets good melodies. A delicate, difficult formula they masatered.

The production here is an improvement over previous effords. Octopus has excleent tracks and no fillers. This is surely one of the most representative of what would enter rock history as progressive music. Therefore, highly recommended. 4,5 stars.

Report this review (#186684)
Posted Wednesday, October 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've been in and around music all of my nearly six decades of existence. I used to love to spend my free time casually thumbing through the rows and racks of LPs in record stores and even found desperation-fueled, short-term employment in a few of those lovely establishments back in the 70s. So how I missed hearing even a solitary note from a band as interesting as Gentle Giant for so long is a mystery to me. But sometimes if a group or a particular album isn't recommended to me by someone whose taste I trust, I can easily remain oblivious to them or it. There's just too much music out there to get around to it all and, in this case, radio was no help. Even the most liberal of FM stations in the southwestern US were hesitant to go near this kind of material. Thanks to this website, however, I can happily say better late than never. I have finally discovered GG.

It is indeed a rare occurrence when I must confess that words are failing me, but as I was jotting down notes during a recent spin of "Octopus" I realized that I was being confronted with sound manipulations that are darn near indescribable. This music is so unique, so novel that I'm afraid my review will be irritatingly circumlocutory instead of direct. For that I apologize in advance. I can only say I'll do my best to convince prog explorers that this is music for those of you who love to experience something wholly different from the norm. Who admire aural art that comes straight out of left field. Who appreciate challenging compositions and arrangements loaded with substance and forethought, not just weirdness for weirdness' sake. If that's you then this album is right up your alley and you'll be glad you found it.

Nothing could have prepared me for "The Advent of Panurge" so all I can do is relate my reactions. It starts with some kind of a medieval madrigal chorale singing over electric piano, then the band blows in like some abstract Dali sandstorm filling up the sky. Soon trumpets blare briefly and a semi- psychedelic moment flies across before they return to the madrigal vocals, followed by what I can only describe as a sort of powerful, crawling musical reptilian force taking over until the end. (I tried to warn you.) The lyrics aren't as obtuse as the music but they aren't your regular moon-in-June flavor, either. It's about Pantagruel discovering a lifelong companion in someone who goes by the name of Panurge. Or something along those lines.

Here's another revelation. "Octopus" is reminiscent of the first time I heard Frank Zappa. That was akin to being introduced to gas music from Mars except that it somehow made sense to me and it was a wonderful, exhilarating feeling. And hearing "Raconteur Troubadour" for the first time was similar in that it was a totally unique listening experience with its rapid-fire musical episodes causing my head to swim in an effort to keep up. Just when I think I've got my hands on this slippery fish a grandiose processional-style melody comes parading into the room to my delight. It seems there's a surprise lurking around every twisting turn and soon they reprise the bizarre melodic theme, ending with an electric piano riff retarding like a wind-up toy coming to rest. The tune's words describe the life of a traveling minstrel but who has time to pay close attention to the lyrics when the music is making your mind swirl like a carnival ride?

"A Cry for Everyone" is yet another fun brain-stretcher. It's a forceful rocker (these boys have backbone aplenty) that features a marvelous kaleidoscope of musical instrumentation including some arresting synthesizer settings (especially for 1972). One of the many admirable traits this group possesses is their ability to never let the gourmet fare get overdone. However, when exciting movements like the conga-led sonic tour-de-force that rises up towards the end of this song come along I selfishly want them to go on and on. They're that cool. The words are somewhat deep and philosophical but they have no sobering effect on the unbridled enthusiasm of the band's performance here.

"Knots" sounds like an experiment but it's a successful one nonetheless. It is indeed strange and alien to my ears but the complex counterpoint they indulge in is captivating. About the time I think I've heard it all John Weathers comes out of nowhere and turns in a blistering solo on the xylophone that leaves me shaking my head. Speaking of John, don't overlook the incredible drum work he provides throughout this album because there's nothing about it that could be called easy. And no, I don't have a clue what the subliminal phrases they're singing mean so don't ask me. I'm just enjoying the ride. Leave my tender psyche out of this.

After a clever coin-toss introduction, the instrumental that is "The Boys in the Band" ensues and it's a high-spirited conglomeration of fast-moving, ever-changing musical ideas that are very Zappa-like in their intricate intensity without ever sounding like a rip-off of that genius' magic. On this track everything compliments everything else in a way that I never thought possible.

"Dog's Life," a humorous tribute to their road crew, is a drumless exposition of folk instrumentation mixed up with modern eclectic jazz influences that works brilliantly. (Yikes. I'm running out of complimentary adjectives already.) All I can say is that I hear something new every time I spin this ditty. This is music for the mind.

The quieter "Think of Me With Kindness" is absolutely beautiful in its relative simplicity yet it isn't a simple song at all. Confused? What I mean is that it goes places I don't expect it to go to but once I'm there it makes all the sense in the world. Having said that, it ends in a classic, grand symphonic prog way that melts my heart almost as much as the emotional, heartbreaking words about lost love do.

"River" is the closer and it's a return to more of a hard rock stance for the "verse" (the standard verse/chorus patterns don't really apply to these guys, though), then a floating-on-a-cloud sequence drifts through before a barrage of tasteful drum breaks intervene. All this leads up to an unbelievably authentic British blues guitar solo that Clapton would be proud of. Not what I was expecting to hear at this juncture but true to the unpredictable nature of this group's offerings, for sure. A reprise of the initial odd vocal melody is next, followed by a definitive ending. The lyrics comparing music to a flowing stream of water are poetic and meaningful.

Looking back on this vague review I can report that I merely failed to describe the indescribable and I reckon there's no shame in that. The bottom line is that this music involves me, intrigues me and makes me smile and that's all I dare ask for. I don't know if their other albums are as amazing as this one but I plan to collect a few more and find out before they go out of print. I can't say enough about the astounding vocal and performing abilities of the brothers Shulman (Raymond, Derek and Philip). There are so many varied instruments darting in and out of these tracks that I can't keep up. The keyboard work of Kerry Minnear is nothing short of phenomenal and Gary Green's guitar playing is impressive, to say the least. I can see where this sort of musical collage that sometimes borders on dissonance and abstraction-by-design might not be everyone's cup o' tea but that's what sets these guys apart from the herd. I, for one, am hooked on this album and I know without a doubt that it will continue to entertain and amuse my insatiable desire for adventure for many years to come. I also now know why the fans of Gentle Giant are so loyal. This is greatness.

Report this review (#190473)
Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars The fourth album from Gentle Giant has eight legs, I mean, "opuses." Each song shows a different side of the band, which is quite a testament to how versatile they are. This is one few progressive rock fans should be without, particularly someone interested in Gentle Giant.

"The Advent of Panurge" Full of intricate music, this Rabelais-inspired song begins immediately with narrative vocals from Kerry Minnear. Vocal counterpoint is a strong suit of Gentle Giant, and they engage in it in fine style. Derek Shulman's loud voice speaks for the troublemaking Panurge. Before the interlude, Phil Shulman gives a soft vocal performance. The final part of the song is the same as the beginning, serving to conclude the narrative. All in all, it's an important Gentle Giant song, and one of their best.

"Raconteur Troubadour" There is no mistaking the mediaeval feel to this song; there is jingling and violin throughout. The instrumental section is well-crafted, with strings and later, brass.

"A Cry for Everyone" Here we might have a more straightforward rock song, except that feeling only lasts thirty sections into the song. More elaborate music immediately follows the first verse like an extended interlude leading up to the second. After a slightly funky section, there is a brief synthesizer solo.

"Knots" More than anything else, this one is an exercise in sanity. The layered a capella vocals are difficult to wrap one's ears around, frankly, and the whole piece may induce headaches. What little music is involved in this piece is some of the zaniest Gentle Giant has ever produced. It's probably the definition of a hit-or-miss song, but among Gentle Giant fans, this off-the-wall song is a great moment. I sometimes enjoy it, but I have to be in the mood for it.

"The Boys in the Band" Beginning with the sound of a coin spinning, this is not only one of Gentle Giant's best instrumentals, it's one of my favorite instrumentals. It's rampant and yet tightly orchestrated, like a runaway train on the set of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. In less than five minutes, Gentle Giant demonstrates their insane ability to work together as a group and yet produce the most disparate sounds ever heard in one piece. They move through a variety of segments, including quieter moments and hard-rocking ones.

"Dog's Life" With acoustic guitar and strings that sound like a broken accordion, this one sounds a little more cabaret than anything else they've done. While not terrible, it isn't a great song, and it's only three minutes in length, so it's an easily overlooked flaw.

"Think of Me with Kindness" Showing the softer side of Gentle Giant, this one is their best sentimental piece. Minnear has a great singing performance. There are no grand instrumental sections, but this song truly doesn't require any.

"River" Using electric guitar and violin, the band sets up the final song for the album. The drums are especially powerful. Sometimes I feel the piece should have been another instrumental, as Derek Shulman's vocals are not quite as strong here, but then I hear Phil Shulman's vocals, which are at their very best, and it makes me sad that he left the band after this impressive album.

Report this review (#191903)
Posted Friday, December 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gentle Giant is one of the biggest names in 70's progressive rock, and Octopus is arguably their most famous album among prog fans. Gentle Giant is a band that has never impressed me very much, though I must admit that I find Octopus to be a rather enjoyable album.

Octopus is very obviously a Gentle Giant album to anyone familiar with the band. This is unquestionably their distinct sound, and you can tell that from the first track alone. Expect to hear a lot of vocal harmonies, complex arrangements, and short songs (by progressive rock standards). Of course, the musicianship is fantastic, as we're always used to from Gentle Giant. The vocals take center stage on this album, as there are very few instrumental breaks. I wish there would have been a bit more focus on the instrumentation, but it's a minor complaint considering how fantastic the vocals are.

From a compositional standpoint, I find this album to be a bit weak. It seems to jump from style to style far too often, and I feel a bit of a lack of consistency. I'm not a big fan of the arrangements either. Again, I wish there would have been more consistency in the compositions and focus on instruments rather than just vocals. With that said, the production qualities are fantastic, especially for only 1972. Octopus is way ahead of it's time in terms of production quality.


Octopus is a good album by Gentle Giant even though I don't care for it very much. None of the music ever really grabs me, despite the fact that it's of very high quality. This is a good definition of a 3 star rating. Even though many people love this album and this band, I've never showed much interest in them. However, if you want to hear Gentle Giant, this is a good representation of their sound, and a good starting point as well.

3 stars.

Report this review (#192502)
Posted Tuesday, December 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars First love always seems sweeter.

This was my first Gentle Giant album but was part of a rush that eventually spanned the first five albums. Despite numerous very strong tracks, none of the albums have matched this one top to bottom. This album features John Weathers on drums, a wiry burst of energy that added fire to the mix, and is the last featuring the eldest Shulman. Perhaps it is his presence that provide the quirkiness and emphasis on medieval flavor that is less prominent on the follow-up In a Glass House. The songs here are all quite distinct, though as you explore GG's catalog, all reflect the band's sound quite well.

1. The Advent Of Panurge (4:45) (10/10) This one has it all, the remarkable vocal interplay, the staccato keyboard work, the medieval flavor. And the overall sense of wierdness that brands GG like no other band. A great intro to the band.

2. Raconteur Troubadour (4:03) (8.5/10) Continues the medieval flavor, but is a little mellower. The odd rhythm feel remains and the song feels like it is tripping over itself. It takes a few listens to enjoy, but is an excellent continuation and shift from the opener.

3. A Cry For Everyone (4:06) (6/10) My least favorite track on the album. GG's heavy guitar riffs almost never do alot for me and this is no exception. I'm also not a fan of vocals following a rhythm guitar (I dislike the verse of Iron Man for this reason.) But the song contains several other elements that are quite good.

4. Knots (4:11) (15/10) - the crown of the GG catalog, and of the classic prog era in general. Like the tentacles of the title creature, the vocals weave in and out in odd rhythm showcasing the utter brilliance of these guys. At first listen, the opening seems a little calculated, which it no doubtedly was, but by the time the weaving hits the end with the chorus I'm afraid the emotion and energy are at a high.

5. The Boys In The Band (4:34) (9/10) - A great instrumental that covers alot of territory and until I read reviews here, I actually hadn't realized there were no vocals. It was just part of the cohesive whole that is this album.

6. Dog's Life (3:13) - (6/10) an attempt at humor that wears thin lyrically after a couple of listens that the rest of the album requires, but the acoustic guitar theme is great and the lightheartedness sets a nice contrast within the album as a whole.

7. Think Of Me With Kindness (3:31) - (9/10) though much more simple in structure than most of the rest of the songs, this is a beautiful ballad that does not seem out of place at all. One of my favorite prog ballads.

8. River (5:52) - (9/10) another good prototypical GG song with some heavier elements but overall just showcases the breadth of the band's sound to close the album.

One of the amazing things about this band is how much they pack into relatively short songs. There is so much going on here I have never looked back and said wow that was too short. Despite a few small dips, the level of interest remains at almost a max level for most of the album, something I can't say for the higher rated Glass House. The dips are also not as distracting as on the first two albums. Perhaps if Three Friends or Power and the Glory had been my introduction to GG, my opinion would differ, as they are both faves of mine, but as it is Octopus is one of my desert island albums.

The fact that this is the album with Knots makes it a prog classic. But there is much more here than that. Among the top ten or even top 5 prog albums of all time.

Report this review (#194521)
Posted Saturday, December 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars A giant octopus?

The music of Gentle Giant is often extremely complex, but I feel that it lacks real depth here. The complexity is often of a naïve and simple kind, if that makes any sense. It is also a type of complexity that jumps right out at you, and not a type of complexity that it takes several listens to reveal. It no doubt might take several listens before you fully can enjoy the music, if at all, but the fact that it is complex is very apparent right from the start. You could say, if you want to be blunt, that all the complexity of their music is on the surface and none underneath. I often also get the feeling while listening to this album, that they are making complex music just for the sake of the complexity itself. But there is no denying their immense talent as multi-instrumentalists and arrangers, and the naivety of the music is often even a bit charming. But great music? I wouldn't call it that.

Octopus is the band's fourth album and it is probably one of their most well known ones. But it is not one of their best ones. The two best songs here, in my opinion, are River and A Cry For Everyone. Together with the jazzy instrumental The Boys In The Band, these songs are also the ones that contain the most instrumental work out and they also rock a bit harder, much in the vein of the bands debut album, which I think is one of their best. The rest of the songs here are primarily vocal driven, and even if they often involve many different instruments, there is very little soloing.

Some of these songs contain very complex vocal harmonies that are quite fun to listen to. But this is also the problem with them. They are too much fun! Frankly, I find some of these songs more than a bit silly and even goofy. Almost as if they are (very complex and sophisticated) children's music, or even comedy music or cartoon theme music or something similar! I just cannot fully take them seriously on Knots, for example. It's ok to have a bit of fun, but for almost half an album it becomes too much for my taste.

Queen, one of my all time favourite bands, really mastered the craft of successfully incorporating some silly moments on their albums. For example, on A Night At The Opera (which I consider a masterpiece) there are Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon, Seaside Rendezvous and Good Company. The only reason these numbers work at all on that album is that they are put side by side with hard rockers like Death On Two Legs, I'm In Love With My Car and Sweet Lady and ballads like Love Of My Life. It doesn't quite work that way for Gentle Giant, I'm afraid. At least not on Octopus.

Think Of Me With Kindness is an attempt to become a bit more serious and making a ballad, and it works surprisingly well. This is also one of the better songs here, and one of the few numbers that doesn't feel cheerful and jolly! I definitely feel that too much of this album is too cheerful.

I understand that this was not a very gentle review of the Prog rock giant's supposed masterpiece. But even if it is a bit charming and has a couple of good songs I cannot elevate this giant octopus even to a three start rating. They made some better albums later on (and also before this one).

Report this review (#196796)
Posted Thursday, January 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Octopus was my first initiation into Gentle Giant therefore I may be a bit prejudiced. I am not typically an aural fan of the 1970's with a few exceptions as I find the era to have typically poor production values. I am an audiophile and this is important to me. Octopus smashes conceived notions of 70's production - crisp, clear, a great justice to the music. And speaking of the music here, provocative, avante garde, bizarre, medieval - jazz - rock??? Obviously there was extreme talent in this gathering of friends. One favorite here is The boys in the Band, this is from 1972??? Can you imagine any of todays acts pulling off technical prowess and sheer audacity of goofiness that this song shows? Anyone that is open - minded with progressive music give this album a spit, 4 1/2 stars.......
Report this review (#201400)
Posted Sunday, February 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars It's really strange album by Gentle Giant. It proves, that GG is very strange band and this band have produced albums for all tastes. Gentle Giant is like an ocean, exactly because of that. They approach to every next album so different, so it's almost imposible to be a fan of all of their albums. I prove it to myself. This album truly is not for me. After Three Friends, I adore, I haven't the senses to understand this one. It's completely unclear and strange for me. I think it's too folky and that's the main reason for me not to understand it good. The members show their musical abilities in very precise manner. This is not rock exactly in it's full meaning. I feel it's not something bad and that's all. It's not something good for me, too! I know it's an album I'll never choose to listen to, between it and something else by the band. This let me believe, I have to vote here exactly by the definition of the stars and this means - Collectors/fans only (respectively 2 stars)!
Report this review (#208399)
Posted Monday, March 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Octopus or Octo-opus, as some might call it, is exactly what the title implies. Namely an opus consisting of eight parts!

The Advent Of Panurge kicks things off with a continuation of Pantagruel's Nativity-story from Acquiring The Taste-album. This song is actually a lot stronger than it's predecessor, vocal intro makes it one of my top five favorite albums intros, among which Looking For Someone from Genesis' album Trespass is a strong contender for the top spot. Knots is probably the bands most notorious concert extravaganza that needs no introduction while Think Of Me With Kindness is the most beautiful Gentle Giant ballad!

At the reunion concert, on April 24 2009, the band played decent versions of The Advent Of Panurge and The Boys In The Band. But for me, the biggest highlight of the evening was when Kerry Minnear started singing Think Of Me With Kindness! Considering that this was the only song that he sang the lead on during the entire gig it was one of those goosebumps-once-in-a-lifetime concert experiences that I will carry with me for the rest of my life! I recommend looking up this performance on YouTube!

Octopus was the last album to feature Phil Shulman in the band and his presence would definitely be missed on the three masterpieces that Gentle Giant would record after his departure.

***** star songs: The Advent Of Panurge (4:45) A Cry For Everyone (4:06) Knots (4:11) Think Of Me With Kindness (3:31)

**** star songs: Raconteur Troubadour (4:03) The Boys In The Band (4:34) Dog's Life (3:13) River (5:52)

Total rating: 4,48

Report this review (#214712)
Posted Sunday, May 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I don't know why but I just erased this entire CD from my iPod. Many months later someone lent It to me to hear it again and boy, was I mistaken the first time! Now It is my current favorite among their recordings. I just coul not imagine how some could live Its life without knowing of "Knots" and now "River" is just a staple on my daily runnings and I just can't get it enough of It. This is the band at their peak, creatively and instrumentaly. Well, on second thought maybe I would say that whit "The Power and the Glory"- Aniway this is a fine record to have again.
Report this review (#216440)
Posted Monday, May 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars What a stunning suprise! When I first heard this, I consider it to be non-musical and randomized nonsense. But afterwards, there was something that draw me back to it. Maybe it was the stunning cover art and the fact that the music sounded like nothing I have heard before. So I finally decided to buy it. And then, all my previous doubts was gone. The sound is something close to perfection. It have to be the most variating music I ever heard, the songs never stops changing their direction and the band have succeed to put more things into a 3 minute track than many prog bands do in songs exceeding for over 10 minutes. The melody, the instruments and the rythm section changes constantly. Strangely, or rather "uncommonly", it feels like the band just have used compositions that they really like in their songs, not like they just have been putting all their ideas into them wherever it's good or bad, like many other progbands do. The sound is very systematic and complex and the members have a blinding virtousity even for prog standards, at the same time they manage to write rather catchy sections. Some of us complain that there are some less "complicated" songs, but if rather simplistic, those are still rather variating and you can take some breath between the more complex songs.

The songs are very short for the prog genre, but as I said before they manage to involve as many compositions and moods as a 10-minute song. The album itself is shorter than 35 minutes, but those 35 minutes are completely filled to the max with great music. My favourite songs are the advent of panurge, a cry for everyone, the boys in the band and think of me with kindness, but each song is unique and appealing in it's own way.

If you consider to buy this one, you have to keep it in your mind that this is not at the melodic or symphonic side of prog at all. Songs like "knots" can be very confusing and irritating for a symphonic progger. Actually the songs doesn't remind me of anything from the same era. But if you like complex songs that doesn't stay very long at any part of the composition and at the same time and at the same time has a "soul", you should consider buying this.

Report this review (#220010)
Posted Saturday, June 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is very special to me because it is the first prog album I ever heard and the one that hooked me into progressive rock. I love Gentle Giant, I think they are one of the most creative and talented bands of all time, and this album is a great statement of what Gentle Giant was all about. It contains 8 songs and each one is a gem in its own little way. I love how Gentle Giant doesn't have to have big long epics in order to showcase all their progressive elements. Let's go through the eight wonderful tracks one by one:

1. The Advent of Panurge is one of my favorite Gentle Giant songs of all time and includes all the wonderful elements that makes me love this band. There is singing by both Kerry Minnear and Derek Shulman. There is some wonderful vocal interplay. There is some great grooving and jazzy moments. It has a medieval feel to it that makes it a lot of fun. It is just a joyful song to listen to.

2. Raconteur Troubadour probably wouldn't be out of place at a renaissance faire. There is some wonderful violin work that really stands out to me. This is probably my least favorite track of the album, but I still enjoy it emmensely, which shows how great this album truly is.

3. A Cry For Everyone really rocks! There is some great guitar on top of a rocking beat. There is even room for some keyboard soloing in the middle before the band kicks back in. I know not everyone is a fan, but I really like Derek's voice and feel it is one of the most unique voices in prog.

4. Knots is a masterpiece of progressive rock. This is what made my ears perk up when I first heard the album. The song features the trademark vocal counterpoints along with some xylophone and violin. It creates an almost haunting effect that is beautiful and unique. I love the xylophone solo, something that is not often heard in rock. This is why I love Gentle Giant, they are truly like no other band- unique in every sense of the word. There are also moments that are epic and rock hard. This song has it all in only four minutes! I'm just blown away by this song.

5. The Boys In The Band is a rocking instrumental that starts with a laugh and the spinning of a coin. When the coin finally lands flat after spinning, the band kicks in and gives one rocking performance. This is a great song with some great organ and saxophone on top of a great groove laid down by John Weathers. Very good stuff.

6. A Dog's Life shows the bands sense of humor, and the lyrics are funny. The acoustic guitar is very unique as well as the violin. It perhaps isn't the most complicated Gentle Giant song, but it is still fun and an enjoyable listen.

7. Think of Me With Kindness gives Kerry Minnear a chance to shine as his beautiful voice and keyboard skills are highlighted. For those who say there is no emotion in Gentle Giant's music, I would have them listen to this which drips of pure emotion and really gets to me every time I hear it.

8. The RIver almost evokes the feel of Southern Rock with its electric guitar and violin. Once again, this song showcases all the great elements of what makes Gentle Giant such a special band. There is some great drum soloing towards the end by John Weathers and a great guitar solo. All in all a great finish to an incredible album.

This album begins what I feel is Gentle Giant's holy trinity of albums. I can not deny the influence this album has had on my life by introducing me to prog rock which has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I feel Gentle Giant stated their purpose simply through this album and made 8 songs full of beauty and complexity that really showcased everything they were about. I think this album is a great place to start for anyone wanting to get into Gentle Giant.

Report this review (#227956)
Posted Thursday, July 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars Tres disappointed has the listening of this album presented by the criticisms(critics) for Meilleur Gentle Giants, I do not absolutely agree top, anything has to see with the leader of eouvre' Three Friends ' for example. I find the difficult album. The dexterity of the musicians and the choirs are very in place(square), but at the level of the songs of the melody, I do not find highly-rated medieval of the group. Songs are special, fortunately A cry for everyone reveil a little bit soft album. The voices(votes) are here emphases The game(set,play) of the xylophone is difficult has the ear, it is really necessary to be able to there gone into this album it is not my case.
Report this review (#228018)
Posted Thursday, July 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
5 stars This was the first Gentle Giant album I ever heard. It is a concept album, that tells the story of a young octupus named "Panurge" (yes, his father was cruel, but who wouldn't be, with a name like "Pantagruel"?). One day, while playing with his ocean friends, Panurge happens to pass by a fishing boat. There he hears the singing of a Raconteur Troubadour. From then on, Panurge dreams of being human. He lets out A Cry For Everyone, and ties himself in Knots. Finally, he locates The Boys In The Band, who introduce him to a wizard, who grants his deepest wish. He is now a human, with big Disney eyes (nowhere near as big as anime eyes, but you get the idea). But after joining the band, he befriends a dog. He sees the cruel way people treat the dog, and pities the Dog's Life. He begins to regret his wish, leaves the band, asking the group to "Think Of Me With Kindness". They don't. Yearning for his past aquatic life, Panurge spends the rest of his days by a River.

Seriously, this is an album of amazing music. In my opinion, one of the two best of this band, and one of the all time greats of progressive rock.

Report this review (#257658)
Posted Thursday, December 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gentle Giant - Octopus (1972)

Yet another masterful album.... number four of the big GG8.

Octopus can actually be seen as the album Gentle Giant had found a sound that they really liked. From this moment on the albums became more cohesive (which I find totally unimportant, maybe even a pity), but even more technically sophisticated and intelligent. One can find a vinyl copy of this one with two different covers. One is the one shown on PA with the red octopus on a green sleeve and the other shows an octopus in a pot of glass with blue colours. Both covers are great. Warning: This record is hard to get into. I'll do a song-by-song review for this one.

The Advent Of Panurge took me some time to enjoy. Looking back on it I don't understand why because it's a great track introducing some of the middle-ages like musical influences Gentle Giant shows often from this album on. The vocals are gentle, but the music is rough on this one. The story telling seems to be the main focus for the composition that is made around it in a very sophisticated way. Great track though!

Raconteur Troubadour is an totally into the middle-ages sound track. This track isn't only inspired by it, it is in the very style whilst showing some of Gentle Giant's technical compositional style. Nice inspired track with a lot of different innovative elements.

A Cry for Everyone is a weaker track in my opinion. The main guitar riff with vocals have little emotional appeal and it doesn't really rock too. Some of the instrumental parts in the solo sections are quite interesting, but not very appealing too.

Knots became a legendary song among Gentle Giant fans. What can I say? Combine four part vocal harmonies singing in a wild battle against each other accompanied by strange sounds. This element is combined with progressive rock band sound like instrumental parts and a combination of the two in the end. This one of the great focal focussed track of Gentle Giant, but nevertheless it's hard to get into.

The Boys in the Band is a great inventive instrumental tracks. It's up-tempo and Gentle Giant basically shows what it is capable of. Just a great instrumental track!

Dog's Life. A great classical inspired track! Accompanied by violin and cello the beautiful vocals and lyrics sound very inspired. Throughout the composition the classical influences are apparent. Great song!

River is the second lesser song on the album. The vocals are bit out of pitch and the composition isn't that interesting. If they had chosen a better ending song this might have been a five star record for me.

Conclusion. A lot of great inventive new material that isn't like their album that came before this one. How do manage to keep getting new interesting ideas? By now they had left most of the other progressive groups far behind. Another very very big four star record. Essential listening though.

Report this review (#260691)
Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gentle Giant is one of the best bands ever. Their music is wonderful but not that accessible. Or you like the music well, and you'll be a fan forever, or you don't like it at all. I know too many people who do not like Gentle Giant, mainly, in my opinion, because people find the music too complicated. I like complicated music. From all albums GG made, I like Octupus best, as GG made with this album the most versatile one. The most variation in use of instruments, in moods. It also demonstrates the great musicianship of the GG members. This is definitely an album that should be present in any pog collection.
Report this review (#261359)
Posted Sunday, January 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars The beefiest set of eclecticism you can get, and it flows beautifully. OCTOPUS is one of those premiere prog rock albums that can take some time to grow warm towards. No doubt looking at the barrage of instruments played that you're going to go for one hell of a thrill ride, but the way the tracks flow together really arouses a euphoria that I cannot explain.

Gentle Giant earn my respect as one of the few artists that can cover a vast assortment of musical genres without getting on my nerves. I feel that the group has a natural sense of flow to make up for the genre jumping, kind of like Queen on their big NIGHT AT THE OPERA thing. To cover just the first side, we go from jazz-rock storytelling to Renaissance fair fanfare to proto- metal to intricate-vocal-intertwining-crazy-xylophone-thingys-random-riff-epic-avant-loss of sanity music. And I think it works.

The instrumental ''The Boys in the Band'' is where the group really hits their stride. It's a phantasmagoria of interlocking themes that just mesh so well until the band locks in on a groove at the midpoint. Ironically as a progster, ''River'' is the weakest of the tracks here as the main theme sounds a bit sedated and it suffers from slight length issues. ''Dog's Life'' and ''Think of Me With Kindness'' are typically candidates for weak tracks, but Gentle Giant finds ways to make simple folk tunes and ballads sound slightly off. It's as if Gentle Giant is a bloodsucking parasite that morphs simple music styles into something enjoyable whenever GG takes a bite out of them.

Those who understand Gentle Giant understand this album as the experimental nature, complexity and flow are in peak form here. It can slightly turn off newcomers, but sometimes masterpiece albums are ones where patience and repeated tries (or band fandom) are necessary for understanding.

Report this review (#268952)
Posted Sunday, February 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you're only going to buy one Gentle Giant album, then this is it, the greatest accidental pop album of all time. Yes, you read that right, all you Gentle Giant fans - I just "defiled" one of the most incredibly complex, avantgarde and dissonant prog albums ever by calling it pop (well, accidental pop to be precise). Before your head explodes in confusion, allow me to explain what I mean. I once watched a TV interview with actor/comedian Mike Myers where he made a very astute observation about film genre boundaries: paraphrasing him, he said that the fundamental difference between comedy and drama is that comedy is faster. So it is with this album; yes, there are an insane number of time-signature and key changes throughout, and the emphasis has almost completely shifted from "let's augment good songs with weirdness" to "let's frig everything up as much as we possibly can," which normally would make me somewhat iffy on the album's quality. But here's the thing: except for the (excellent regardless) closer, all of these songs are in the three-to-four-and-a-half- minute range (ie a "normal pop length"), and because of this, the abundance of ideas here are necessarily compressed to an almost absurd degree. The result is that all of these weird ideas hit the listener at a rapid-fire pace, and they do so in such way that they unintentionally become totally memorable. Hence, each of these tracks is filled with, you guessed it, pop hooks, though of the most perverse variety.

The first side is simply incredible, led by Gentle Giant song #1 for me, "The Advent of Panurge." The first forty-five seconds or so have Phil and Kerry singing a twisted (but strangely memorable) vocal melody with delightful harmonies, but just when you think it's not gonna get anymore interesting, this totally fascinating keys-guitar-bass groove pops up, which the band messes with in lots of fascinating ways. Then Derek chimes in with a brief snippet of the vocal melody over this groove, and then, oh man. The "look at my friend look around my friend" mid-section, with trumpets, all sorts of tempo and meter changes, then dissolving into another jam (with the band members muttering a bunch of random foreign words) is undoubtedly my favorite passage in any GG track. I find it fascinating when it's on, but even more impressively I easily find myself able to remember all the great themes when it's over, and will even find myself humming them on many an occasion. Then there's a return to the vocal melody of the start, then the dissonant theme pops up again, and they jam over that until the song ends with Derek bellowing, "My name is Panurge, and I have come from hell!" P.E.R.F.E.C.T.

Up next is "Raconteur Troubadour," another of GG's best ever tracks. Derek's delivery is perfect for this song, as he sings one hell of a Tull-quality vocal melody (no idea why this sounds like Tull to me, it just does), while there's a great violin line that doesn't really have anything to do with the vocal melody (at least not in a way that would be obvious to a listener whose academic focus was something other than music composition) but fits in anyway. And there's a bunch of key playing that doesn't have to do with the vocal melody but also fits in anyway! Then there's trumpets, then there's a sort of awkward-as-hell (but the better for it) five second violin jig, then the catchy-as-hell discord comes back together again. ALL IN FOUR MINUTES. Likewise for the following "Cry for Everyone," which has a surprisingly conventional (but still good) 'heavy' chord sequence played on guitar as its base (with a quality vocal melody to match) but then has a ton of great key lines (none predictable, all great) that go into a whack-ass band jam that go into another verse that go ... ah man, it just goes everywhere. Yet for all that it does, it doesn't lose me for a single moment.

The next track confirms my belief that the band had somehow tapped into some massive avant-prog zeitgeist that wouldn't let them screw up, no matter how awkward or clumsy the track should be by all sane accounts. "Knots" has to have the single most bizarre vocal harmony arrangement in the history of time, complimented by a bunch of seemingly random xylophone-led puttering (eventually led by loud, crashing piano) that should piss the hell out of me yet makes me bob back and forth with a smile on my face. The song seemingly reaches critical mass every five seconds or so, ready to totally break down and get thrown into the outtakes pile, yet it always pulls itself back from the edge, making me hum the vocal lines along with it.

The second half can't live up to the first, but it's still got its share of quality moments. I'm not totally sold on the instrumental "The Boys in the Band," even though it has plenty of cool parts. I dunno, I'm almost guessing that it's the lack of sung parts, if only because the sung parts are much of what keeps up the 'accidental pop' facade in my head that makes me like the album so much. Whatever, it's a hoot while on, even if it's my least favorite of the album. "A Dog's Life" is better, a sort-of ballad with a lovely vocal melody over a simple acoustic guitar line, of course augmented with dissonant, strident cellos and given a whacky mid-section. It's quite nice, though not as jaw-dropping as anything from side one.

"Think of Me with Kindness," graced with a lovely Kerry vocal, seems out of place here, with much less weirdness than elsewhere. It doesn't particularly go anywhere (even the instrumental break in the middle, led by a trumpet, just plays off the vocal melody), but it's quite nice, and I don't want to give the impression of the band suddenly getting a 'sellout' bug in the middle of the recording sessions - the odd (in a good way) melody in the middle is definitely something that most ballads wouldn't bother to include. But whatever, "River" closes things out, and whatever potential for a feeling of second-side letdown there might have been is, um, washed away (stupid unavoidable puns). The mix of an electric violin in my right ear and a wah-wah'd guitar in my left ear is definitely a sound I could stand to hear more in my life, and all the other elements, from vocal melody to great guitar soloing to production to nice "rivery" atmosphere, help make the album close out with a flourish.

So there you are. As far as I've been told, many Gentle Giant fans consider this the band's peak, and while hardcore fans of prog bands sometimes scare me, this is one time when I gladly shake their hands. So original, so fascinating ... and unfortunately, so long Phil, who took off after this album. A pity, that.

Report this review (#278840)
Posted Wednesday, April 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album is a very mixed bag for me. It contains both some of my favorite Gentle Giant tracks and some of theirs which don't do much of anything for me, and not really anything in between the two. The tracks that are good on here, in my opinion, are the ones which show off more of their complexity and mad influences. I really love the medieval sounds the band plays around with. Some of the tracks on the album I could almost do without, but then we'd only have the Pentapus instead of Octopus. The three tracks I'm speaking of are "A Cry for Everyone", "Think of Me With Kindness", and "River". Technically they're all good Gentle Giant songs, with River especially having a lot of the qualities I most love in their music, but they've never really impressed me for one reason or another. As for the rest of the tracks, they all have the certain quirky charm I enjoy so much from my favorite Gentle Giant albums, or in the case of "Knots" are so much fun and so hyper complex you can't help but fall in love with the track. Ever since I first heard the album, I've loved the first two tracks, along with "Knots" and "Dog's Life", and "The Boys in the Band" has grown on me over time.

I will admit that I'm definitely a fan of the band's older sound, and the fact that they're moving away from it on this album may be what bothers me so much about it. This album is probably a good one to introduce yourself to the music of Gentle Giant, and despite the few weaker tracks it's still good. Three stars from me.

Report this review (#281274)
Posted Tuesday, May 11, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars This is the first Gentle Giant album I ever heard and it managed to put me off the band for more then 20 years. I've recently acquired the taste by submerging myself in the mysterious world of their first three albums, but it looks like Octopus still continues to sound rather artificial and uninvolved to me.

I really can't hear the inspiration of the previous two albums. The band seems to go through the motions without any new ideas and without much enthusiasm for the old ones. The opening track and Knots do still wet my appetite with some intriguing riffs and eerie vocal harmonies, but most tracks leave me untouched. The musicianship is excellent of course but seems to serve little other purpose then to entertain the band members. I sure do miss the out-worldly atmospheres and catchy hooks from the two preceding albums.

I think Gentle Giant have stripped their music too much of its raw emotion and spontaneity here. The result is an intellectualized and artsy form of Prog that will probably never appeal to me very much. Luckily for Gentle Giant I seem to represent a very small minority who thinks as such.

Report this review (#283456)
Posted Tuesday, May 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Twenty years ago I would have hated Gentle Giant. I was into Bauhaus and Dead Can Dance at that time. Now I'm older and wiser (ahem!).

This is the first Gentle Giant record I heard around five years ago. I was immediately struck by the extraordinary time signatures which reminded me a lot of the 'Cardiacs' - who are one of my all time favourite bands. 'Octopus' is pretty tricky to review. If you hear it as background music, it's nothing special.

But... with a pair of headphones on and complete attention, it's nothing short of astonishing. Astonishing in it's diversity, array of instruments and complexity. And surprisingly, like the Beatles used in some parts, - a lot of polyphony techniques are applied.

A very bright and adventurous album like most of Gentle Giant's early to mid 70's works and far more inventive and interesting than their sometimes counterparts, 'Genesis'.

It doesn't quite make the five star maximum due to it sounding VERY 70's and of it's time. An excellent recording nonetheless accompanied by very decent vocals. Love that cover too! You can't go wrong with this one if you're a 'progger'.

Report this review (#287525)
Posted Sunday, June 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of my personal favourites from Gentle Giant. "Octopus" remains to this day one of their more consistent albums, with each song having its own personality that makes the album quite diverse and a pleasure to listen to. This is definitely one of their stronger works, possibly even their strongest. Others would argue that "Free Hand" or "In a Glass House" are stronger but I believe "Octopus" is right up there as well. This album is definitely a great starting point for those barely getting into Gentle Giant due to the shorter songs and the overall mood of the album. The best track would have to be the beautiful "Think Of Me With Kindness", but really, all the songs are easy to like. "Octopus" just has the right amount of complexity that attracts everybody from the novice prog listener to the more experienced of avid prog fans.

1. "The Advent of Panurge" - 8.5/10

2. "Raconteur Troubadour" - 8.5/10

3. "A Cry For Everyone" - 8.5/10

4. "Knots" - 9/10

5. "The Boys in the Band" - 8/10

6. "Dog's Life" - 8.5/10

7. "Think Of Me With Kindness" - 10/10

8. "River" - 8.5/10

69.5/8 = 86.875% = 4 stars...indeed, an excellent addition.

Report this review (#295831)
Posted Sunday, August 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Where they put it together--the definitive Giant

Gentle Giant is not a huge personal favorite but I respect them very much. This was the album that always grabbed me the most as I recall. Here they put the various pieces together, their trademark quirkiness injected with levity and melody, while the musicianship just kept excelling to new heights. Their 4th album was the last with brother Phil Shulman who wanted more family time. Ray Shulman has commented that it was probably their best album, a toss-up between it and "Acquiring the Taste." What makes this special to me is the consistency, with every track working swimmingly. The songs are diverse, filled with life and crazy amounts of creativity, pizzazz, humor, and accessibility. Proggy and complex of course, but also melodic and engaging. I think John Weathers really brought something special to the mix.

Right from the beginning of "The Advent of Panurge" you know you are in for something special. Delicate layered vocals are soon joined by some funky jamming. All band members are going nuts but the work is integrated and purposeful instead of "insert part 16 here" which is how some of the previous album felt to me. These highly constructed, complex vocal arrangements just keep coming back on every track, they must have spent hours coming up with this stuff. John Weathers wastes no time in stamping his drumming on this group. I'm hooked after one track, but all eight are exhaustingly interesting and good! Listen to the strings at the opening of "Raconteur Troubadour" so flawlessly arranged. This is so saucy it could be Italian Prog! Just needs some operatic Italian vocals. Then some mischievous brass challenges the strings and keyboards as the percussion and vocal tries to maintain some order, fantastic! "A Cry for Everyone" appears to be appeasement to the rock and roll crowd but even here they can't settle for normal, as some nice bombastic keyboards rear their head. The side closer jumps right back to insanity with "Knots" which again has these incredibly orchestrated vocal arrangements which work perfectly with the tense strings and vibes. But a melodic, easygoing second part runs counter and periodically allows a breather to the crazy part. Nice contrast.

"The Boys in the Band" begins side two with another fine art rock song, the combination of Green's solo followed by the recorder solo is superb instrumental bliss. "A Dog's Life" is sheer brilliance, sort of a baroque folk vibe, but beyond the great playing is the creative use of sound to mimic "dog thought." If you listen carefully to the sound choices and the inquisitive sounding licks they choose, they are actually crafting music that sounds like what the Dog's thought process is. The soundtrack of Doggie daydreams. Incredible stuff. And you thought it was just music? Ha! "Think of Me with Kindness" is a lovely English sounding ballad with romantic piano and vocal melody. Some might find the big horns cheesy but I always loved it because it sounded sincere to me. And because it was just one more delicious flavor to this grand desert tray of a record. The album's finale is "River." This is the track to please fans of the band's longer, more jamming side. It's very heavy, with guitar and violin leading the way, goaded by really tight and awesome drumming. There is also a very weird "swirly" sound effect which runs throughout much of the piece giving it an odd, off-kilter feel. Fits right in with the Giant standard operating procedure.

While I need to hear Power/Glory and Freehand again before I can make a final call, for now, this is my favorite Giant project and gets the top rating. It's been almost two decades since I heard those other two acclaimed albums, but I look forward to revisiting them. I read one of the Shulmans saying how GG were not like Yes and Genesis, they didn't really do the 20 minute tracks, opting for shorter experiments instead. It matters not, I don't think an album like this suffers because they chose to do 8 tracks instead of 3.

Report this review (#303236)
Posted Sunday, October 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars This was the last GG album I ever purchased (the third one as far as I'm concerned). I used to be a completionist for bands like VDGG, Genesis, Floyd, Yes, Purple, Led Zep but GG never belonged to my fave bands. Far from it.

This album is of the same caliber than its predecessor on my scale of value; meaning a good album. Their inimitable vocal style is now well under control and their music probably at its peak.

Several musical styles are being proposed but the common denominator is the jazzy feel which prevails here ("A Cry for Everyone"). Before this song, a more folkish and medieval "Raconteur Troubadour" was available. The opening number "The Advent of Panurge" holds each facet from this band: complexity, diversity, polyphony, jazz atmosphere: a classical and a good GG song for sure.

As usual, songs are on the short end. Maybe because their music was already complex enough and didn't need fifteen minutes to develop. A song as "Knots" for instance is quite tough and difficult to approach: it sounds like leading nowhere and changes from theme every twenty seconds or so.

My favorite song is the tranquil and melodic "Think of Me With Kindness". It is a straight forward ballad that conveys a nice feel. A "gentle" moment, should I say. It was necessary after the weak "Dog's Life". The album ends on a good note as well in the form of a heavier "River".

Three stars.

Report this review (#308505)
Posted Saturday, November 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
5 stars An album with more than 100 reviews doesn't need my one for sure, but with my nickname I couldn't resist to add one.

Somebody thinks this is the best album ever released by Gentle Giant, other say their best is Three Friends: two very different albums, however.

Octopus has the incredible characteristic of songs which contain a lot of things concentrated in few minutes. There is the medieval arrangement of "Raconteur Troubadour", the rock (hard for its time) of "A Cry for Everyone", the acapella choir of "Knots", the experimentalisms of "The Advent of Panurge", the Canterbury of "Dog's Life". The Caravan-like "Think of me With Kindness" (At least in the first half of the song).

It's like a soup of the best ingredients of the golden age prog. The only negative thing that I can find are the tracks fading out. Something absolutely not needed in an album that's 35 minutes long. Regardless this, and because of the huge variety of sounds and ideas, this is a milestone of progressive rock.

It's shortness just makes me wishing more, specially because my favourite track is "River", which closes the album with its violins and strange signatures. Its sudden end is a chock. I might have preferred a fadeout this time. This is another strength of this band: they never give you something that you can expect, and the ability to surprise is one of the most important skills in music.

Report this review (#320088)
Posted Monday, November 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars For the innumerable subgenres of progressive music, there are, to my mind, two main distinctions worth drawing: the complex and the symphonic. There is, to be sure, some crossover, but all the big bands can be lumped primarily into one or the other, with the understanding that the very nature of the beast keeps them from being totally confined. On the symphonic side of things, you have groups like Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Magma. Somewhere in between are Yes and King Crimson, who can achieve one or the other or both at the same time. And all the way to the far extremities of complexity, the world of dissonance, disjointedness, and time changes, lies Gentle Giant.

But the key to this band's success and appeal is not in complexity alone - that is, this music isn't complex for complexity's sake. And unlike so many of their more modern progeny, there can be no doubt that what Gentle Giant created was music, first and foremost, not a challenging sequence of mathematically-selected, emotionless notes.

And Octopus is their masterpiece.

It was also one of the first Gentle Giant releases I heard; at least, part of it was. Years ago while still new to prog I discovered a MySpace page which had "The Advent of Panurge" on it. I remember thinking, "What is THIS?! It's HORRIBLE!" True, the melody is so twisted and turned and disjointed and weird that it couldn't possibly have any human appeal. But before I knew it, I was walking through school with "Theeeere, coming over Char-a-ton Briiidge" in my head. How it happened, I haven't got a clue, but I'm thankful it did, and I don't think there's ever been a band which rewards patience and repeated listening the way Gentle Giant does (and they knew it just as well as the fans did, of course, naming their second album "Acquiring the Taste").

Because what's really going on in Gentle Giant's music is a kind of musical puzzle. The better you get at sorting out the puzzle, the richer the music will be. This concept was explored rather explicitly on this album's "Knots", a hairy, unpleasant, dissonant-sounding thing that just keeps getting messier until all at once one of their most immediate and beautiful melodies pops out at you in the chorus.

Folksy palettes are also whetted here, on the excellent "Raconteur Troubadour" and "Dog's Life", both great songs even if they're the record's flattest. But this is also one of their hardest rocking albums, with true blue legitimate hard rock in "Cry For Everyone" and "Boys in the Band" and a lengthy guitar exploration in the closing "The River".

But for me, the album's absolute highlight - and a song I see unjustly ignored completely or dismissed as not unpleasant in many reviews - is "Think of Me With Kindness." The song is blissfully tender, both sad and optimistic, and as genuine as it could be. A sense of humor is pretty much required for my tastes in prog, and Gentle Giant had one, but to see them abandon it, as well as much of their usual musical trickery, in favor of the lilting melody, the spiritual, uplifting horn solo, the ruminations on a dying love - it's more than enough to make a grown man cry. And when, in the middle, they decide to break things down and make a fairly uncomfortable, awkward melody, just for a minute, as though slyly reassuring the listener it is still Gentle Giant on the turntable, and then they return to the song and Kerry brings us to a climax by singing "Sleep while the sweet sorrow wakes my daydream" - geez, I could have done the entire review and awarded five stars on the basis of this song alone.

It's one of the crowning achievements of prog. It's more lightweight than other masterpieces, like "Foxtrot", "Animals", and "Thick as a Brick", but who said prog had to always be dramatic and serious? This eight-piece opus (get it?) speaks to the many virtues of prog as a movement and eschews all of the excesses. It's highly complex and difficult to get into, but once you're in you realize it's actually very genuine, very sweet, and very real. One of the easiest five-star ratings to give out.

Report this review (#320212)
Posted Monday, November 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars As a fan of just about any style of Progressive Music, I can truly appreciate what Gentle Giant brings to the genre. I have not, however, heard much of their work, only a few albums such as this one and Three Friends. While I do enjoy what I have heard, I do not find myself going nuts over their music or anything. "The Advent of Panurge", "A Cry For Everyone", and the amazing "Knots" are my favorite tracks on Octopus. Otherwise, the rest doesn't thrill me too much. Gentle Giant is one of the famous Prog bands like Van Der Graff Generator that are very popular but never thrilled me. 3 stars
Report this review (#353466)
Posted Wednesday, December 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Another mediocre album of Gentle Giant.

Sorry, I can not stand this band.I not know if it is the fault of the singer (who, again apologizing, has a horrible voice) do not know if it is the use of strange instruments to my lay ears (I've already apologized?), the fact is that Gentle Giant is a band that is too complex for even their so mim.Neither the commented vocals are so good(except in a few moments where they really shine )

.Actually "Octopus" is superior to "The Power and the Glory" (perhaps the worst album I've ever heard.) Like "The power ...", only one track stands out:" The cry for everyone",which has some other good riffs.There very good moments on the album as the vocals of "Knots" and the introduction of "Dog's Life. " Overall, though, this album is quite weak.Really Gentle Giant is not for me.

Report this review (#379947)
Posted Friday, January 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Post/Math Rock Team
4 stars The last album with brother Phil Shuman and the first with drummer John Weathers. I often do not know when Phil is actually singing with GG, confusing him with everyone but Derek. After he left the band became less diverse and settled into a complex style for a few albums before completely streamlining their sound. The title of the album is a pun for 'octo-opus' since it has eight songs. The original cover artwork was done by Roger Dean but the US release had the cover changed. The first half of Octopus is stronger than the second half. This is not as strong or consistent as the previous two albums but nonetheless features some of the group's best songs.

After the first minute of "The Advent Of Panurge" is a really cool mix of guitar, organ and synth. I like the vocals before 3 minutes, some sound backwards or not sung in English. Great mix of different sections. "Raconteur Troubadour" has some great violin work but not much drums. "A Cry For Everyone" is a great rocker with cool Moog sounds. Love the different sections and how they flow so well together. One of my favourite parts of the song is when you hear multi-tracked Moogs duelling with each other. A terrific song.

"Knots" is the 'a cappella' song. Focused on complex and interlocking multi-part vocals, the actual music is repetative and minimalistic before the bass and drums come in. Cool xylophone solo. I just love the clavinet or organ or Wurlitzer put through a wah-wah pedal, such a great sound. Some good drumming near the end. "The Boys In The Band" is a rare instrumental for this band. Begins with laughing and a coin spinning. Great interplay between the instruments. I wish this track didn't fade out.

Now we get to what I have always considered the low point of the album. "Dog's Life" and "Think Of Me With Kindness" are two songs I never really cared for, they bring down the quality of the album for me. I generally don't like GG when they are in ballad mode ("Think Of Me..."); "Dog's Life" just sounds like filler to me. The last song "River" is much better than the previous two songs but not as good as anything on the first half. I like the vocal and cymbal effects in this song: they sound varispeeded or some other form of tape manipulation. Sounds like a wah-wahed electric violin is being played.

There is a short drum solo which sounds slightly speed altered before a bluesy guitar solo. During that solo there is sometimes double-tracked guitars playing. Some xylophone/vibraphone and speed altered cymbals create wave-like sounds here and there. As usual for GG, this has great sound and production. The compositions are hit or miss compared to other albums. On the next album Phil is not replaced and they go for a complicated style with a steady rhythm section most of the time. I would not suggest anybody start their GG journey with Octopus, since it won't give you a good representation of what the band is about. But it should still be heard eventually. I would rate this 3.5 but I'll bump it up to 4 stars.

Report this review (#425935)
Posted Friday, April 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Octopus is where Gentle Giant's true musical voice started to take shape, and that is obviously so on this album. The medieval elements in the music are very prominent, as is the super complexity of all the arrangements. This was never a favorite of mine in the Gentle Giant catalog, but it's hard to not adore the musicianship of these people. Though the tracks here are usually brutally complex, they have a certain beauty that Gentle Giant alone was able to pull off. I'm not quite sure how to explain that point any further. Anyone in love with fantastic bass tone would love the bass playing on this album, and it really sticks out in the mix. Highly recommended.
Report this review (#429413)
Posted Friday, April 8, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars With seven of it's eight songs clocking in at under 5 minutes, and the final track being just short of 6, 'Octopus' might seem like a more commercial album than it's predecessors. However, this could not be further from the truth: 'Octopus' is a lesson to all that prog can be concise and still great. All of the tracks show Gentle Giant's fascinating complexity and adventurous song writing. This album feels very much like 'Acquiring the Taste, Part II', as each of the songs are very different from each other, showing Gentle Giant experimenting with new sounds and ideas. This was my first GG album, and I was taken in by the intriguing song-writing and the astonishing technicality of their musicianship. For more prog-points, the artwork was done by none other than Roger Dean. The funny title is, of course, a play on words where "Octo-opus" refers to the fact that there are 8 songs on the album. One of my favourite things about this album though, is that for each song there is a brief note about the music in the liner notes (on any version I believe).

It all starts with The Advent of Panurge, which continues the theme from Pantagruel's Nativity about giants. When I first heard this, I was shocked at just how proggy a 4:45 song could sound. This is a wonderfully complex song with cleverly written parts. This song encouraged me to buy the album and see how the rest sounded.

Raconteur, Troubadour is too medieval for my tastes (even the lyrics). According to the liner notes, this is exactly what they were trying to do, so you have to give them credit for that. The playing is still quite complex and technical, but I'm not too keen on the melody. Still fun in places though.

A Cry For Everyone is more up to date with a heavy guitar sound. The lyrics, apparently inspired by Albert Camus, do nothing for me. There are some very good technical moments in this song though, especially in the instrumental.

Far and away the most well known song on the album, Knots was the most complex song Gentle Giant had put together to date. In this song, the group sing a cappella, and most of the time there are at least 4 voices all singing different things. Amazingly, it all comes together and sounds fantastic with the music in the background. Even though the members are singing at different pitches and at different speeds, the music fits together like a 'musical jigsaw', as the liner notes describe. One of the most memorable GG songs.

The Boys In The Band is a prog rock instrumental. In my opinion, this track is more complex than it needs to be, and it doesn't flow like a good instrumental should.

Dog's Life is a fun little song with interesting instrumentation. Unfortunately, this song feels more like filler.

Up to this point, GG had not done a 'beautiful' song. Think Of Me With Kindness was an attempt to change this. As a result, the group sound a lot less technical on this track, and far less obtuse. The result is a really pretty track that you could easily play on the radio. There are a couple of sneaky time signatures thrown in, but this track sounds gloriously simple, and is very moving.

River shows the group experimenting in the studio with various effects, whilst still playing in their signature complex style. This piece doesn't really grab my attention, although I admire the skill of the group in this song.

Since hearing this album for the first time, I have moved on and found better Gentle Giant albums, but I do occasionally listen to these tracks. This is one of GG's most eclectic albums as there are just so many different styles on the album, and many intriguing (and often successful) fusions of musical genres. Recommended listening.

Report this review (#431538)
Posted Tuesday, April 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars While not my favorite GG album, it is, indeed, a classic. I agree that this period from 1971's "Acquiring the Taste" to (through?) 1976's "Interview" is among the most highly sustained in rock history. Six, maybe seven, great albums! In a row? Who else can lay such a claim? Not Hammill, not Rush, not Yes or Genesis, certainly not Crimson, Steven Wilson, Neal Morse, Devin Townsend or Toby Driver. Only Gentle Giant.

"The Advent of Panurge" (10/10) is part Renaissance traveling minstrel show, part church choir, part CSN& Y, part jazz fusion (JACO PASTORIUS-like bass), part space-psychedelic trip, all Gentle Giant. Astounding!

"Raconteur, Troubadour" (10/10) is another courtly diversion--quite British in its intended audience as evidenced in its themes and instruments used. Lovely.

The heavy BÖC-like electric guitar chords render "A Cry for Everyone" (6/10) a bit of a laugher--so out of place are these sounds (trying on the JETHRO TULL hat, are we?) Did Phil and the boys really like this one?

The much-written-about "Knots" (7/10) is next. What I love about this song--besides its giving arise to an entire movement of music--called Rock In Opposition or Avant Garde--are the interesting and diverse effects on the vocals as well as its high pitch toms. Otherwise it's kind of a skipper.

"The Boys in the Band" (8/10) brings us round again to full-force GG music. Up beat and up tempo, this has a rather rockin' feel to it--besides Ray's amazingly jazzy bass work. Odd that it's an instrumental cuz it feels ripe for some great vocals.

"Dog's Life" (8/10) is a BEATLES/HERMAN's HERMITS-esque song about one of their roadies! All in good fun (as it was received). This is actually a very cute song which must have been very fun to see/hear in concert.

"Think of Me wth Kindness" (9/10) begins with an emotional feel not unlike an early BILLY JOEL song (first three albums)--though, of course, this pre-dates BJ by a couple of years. Very tenderly written and rendered. Beautiful.

"River" (8/10) starts--and stops--and starts--and stops again--like an XTC train trying leave the station (Yes, I believe Andy Partridge got much of his license from GG.) The spacey-psychedelic parts of this song are, once again, my favorites. Very interesting drumming and drum effects. The blues guitar solo is also an interesting surprise. These guys are so diverse!

4.5 stars.

Report this review (#459472)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Another triumph from Gentle Giant after the variable (but still quite good) Three Friends. Initially based around an extremely loose concept (the original idea was to write one song to represent each of the members of the band), the album eventually developed into the group's most powerful and forceful album yet. Raconteur Troubadour is a case in point; beginning as a medieval-tinged mostly-acoustic number, the song becomes more and more frantic as it goes on, building up to the electric rock number A Cry For Everyone, which manages to combine prog rock complexity with a ballsy, muscular delivery. Knots begins with a capella rhythms combining wonderfully before breaking out into full instrumental complexity, and The Advent of Panurge likewise begins with quiet synthesiser melodies and gentle, almost whispered lyrics before breaking out into more complex fare.

An album truly worth revisiting again and again, Octopus showcases the sheer diversity available to the band, as well as showing that they can rock out and get wild with the best of them. In particular, had the band returned to the approach of A Cry For Everyone as part of their response to the punk explosion, as opposed to turning their sound to the mainstream, I suspect they'd have both kept their original audience and attracted a surprising number of younger fans, much like Peter Hammill was able to. But enough for mourning the paths not taken - this particular album is gold from beginning to end.

Report this review (#500567)
Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is it !! The type of albums which makes me fall in love with art and prog rock.

Octopus is full of quirky details and melodies. A mix of pastoral church music, symph prog, quirky jazz and folk rock. That and a lot of other things. It starts with the superb The Advent Of Panurge and then goes on a rampage throughout. The vocals is superb. The sound is superb. Not all songs are fantastic. But all of them are in that area.

Gentle Giant is for me the yardstick when judging eclectic prog and quirky, weird music. And Octopus is full to the brim of it. It also throws up a surprise on the last track River. A more mainstream track which is still superb. But my main impression is that this album is full of strange twists and hilltops. So much that I this for me is true love. A sure five stars album and one of the best albums we have registered here in ProgArchives. I am delirious with joy.

5 stars

Report this review (#573794)
Posted Wednesday, November 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars By 1972, prog was already pulling in conflicting directions. Bands began to emerge from the shadow of early movers King Crimson and Pink Floyd and establish their own styles. And, unlike in most rock based genres, these styles tended to be unique and even conflicting. Jethro Tull were involved in a flirtation with theater rock that transcended their folk-rock roots. Yes and ELP were by now convinced that bigger was better and represented the extremes of prog sprawl in the eyes of the press, irrespective of how accurate such perceptions really were. Pink Floyd were moving from their more experimental approach of the early albums to a more and more structured and organized song-based style. Amidst all this, Gentle Giant carved out a niche all for themselves with an approach that few, if any, prog rock bands have emulated over the years.

On Octopus, Gentle Giant demolish the myth that prog means length and bombast. On the one hand, they stick to songs of length that do not exceed 6- 7 minutes and are rarely divergent from a pop structure. On the other, funk and medieval music (yes, you read that right) dominate their musical influences. So, far from sounding bombastic, they sound, intentionally or unintentionally, goofy. It has occurred to me before that some passages off this album would not sound out of place in a Tom and Jerry episode.

The question that immediately arises is if the songs are short and do not attempt to break out of pop structure, how is it still prog? The answer to that is the essence of prog has always been an investigative, exploratory approach to music. Prog attempts to take an idea and turn it inside out. Of course, that is easier to demonstrate in a long piece where parts can be re-iterated and resolved more gradually. It can potentially be disruptive in a short piece. But, it can definitely be achieved and Gentle Giant demonstrate this to telling effect on Octopus.

Opener Advent of the Panurge is an excellent demonstration of this approach. On casual listening, it could pass for pop. After all, it is just one set of vocal melodies re-iterated with an interlude. The music doesn't change in the sense that we normally expect it to in prog. However, on closer examination, Gentle Giant are exceptionally effective at managing change within a short running length. They are able to cover a lot of ground in terms of development with massive changes that are rarely supported by any great deal of reinforcement of preceding themes and yet appear sufficiently intuitive and seamless.

For instance, at 1:52, a new theme is introduced when the verse has actually been sung only once. And yet, it does not seem too soon for this development. Even better, this new theme too develops all the time, without repetition, and before you know it, you have been led into an interlude. The verse is then re-iterated the one time with which the song draws to a close. Hmmm....exposition, development and re-capitulation? Pop fluff or prog 101 shrunk to a microcosm of its usual spread? That is the far reaching implication of Gentle Giant's work and the fundamental principle around which their whole style seems to revolve. Even before Robert Fripp suggested the small, smart, self sustaining, mobile unit as an alternative to what he perceived as 70s excess, Gentle Giant had already adopted such a very model and mastered it to a degree that most bands would find hard to surpass.

More to come. Gentle Giant continue to embrace dissonance in contexts where you least expect them. A Dog's Life is to Octopus as Black Cat to Acquiring The Taste. Seemingly innocuous and proceeds to suck you into uncomfortable aural territory. And in contrast to the approach generally favoured in the avant garde world, Gentle Giant don't force disruptive or disorienting changes to the music. A strong sense of intuition binds together their audacious experimentation. Even Knots resolves into a Black Sabbath-like riff so that the experiment makes sense. Gentle Giant do not only adopt complex compositional techniques from classical music; they proceed to demonstrate how they could find a place in rock music.

Gary Green's fondness for blues also gives them opportunities to mess with that genre. River is more straightforward than The House, The Street, The Room off Acquiring The Taste. Once again, though, let's not be deceived by appearances. Check out the time signatures and pay attention to the demented vocal melody; this has to be a creation of this inimitable band. Arguably the very essence of Gentle Giant is in fooling you with an innocuous, goofy facade that disguises the extent of "bizarreness" actually present in their music.

For all this, they are not generally spoken of in the same breath as the other prog biggies. Websites such as this one have played a big role in reviving their music for a new generation, but for which they may have disappeared from public memory. The reason generally offered is they lack emotional resonance and appear to indulge in complexity for complexity's sake. I cannot really argue that they are very emotional to my ears. Instead, I would say, "Yeah, I agree but expecting emotional resonance in prog is a bit like looking for overtaking in Formula One." And my retort would be similar to that of Fernando Alonso when he was asked the same question. Isn't prog supposed to be technical, cerebral music anyway? What makes Gentle Giant so wonderful is they put an unique, refreshing twist on the pursuit of complexity in rock.

I have not described each of the tracks here but suffice it to say there are no throwaways, no real weak moments here. An unqualified five stars.

Report this review (#581432)
Posted Sunday, December 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gentle Giant's fourth studio album (in less than three years!) isn't the masterpiece many fans want it to be. It was actually the last of their formative efforts, each one an improvement over the last, and all of them striving to clarify what was still a somewhat cloudy vision in 1972. Quoting the biographical title track of the band's 1976 album "Interview":

"What can we tell you? At the beginning had no direction, any other way; After the fourth one, realization; Finding our road the same as if today."

The recruitment of drummer J.P. Weathers brought that realization a lot closer, filling what had always been an insecure gap in the line-up. His solid, swinging rhythms would anchor the band's more complex arrangements in years to come, but he wasn't fully integrated into the emerging Gentle Giant sound just yet: listen to him struggling with that nearly impossible beat at the top of "The Boys in the Band".

Elsewhere on the album a surplus of confidence and audacity resulted in at least two undisputed Gentle Giant classics: "The Advent of Panurge" (with its ghostly medieval mid- section and killer bass guitar riff), and the fan favorite "Knots": the vocal equivalent of an Olympics-level gymnastics exhibition. The simpler songs are no less impressive, in particular the album closer "River", a small miracle of strength and ingenuity throughout the flowing middle verses.

Producer Martin Rushent was probably the wrong choice for this LP: compare the sometimes glutinous overkill of studio wizardry here with the far leaner soundstage of "In a Glass House" the following year (Rushent would likewise over-embellish PFM's "The World Became the World" in 1974). "In a Glass House" would inaugurate a remarkable run of classic albums, ironically with the realization that three Shulman brothers in the same band was one too many. "Octopus" would see the exit of older brother Phil, the only sibling "with a bit of a sense of humor, back then, about what he did", according to Ian Anderson.

In retrospect the band would be improved as a quintet, finding at last that elusive balance between precocious art and hard rock. But here they came close, and deserved a lot of credit for continuing to aim high. My apologies to Robert Browning for the irresistible misquote, but it was an unwritten axiom of Progressive Rock in the 1970s that a band's reach should exceed its grasp. By that measure, the near-miss of "Octopus" was another milestone for Gentle Giant.

Report this review (#632917)
Posted Sunday, February 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars If I were to choose an album which I think best represented the overall sound of Gentle Giant, it would be this one. Surely this is also one of the most influential albums as well, with artists such as Echolyn and Spock's Beard creating musical ideas inspired by these guys. Musically, it has the complexities the band is known for, but isn't over-the-top unlistenable.

The album has a rather medieval theme throughout, especially in 'The Advent of Panurge' and 'Raconteur Troubadour.'

There are the rockers in 'A Cry For Anyone' and 'The Boys In the Band' which are based around some nice riffs.

The highlight of the album is probably 'Knots' which features the the complex vocal harmony the band is so well known for. It's Very difficult to listen to, but a very influential song nonetheless.

The most listenable track on the album is probably 'Think of Me With Kindness,' but is still relatively complex.

'A Dog's Life' is another odd track, but unlike 'Knots' it doesn't really offer anything special. 'The album ends with the longest song 'The River,' which has some rocking riffs and bluesy solos throughout.

Despite all the praise I've given the album, it's hardly one of my favorites, and takes a really special mind-set to enjoy. Still, this is classic Gentle Giant, and should be one of the first someone tries when getting into the band.


Report this review (#875198)
Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Octopus is widely varied in terms of reception. Some people live by this album, others hate it. This is my own personal take. I think this album is absolutely brilliant. GG's most varied album, each track brings something different to the table that makes this album overall perfect.

"The Advent Of Panurge"

Has a nice, soft medieval intro with nice vocals, get's cooking and holds back; repeat. A good song overall, but not my favourite. Overall song rating: 3 stars.

"Raconteur, Troubadour"

A fun, medieval based piece. The middle section of this song is what shines on this song. The violin work by Ray Shulman is fantastic. How he plays so many instruments is beyond me... I really think they nailed the medieval sound on this song. The tambourine actually adds a lot on this song. And the tiny bit of trumpet added by Phil Shulman is a nice touch as well. Overall, I think this song is great. I love classical-and-medieval-meets-rock stuff though. Overall song rating: 4 stars.

"A Cry For Everyone"

Many people don't like this song, because most people find it out of place with the album. But the whole album is kind of out of place with itself in general. I love the interplay between the guitar (Gary Green) and keys (Kerry Minnear) on this song. The only thing I wasn't a huge fan of was the cheesy synth tone used for a short melody somewhere between 1:45 and 2 minutes. But I got used to it, GG is quirky like that anyways. Overall song rating: 4 stars.


I'm an absolute sucker for GG's vocal counterpoint pieces. This song either slaps you in the face or it binds you. Along with the quirky instrumentation between vocal passages, the first little bit can be jarring for anyone who doesn't know who GG is. But when the melody breaks out into the nice piano melody, people may start to "get it" at that point. This is my favourite song on the album though. Overall song rating: 5 stars.

"The Boys In The Band"

The one instrumental on the album, this song is, along with Knots, one of my favourites on the album. This song is my definition of 'Musical ADHD'. This song is absolutely all over the place. But this song comes screaming in full-force and holds me the whole time. Love this song. Overall song rating: 5 stars

"Dog's Life"

A funny little song, this makes me laugh, in a good way. A mix of a melancholy orchestra and squeaky keyboard tones back up the vocals about a literal 'Dog's Life'. It just has this funny groove that I generally actually enjoy. Not sure if this was meant to be musical comedy, but that's what it feels like. Overall song rating: 4 stars

"Think of Me With Kindness"

This is non-crazy, actual soft, pretty track on this album (My friend and I actually jam this song when we're bored). Although this song probably gets looked over, I think this song is wonderful. Well-written lyrics, piano work is brilliant. Overall, a really nice song. Oh and the trumpet was a nice touch too. Overall song rating: 4 1/2 stars


The last track on the album, also one of my favourites. The use of emanating the intro theme with violin and wah guitar was, I think, a brilliant touch. The vocal melody flows nicely over this song, making it semi-catchy, but it's the riff that's catchy in my mind. The flow-y sound effect throughout the song is an interesting effect. Does nothing to really enhance the song overall, except when it's used to transition to the main riff. The mini drum solo is nice. It doesn't exactly show off all the John Weathers can do, but good nonetheless. Gary Green has a nice solo in this too. Overall, a nice track, which I think is catchy in all the right spots for me to like it so much. Overall song rating: 4 1/2 stars.


I think this diverse album is well-done. This was the album that got me into Gentle Giant, and I'm glad it was this one. I think this is the best album for new GG fans. The 'sampler', you could say. I think this is the point when GG really started revving their creative engine. Overall: 5 stars. I love this album, and to those who haven't heard it, I highly reccomend it.

High points of the album: Knots The Boys In The Band River

Low points of the album: The Advent Of Panurge

Report this review (#883915)
Posted Saturday, December 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Beneath these layers of comments, forums and samples I met a whole new universe of musicians and talented bands. One of those was Gentle Giant and the first time I've heard an entire album from them was the one with a red big cephalopod.

Being honest, I didn't know what to expect and clearly I didn't anticipate such abrupt entrance. 'Thereee? coming over Charaton Bridge' sounds with no hesitation and introduces the lead characters in Rabelaiscean' "The Advent of Panurge" it immediately send you back in time in a mediaeval world and fierce heavy and stout chivalry. Grotesque and overloaded, full of any kind of texture I only could think 'What the hell is this?' The vocal harmonies and that tentacular bass with syncopated keyboards, all turned noisy and still melodic. All of this shrieks and burst onto an explosion as sudden as its start. Since this point it's clearly impossible to define the record on a single genre or stream.

The next step remains on mediaeval lands and flourished in lighter moods as this "Raconteur Troubadour" march among fields and villages of fantastic scenery faded with melancholic churchy esque pipes. Mellotrons, snyths and guitars kind of play among the joyous lyrics, with a adventurous theatrical humor the character gets in and out in the scene with the grace of a magnificent mediaeval play.

"A Cry for Everyone" is harder and rocker than the predecessors, and clearly breaks out the atmosphere until now created. Still somehow manages to remain in the line, structurally speaking the instrumental sections still plays a funny game where the emotional spine supports those lyrics squealing existential lines a la Camus with the strength of this music.

Then comes "Knots" in the vein of what they started at "Acquiring the Taste" searching a new sound, the inter-layered tempo changes of this songs provides a new style for the upcoming material of the band. At first completely a Capella, some percussion and keyboards put some color, then the refrain blends into a much more rocker sound without missing the vocal experimentation. A marvelous and intrigue piece.

"The Boys of the Band" is another experimental exercise where each and every member of the band exploits their musical talents and skills, and that include the production n the engineer department as the play with sound effects and different layers in the recording. No instrument is played in vain, and as their parts comes one over the other the synchronicity is superb. If you would have by any chance doubt about these guys, is this piece what clarifies everything. What a bunch of master loonies.

To calm down a bit, enters "Dog's Life" a jazzy madrigal about a stray dog, they score the journey of this 'man's best friend' flirtatiously. The song resembles all those roadies' mates of the band members.

In an unusual piece for the band discography, here's dropped a ballad, a romantic ballad, "Think of Me with Kindness" holds the epic proportion of progressive rock and still manages to approach into a soft commercial sound while singing about a very british love farewell, at times sounds almost as Bowie's melancholic vocals. Then of course, those vocals layers interactions. Lovely indeed.

So there appears the eighth opus of the 'Octo-opus' album. "River" metaphorically speaking about the music's floods and streams. In a hard rock and variant tempo mood, the song goes from tune to tune, flirting with psychedelia, folk, jazz and hard rock. There's place for everyone to show up. As abrupt this record begun, as abrupt this ended. A sudden silent shuts the strings and without notice the game is over.

If this cannot be taken as conceptual album by any kind, as well, surely is one of the most mysterious and intricate works of the band. You may need to take a good new deep breath and submerge again in the articulated tentacles again, and again, and again...

Report this review (#912714)
Posted Monday, February 11, 2013 | Review Permalink
1 stars Should you chance to see the original vinyl release of Gentle Giant's Octopus available at a secondhand record store, especially at a dirt-cheap price, buy it - not so much for the music, but for the iconic Roger Dean artwork that graces the sleeve. With that little homage to one of my favorite artists out of the way, I will start:

Usually I will refrain from reviewing albums the average ratings for which I feel to be accurate estimates of the value I would assign to them. My rating could only raise or lower a general appraisal which I would opine to be fair, anyway. So I will primarily contribute to the critical analyses of albums that seem to be over- or under-rated. Gentle Giant's Octopus would be one of such over-rated albums.

"Advent of Panurge" is the disc's opening number and John Weather's debut with Gentle Giant. This one defines the style of much of the rest album. Kerry Minnear treats us to his light falsetto voice in unison with the guitar and bass, not exactly difficult, but good music doesn't have to be challenging, ei(gh)ther (not that anything on Octopus is good). Minnear sings a round with himself at this point, and it isn't great. Studio trickery doesn't impress me. There's also some jazzy guitar kept in the background. I wish they had taken the track in that direction but this is Gentle Giant, so of course not. After this introduction, blocky piano chords are played alongside some bluesy electric guitar meandering. Derek Shulman makes his presence known by throwing around some names from that book by that guy. You know not that one, but the other? The lyrical content isn't even original (taken from La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel authored by Francois Rabelais)! Well, the best GG songs for lyrics ARE 'inpsired' by literary classics. This doesn't reflect well on their originality, but it is a pattern that I've observed. Back to the 'music' we go? When D. Schulman's done shouting, a trumpet's call, played by Phil Shulman, is heard. Minnear tells us to look around (probably for an escape) over some 'prog'-cliché piano, bass, and drum hits. His keyboard repeats the trumpet's melody and then this track loses its way, and drifts somewhere deep into the abyss where that Octopus makes its abode. However, the band suddenly returns to the surface! -And all too quickly, because they then fall victim to the bends. Sometime after D. Shulman's bleating is repeated the track ends. And I wish the next one wouldn't have even begun?

"Raconteur Troubadour" contains Ray Shulman's entrance as violinist, and more questionably (if you can believe it), some poor lyrics delivered in an equally poor, shrill, and dry manner 'courtesy' (?) Derek Shulman. I see that where they went with this one, is as an ill-fated journey to a disappointing destination, if you will. It has a great subject and song title, but the verses are a wasted opportunity. Compare straight- forward, and puerile lines like,

"Gather round the village square

Come, good people both wretched and fair

See the troubadour play on the drum

Hear my songs on the lute that I strum"

?to the pure poetry of Jethro Tull's "Minstrel in the Gallery" a much better song with similar topical focus and perspective,

"The minstrel in the gallery looked down upon their smiling faces

He met their gazes, observed the spaces

Between the old men's cackle

He brewed a song of love and hatred

Oblique suggestions, and he waited?

He polarized the pumpkin-eaters

Static-humming panel-beaters

Freshly day-glowed factory cheaters

Salaried, and collar-scrubbing, he titillated men of action

Hands still rubbing on the parts they never mention"

The primary distinction which Minstrel in the Gallery holds over Raconteur Troubadour, is the detailed, and picturesque quality of its lyrics. It shows; it doesn't tell. This is basic middle-school-level writing skill that I'm talking about. And Gentle Giant are often not even so graduated. By the way, every one of "Raconteur?"'s first four verses is a command given by a minstrel, as opposed to the introductory monologue of "Minstrel?" which is a humble statement made on the part of an impresario. Do you really think that an authentic raconteur/troubadour would speak in such impudent terms to his audience? You better not answer that. The musicality of "Minstrel?" is far superior anyhow. And you know what? ? It actually rocks! GG can only rarely say that, but wait! Here comes?

?"A Cry for Everyone", which, if I had to choose anyhow, would be my favorite track. This one begins with pianissimo piano readily preceding the snap of a snare from John Weathers, who signals the entire band to start playing some distorted hard rock in common time. The lyrics on this song are better than those for Raconteur Troubadour; they cover communal experience and grief. And, now those keyboard's are a-cooking! After the real keyboards commence, there's an interchange between Green's guitar and Minnear's click organ keyboard. I like Kerry Minnear's tone-choices here... until sometime after that jam gets killed through over-repetition. To describe, it's fat and obnoxious. The song then builds to a climactic conclusion. As annoying as that keyboard solo was, it is nothing compared to?

?"Knots", which is the first un-compassed excursion by Gentle Giant into the composition of polyphonic vocal works. And it shows. Very dissonant and rather unpleasant this one is. "Knots" is viewed by some retrospective critics in the progressive rock community as something of a high watermark. It is a signature GG tune, but not especially significant given that Yes had been writing such music since 1970's The Yes Album. I would recommend listening, instead, to Starship Trooper, Your Move, We Have Heaven, South Side of the Sky, the middle-eight to Close to the Edge, or I. Cord of Life from And You and I; these are each individually more beautiful to my ear than "Knots". And those are just examples from the music of Yes, let alone all rock music of the period. Let's digress with a bit of a history lesson: Have you ever heard of Philippe de Vitry? The man lived from 1291 to 1361, and is widely acknowledged as the greatest musician of his time. He has also been hailed as one of the most accomplished, influential, and innovative composers in his day. Philippe is accredited with having written chansons, and motets, though only several motets are known to have survived to the present. One should research the genre of music fathered by this man, called Ars nova, before acclaiming this song as strikingly progressive. Or have you ever heard of Josquin des Prez? He walked this earth from ~1450 to 1521, and wrote beautiful and complex masses, such as Missa Pange lingua, dating from approximately 1515. I would highly advise anyone to research the works of these late great gentlemen (and others) after hearing Knots, and see how well their impression of it measures up.

After the boy's in the band shut up, they play an instrumental just about themselves called, "The Boys in the Band". This one opens with the laughter of whom I'll assume is Derek Shulman laughing his arse off at how bad Knots was. The flipping of a coin is then heard and as it rattles against a table's surface it establishes the rhythm for the 'music'. This is accomplished by means of a variable speed oscillator that was made available to Gentle Giant. I'll say this again, but in paraphrase: the capabilities of studio technology alone are not enough to please me. Where's a good drummer when you need one? I guess we're stuck with John Weathers. The music here is probably as fast as GG could ever play. Ha! I'd like to these guys try to compete with Steve Hackett, or Rick Wakeman, or Andres Segovia, or Barriemore Barlow, or?, etc. A computer-like keyboard tone (one that even interferes with determining what notes are even being played exactly) in counterpoint to some trumpets, bass, and guitar, rifles through a scale, up and down, and back up to some jazzy trumpets that are played as a cadence. Some more blocky piano chords further torture us, and then we're subjected to some strange guitar effects chugging along on one chord. Back to the previous riff we go? and the track just fades out. Okay? What explanation of your personalities are you trying to make Gentle Giant? You certainly sound like you're playing a psychiatric hospital inmate's lullaby (Shoot! ?this is the wrong record). This track's so insistently agonizing on my ears I could just bite this damn Octopus' digits off?

"Dog's Life" is generally admitted to be this Octopus' sore thumb. Un-elaborated/ornamented monophonic acoustic guitar lines introduce this track. Then the music proceeds into the first verse accompanied by violin, and emotionless, dry-sounding saxophones from R. Shulman and P. and D. Shulman, respectively. And the lyrics aren't anything to write home about, either. Some people contemptuously think this song is written for a dog, but apparently, it actually describes the behavior of Gentle Giant's roadies in metaphor (What's wrong with a tune recorded as tribute to man's best friend anyway?). Many listeners, including fans, find this one to be pointless and meandering, and that's not helped by a fade-out ending. Anyway, as the story goes, some of their roadies stole equipment from the band ? a problem which interfered with a lot of other bands' progress in achieving maybe more success than they could have. Van Der Graaf Generator most prominently comes to mind. Dog's Life doesn't exactly paint a very pretty picture of their fellow business travelers. I wonder whether, after the equipment managers realized this, Gentle Giant were thought of with kindness.

?Which brings us to the next track, "Think of Me with Kindness", a sort-of tacky ballad which features Kerry Minnear's vocals expressing some, one could say, 'touching' feelings. However, I feel compelled to rhetorically ask: Is he a one-handed keyboard-player? If you want a heart-felt piece of romance music with good piano, listen to Turn of the Century on Going for the One by Yes. Think of Me with Kindness also features the only segment of 'non-robotic' saxophone tooting on this disc. So I'll say that this track is a highlight (which still doesn't say much, bearing in mind the over-all off-putting tenor of Octopus).

Think of Me with Kindness is followed by the final song, "River". This one is very 70's sounding, so that's your best guess as to whether it has aged well (I actually see it as a very positive thing; the 70's were the best decade for my favorite music). Some very onomatopoetic music opens River, but it is interrupted by some raucous Shulman violin and Minnear keyboard noise, that are punctuated by clichéd drum, bass, and guitar hits. After this section comes to silence (for now), Derek Shulman enters on vocals, with the full band playing under him. I just have to ask, "Whatchoo doing 'brothuh' De-ek? ?Singing soul? I tought dis was a prog recud!" I played this track for my mom and she said by way of reaction, "How did these guys even get this recorded?" I wonder myself. I won't even let my dad hear this. Some production effects it would seem are also applied to John Weather's cymbals. I'll state this for the third time, "Studio trickery doesn't impress me." That atmospheric intro- music makes a return with some vocals added this time. And then those staccato keyboard and violin are back. Following this is a Blues guitar solo from Gary Green. I've heard this track at least eight times fully through and Green's spotlight always fails to present any memorable phrasing for me. I just don't hear much melodic character to it. Those damned keyboard and violin parts close the track, and, of course, the album. This would be Phil Shulman's last song with Gentle Giant. At least he went out with a bang.

If I'm forced to write at least one positive comment on Octopus, I'll say that the production is good. This is the most remarkable change for the band from their previous records (Three Friends, although also released in 1972, sounds like it was recorded in '69). However, this leaves me with the impression that I've bought a polished piece of fecal matter. Fans of lush, richly-textured symphonic music are forewarned: another noticeable difference is the number of minimalistic interludes that these songs have (Knots, and Dog's Life do particularly). This is a style they would only continue to explore in subsequent albums like In a Glass House and The Power and the Glory.

Even certain die-hard Gentle Giant enthusiasts will say this album is rather mediocre, and some may venture to say that Octopus is inessential, uninspired, and alienating. I agree. Despite these reservations, I will recommend this release to anyone unfamiliar with Gentle Giant, because it gives a reasonably representative introduction to the band's sound through-out the majority of their output. Once you've heard Octopus, and if you are unimpressed, I recommend back-tracking to Three Friends.

One more point to be made. This record's title and consequent artwork are a pun for the number of tracks on it. Eight musical works translates, in Latin no less, to a tongue-in-cheek Octopus. If you think Yes', Genesis', and Jethro Tull's epic experiments are pretentious, you ought to keep the track lengths and individual level of quality in mind when your thoughts turn to this record. It is kind-of unintentionally self-parodic for a 'prog-rock' band to so name one of their studio releases.

And finally, after having reviewed my? er? review, I can see that I've pretty damn well knocked Octopus down for the count ? the count to eight. *Winks.

Report this review (#941287)
Posted Monday, April 8, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars Gentle Giant's third album Three Friends (1972) had a concept about childhood friends drifting apart as adults. The overall approach was a bit more direct than on Acquiring the Taste (1971), but there's the great favourite of mine, the complex and emotionally powerful 'Schooldays' with Kerry Minnear's lead vocals and featuring Phil Shulman's son Calvin on choirboy vocal part in the middle. The drummer on Three Friends was young and unexperienced Malcolm Mortimore, whose stay remained short due to the motorbike accident. John Weathers from Wales proved to be the ideal man til the end of GG's career.

Octopus is often said to be GG's biggest classic. I can't say it's my favourite album, a bit too much emphasized on the rough and hard-rocking side of their eclectism. Derek Shulman's vocals are quite aggressive in songs such as 'A Cry for Everyone' or 'River', and Kerry Minnear's ethereal style is less heard here, apart from his dreamy and romantic 'Think of Me With Kindness' which I like a lot. The instrumental 'Boys in the Band' (a dedication for the roadies if I'm not mistaken) has a lot of fast energy. 'Knots', with its labyrinths of vocal polyphony, is one of the most complicated songs rhytmically that GG ever did - needless to add "or any band". It's based on R. D. Laing's writings about the laws of human relationships. But is it really music for the heart, or just for the brain?

The opener 'The Advent of Panurge' revisits the world of Rabelais, less charmingly than Acquiring's 'Pantagruel's Nativity' but with at least as much complexity. A great track, but again maybe a bit too... gibberish! 'Raconteur Troubadour' has nice medieval elements, it goes forward so joyously that I forgive Derek's shouty vocals.

After Octopus GG had to deal with the departure of the eldest Shulman brother Phil, but the following albums nevertheless saw the band continue firmly in their quest for perfection. Along the way they ripped down the formerly vast range of acoustic instruments. The Power and the Glory (1974; coincided with the Watergate scandal) is again a concept album and one of the most accessible works in their career. Free Hand (1975) may very well be my favourite GG album, but Octopus it most certainly isn't. I don't argue it being a celebrated prog classic full of amazing talent, truly deserving its high status, but for my personal enjoyment three stars is enough. There are two different cover arts, I prefer this one by Roger Dean, the octopus in a jar is nearly tasteless.

Report this review (#965424)
Posted Monday, May 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is for many the top of the Gentle Giant's career, and I actually think so. Compositions and executions are at their very peak without a doubt! Nevertheless I think this is the least album to hear if you are an amateur in Gentle Giant. This work in particular is complicated, and you only begin to really enjoy it after a while, but when you finally get it is AMAZING! I personally disliked Knots and A Cry For Everyone the first time I heard them, clearly I wasn't using my five senses at that time. There is not a lot more for me to say about it, I consider it a masterpiece but it isn't my favorite record by Gentle Giant. Come inside if you really want to hear what these guys were capable to do! Highly recommended.
Report this review (#1026538)
Posted Saturday, August 31, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars The 2nd album from GENTLE GIANT in 1972 turned out to be one of their most popular and possibly the one that is the heaviest and just like the ink-shooting self-propelling intelligent mollusk that the album is named after, it too has the ability to suck you in with its eight tentacles except instead of the fleshy tender variety we get the sonic equivalents that cast their length and reel you into their universe to give you a musical performance that will most likely leave you hungry for more.

The eight tracks on this masterpiece are varied and even more complex in their composition and approach than anything they had tackled before and the gateway to their run of brilliant albums to follow. Malcolm Moore who had signed up for drum duties only recently on the previous album is already out of the band and replaced by John Weathers who not only aces the drumming parts but also fits in perfectly with the eclectic crew of multi-instrumentalists by contributing cymbal, bongo and xylophone duties as well. A newly integrated sound that adds new layers of tasty tension to the sound.

Every song on here is perfect and instantly sucks you in with a catchy hook and then throws curve ball after curve ball incorporating more polymeters, vocal counterpoints and mixing of classical and modern sounds. Beginning with "The Advent Of Panurge" we get a strange new sound in the musical world that wraps your soul with their sucker cups and only releasing after the very last nanosecond of "Rivers" is complete. The result is an accessibility that you can relate to instantly and a complexity that keeps this music fascinating on repeated listens.

The madrigal "Knots" is one of the most varied vocal weavings I have ever heard which sets itself apart from everything else GG (or anyone else for that matter) has done and is lyrically inspired by the works of the Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Lang. It is brilliant how it plays with other instrumental parts and maintains a catchiness despite being alienating at the same time.

In this dog's life the boys in the band deliver a river of raconteuring troubadours that make me think of kindness for this band that is the best of the best but ultimately they were too far ahead of their time for the masses to relate to this type of eclectic stew and suffered from lack of financial stability but to their credit they continued their adventurous journey into the world of the GENTLE GIANT where bold experimentation married with sensual soul stirring songwriting consistently delivered satisfying sonic ecstasy of the highest degree suggesting that there is a God and at this moment in time that deity delivered this gift of "Octo Opus." I just hope they maintained the rights to their songs as this music will surely become more popular as time goes on.

Report this review (#1131905)
Posted Saturday, February 15, 2014 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Octopus' - Gentle Giant (68/100)

When I first introduced myself to the work of Gentle Giant (far too late, I'll admit!) I excitedly declared them to be the missing link between the heady 'hard prog' of King Crimson and the 'warm prog' of Genesis and similarly vivacious, relatively 'beautiful' proggers. Come Acquiring the Taste, they demonstrated an incredible marriage of the hard and warm, at times jarring, never short on lucid experimentation but brimming with the personality to make it inviting and even fun. Though it may be going against my better desire to hear a band try new things, I do wish they would have kept that balance of weirdness and warmth when it came to making Octopus. While its nearly ridiculous technical proficiency makes sure its status in the prog pantheon is at least partways deserved, I am having a hard time understanding why Octopus is often rated alongside Acquiring the Taste, much less Close to the Edge or Pawn Hearts, for that matter. Could it be that another unpopular Conor Fynes opinion is born?

But seriously; am I missing something here? Even the band themselves (Ray Shulman, to be precise) stated that it "was probably [their] best album"- he's not alone in saying that either. In a way, it is the album that most fittingly demonstrates their modus operandi. Rampant eclecticism, incredibly tight and busy arrangements, and the general 'weirdness for weirdness' sake' that coloured every Gentle Giant album (arguably excluding Giant for a Day) are central to Octopus. As a technical accomplishment, Octopus may very well have dwarfed the three albums that preceded it. Indeed, the part of me that loves 'hard/cold prog'- the part that would declare King Crimson to be the undisputed champion on progressive rock- is right at home and wholly satisfied with Octopus.

But that's just the problem; the thing that got me addicted to the work of Gentle Giant in the first place (at least their early stuff) was that they were able to fuel the technique with heart and a welcoming personality. That last part is something that's kept me from entirely loving King Crimson's music, and it's why Octopus stands as a disappointment, in spite of acknowledging it as an otherwise impressive item in Gentle Giant's discography. I might use "The Advent of Panurge" as an example for the very sake it's born from the same source material as "The Nativity of Pantagruel" (both fleshed from GG's love of Rabelais); whereas "The Nativity of Pantagruel" felt lively and weird, "The Advent of Panurge" feels downright drab and grounded by comparison, in spite of the fact that it's an even more technical and busy composition overall. "Knots" is probably the album's biggest offender in this sense; the mish-mash of instruments and pseudo-madrigal atmosphere should take all but the most jaded prog veterans off guard, but it still feels impressive only from an academic (rather than a visceral) sense. I've no doubt that's what Gentle Giant were aiming for when composing Octopus, but the detached, Crimson-esque way they present these aural experiments doesn't do justice to the technical wizardry at work here.

At the same time (and from the opposite viewpoint), Octopus is a damned technical marvel, even (maybe especially) by today's standards. "The Boys in the Band" is a burstfire of instrumental ideas that would surely make heads spin if it came out in 2015. Distinguishing Gentle Giant from most of their prog rock contemporaries is the fact that they attempted to make the vocals as technically awesome as the instruments; overlapping vocal arrangements aren't novel to Octopus (they were largely introduced on Acquiring the Taste and fulfilled with Three Friends) but it's the first time Gentle Giant appeared to rely on lavish vocal arrangements more often than not. "The Advent of Panurge" (once again) is a perfect example of how the Shulman brothers' vocal harmonies and counterparts could at times outshine the instrumentation.

There are even tracks here that appeal to my warmer side. "Raconteur, Troubadour" is a great piece that appeals to my love of Medieval aesthetic. "Think of Me with Kindness" is beautiful and almost shockingly so, sounding like Peter Hamill and the rest of Van der Graaf Generator popped in for a day to leave their mark. On the other end, I've seen some folks praising "Dog's Life" as a high mark for the album- I tend to like it when Gentle Giant get acoustic, and puppies are cool (I like pugs) but the tone feels overly cutesy and forced.

So, is it possible to acknowledge an album's greatness in some respects, yet entirely disagree with the 'masterpiece' recognition that gets tossed Octopus' way. Apparently so. In terms of technical proficiency, Gentle Giant had outdone the good lot of their contemporaries, and even today it's tough to find a band with the guts to compete with this album's sheer busyness. Still, I would have liked to have heard an album with a greater emotional depth, and after becoming deeply enamoured with the first two outings from GG, I know they're capable of it.

Report this review (#1358287)
Posted Saturday, January 31, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars Gentle Giant's early work was always intent on pushing the limits of popular music, "at the risk of being very unpopular" (as their second album Acquiring the Taste states in its booklet). Indeed, every album the band released had revealed new musical avenues to explore. The band could go from folk, hard rock, progressive rock, blues, you name it. After three excellent records under their belts already, Gentle Giant released a gem of an album that's a bit overlooked these days: 1972's Octopus.

Octopus is an album that explores plenty of new themes and ideas not present in Gentle Giant's early work, but puts them in a much more concise package. This brings some extra perks and flaws for the record, but overall the sense of direction makes the album triumph in the end. The shorter songs mean that the band can concentrate and focus their efforts more, thus eliminating some of their occasionally overbearing segments from the first three albums.

That's not to say the experimentation isn't still there; take "Knots" as an example in this case. The song begins with an acappella section that seems disjointed yet works quite effectively. Then the band come together slowly to eventually clash instruments for a Queen-esque climax, overdubbed vocals and all. Then the next bridge leads into the Yes-styled chorus, overall making for quite a diverse listen. Other examples of their experimental side here include the Medieval-inspired "Raconteur Troubadour" and the instrumentally diverse "Dog's Life."

Indeed, the band experiment and flirt with very different styles, but as I said above, this album is much more accessible; This is especially seen in the song lengths, no song even reaching six minutes. Also, there are more hard-rocking songs than before, like the powerful opener "Advent of Panurge" and "A Cry for Everyone." "Advent of Panurge" especially has a powerful chorus, balanced out by keyboard/organ interludes to give a good contrasting feel to the song. "A Cry for Everyone" starts out in a more straightforward fashion, with traditional guitar and drums doing the average 4/4 time signature before developing into a more normal GG track.

If I had to pick the main flaw, it would probably be the length of the overall album. Octopus clocks in at 34:24, and it certainly feels that short. If there were maybe a few more songs, the album would certainly feel more complete, and not as much like a long EP. Also, some songs, like the aforementioned "Dog's Life" feel a bit tacked on to just make the album longer.

Either way, Octopus remains one of the finest early Gentle Giant albums, if a little short by other prog albums' standards. The songs are more concise and focused, and that certainly doesn't take away from the quality of the music within. This album's recommended for any prog fan, or even fans of classic rock in general.

Recommended tracks:

Advent of Panurge Knots Raconteur Troubadour Boys in the Band

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

Report this review (#1445959)
Posted Tuesday, July 28, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars My dear. I mean just wow. In the past I've heard tidbits of Gentle Giant's Octopus, mostly that of 'The Advent of Panurge', still remaining one of my favorite of their lyrical and musical work, but there is literally no problems with this album. Every song has an amazing production, delves in deep without becoming unconventionally mixed about, and each has it's own personal flare. Perhaps the most hard rocking of their albums, featuring prototypical hard rock that could be considered influential to some, but that is hardly the main focus. A very notable stylistic quality the album features is an amazingly developed and varied vocal arrangement, using every open moment where the guitars grow quiet for Phil to take the lighter moments while Derek takes the stronger sections. Also on the subject the A Capella arrangement 'Knots' is a fantastical addition to the interesting vocalizations of Gentle Giant. 'The Boys in the Band' is probably in my top ten if not five instrumentals of all time. The more hard rocking tracks that you'll find are 'A Cry for Everyone' and the closer 'River' for anyone who is curious. I heartily believe that Octopus remains in the collection that Phil's wife Roberta mentions as the "octo-opus", perhaps as the best. Do not by any means pass this one up.
Report this review (#1464861)
Posted Friday, September 18, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, what can I say about Gentle Giant? One of the perfect prog bands ever. This album I enjoy it from the first. A very complex, but rather listenable progressive music. Every composition has its charm and a very enjoyable way of tasting. Shulman brothers & co. prove that the progressive rock music should be played at the highest peak. I cannot say I have a favourite song. However, Raconteur, Troubadour and Think of me with kindness are my favourite ones. Overall, this album represents a truerly masterpiece of prog music. I said this, based on the complexity of the music, the diversity of sound and instruments the members are playing and , of course, the voice of Derek Shulman which fits very well on the sound. Highly recommended : 4,5 stars.
Report this review (#1492984)
Posted Thursday, November 26, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Probably their best known album and a great one to start. Octopus may be the best GG album among many of their greats. Octopus is complex but also pretty accessible in some weird way. A very energetic album and it sounds like they had fun making it. On Three Friends, Gentle Giant started to focus more on the ensemble playing that would appear on Octopus which where one instrument would start a phrase then another would add to or complete it. Octopus showcases this, front and center. One instrument would play a theme then later in the song it would be another and so on. Kind of like a rotation. GG would take this approach to the extreme when performing Octopus live.

This would be drummer John Weathers first album with GG and he was the right man for the job. JW was able to add a steady beat to whatever was thrown at him unlike the previous drummer who pretty much went along with the other players. He made them actually rock without losing their complexity and he also added xylophone as well. This would also be Phil Schulman's (saxes, vocals) last record with the band.

Don't let the short times of these songs fool you. They are packed with detail and are very fun to listen to. The ensemble playing is on another level. GG didn't do jazz, what they did was construct songs in a hyper organized way. Like a highly complex puzzle where everything just fits. No loose jamming or solos just incredibly structured music. Amazing juxtaposition of instruments and voices. No other band does it like GG and Octopus is the pinnacle of that direction. A masterpiece. GG would take this direction in a more sublime way on the next few releases.

Report this review (#1505023)
Posted Wednesday, December 30, 2015 | Review Permalink
Magnum Vaeltaja
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars The first time you hear this album, you will hate it. That is a fact. Is that because it's a one star album? Of course not! Gentle Giant is a band that grows on you and Octopus is the perfect place to jump in.

A wild, complex ride, Octopus is a succinct album, packing in as much punch as it can in its short 34 minute duration. The album is a great starting point for those new to Gentle Giant as it marks a turning point between the band's two stylistic eras. Each track bears elements of both the bluesier, soulful early days of the band as well as their jarringly complex later albums. Not a single one of the album's eight tracks is weak, each one is well composed and offers something unique. The only drawback to the album is that while its songs are consistent in their inconsistency and controlled in their chaos, nothing really stands out and makes me say "wow!" (though some of them get really close to it).

Hence Octopus is a four star release, an excellent gem that every prog fan should try out, and I thoroughly recommend that everybody should.

Report this review (#1520531)
Posted Tuesday, January 26, 2016 | Review Permalink
Heavy Prog Team
5 stars After a relatively acclaimed concept album Three Friends, Gentle Giant decided to carry on experimenting with diverse ranges ideas and styles. The drummer Malcolm Mortimore left the band and was replaced with John Weathers - an experienced multiinstrumentalist, who allowed the band to go to real musical extremes. With little concern for fame, the band decided to conquer forgotten areas of music. The fruit of this experimentation was Octopus, which is considered one of the band's

Gentle Giant's music on Octopuss is heavily inspired by English folk music, especially from the middle ages and renaissance. The medieval/reneissance influence is evident not only musically, but also lyrically, the lyrics often tell a story with an overall mood of the times (notably on "The Advent Of Panurge"). The band's sound is rich in feminine pastoral acoustic passages ("Dog's Life"), liturgical-esque choir parts ("Knots") as well as influences of British plainsongs that picture country's pleasant countryside. There are however elements of other genres. Although not at the first plan, components of classical music are evident. Kerry Minnear, the band's keyboardist and main composer always remarked the influence of the English composer Ralph Vaughn-Williams on Gentle Giant's music.

A characteristic quality in the band's sound is the tonal ambiguity that the music has. This is very much the case on this album. "Knots", a legendary prog rock piece is driven by harmony vocals, every single one of which sings its own different theme. Together, they create a beautifully twisted whole very much in the English pastoral folk style. As always, the musicianship on this Gentle Giant release is out of this world with many different instruments being utilized and put into a progressive rock context. Kerry Minnear uses instruments as diverse as an electric and acoustic piano, organ, a harpsichord, a Moog synthesizer, a Hohner Clavinet, a vibraphone, a cello, and a regal. Other band members also contribute to a fantastic effect with a wide plethora of instruments. Countless different sounds do not create a feeling of musical overabundance that is common in progressive rock.

All in all, Octopus is in my opinion one of the finest and most accomplished progressive rock albums of all time. Mature experimentation, exploration, musical intelligence, allusions to the English music traditions ? this is what this album is all about. It's just plain fun to listen to. I firmly believe that despite many great works that were to come, Gentle Giant never got better than this. Highly recommended! Five stars!

Report this review (#1529928)
Posted Wednesday, February 17, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars At the time of my first run-through of this album, I hadn't ever heard anything nearly as complex as Octopus. Songs like "Knots" left me confused yet satisfied. After several listens, I can state with confidence that this album is a must- have for every prog fan out there. Gentle Giant is one of the most underrated prog bands, and one of the most talented too. This album is the apex of the bands talents and creativity. Every track is an instant classic. "The Advent of Panurge", "The Boy's in the Band", and "Rivers" should all be regarded as some of the best prog tracks ever recorded.
Report this review (#1581615)
Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars Gentle Giant's most accessible and fun release: 9/10

My first GENTLE GIANT album, from the time I began to venture into prog. Back then I was so foolish I dismissed CLOSE TO THE EDGE as "yeah, kinda cool", but even that dumb kiddo was able to perceive on his first listen the quality of this band which would, fast forward a year, become his favorite. In every way, I consider it a great introduction to GG.

There's a reason why this is eclectic prog: because there are too many influences and sounds to be simply "x prog" or "y prog". For as much as prog is all about trespassing labels, some bands still sound distinctively more influenced by a certain style; this doesn't happen with GENTLE GIANT in any way. Each song is absolutely unique to itself, harnessing their own influence and style. GENTLE GIANT still sounds like prog rock but branching to directions that are impossible to label.

We can see delicious symphonic pieces influenced by medieval music such as Raconteur, Troubadour; medievalesque folk such as Dog's Life; bluesy demonstrations such as The Boys in the Band - which really sounds like a mixture of the remnants of GG's previous hard rock influenced prog with this newer grandiose keyboards-driven style debuted here; the intimate (superficial) simplicity and warmness of Think of Me With Kindness; some really intricate keyboards & guitar work both melodically and rhythmically in Cry For Everyone or the astoundingly difficult Knots, whose vocal layers constantly overlap and complement themselves on a disorientating delirium.

From lush keyboards to xylophonic ventures, OCTOPUS literally seems played by a poliappendaged being: many things happening in different layers which ultimately all converge into euphonic melodies of all shapes and forms. It also just doesn't give time for repetition: the songs are always changing, featuring varying sections on frenetic speed. And as always, the lyricism is on top of their game. It wouldn't be a stretch to call those guys Modernist poets, they are able to output beautifully crafted verses paralleled to very few contemporaneous bands.

In the end, music is both art and entertainment. GENTLE GIANT isn't pinnacling on OCTOPUS artistically (musicianship-wise). They would only do so in the form of a raw unparalleled complexity of their next two albums. However, what these two albums excel in virtuosity OCTOPUS excels in enjoyability. Not only it is lighthearted and fresh, it is enjoyable, vibrant, cheerful and polychromatic on a lovely level that wouldn't be attained ever again by the GG. Their most accessible and fun release, hands down.

I will make you laugh, Revel, Merry-dance. Throw your pennies, then you'll hear more of the story-telling half

Report this review (#1693296)
Posted Wednesday, February 15, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars Mix of brilliant and pretentious.

Pushing the boundaries of composition meant adopting ever-more complex time signatures, faster lines and phrasing, and 'untraditional' choral harmonies and medieval stylings. This is perhaps most extreme here on Octopus. It seems in many places that the pieces were composed on paper perhaps without regard to how they might sound, in order to make them that-much-more complex and different. In places it works well, creating novel kinds of sometimes brilliant music. In others, it just sounds forced and pretentious. This album is a mix of both, often within the same piece. For me the most musical tracks are the third song "A Cry for Everyone" (great melodies, excellent odd-timing instrumental breaks, etc), and track seven "Think of Me with Kindness", which is the tune here that comes closest to sounding like it was not written on paper. The opener ("Advent of Panurge") and the closing track ("River") also work on balance - there is enough real music here to justify repeated listenings. Other songs, like the three middle tracks of "Knots", "Boys in the Band" and "Dog's Life", or the second song "Raconeteur Troubadour", meanwhile, just don't work as well for me. Despite being clearly inventive, they are just not sufficiently musical. I certainly applaud GG's original and innovative approach to composition, and I really like some of these tracks. But at this point (after many years of listens), I can't listen to this album all the way through, at least not easily. So, like the album 'Three Friends', for me this album ends up mixed and uneven. Later albums would sound less pretentious and forced. I give Octopus 7.8 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which is just below what it takes to garner a four-star rating. So, high 3 PA stars.

Report this review (#1765691)
Posted Sunday, July 23, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars Review Nº 134

'Octopus' is the fourth studio album of Gentle Giant and was released in 1972. The symphonic sound of their second and third studio albums was partially abandoned in 'Octopus', which has at sometimes traces of hard rock and folk rock too. It became the band's hardest rocking album until that date. It maintained the Gentle Giant's distinctive broad and challengingly integrated styles, with one of the highlights being the intricate madrigal styled vocal workout 'Knots', whose lyrics are taken from various verses of poetry from the R. D. Laing's book, edited with the same name.

'Octopus' marked also a new change in the line up of the group. It marked the change of their drummer Malcolm Mortimore who replaced their former drummer Martin Smith on their previous studio album 'Three Friends'. He left the band and was substituted by John Weathers. This was also the last album of the band to feature Phil Shulman. This new line up of the group coincides also with what is generally considered the best musical period of the band. It's also interesting to note, that in 2004, Ray Shulman commented that 'Octopus' was probably Gentle Giant's best album.

The line up is Gary Green (guitars and percussion), Kerry Minnear (vocals, keyboards, vibraphone, cello, Moog and percussion), Derek Shulman (vocals and alto saxophone), Phil Shulman (vocals, saxophones, trumpet and mellophone), Ray Shulman (vocals, bass, violin, guitar and percussion) and John Weathers (drums, percussion and xylophone).

'Octupus' has eight tracks. All songs were written by Kerry Minnear, Phil Shulman, Derek Shulman and Ray Shulman. The first track 'The Advent Of Panurge' is a song strongly influenced by jazz music, full of energy, with varied melodies and different singing styles. It's apparently a chaotic song where all instruments seem to be played in different directions. Which is more impressive in this music is that in the end we have a song with an excellent harmony. The second track 'Raconteur, Troubadour', differently from the previous debut song, is a song with some medievalism influence, although it explores different types of music. It's a song where the violins and cellos reign and guide all the music. Once more it's a song with great vocals and is also very well accompanied by an excellent keyboard work. The third track 'A Cry For Everyone' is a completely different song. This is the first real rock song on the album. It's a very energetic song with an excellent melody, stunning vocals, a great guitar riff and it has also great keyboard work. It became a legendary and classic Gentle Giants' song. The fourth track 'Knots' is the less accessible track on the album and is also one of the most complex and intricate songs ever composed by them. It's an avant-garde song that explores a cappella vocal style by the four vocalists. This song is a perfect example how is good and astonishing the vocal work of this incredible group. It's true that this is a very difficult song to hear, but this is truly a great piece of music. The fifth track 'The Boys In The Band' is the only instrumental track on the album. It's a relatively complex and a fast jazz musical composition with different rhythms and tempos. It's a song very well arranged with some excellent solos by keyboards, guitar and saxophones. Again, we are in presence of a magnificent track. The sixth track 'Dog's Life' is one of the simplest songs on the album. It's an explorative song with the use of varied and really strange and weird musical instruments. It's a funny piece of music with classical orchestration and beautiful vocals. The final result is very good, nice and truly unique. The seventh track 'Think Of Me With Kindness' is the song which gives us the simpler, quiet and beautiful moment on the album. It's a song with a simplest and beautiful tune and where the singing is honest, simple and sincere with good musicianship. It's a soft piano based ballad where the theme is beautiful and that provides us some really nice musical moments. The eighth and last track 'River' is the longest song on the album and is a strange song but is also, at the same time, a melodic and a fascinating track. Basically, it's a rock song that flows progressively by different themes. It's a very experimental song which use a lot of studio effects like moving the sound from speaker to speaker. It's without any doubt a strange track but it's also, for sure, a perfect way to conclude this excellent album.

Conclusion: 'Octopus' represented my introduction to Gentle Giant's music in the distant 70's years. I'm very happy that my baptism in the progressive rock has been made with bands and albums like this one. 'Octopus' began a series of four studio albums, all followed, and all absolutely stunning. They make part of one of the most beautiful and brilliant pages ever written in the progressive rock music. I don't know really if Ray Shulman was right when he said that 'Octopus' was probably the Gentle Giant's best album. Personally, 'Octopus' is only my fourth choice. Sincerely, it seems to me that I prefer 'In A Glass House', 'The Power And The Glory' and 'Free Hand'. However, this option is only a matter of my personal taste. 'Octopus' is in reality a truly masterpiece and one of the best albums ever made, because it has strong songwriting, great composition, excellent musicianship and a perfect overall performance.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#1781284)
Posted Tuesday, September 12, 2017 | Review Permalink
5 stars Octopus is a little mysterious. It largely holds the same song types as previous releases, but there is something more finished and scintillating on this album. From start to finish, it is pure bliss to listen to.

I have this LP and have long admired the opener, 'The Advent of Panurge.' Soft accapella vocal punctuated by funky piano. This is so spirited that any melodic recycling can be forgiven. Then a heartier vocal section ensues, accentuated by a brass instrument like a trombone. It's for endearing moments like this that I embrace Gentle Giant.

'Raconteur, Troubadour' is pure whimsy, a violin rendering it ravishing and a piano soaking it with pizzazz. The instrumental section brings to mind the Renaissance and is like a wall of sound. Gone is the contrived instrumentation of past efforts. This only steps up yet another notch into a conversation between a very soothing and seamless brass piece of some sort and a piano and violin. Very high on the warm fuzzy scale.

'A cry for Everyone' represents Giant's raucous side. This is just a completely seductive rock massage. Giant has attempted this before, but it all comes together here. I have never heard a bass guitar add such an undercurrent of movement. The virtuosity on this song is enthralling.

'Knots' is recycled melody for sure. I think Giant had this on both Acquiring and Taste and 3 Friends. They usually include one of these semi-atonal contrapuntal accapella numbers replete with the silly vibes. Why it works here and not there is anyone's guess. I truly think Octopus is a work of much greater finesse. When the piano steps in in equally atonal fashion, it does continue on more melodically. Before the band was taking baby steps; they're now speaking in complete sentences. There is a certain completeness and fullness not seen prior on the more challenging, ambitious work.

'The Boys in the Band' is different. It starts with a laugh and a tossed coin tossed rolling, all its spinning carefully captured. I have been listening to this one a long time too and it is brilliant for sure. It is complex, almost indescribable: a rapid cascade of piano, krumhorn drums, bass, synthesizer, an avant garde excursion with all the fanfare of the Renaissance and little touches that glue it in one's brain far more than any of the band's other atonal offerings.

'Dog's Life' is a spine-tingling ballad, as traditional as some of the others are off the wall. It's my favorite off here and one of the songs that planted me in camp Giant to begin with. Skillfully situated piano, violin, krumhorn and 12 string make this a classic for all time. The echoey harmonies and vibes section is nothing that the band hasn't offered before, but here it's so vibrant.

'Think of me with Kindness' is also more conservative and one of my favorite Giant songs for a long time now. Piano and trombone, the two featured instruments here rank among those I like to see least in rock. Gentle Giant can work absolutely anything into the mix.

'River,' the album closer has long been a fave of mine too. Coming up with words to describe this very unusual music is quite difficult. Suffice to say that it is beautiful, absolutely so. Just see for yourself.

Report this review (#1918419)
Posted Monday, April 30, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars After a problematic disc as Three Friends, arrives Octopus, where the songs have been simplified by structure, arrangements and duration. The deflagrating guitar solos and the drums solos of the previous albums are totally missing. The dominance of Minnear is complete: instrumental variations even those hard rock are completely entrusted to his keyboards, which more often have math rock little pieces.

The violins are still present in two songs, one on each side. Knots' vocal and rhythmic interweaving is remarkable. The only piece that aspires to remember the long hard rock pieces of the past is River, where the guitar is less powerful but reaches a great rock charge, and it is then quickly goes around again to math rock, albeit with interesting interludes. The winds have an important role only in three songs, the best on the album. The album has therefore lost any symphonic orchestral connotation of the previous ones, especially the first two.

GG are arrived at a formal progressive song formally perfect, of medium length, driven by keyboards, with changes of rhythms and arrangements (violins, winds) unpredictable but overall very composed and measured, with some moments of pathos very beautiful although immediately shredded by intermezzos math rock or complicated vocal harmonies.

It is not a case that this album is the favourite of classic rock fans: it has not the typical faults of progressive rock: it is not pretentious, it does not dilate the times and the duration of the sound solutions. It is a layered album, with many complex formal solutions, but all within medium and "light" songs, which do not require particularly demanding listening (especially the first three of the second side)

The first song is excellent, the best of the album, with continuous changes of rhythm, vocal harmonies and passages from the melodic to the hard powerful rock. The second song is in the style of Funny Ways but less melodic, more rhythmic, and more unpredictable. The third song is a fairly simple rock where the keyboards alternate with the strophes sung with continuous improvisation. The fourth piece is difficult, an exercise in style for vocal harmonies and rhythm, but with remarkable instrumental passages, which in some cases reach a great pathos.

Side A: 1) The advent of Panurge 8+; 2) Raconteur, Troubadour 8; 3) A cry for everyone 7,5; 4) Knots 7,5/8:

The second side is lighter than the first: it begins with an instrumental song, good, then there is the piece more easy listening, with a very simple melody. Then arrive one of the most romantic songs of the GG, Think of Me With Kindness, which has moments of great pathos, this is a song that speaks to the heart, but when the melody become too much pathetic arrive the cerebral math rock variations of Minnear, that partially ruins the pathos. Anyway, a very romantic and delicate song. The second side in this way is very melodic but in the end arrive The River, the only track of long duration: not a particular inspirend song but with great instrumental passages, that make more heavy the final of the album.

Side B: 5) The boys in the band 7+; 6) Dog's life 7; 7) Think of me with kindness 8; 8) River 8;

Medium Quality: 7,72. Vote: 8,5. Four stars

Report this review (#2085801)
Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2018 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Gentle Giant has always been celebrated as one of the more out there classic prog bands, at least out of the fairly widely known ones. They has a consistent track record of putting out album after album of short albums that focus more on dense, ever changing compositions as opposed to longer, more grandiose strectches of music, with a major part of their sound being centred around complex vocal arrangements. This album is the first of the three albums by the band where they took this complexity to another level in certain respects, especially these vocal arrangements, at times being downright labyrinthine. With that said, Octopus is also one of the most accessible ones albums by Gentle Giant, having more melodic moments and embracing a medieval folk sound. Despite all that has so far been said, I can also say with fair certainty that this is my least favourite of the classic era GG albums, as I find a couple of the songs to either be quite dull or at the very least, nothing special. I feel like a lot of this comes down to these extremely short song structures causing there to be very little breathing room, eliminating the expansive nature of many of the prog greats. That said, the album still isn't a bad one, just a less appealing one to me when stacked up against the rest of the band's discography.

The Advent Of Panurge starts off the album in a very strong way, with a quiet, pretty melody that quickly begins the wonderful layering that the band applies, backed up by occasional hints of guitar. The song picks up very quickly however, with a groovy bassline backed up by what almost feels like random piano keys being played, some moments with high energy, others being soft and dreamy, right before kicking back in with another idea, all around very jazzy, never sitting still, but with a great central melody. Raconteur Troubadour is a more conventional song in certain respects, with a more focused central theme and a more beautiful, heavily medieval sound. As with the previous song, this one quickly picks up as well, briefly becoming frantic before settling right back down with its main verse, the chorus being rhythmically interesting as it constantly sounds as if it's lagging slightly behind, before making a quick sprint to catch up, repeating this process many times over. My favourite part of the song is definitely the instrumental section in the middle, softly building up with an increasingly fast drum while violins are played wonderfully, before it briefly bursts into a cheery, almost regal sounding section filled with trumpet. Unfortunately, after these first two amazing songs, the album doesn't leave the listener with too many great tracks, one of the most notable ones being A Cry For Everyone, which is more energetic and more rock oriented, but this energy ends up feeling extremely wasted thanks to the weakness of every part involving vocals, and the keyboard use does come off as very cheesy and underwhelming for the most part.

The album manages to avoid falling flat here by following up this weak track with the absolutely perfect Knots, which is easiy one of my favourite songs by the band, and undoubtedly the highlight of this album. The vocal layering present here is absolutely spot on all the way throughout, sounding so incredibly precise, starting out minimalistic, including literally no instrument other than the voice, before briefly including some quick xylophone, before going back to the minimal amount of instrumental work. the song then takes it to another level when it follows the near non existent rhythm and becomes bouncier and more cold and otherworldly, before gradually singing higher notes until the instrumentation fully comes in, sounding almost apocalyptic in nature. The layering of the vocals all throughout the song are nothing short of mind bending , and become more and more impressive the more you try concentrating on the insane rhythmic interplay going on. The Boys in the Band is a better showcase of the band playing something energetic than the poor Cry For Everyone, still displaying a lot of the intricacies of the slower, more calcukated tracks, but giving it enough of a powerful twist to make it interesting, especially that really great saxophone that appears about midway through.

Dog's Life is a folksy little ditty that really does nothing for me. It has a saccharine quality to it that turns me off immensely, and the overbearing classical sound really doesn't seem to work as well here as it did in Peel The Paint, this one just coming off as cheesy. Think of Me With Kindness is better than Dog's Life, but I'm just not as keen on the ballad type songs that the band puts out, I feel like they're far less adventurous and that the band lacks the ability to make a truly beautiful melody that has any impact for more than a few seconds, with them being fun and quirky almost always working out far better for them. That said, this is at the very least a pleasant song, which is better than can be said about a couple of other songs here. River is a strange song, on one hand, I like the abrasive edge it has, with the vocal melody being quite wonky and seemingly out of place with the instrumentation, but on the other hand, I feel like there are too many moments of this in which it just ends up working terribly, such as the quieter section near the start where Derek Shulman tries and fails to sing decent high notes. I also feel like the song ends up meandering quite a bit, with the middle section transitioning right back into more off key singing that's just retreading the opening section, which also wasn't particularly great. Overall, while the song is definitely interesting, I can't say it works particularly well on a level beyond this.

Despite the fact that this album has some of the best songs that Gentle Giant would make, and the shift towards even more complex music is one that I personally love, the uneven nature of this album really drags it down. Certain song just bore me, with a couple being straight up bad in my opinion. However, due to the fact that I am a big fan of the songs here that are good, I would still say that this album is one to listen ot at least once, as when it's good, it's really good. I personally believe that the band would move on to make the two best albums of their career past this point, and this album is definitely responsible for sowing the seeds that would eventually grow into those absolute gems, showing greater prominence in rhythmic interplay and all around instrumenal weirdness. Definitely an interesting album for sure, just not one I personally can enjoy to its fullest extent.

Best songs: The Advent Of Panurge, Raconteur Troubadour, Knots (this one is especially recommended)

Weakest songs: A Cry For Everyone, Dog's Life, River

Verdict: Despite being more accessible in certain ways, this is also the start of Gentle Giant taking their already complex songwriting to the next level. It unfortunately falters in some places, but definitely at least partially makes up for it with the great tracks. I'd recommend listening to their previous 2 albums, Acquiring the Taste and Three Friends first before trying this one out, but this has enough good material to warrant at least one listen, especially if you're a fan of more calculated, intricate music.

Report this review (#2204737)
Posted Wednesday, May 22, 2019 | Review Permalink

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