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FREE HAND

Gentle Giant

Eclectic Prog


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Gentle Giant Free Hand  album cover
4.26 | 999 ratings | 93 reviews | 49% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music


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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Just The Same (5:34)
2. On Reflection (5:41)
3. Free Hand (6:14)
4. Time To Kill (5:08)
5. His Last Voyage (6:27)
6. Talybont (2:43)
7. Mobile (5:05)

Total Time: 37:07

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Derek Shulman / vocals, recorders, sax
- Ray Shulman / bass, violin, recorders, vocals
- Gary Green / guitars, vocals
- Kerry Minnear / keyboards, vocals
- John Weathers / percussion

Releases information

LP Chrysalis CHR1093 (1975)
CD DRT Entertainment 350 (2006)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to NotAProghead for the last updates
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GENTLE GIANT Free Hand ratings distribution


4.26
(999 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(49%)
49%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(37%)
37%
Good, but non-essential (12%)
12%
Collectors/fans only (2%)
2%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

GENTLE GIANT Free Hand reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Admittedly, many prog rock fans with otherwise excellent taste in music find Gentle Giant rather hard to get into. Their music certainly is challenging, and very varied in flavour. At times it evokes Medieval music, at other times there are a cappella vocals delivered in a quasi-"round" format, in company with passages that veer from moments of delicate beauty to "rocking out." All of these musical paths, and more, are often explored within the space of a single song. (Of course, that could be part of a generic description of progressive rock.) Gentle Giant have an inimitable style that is difficult to categorize; they must be heard to be understood. Perhaps only those with the most open musical minds will find them at all accessible. Certainly, though major players of the 70s prog scene, "Giant" never fully rose above their cult status to approach the popularity and critical acclaim of contemporaries like Genesis, Yes, ELP, Pink Floyd or Jethro Tull. (Though Gentle Giant don't really sound like any of those heavyweights, their music bears a somewhat closer resemblance to that of 'Tull, than any of the others mentioned.)

As I observed, Gentle Giant are not exactly the most approachable band in the prog universe; their music tends to invoke extreme love or hate reactions from first-time listeners. With that caveat out of the way, I would urge those who are curious about the band, or simply those who are in search of "something completely different," to start with this excellent recording. "Free Hand" encapsulates Gentle Giant's sound at the top of its form. It is not as "difficult" as "The Power and the Glory" (its excellent predecessor) or "Interview" (its good, but uneven successor), nor as commercial as later efforts.

The overall sound of the disc (if G.G. can be said to have an "overall" sound) is driven by keyboards, electric guitar, violin, and the unique "vocal stylings" of lead singer Derek Shulman and company.

The album, fittingly enough for this mold-breaking group, is loosely written around the theme of individual choice and freedom. The songs are all very good, but, to my taste, the title track, "His Last Voyage" and "Time to Kill" are particularly effective. (I still get a kick out of the sound of the "Pong" game at the beginning of the latter track: if, like me, you can remember when Pong was a cutting-edge video game -- indeed, the ONLY video game -- then you're showing your age....) Highly recommended to fans, and to those with sufficiently eclectic and diverse tastes to "get it."

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Send comments to Peter (BETA) | Report this review (#6176) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, January 04, 2004

Review by corbet
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Even though In A Glass House is acknowledged by many as Gentle Giant's "best" album, Free Hand is without a doubt my personal favorite. Which is of course to say that it is one of my top 2 or 3 most treasured albums of all time. Simultaneously their most dense, complex, mechanically flawless album AND their most melodic, beautiful and accessible -- Free Hand thus represents a magical occurrence in their catalog like none other. Let's see, for starters, "On Reflection" is hands-down the most complex vocal arrangement in all of rock music, bringing Kerry Minnear's choral writing to its absolute pinnacle of genius. Some people may construe this as "too technical" but I simply shake my head at them in disbelief; this is one of the most achingly beautiful songs they ever recorded, and when the "fugal jam" kicks in at the end, I can hardly keep my head from exploding with joy. If that's not enough already, next comes chugging in the title track "Free Hand". At this point, my head goes and explodes. "Free Hand" is the most mind-blowingly perfect musical machine Gentle Giant ever constructed, filled with ticking clockwork keyboard figures and interweaving guitar and bass parts and skwonking piano chords and start-stop time changes and, and... three words: pure musical perfection. Then there's "His Last Voyage", which has at times been my favorite song ever written. I don't know where those melodies and sounds and voices came from, but they existed before time and they call me back to some distant memory that leaves me filled with joy and reverence for the sublime power of music. Thank you, Gentle Giant. So here I've just described three songs, but the remaining four are each in their own way a magical experience, with "Time to Kill" and "Just the Same" taking top billing. If you have any respect for the sincere blessings of this devout music fan, go do yourself a big favor and buy this album and listen to it for the first time. Or, pull it out of your record collection and listen to it again as if for the first time. One of the peak musical achievements our times have witnessed.

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Send comments to corbet (BETA) | Report this review (#6174) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, January 17, 2004

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
3 stars 3,5 stars really!!

Out of the whole of GG's discography Free Hand was the album that sold most (even reached chart position 26 in the UK), the band reaching even some kind of success across the pond by touring extensively the new world (and having great success in Quebec even headlining the sold-out Montreal Forum), but mistakes would again be done by forgetting to tour UK (and even cancelling a tour for no apparent valid reasons) following the commercial success.

However, this album is aiming even further at distancing themselves from their earlier more acoustic material, the only thing being acoustic on this album are the sax, cello and violin (when they are used), but this is really noticeable in an overview of the few albums of the mid-70's. The other major but minor complaint I have about this album is the systematic and by now mechanical constant tempo changes sometimes clearly done for the sake of it than by necessity or artistic choices. Don't get me wrong, the general quality of the tracks are still your typically GG , but by now this being their seventh studio album , the formula is so well established that it now seems a bit exhausted and the inspiration borders on a business-as-usual impression that was already making itself felt by TP&TG album, but it is more distinct now!

There are still some superb moments on the album such as the delightful last Voyage and Time To Kill, as well as the title track, but on the whole I end up relatively (slightly?) bored. I also realize that I represent a small minority among GG fans , especially given that I prefer the next album Interview.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#6168) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Review by lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Another winner!! OK there are some weaker breaks through,but nevertheless here you find some of their best moments of music invention. Of course regarding of the best vocal performance ever- "On Reflection" - an incredible polyphonic excursion by means of all the vocals (a beautiful modern "Baroque" game) the present album- as it contains moreover a perfect balance concerning the melodic lines- is memorable. Besides you find the excellent title track as well as fine solos at the keyboards: the music covers a lot of styles, including the Medieval music and to me that's enough to regard this one as an unforgettable number!!

Highly recommended!!

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#6175) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, April 01, 2004

Review by daveconn
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars While better known prog rock bands (ELP, KING CRIMSON, YES) were visibly running out of steam, GENTLE GIANT continued to stay on their original course, sharpening their skills and releasing consistently excellent albums quietly and (seemingly) effortlessly. As fans might expect, "Free Hand" is a further tightening up of the music found on their last album, "The Power and The Glory", leaving the concept behind and focusing on bright, medieval-tinged rock replete with the clever twists and tortuous passages that fans had come to expect. Whether you regard the band's music by now as idiomatic or merely formulaic, they bring the same skills to bear on every song, which prevents a "hit" or representative track from emerging but also provides uniform pleasure from end to end. The largely vocal exercise, "On Reflection", does stand out; the impassioned "Free Hand" and the languid "The Last Voyage" are impressive ends of the spectrum; even the instrumental "Talybont" has too much personality to be dismissed as a mere medieval interlude.

"Free Hand" remains as concise a case for their talents as any album; Rolling Stone even rated it the band's best album (although their view of progressive rock came through a distorted lens). Apparently, the band liked the album enough to use it as a template for their next release, "Interview".

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Send comments to daveconn (BETA) | Report this review (#6177) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Review by Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars 'Free hand' is not only Gentle Giant's best known album, but also one of their definite masterpieces, as well as the perfect introduction for the newbie: some of the band's catchiest tunes are included here, yet the repertoire comprises the usual demanding level of clever complexity and undefatigable inventiveness. GG doesn't need to meander through long-side suites or three-part epics. These guys can handle tracks incapsulated under the 5-6 minute duration, and infuse them with genius and intensity; they use the structures of R'n'B ('Just the Same', 'Time to Kill'), jazz-rock ('Free Hand') and Celtic festival ('Mobile') and refurbish them through massive progressive reconstructions. Besides these pyrotechnical themes, there lie some others that are oriented toward more subtle realms: the Mediaeval vocal/instrumental polyphonics of 'On Reflection', the tender melancholy of 'His Last Voyage', and the high spirit of 'Talybont' show us that the gentle side of this Prog Giant is also filled with defiant sophistication. All these tracks (or at least, almost all of them) are highlights for their own merits. Yet, let me mention a few brilliant moments: the choral intro of 'On Reflection'; the recurring counterparts and countermelodies of the title track; the overall serenity of 'His Last Voyage' conveyed in both the vocal parts and the subdued guitar solo; the explosive wah-wah violin in 'Mobile'. Now, in general terms, Derek Shulman's voice works impressively as an integral part of GG's sound, and the ensemble's musicianship is technically superb as well as perfectly integrated. Kerry Minnear's keyboard's arsenal works as an "orchestra" in many occasions, and Weather's drumming exhibits an immaculate finesse that can't be properly grasped by words (or at least, this reviewer's words). I'll leave it to the listener to give their own verdict: mine is "masterpiece/essential".

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#6180) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Review by Man With Hat
COLLABORATOR Jazz-Rock/Fusion Team
5 stars 4.5 stars would be more accurate. But, as with their previous albums, this is an excellent example of progressive rock and should be owned by prog fans.

Coming off the highly successful The Power And The Glory, Free Hand takes a similar formula and take it off in a different direction. Slightly stripped down instrumentation, perhaps more traditionally rock, but no real loss of complexity or prog. The first three songs are all GG classics. On Reflection deserves special mention as being the one song I would recommend someone listen to if they really wanted to know what Gentle Giant were all about. All the trademarks are there, none of it feels rehashed or uninspired, and it's performed flawlessly. Talybont is the other real standout track with some incredible playing by Kenny M. A truly modern day medieval classic. The other songs are not as good, but His Last Voyage is certainly true to form Gentle Giant. Time To Kill is a fun little rocker, and Mobile, is probably the least successful song on the album, which is unfortunately being it's the closer, but it doesn't diminish what proceeded it.

All in all, this is a top notch album from a top notch prog band. This is the last studio album I'd give a 5 star rating to (even though Interview is excellent in it's own right) and in many people's eyes the last true classic from The Boys In The Band. I don't know if I agree with that exactly, but I do agree that this is an album that if you've been on PA for more than 3 months you need to have immediately. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to Man With Hat (BETA) | Report this review (#6181) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars After a very varied and hugely interesting series of albums so far 'Free Hand' sums it all up; the adventurousness of their first four combined with the rock solid complexety of 'In a Glass House' and 'Power and the Glory'. Oddly, this was one of the last GG albums I acquired from their golden period but also one of my most listened. It's arguably their most melodic album to date and the brilliant opening track "Just the Same" really gets you going the whole day and could be a potential prog single. "On Reflection" is the most memorable track here and in my opinion overshadowes "Knots" from 'Octopus' in the vocal arrangmements, lacking the avant-garde but is extremely effective in it's beautiness. The album somewhat looses focus on the second side but ends on a high note with the bouncy and medevial hard rocker "Mobile" that is reminiscent of Jethro Tull during their folk-rock phase at the end of the 70's. Comparing these two bands, it's no doubt that Ian Anderson and the Shulman brothers listened and learned alot from eachother.

If you are unsure of where to start with this band, I think this one should do it. A full package of complexity, great hooks and lot's of listening pleasure. It looses it slightly at the end but those songs also are of a very high standard. 4.5/5

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Posted Saturday, December 04, 2004

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Merry Christmas!

Background -- In recent discussion with my prog guru: Andy Julias, prog music producer (Discus) and Chairman of IPS (Indonesian Progressive Society) I was amazed with the topic we discussed. It was about choir and vocal harmony in rock music. We discussed about many types of vocal harmony from groups like Yes, Gentle Giant, Queen and Hamadryad (Canada). What surprised me was the fact that Andy gave an example of Gentle Giant's "On Reflection" by really emulating it very close to the original tune. It really struck me. I know that one of Gentle Giant strength is in its vocal harmony besides its complex and avant garde composition. Then I realized that I have not reviewed this masterpiece album.

Album Review.

It has been a great challenge for me to review classic bands with a music of their own identity. The difficulties rely on what sort of benchmarks should I use for review as they were pioneers of the kind of music they played. Gentle Giant is no exception. Can you compare it with Spock's Beard? Definitely "no" as they live in different time. But, for sure , Spock's Beard was influenced by Gentle Giant. Even though the band disbanded in 1980 but the soul of their music is still around us nowadays.

About this album, let me ask you: "How prog are you?" If you are a prog lover, this album is a must in your collection. If you are new to prog, you must buy this album. The band has inspired many bands on planet earth and no one has successfully similar to their original music. The music might be a bit complex at first listen but I'm sure it would grow significantly after 8 spins. But if you can enjoy the album before it reaches 8, you are blessed with good prog ears and you should continue your journey with all Gentle Giant's albums and other prog bands.

"Just The Same" kicks off with a staggering piano solo and great voice line followed with an avant garde beat music. The music relatively discrete at the opening and it turns continuous at the interlude with sort of spacey keyboard. The solo keyboard is really amazing. The solo ends up with electric guitar rhythm and returns back to the original tagline melody. The harmony of keyboard and saxophone is intricate. It's a superb music!

As I mentioned above "On Reflection" has a powerful choir / vocal harmony in a capella backed with some percussive and vibes during opening. This opening is really excellent! The choir is then continued with single voice line by Derek accompanied with discrete keyboard, violin and woodwind (flute) works. Some backing voice at the end of the bars accentuate the song. The keyboard sound augments the vocal line nicely. Dynamic drumming ends the song brilliantly. The compositional quality of this song is top notch even though it's complex in structure.

"Free Hand" starts off with a harmonious work combining keyboard sounds and bass line. The rocking vocal enters the music in upbeat tempo with continuous music. The solo keyboard and bass performed excellently during quiet segment of the song. The interlude part indicates the complexity of Gentle Giant music. No matter complex the music is, the band has successfully maintained the intricate harmony of multi instruments used.

The next track "Time To Kill" is even more rocking with its complex composition and dynamic rhythm and melody. The opening sound indicates a tidy harmony of bass, keyboard and guitar and a simple melody followed by a discrete guitar score. It flows with the music that brings vocal into main body. Some transitions have a quieter music with sort of discrete bass, keyboard, guitar and drums. Another excellent composition by the band.

"His Last Voyage" opens with an avant garde mood using bass, vibes (played wonderfully) followed by acoustic guitar that accompanies voice line. There are some influence of jazz and classical music. The beginning of this song is performed in ambient style exploring jazzy bass and vibes with relatively slow tempo.. The music then flows continuously in the middle of the track by the appearance of drumming. Piano at background is played in jazz style. The solo guitar is really stunning - it continues with a complex organ sound until the music returns back to original rhythm and tagline melody. "Talybont" is short instrumental with keyboard / clavinet and woodwind dominate the scene accompanied with percussive and bass. The woodwind and clavinet sounds indicate a classical music influence. It also reminds me to Rick Van Der Linden's Trace as they shared similar vein in this part.. "Mobile" combines acoustic guitar, keyboard, violin nicely during opening. Again, the band has proven their talents to compose this complex composition with perfect harmony. Each instrument seems to play different than the others but it still produce an excellent harmony.

Conclusion: This is a masterpiece and a highly recommended album. All tracks stand-out firmly as original prog tunes. There is no such thing as mediocre track in this album. Rating: 5/5. GW, Indonesia.

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Posted Sunday, December 26, 2004

Review by Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Boy did I had a hard time to get this one. It seemed to slip through my littles fingers all those years. No beggie 'cause it's finally here, and I don't want to repeat myself but...this one's a keeper! I thought the Power and Glory format wasn't gonna last. I thought a much colder approach did not suit well the British Giant. But the same pattern's here and I must say that the departure of Phil Shulmann (my personnal favorite of the band) is not bothering me anymore. Okay, this pops and rocks harder but the keyboard work is less atmospheric and more rythmic, which is this case played by Minnear, is growing on me.

Also the many more folkish stuff is pretty satisfying (Talybont, His Last Voyage). Gentle Giant always knew how to make super medieval songs without baloney. Since Raconteur Troubadour we haven't seen much of that style. Hurray for that!

This is one is surprinsingly well done. Crisper and cleaner production; the band never sounded that tight since...ever. A logical following to Power and Glory, deeper in their new train of thought, without selling out or losing their core.

This album has an obvious relent of screw-up love stories. Dereck signs some pretty honest stuff in the Free Hand track. Anger, bitterness or jalousy, whatever he lived through, the song is a solid kick in the crouch to the person concerned.

Especially if you're a newbie, get this to get a good idea of the post Phil Shulmann period. Come join us, broken hearted and shout out loud: " Who would believe me now that my hands are free? That my hands are FREE!! Nobody's listening to the things you say. t To the things you SAY!!"

That's what I call a successful mission.

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Posted Sunday, January 23, 2005

Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is one of the best Gentle Giant album. Compared to the previous "Power & glory" album, "Free hand" is much better recorded and more addictive. Kerry Minnear uses sometimes more modern keyboards, often surprisingly floating, like on "Just the same" or "Free hand". He more than ever perfectly plays here delightful arrangements of piano, clavinet, Fender Rhohes, and organ. "Free hand" is an extremely structured album, complex with fresh & lively moods. "On reflection" is an outstanding exhibition of vocal synchronization in the form of a canon: no flaw noticed! John Weathers plays his percussion devices as often as his drums: the result is totally impressing, giving childish charm and enchantment to the ensemble. The bass is absolutely complex and not timid at all. The bass ABSOLUTELY participates to the infernal nervous communication between the keyboards and the electric guitar: it makes unbelievably complex and spectacularly synchronized patterns. The finesse of this album is legendary, also revealed by the miscellaneous tender lead & backing vocals, sometimes approaching Gregorian chants, like on "His last voyage". The ultimate tour the force is "Talybont", a joyful complex medieval track where harpsichord, wah wah guitars, flute, keyboards, bass and drums form a solid canon. It seems there is no violin, except on "Mobile", which sounds more rythmic prog hard rock, like on the previous albums.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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Posted Thursday, February 10, 2005

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I was very impressed by my first outing with Gentle Giant. This album really is an impressive spectacle of sound. The musicianship is solid and tight, playing with incredible structure. The tracks are intricate and difficult muscially, but never get too out of hand. The vocals are sultry and insane at the same time. The lyrics range from great to insightful. This is an incredible album. The Avante-Garde and jazziness of the album is inescapable, and the sound is irresistable.

The most notable tracks on the album are Just the Same, which begins effectively with finger snapping, which then leads into some simple piano from Minear, and slowly the rest of the group kicks into shape. Shulman's voice on this track and the rest of this album is among the best vocal performances I've ever heard. The piece concluded just as it began with finger snapping. My other favorite is Free Hand. This is one of the most complex songs on the album, but it is catchy and hooks you in from the moment Derek's voice comes in. The jazzy break down is also something only Gentle Giant can do.

Overall, this is a fantastic album that should be in everyone's collection. The songs on this album are all solid, and are among the most adventurous things they've ever done. 5/5.

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Posted Sunday, May 22, 2005

Review by NetsNJFan
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 4.5 Stars --- Gentle Giant's 1975 offering, FREE HAND shows a distinct step towards a harder rock sound after somewhat softer (more acoustic) previous efforts. This hard- rock and complex prog sound was a complete success on FREE HAND, and it marked Gentle Giant's commercial apex; FREE HAND reaching #48 in the USA. Artistically, this would also be their plateau, as they would follow with the excellent INTERVIEW (1976), before sliding into oblivion. Derek Shulman has never sounded more like a rock singer than hear, and his soul and R&B background give him extreme depth and power. His voice is utilized really well, as on the whole, the vocal harmonies are less complex on this album than other Gentle Giant efforts. The instrumentation is less adventurous on FREE HAND than say OCTOPUS or THREE FRIENDS, obviously going for more of a rock sound, but it loses none of the beloved complexity and depth of Gentle Giant's unique baroque-rock sound.

The album opens extremely strongly with "Just the Same" with a simple piano pattern which builds up, slowly allowing other instruments to join in, before we are hit with the full force of Derek's voice. This is a great up tempo rocker with excellent and diverse keyboards from Kerry Minnear. The song degenerates into a Jazzy break (as only Gentle Giant can do) before returning to the original vocals. The song closes fingers snapping, just as it begun. This song is extremely catchy for prog, and will leave you with your fingers snapping as well. It makes an excellent opening, and also opens their landmark live album PLAYING THE FOOL (1976). The next piece (Gentle Giant composes and arranges pieces, they don't write songs) is "On Reflection". "On Reflection" is a trademark Gentle Giant vocal experiment in the vein of "Knots", but this time taking on the form of a medieval fugue in four parts. This is one of their most successful tracks with ultra complex, layered vocal harmonies, alternating between extremely jarring section and profoundly beautiful moments. Gentle Giant handles this song very professionally for such a complex structure. Not many (read: any) bands could pull this off other than GG. Side one closes with the excellent title track, "Free Hand". This is much in the vein of the opening "Just the Same" but is more complex. It is an incredibly tight and complex piece, and the band doesn't miss a note. Bass player Ray Shulman and drummer John weathers turn in especially good performances on the intricate instrumental middle section. While this song is prog to the complex max, it never loses its rock roots, and is very catchy and enjoyable.

Side B kicks off with the rollicking "Time to Kill". This is closest the band comes to rock, but it still maintains their trademark 'sound', and is incredibly enjoyable. The backing vocals take over towards the end of the track, and makes for an incredible ending. The next track is one of the more beautiful Gentle Giant songs, it is an acoustic ballad (in the literary sense of the word) full of diverse instrumentation and delicate vocals. After some layered vocals by the band members, this song picks up pace, gaining momentum, ending in a soulful guitar solo by Gary Green, with a wonderful undercurrent of Kerry's piano running through almost unnoticed. After the previous five tracks (all essential GG) the album loses steam. "Talybont" is fun and short medieval style instrumental, and is almost reminiscent of Jethro Tull Focus, (especially Jan Akkerman solo) but features much more complex instrumentation. Throughout this song one can hear cymbals, flutes, , harpsichord, etc. The percussion is a highlight. This track was originally intended for a soundtrack to a Robin Hood movie which never materialized. This track is pretty and enjoyable, but not essential GG. The album closes with its weakest track (never a good idea), with "Mobile". This is another attempt at fusing hard rock with renaissance style instrumentation, and is less successful than other tracks. The violin by Ray Shulman is an especial highlight, but by this point, one feels they have heard this stuff before, "Just the Same" etc. The song is good, but Gentle Giant could do better, especially for a rather short album; 36 minutes.

FREE HAND is a great album, and is one of Gentle Giant's most accessible. It marks a great place for newbies to the intricate renaissance-rock that is Gentle Giant. This is on of their most sonically unified albums, and easily earns a rating of 4.5 STARS. (It would be 5, but this is no OCTOPUS or IN A GLASS HOUSE, which are also highly recommended to those more familiar with GG's music).

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Posted Thursday, July 14, 2005

Review by NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Not much more to add with the above comments, only that it was the first album by GG that I bought after reading a review comparing them to Yes and Genesis. I remember being totally blown away. I never heard anything like them and they jumped to number one on my list of favorite bands. If you are new to them and want to explore their albums, by all means purchase this one first. It's their most accessable album with very beautiful synth runs by master Minnear, (title track, "Freehand"), great a cappella singing, ("On Reflection") and rocking tunes, ("Just The Same" & "Mobile"). Plus, with the 35th anniversary edition, gone is the flat sound. What you get is crystal clear production where every, and I mean every instrument is loud and clear. Just amazing! And on top of it all, a bonus live track from 1976 of "Just The Same". A perfect album from beginning to end. A five star masterpiece!

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Posted Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars No many words to say on it: IMPREESSIVE, PURE MAGNIFICENCE!! Nothing's similar to this powerful, delicate and elaborate music, in the veins of which flows an important middle-age blood! I wonder why this excellent and unique band did'nt reached a more wider success! I'm breathless: GREAT, GREAT, GREAT, GREAT!!!!

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Posted Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Review by Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars 3 1/3 stars

This is the first album in which the band tried a more commercial approach and it worked. The result is an accessible, yet complex album that tries to keep little experimentation, and play the normal Gentle Giant Way.

1. Just The Same : is the opener and is an avant-garde workout that is unusually easy to get into. There are piano/keyboard solos,and a saxophone joins in the piece. Very good. 7/10

2. On Reflection : This is the classic of Gentle Giant, but it is flawed in my opinion. The first minute is one of the best and most complex vocal harmony moments I have ever heard in progressive rock, but I dislike the 'all around all around all around' repetitive vocal part. the second half of the song is ballad-like and has gorgeous melodies. 7.5/10

3. Free Hand : Another classic of the band. This song shows how beautiful complex music can be, and this song is flawless. 8/10

4. Time To Kill : The weakest song of the album. It is a rocker that is a little incoherent and messy, but if you like ELP, you may like this. 4/10

5. His Last Voyage : an underrated mellow track with beautiful slow vocal harmonies. The guitar riff going in most of the song is delicate, and gives imagery of sailing on a boat. The bass riff in the beginning will grow on you, and the vocal driven middle section for me was likable at first listen. 8.5/10

6. Talybont : A short instrumental with keyboards, clavinet and woodwinds ... A nice track. 6/10

7. Mobile : a very dynamic closer that sounds more like music from Octopus. 5/10

Just like Three Friends, this is a good way to begin your journey with Gentle Giant. It is not very hard to get into, and contains some of their best songs.

My Grade : C+

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Posted Friday, August 12, 2005

Review by Philrod
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Gentle Giant is a class act. Album after album, they deliver great songs and excellent compositions. Free Hand is no exception. It is even one of the finest they ever did. Following the biaised reception of The Power and the glory(most prog fans loved it, but critical reviwer tought of it as a letdown from the band), Free Hand was another step into a more medieval sound. The arrangements are increasingly complex, but always remains creative and melodic. The musicianship is really strong especially from Kerry Minnear, and the interplay remains true to the gentle giant tradition, one of the best prog ever produced. Every song is excellent, and the wonderfully crafted album remains fresh and despite the complexity of the music, is probably more accessible than its predecessor. Gentle Giant were really on, and this is must for any prog fan. 4.5/5

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Posted Friday, August 19, 2005

Review by Marc Baum
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I see "Free Hand" as the zenith of Gentle Giant's fabulous classic period. It's perhaps their most realized effort. After the excellent, in wide parts experimental "In A Glass House" the group developed it's Renaissance-medieval approach on "The Power And The Glory", and produced one of the most creative and complex recordings in progressive rock history. On "Free Hand" they perfected that style, with using more transparent arrangements.

"Just The Same" is another superb opening to an classic Gentle Giant record, which is also the most accessible piece on. Their vocal approach to the four-part fugue "On Reflection" was revolutionary for it's time and is looked upon as one of the genre's defining moments (specially it inspired Spock's Beard's vocal-arrangements very strongly). Despite the complexity of the arrangements, the music never sounds academic and in fact is very accessible thanks to several melodic hooks. The combination of once more superb musicianship, dry wit, and creative compositions make this an essential and historical recording. The Renaissance-medieval approach of Gentle Giant reached it's highest point in the illustry "Talybont". The impressive "Mobile" finally crashes the album to an end, before the classic period of GG is finally over for many fans and progressive rock-addicts. Many of those seem to have forgotten the great "Interview" album they delivered one year after "Free Hand", even it wasn't quite on the same high level but not very far. What is left to say about this landmark progressive rock record?

9.5/10 points = 95 % 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 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music

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Posted Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Review by b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I'm not a big fan of Gentle Giant but i apriciate almost every work of this outstanding band. When i first listen this band i said to my self what is going on with them, to complicated, to many sounds, complex arangements. But after 15 times of hearing every '70 album, i begun to understand how they work, what is their porpose in music. There are still some superb moments on the album such as the delightful last Voyage and Time To Kill, as well as the title track, but on the whole I end up not so enthusiastic. Free hand is almost a masterpice, because every track is beyong average listner, complex and intresting arrangements. A 4 star album. I remain to Octopus witch i find the first masterpice ( second is The power...) of Gentle Giant and an album hard to beat even for them. This is my opinion regard to this one.

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Posted Thursday, July 27, 2006

Review by Certif1ed
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars On Reflection - A Masterpiece

The main problem with other Gentle Giant studio albums is that they do not contain the perfect confection of hard rock and dazzling polyphony that is "On Reflection". This is possibly the best Prog Rock song ever, deceptively accessible to the point of seeming simplistic, and yet laden with technical subtleties and complex contrapuntal marvels that in no way stifle the natural flow of the piece.

But enough already! I'll do the analysis bit when I reach the song during my customary "live" review; As the album plays directly into my headphones, for your entertainment, before your very eyes, I will endeavour to pull out the succulent fruits and the sour grapes, the nightingales and the turkeys, the stellar and the stinkers from this marvellous musical trove of tonal treasures:

"Just the Same" must surely be considered a succulent fruit - bursting as it is with juicy proggy goodness. A finger clicking good rhythmic motif begins, then a piano motif joins it, crossing the rhythm of the clicking. It should be noted that the very first iteration of each motif is different to the motif itself, which provides instant drama and energy to what follows. The click disappears, and a distorted guitar provides a note-for note echo to the piano, exactly half a beat behind.

Note that this is all in the first 30 seconds - we're talking real proggy value for money here!

The song kicks in, and the instrumentalists and vocalists pick up melodically and rhythmically modified versions of the introductory motifs, lending a perfect continuity to the music. The chorus is another modification of these motifs, the time signature changing and layers of instruments changed to indicate the new territory, rather than the more predictable device of changing riff or key. This is followed by a rather surprising codetta - not a bridge, as it is clearly not intended as a linking device, rather a continuation of the previous flow of musical thought - and the second verse arrives.

The "bridge" is more of a development of the earlier ideas, but in a calmer, less chaotic zone, with swishy synths and soft-sixth squishy harmonies washing underneath twining guitar lines. The tempo picks up for the second section of the bridge, and is almost a recapitulation of the earlier ideas - except that Gentle Giant have surreptitiously modulated a few times during the past few sections, and use the new key to kick off into surprising and new material - except hang on, didn't I hear that finger clicking in the intro? The transition back to the verse is thus made smoother than it really has any right to be, and the song is drawn to a close with perfection.

The main drawback with this particular song is in the somewhat generic lyrics - akin to what one might expect to find in an "arty" pop song.

Now we get to "On Reflection", and on first hearing, you're almost bound to wonder why I rave so profusely about this song, as there is simply too much going on for you to absorb all at once - the music is a complete story in itself, and there is far more here than many bands produce in an entire album.

We kick off immediately with a striking melody line that is then turned into a canon - except that unlike a canon in a Classical work, when subsequent voices begin, they pick up at the same point in the lyrics as the primary voice.

As with many of Bach's fugal writings, the melody entries are a perfect 5th apart - but unlike Bach, 3rds and 6ths tend to be lightly touched upon - which lends an austere, almost mediaeval flavour to the whole piece, denying either major or minor key dominance.

The vocal lines continue, each part carefully composed to promote maximum movement within the music, until a sudden stop on a major triad that brings this section to a sudden stop in a perfect cadence.

The next section "reflects" the lyrics, as it is a reflection upon the person who is the subject of the song, which is perfectly symbolised by the complete change in character of the music: A sudden shift to a minor key and quasi-madrigal style harmonies using suspensions modulate downwards using our old friend, the cycle of fifths.

Again, for the next lyrical section, GG use a new character in the music for this reflection upon a reflection with an odd sequence of dischordant chords that suggest a kind of warped barbershop - or even the Beach Boys. This successfully imparts the questioning tone, and then yet another shift to a reflection on this question in the contrapuntal style of earlier: "Now: On reflection, why should I have changed my ways for you?".

This gives way to yet another musical fragment, which almost completes the exposition of main ideas for this song: the "All around" motif, which recurrs again and again in a quite brilliant stream-of-consciousness way, expressing the circular nature of thought patterns.

It should be noted at this point, that not even a minute of this song has passed - such is the density of carefully composed and outstandingly expressive material under scrutiny here. And it should also be noted that not all of the main music ideas have been exposed yet - despite the battery of rich inventiveness, GG keep a few tricks up their sleeves.

The next section feels familiar to us now, as it uses the same canon ideas as the very first, but this time we have instruments for the first time: A piano accompanies the 1st voice, a vibraphone accompanies the second, and a gockenspiel accompanies the third, lending a more urgent, percussive feel to what we might think of as the second verse.

The structure begins to feel a little more familiar now, as the second section or subject appears once more, closely followed by the third. Drums and cymbals join the instrumentation at this point, and an instrumental interlude follows - which is suddenly interrupted by the "All Around" motif.

This time, the motif is extended, and the guitars join the instrumentation - the bass at first - and the motif slowly fades and gives way to a completely new and ever more reflective idea - a lyrical, melancholy and reminiscent melody - the perfect 5th accompaniment maintaining the mediaeval flavour, and a wooden flute double underscoring this by accompanying the voice in unison. The arrangement is particularly notable as the instruments take fragments of the main melodic ideas and use them to expressively decorate and emphasise key lines and words in the lyrics.

This is a moment of real magic and tranquility, as the voices are shaped sensitively and the whole thing comes together as a perfect balance to the chaotic polyphony of earlier.

This is cut across by a sharp reminder (and a developed musical idea that feels new) "Look back, it's not your game, together just in name", but the reminiscent feeling is still strong, and the idea is recapitulated.

This time, a violin plays a slightly agitated counter-melody, and the "All around" motif performs the cut-off, before being cut off itself by a quite delicious riff fragment. The "All around" motif is having none of this, and attempts to re-assert itself once more, while percussive ideas sneak in fromthe sides attempting to establish some ground. Eventually the guitars (and organ) win, though, with a strong statement and development of the very first idea - this whole section clearly describing a battle inside the psyche. To put the icing on the cake, drums are added - and you just wonder how!

Sadly, the piece fades at this point, and we are left wondering what might have happened next - but that is the ONLY thing wrong with it!

Having just realised that I've managed to dedicate an album review's worth of space to a single song, I'll stop here. That should give an idea of just how great this album is in terms of compositional technique - an entire essay could be written on each piece, and there is simply no way you could assimilate all of the ideas presented within these grooves immediately - unless you're some kind of musical prodigy.

Maybe one day I'll write a review of a Gentle Giant album that gets the time and HTML- space it deserves - but for now, like the song "On Reflection", I'll leave the reader to wonder what happens next, to go straight to the nearest stockist, purchase a copy of this exceptionally fine Prog Rock album and begin the quest to discover how the heck they did that - or simply enjoy the deliciously complicated music underneath the deceptively accessible melodies.

Either way, an essential purchase for anyone that appreciates the finer points of Prog Rock - or progressive music generally.

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Posted Monday, July 31, 2006

Review by bhikkhu
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Prog Team
4 stars This could be Gentle Giant at their most accessible, while holding on to the traits that make them so unique. It is a fun, and (of course) quirky album. This may not be the band at their most dramatic, but it is ultimately enjoyable.

"Just the Same" is strong, bouncy, and has that odd timing that GG fans have come to love. There are also some wonderfully silly keyboard sounds. So come on, and snap along (if you can).

"On Reflection" starts out with a trademark vocal round, and is joined by a few percussive instruments. It then goes into a folk section. Towards the end more is added, and we are treated to various sounds "all around, all around, all around."

"Free Hand" starts with a quickly played piano and guitar duet, backed with some subtle bass. It soon turns into a rocker, GG style.

"Time to Kill" is a jazzy groove. If you listen closely, there are some tasty progressions here.

"His Last Voyage" is delicately haunting, but has a little 'cut this thing loose' section.

"Talybont" is a medieval dance. If it weren't for the electronics, this could have been recorded in a castle of old. Ah, fetch me an oversized turkey drumstick.

"Mobile" is the only thing keeping this from getting five stars. It's a good tune, but not the best choice to close the album.

Once again, this is a fun album. It is also a great place to enter into the land of the Giant. I highly recommend it.

H.T. Riekels

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Posted Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Review by Chus
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars I don't understand how people would rate it lower than 4 just because it entered the charts. Look at "A Passion Play" by Jethro Tull: it is their less accessible album of the 70's, yet it charted at No.1 in the States (if memory serves well). The charts are very unpredictable, because the albums enter charts for selling and not because of the general opinion of the album; that is how the charts measure popularity: by number of copies. They just got a bit more popular, that's all. This album is as complex as the rest; except that now they actually filtered a bit more their ideas to create compact compositions, and instead of dull experimentation they focused on writing actual songs with every detail carefully planned and less atonalities. They kept the assimetrical time signatures but they don't just throw them for the sake of throwing them. In short: they polished their songwritting. I sometimes wonder how they all fit together perfetly into all those undecipherable time signatures (e.g. His Last Voyage) and how could they play all of these numbers on stage without a director's aid; they really are quite disciplined, and this album shows some of the most precise playing ever by Gentle Giant. John Weathers manages to get every strange beat with groove drum playing, and not a song on this album goes unnoticed. From the cheerful "Just The Same" to the fiddling on "Mobile", every number has it's charm... no fillers at all.

The most amazing song on here is "His Last Voyage": with amazing renaissance imagery and the most jazzy intersection in the mix, it represents the eclectic and extreme style this band displays. "On Reflection" starts with blends of fugal structure (a vocal fugue, later intrumental) and later proceeds into a more mediaeval approach, it's also amazingly memorable. "Talybont" is an almost pure mediaeval fair music, only mixed with canon in the arrangements. "Free Hand" is the perfect example on how to create a musical soundscape, with every instrument serving it's part separately to create complex polyphonic music, and then the song turns into a very funky piece, then bits of jazz on the bridge. "Time To Kill" has a more soul approach, in the way Gentle Giant only knows how. "Mobile" is known mostle for the fiddles, and the electric guitar also serves as a fiddle with the wah-wah effects.

a deserved 5-star rating... If you're starting out with GG I suggest this one LAST.... Yes, the best taste for last.

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Posted Sunday, October 22, 2006

Review by fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I've enjoyed most of the 1970s albums by Yes, Genesis and Jethro Tull for a long time, but last night I also listened closely to FREE HAND, probably for the first time ever, and it made me wonder if Gentle Giant were not, perhaps, more sophisticated than any of the aforementioned. The only early prog bands which truly matched GG in ensemble playing, were Frank Zappa's band circa 1974, and the early 1980s incarnation of King Crimson, with its intricate gamelan-style melodies. I simply gasped with astonishment when I heard the fugue GG pulled off in 'On Reflection'. This was so much more than the textbook fugue Keith Emerson inserted into 'The Endless Enigma'; it's an original piece of music that's vibrantly alive!

For Gentle Giant there were no experiments with pompous church organ-like sounds which some listeners may find questionable (as produced by Tony Banks on FOXTROT, or by Rick Wakeman on GOING FOR THE ONE). There is nothing solemn about this band; it really ROCKS, and lead singer Derek Shulman bears a lot of responsibility for that - he must be one of the most dynamic prog vocalists around. Shulman is also capable of moving the listener: the sweet melancholy of 'His Last Voyage' shows it makes no sense to call prog music 'sterile'.

So, hats off to Gentle Giant! On the 1998 remaster, FREE HAND is coupled with INTERVIEW, which was originally released just seven months later. Although a lesser album, INTERVIEW is still worth hearing, so the FREE HAND/INTERVIEW combi looks like a first- rate bargain.

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Posted Sunday, November 12, 2006

Review by OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars More polished, but old hat.

Gentle Giant is perhaps the most unheralded "great" prog band of the 70's along with VDGG. A wealth of talented musicians and songwriters never seemed to stop the GG machine from chugging along. That being said, this record seems like DeJa Vu. The music is great, but it seems as if GG really never "progresses" as a band while being in a genre of prog. Sure it's much more polished than Acquiring the Taste, but I'lol conclude with tuxon, essentially it's all been done before, even if it is one of their better records.

Just the Same and Free Hand are my personal favorites here, both are fun rocking prog tracks. Both highlights are on a creative and quirky chorus and a solid middle instrumental section.

GG is probably at their most accessible of their quality releases here, something that wouldn't be too awkward to play at social events. On Reflection has some of the best vocal work since the absence of the other brother, and Mobile is a folksy tune thats packaged nicely and includes a dark riff that sounds awkward among the other music, but seems to fit ok.

Talybont is a Medieval sound that sort of crosses ELP's keys with Camel's "The Procession". Time to Kill is one of the darker sounding tunes here, with some dissonant notes building tension to the main riff. His Last Voyage should have been the closer here, as it was really the "Last Voyage" of a great GG album.

Overall it's a nice and interesting little record, but nothing is too moving about it. As a GG fan it's an important part of their collection, but me, I just was hoping for a bit more when I came to this one.

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Posted Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Review by Chris H
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Ok, when I saw all of the 5 star ratigns the first time I saw this page, I was thinking must be a good album! Then I bought it months later and here I am now, jaw dropped with astonishment that people consider this a masterpiece. "Just The Same" and "Free Hand" are the only tracks off this album I enjoy. "Just The Same" has some nice solo-ing in it from just about every badn member, and "Free Hand" is quite catchy with some fun lyrics and riffs. These songs save this album from one star doom.

On the othere side however, the rest of the album is pointless. "On Reflection" gets on my nerves. The chanting is really annoying and those chimes give me headaches, plus the echo vocals are very dated. "Time To Kill" is an aptly titled song. They had time to kill on the record, so they recorded this track. When I listen to it, I think more along the lines of "time to kill myself!". "His Last Voyage" is a waaayy too long Yes-wannabe song that just drags on and on and on! Ughh, "Talybont" is next? I can't believe I wasted my time listening to this rubbish! It's a waste of disk space honestly. Finally, "Mobile" ends the album. Not too shabby but it does get very repetitive and annoying.

2 stars, but only for "Free Hand" and "Just The Same"!

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Posted Sunday, January 07, 2007

Review by el böthy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars What Gentle Giant created with Free Hand is their most accessible album (from their classic period, let's not bring Giant for a Day and Civilian into discussion.) without loosing their instrumental and vocal complexity nor their polyrhythmic compositions; what an achievement indeed! And to top it all, this might even be among their three best albums; again, what an achievement!

The album starts with finger snaps. no, really it does, with Minear´s keys dropping in a few seconds later to mark the counterpoints of the "finger snap beat" in a more than typical Giant fashion, a great way to open the album. Of course I'm talking about "Just the same". Minear shines here, not only for his counterpoints rhythms, on which Green´s guitar would also help latter on, but for his strange sounds in the chorus and that spacey solo. Among his best stuff, and in another great Giant fashion, it's complex, inventive but never in your face; what an achievement! "On reflection" follows and it brings us another characteristic Giant composition, maybe the one they are more famous for: the polyphonic, medieval multi vocals. Sure, this has been done before with the "head turning" "Knots" in Octopus, so the result might not be as surprising, but let me tell you, it´s equally as good as the previous mentioned one. Some might even say it's better, I know my friend and Giant fan-boy, Martinn, would agree. "Free hand" is in my eyes and ears the best track of the album. Again, Minear owns this one, but Ray Shulman is not far behind with his fantastic bass lines. The main key riff that could be taken as the chorus must be one of the best things the Giants have done in their career. Of course the rest of the band also delivers pure brilliance in every note, every beat. Strange as this might sound, one could even dance to this song; what an achievement! The second side of the album, for I have the vinyl version, kicks of with "Time to kill" which, at least for me, is the weakest track from the album. BUT, this does not mean it's a bad tune, no, no, no, no, no. it's still very, very good, specially Shulman´s bass lines, but the rest of the album is just way better. "His last voyage", the longest song from the album. which is still quite short if you compare it to other prog songs, is really interesting. Here the Giants take it down a notch; the song presents little drumming, just in some sections here and there, but other than that, it's a very calm song. Still, the instrumentation here (as usual) goes wild. It is rare for the Giants ´cause an instrument that is not usually used by them in other songs, prevails here as their main in the vocal parts. the acoustic guitar! Again the vocals are sung in their polyrhythmic fashion, but not as over the top as in "On reflection". Gentle Giant was one of ´70 strongest instrumental bands, yet they didn't do many instrumental songs, which is quite weird. But, here, in Free Hand, we get one. "Talybont", a short piece, constructed around a main key riff is as delightful as short songs come. Of course every instrument plays their own interpretation of this riff, full of variations, one almost wishes the song was longer, but no, it's short. and delightful. "Mobile" closes the album; an up beat song, again, full of what makes Gentle Giant Gentle Giant. Personally, I find this song to have Derek Shulman´s best vocal lines, at least from this album. Strong, direct, even happy, it's a good contrast to the complex background instrumentation this song presents. Now, this is not about the actual song itself, but about the album. I have, as I already said, the vinyl version and the CD version. Now, in the vinyl version once this song comes to an end the record plays on for a few more seconds, I would say 20 or so, till Weathers hits the drums on last time all alone. I always found this very cool, for it always took me by surprise. Now, this ultimate drum hit, does not appear in the CD version. or at least not in mine. strange indeed.

To summon things up: a classic, one of their best. Few if any weak point and some of their very strongest are here. A good starter too, very accessible, yet you can get something new out of it, every time you listen to it, what an achievement!

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Send comments to el böthy (BETA) | Report this review (#117494) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, April 06, 2007

Review by obiter
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars What can you say?

If the jazzy funk element of Power and the Glory hadn't quite melded into the medieval choral, complex musicality that is GG, then boy does it fit in here.

The first time I listened to this album it just made me smile. This is most defintiely inane grin territory (In InGT as a couple of my mates would put it).

Often the difficulty with reviewing an album which is so complex is the the desire, or compulsion, to try and be profound and appear knowledegeable. The greatest compliment I can pay this album is that I've played it when a few mates & girlfriends have comeback form teh pub (well worse for wear) and they've loved it. I've played it to mates in bands I've played in: they have loved it & seethed with jealously. Finally, I can't play this album without smiling.

I've always wondered what Buddy Rich would have sounded like if he'd jammed with these guys. My only disappointment in this album, and i've got to say it's a biggy is the restrained drumming: where are the swishing cymbals in His Last Voyage?? Bugs me every time I hear it.

Talybont reminds me of the backing music for the dance scene in Romeo & Juliet at a production I saw years ago (23).

Mobile follows suit. Typically GG. A little bit of a reel. Love the bass chords jsut before it enters a very weird section. welcome the the weird and wonderful world of GG. Love it or hate it, you must feel the quality.

For me it's a 4.5 but I can't vouch it as essential so that leaves this a 4.

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Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Review by Atavachron
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Gentle Giant were so good it hurts. What Ray and Derek Shulman, Kerry Minnear, John Weathers and Gary Green were able to achieve musically was unmatched in the progressive rock movement. The group didn't demand attention, squeeze catchy melodies or foment heart-tugging manipulations. They just recorded some of the most accomplished music in rock history.

'Just the Same' opens on a cheerful note but gives a taste of the sophisticated architecture to come. That promise is fulfilled with the knock-out vocal arrangements in 'On Reflection', building and circulating with piano, Vibes, more vocal layers, a gingerly-sung lyric, sprinkles of recorder and violin, all leading to an immaculate rock explosion of beauty, energy and immense joy. The cocky 'Free Hand' quickly becomes a prog rock classic that matches anything Yes ever did and reveals a unit that could literally do anything, and did it with such aplomb that many contemporaries must have cried themselves to sleep after hearing this record. Gentle Giant were unafraid, and could back-up their high ambition with results. 'Time to Kill' continues in the vein of the title track with constant change, modulation, redirection and trippy high-end playfulness. The band is able to take just a few small themes deconstructed to such a degree that they become unrecognizable as related music, maintaining a connection just under the surface that strings everything together. The deep and jazzy 'His Last Voyage' gets into religious tonalities and Gregorian chants, gluing it all with some old fashioned rock 'n roll, 'Talybont' is quite pleased to see the King, giving Tull a serious run for the money and 'Mobile' is an amazing reprise with some hot fiddle.

One of those albums that, looking back, captured a moment, a quality, a time that was never seen again in modern music. Eras change and generations grow-up but Gentle Giant is somehow timeless in its uncompromising quality and standards, and rock will not soon see another band bearing such undeniable gifts.

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Posted Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Review by Moatilliatta
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Free Hand is a document of the funkiest castle in history. I don't know if Gentle Giant invaded the funkiest castle, if Gentle Giant invaded a castle and brought the funk to the castle, or if Gentle Giant grew up in the funkiest castle and finally harnessed their medieval roots in their music, but it's all beyond the point. This is the music of the funkiest castle ever.

I wish I had the motivation to review this whole album and relate it to the funky castle story.

The album's got a few of GG's best tunes, most notably "On Reflection," and it's loaded with musical ingenuity, but it's fun. Almost too fun. My friends and I laugh constantly when listening to this together, but it's mostly in a good way. In any case, fans of the group will find plenty to enjoy. This is Gentle Giant's last great album, and I couldn't think of a better, funkier swan song than "Mobile."

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Posted Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars In my top four of favourite GENTLE GIANT records. This is very accessible music and at the same time intricate and complex. The band interplay is jaw-dropping at times, and the collage of sounds that seems to be perfectly timed and placed proves this point.

"Just The Same" opens with what sounds like someone snapping their fingers. Such a catchy tune with the guitar and keys intertwining. After 2 minutes we get a calming interlude with synths until the main melody returns after 4 minutes. "On Reflection" features some of those incredible vocal arrangements that they are famous for. I was also reminded of YES a couple of times with the harmonies that follow. The song changes 2 minutes in as Minnear sings with his reserved vocals. I love this part of the song. Some great instrumental work to end the song including the drumming 5 minutes in. "Free Hand" reminds me of "Just The Same" with the fantastic band interplay,as well as how catchy it is. The piano is impressive, as are the strange keyboard sounds.

"Time To Kill" is another accessible, melodic song.This really is a feel good song with harmonies to boot. Some good guitar after 3 minutes. "His Last Voyage" is one of my all time favourite GENTLE GIANT songs. There is something about Minnear's vocals that draw me in, and I don't want to leave. Again the intricate collage of sounds is a highlight. Check out the guitar 4 minutes in as the drums and piano play on. Lots of xylophone on this track as well.The original melody comes back to end it. "Talybont" is apparently the name of a forest in Wales. The song has a Celtic flavour to it. Recorder, keys and guitar lead the way. These last two songs bring down my opinion of this album a notch, not a fan of either really. "Mobile" is all about the violin melodies. Vocals sound processed 2 1/2 minutes in.

A solid 4 star record to be sure, and in the upper half of their first eight studio albums.

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Posted Thursday, November 15, 2007

Review by The Pessimist
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Certainly the very best GG album in my books, this CD truly contains a mastery of all the Giant's traits: quasi-round vocals, complexity, rhythmical virtuosity, uniqueness, driving rhythm on several occasions... i could go on, but this is must buy.

1. Just The Same - Great opener. Quite tame compared to the rest of the album, but nonetheless stunning - 5/5

2. On Reflection - Fantastic vocals at the start but slowly deteriarates and really goes nowhere in particular - 3/5

3. Free Hand - A second GG masterpiece song. Great driving rhythm and some really quite complex stuff! Minear really shines quite a bit on this song, as also in the opening track - 5/5

4. Time To Kill - As good as (if not better than) the previous track, this one's probably the most technically challenging of all - 5/5

5. His Last Voyage - A lovely ballad that reminds me distinctly of the Mahavishnu Orchestra - 4/5

6. Talybont - Fantastic prog song with a medeival feel, short and sweet with a gorgeous flute - 5/5

7. Mobile - Returning to the celtic feel, this is a stunning ending with everything a prog-rocker looks for - 5/5

Overall score - 5/5

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Posted Thursday, January 24, 2008

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Free hand is the seventh album from Gentle Giant and one of their best albums IMO. After The Power and the Glory which was the predecessor to Free Hand, Gentle Giant must have felt extremely inspired for Free Hand to come out as well as it did. I think The Power and the Glory is the weakest of the first six albums from Gentle Giant ( it´s not weak at all compared to other prog rock albums of course, only compared to the other five albums. I personally gave The Power and the Glory 4 stars) and I was afraid that their really good era was over. Free Hand fortunately proves me wrong. While still maintaining all of the charateristics of Gentle Giant which means a mix of hard rock, jazz/ fusion, classical chamber music, medieval music, avant garde and folk, Free Hand takes Gentle Giant one step further. Never on any of the previous albums have the music been this memorable yet still very complex. It´s a great achievement that only Gentle Giant could have done.

The music is as always pretty hard to describe as you can probably sense when reading my above description. Songs like Just The Same, Free Hand, Time To Kill and Mobile are all extremely well written progressive rock songs while On Reflection might be the finest polyrythmic vocal song Gentle Giant ever made. On Reflection is the song with most avant garde influences on the album, but it´s very memorable. His Last Voyage is a beautiful semi-ballad while the instrumental Talybont completes this beautiful and very powerful prog rock album.

The musicianship is outstanding. Every single musician plays beyond his abillities on Free Hand. Not only do Gentle Giant make beautiful and powerful music they are also mulitinstrumentalists and outstanding musicians every one of them.

The production is very good. absolutely the best sound quality Gentle Giant had achieved by then.

Free Hand is one of my favorite Gentle Giant albums, and also one of my favorite prog rock albums. It deserves all 5 stars for the musical genious put into the compositions and the interplay between the musicians. You will very seldom come across anything remotely like this. If you haven´t listened to this album yet, you better run out and buy yourself a copy, because this is pure genious.

NOTE: I have an edition with both Free Hand and Gentle Giants next album Interview on one CD which is of course a great treat. Two albums for the price of one. I would seek out this version if I were you.

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Posted Monday, June 09, 2008

Review by LiquidEternity
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Next to Octopus, this is Gentle Giant's best album, possibly a contender for that position as strongest release by the band.

Coming off the tails of the average The Power and the Glory, Free Hand simplifies the tracks just enough to turn them into cohesive songs. The same complicated structures and wild instrumental parts that the band demonstrated in other albums shows up here. The only difference is the energy of the band is absolutely very present in almost every track, giving the album a much more exciting and commercial sort of feel, even though the music is very much progressive. The experimental nature of the band has winded down by this point, but that does not mean that this album, though it does not venture into much territory that the band had not yet explored, is by any means a simple rehash of other Gentle Giant songs and ideas. What we have here is the culmination of the band's history, the peak of the band.

The fun and lighthearted track Just the Same opens the album, playing with some fun keyboards and a quality chorus. It may be one of the lesser songs on Free Hand, so if this does not inspire you much, continue on anyways. The next track, the wildly complicated On Reflection, features what is probably the band's most intense series of vocal harmonies and rounds. The middle section of the song slows down considerably and produces a very neat mellow melody. It ends with a full band reprisal of the beginning vocal interplay. The title track appears next, a rather upbeat and catchy song. The musicality of the interludes is astonishing here, with perfectly aligned yet irregular instruments playing to each other's strengths. Very much a recommended listen for a song, because I believe it to be the best and most representative song created by the band.

The other side begins with Time to Kill, a peppy sort of tune with fun keyboards and catchy melodies. Do not be alarmed, however. If the energy levels are starting to get to you and you are having trouble sitting still, the next song should calm you down. His Last Voyage is the album's soft ballad sort of tune, tying in lovely piano work and a lovely melody. The energy returns right after, however, with the Renaissance-esque instrumental piece Talybont. The music than reignites into the final track, Mobile, with more complicated songwriting and deeply inspired vocal bits. It wraps up the album with a tightly woven instrumental bit in the vein of Octopus's River.

In the end, this is one of Gentle Giant's strongest albums. It's a wonderful place to start for any listener, even if it may be a touch weaker than Octopus. This is a highly recommended release, one that shows just where the creativity was going when it started to get wonky in a number of other popular prog bands.

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Posted Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Octo-what?

There's an eternal debate as to the best Gentle Giant album, although most will say it comes down to Free Hand, In A Glass House or Octopus, and most times Octopus comes out on top. But to be quite honest, while that album may have been a pinnacle of experimental music with an incredibly warm and welcoming sound, this album has it beat by miles and miles when you're looking for amazing compositions and musicianship. The album maintains the typical Giant quirk, but adds a couple of layers of melody and direction that some people who criticize the band claim that they lack, yet they still have the complexities that people often give them so much credit for. Really, this is the perfect blend for Gentle Giant and it's the album that will likely appeal to the widest audience.

Each song on this album is a work of absolute marvel. Though each of the sides has its own standouts and features the songs all contain a certain amount of charm and crazy complexity to make them both incredibly catchy, memorable, and impressive. Probably the best example of this is the killer duo of songs that make up the most of the first side. On Reflection carries on the Knots style of harmonized vocals while taking the length and extending it, adding more instrumentation and melody. The secondary vocals are also quite beautiful in their delivery as the music slows down - that is, until the buildup that brings the song to a somewhat cataclysmic close. Free Hand, the title cut, is also incredibly impressive. Its melodies and hooks are such that this one will get lodged in your head, never to be removed. Not a lot of Gentle Giant songs can be called ''catchy'', but this one certainly can. Add in a certain amount of aggression and you've got yourself one killer tune.

Some of the other songs on the album are more familiar to the Gentle Giant style. The opening Just The Same is an upbeat tune with some very uplifting vocals while the instrumental Talybont revisits the Giant's love for medieval melodies in its brief existence. Time To Kill has a structure in kin with something like Pantagruel's Nativity with its subtle nuances being the most prominent (strangely) part of the song, making for a strange hook. His Last Voyage is a slow and reflective, calm piece that simmers things down for a moment while Mobile makes for a blistering closer.

There really isn't a whole lot more to say about Gentle Giant's masterpiece other than it should be in every single prog rock collection in at least one form. If you don't take my word for it then read one of the many other gushing reviews and you just may be convinced. A bright and shiny 5 stars for this marvelous work.

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Posted Friday, October 17, 2008

Review by Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars One fo Gentl Giant's bst album (if not the best) and a personal favorite of mine. Sadly, it was also the last truly great efford by the band. Their next LP, Interview, would indicate the slow decline of this amazing group. But you can't tell this by Free Hand. Those guys were in top form, both as songwriters and as players. The richness of their music reachs absurd levels on this one. Yet they could concentrade their awesome defying musicanship and very elaborated arrangements in catchy, beautiful, 5 minute songs. Who elsse could have done this?

Although there are no fillers on this album, if one asked me the very highlight on Free hand I'd not hesitate to point On Reflection: the multi-layered, conterpointing voices on this tune is enough to turn the most relutant non beliver into a fan. It's a natural developement of the already incredible Knots (included on their other masterpiece Octopus). The instrumental section on this one is also of note. It's the kind of song I can hear over and over again and never have enough of it.

By the time they recorded Free hand the band had nothing to prove. So while most of their peers were doing bloated, over-pretentious, over-the-top, grand suites (and most of them losing themselves into that), GG kept their heads together and worked for the music. No long noodling, no ten minute solos. Yet, so few musicians could have even dreamed of doing such subtle, delicate and difficult performances. Each song encapsulates is a true mini opus.

Free Hand is the band's peak. While very demanding and challeging as all their earlier effords, it is also one fo the most pleasant and accessible. A joy to hear and a timeless piece of music that defies categorization even 30 years after its release. Essential for any prog lover. A truly masterpiece.

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Posted Saturday, October 25, 2008

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars While not quite as enjoyable to me as some other Gentle Giant releases, this album carries a lot of progressive weight, and is one I can always rely on when I am in the mood for something wildly eccentric. Every track is memorable, even if they require a bit of time and focus to appreciate.

"Just the Same" The snapping of fingers kicks off the album. Piano and electric guitar bounce off one another until Shulman belts his first line. The melody and lyrics are extremely catchy. Initially, the instrumental section is very spacey, with some atmospheric keyboards and uncomplicated guitar work, but then jumps into one of the quirkiest sections Gentle Giant has ever recorded.

"On Reflection" A relative of "Knots," featuring complex a capella vocal arrangements with several countermelodies. The instrumentation initially focuses on percussion, but brings in piano and strings also. The chaos fades out as Minnear comes into the spotlight to sing one of the loveliest moments of the album. The more beautiful vocal section is interrupted briefly by a more forceful vocal styling. The final part of the song is Gary Green, Kerry Minnear, Ray Shulman, and the gang using their respective instruments to interpret the multipart vocal section the piece began with.

"Free Hand" A quaintly eerie piano serves as the basis for the guitar and bass to work over before a boisterous Shulman jumps in with those lines every Gentle Giant fan knows. It features a somewhat jazzy psychedelic instrumental middle section, during which the bass plays the central role.

"Time to Kill" Awkward percussion and loud guitars make this one of the most avant-garde things Gentle Giant ever performed, at least until Shulman sings, and even then, the guitar work brings it back to that genre. One of the main riffs in the song sounds like it inspired one particular small section in Kansas's song, "Paradox." Minnear sings at his deepest with the bass.

"His Last Voyage" A lone bass introduces this pleasant pieces of music. Minnear's voice is distant and almost sacrosanct-sounding, as though he were a lonely monk intoning in an large cathedral. While retaining Minnear's faraway vocals, the piece abruptly shifts into something closer to avant-garde jazz with loud piano and Green's guitar run through a wah pedal. The whole band uses the introduction as a springboard back into the quieter lyrical section.

"Talybont" Full of medieval instrumentation, this terse instrumental is a favorite of mine. The percussion is apt, as are the other instruments.

"Mobile" Floating somewhere between Celtic and Cajun, much of this song consists of fiddling and acoustic guitar, except of course where Shulman is belting the words. It's a jaunty track, and highly pleasing.

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Posted Friday, February 13, 2009

Review by poslednijat_colobar
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Free Hand is on the verge of being consecutive highest quality album by Gentle Giant. For me it's big wondering between 4.4 and 4.5, because according to my rules, if I give 4.5 I shall have to rounded it to 5 stars, when the average rating of the album is below 4.5. And yet, I think it won't happened. This album is the fourth best by the band (after Three Friends, In a Glass House and The Power and the Glory and little above Acquiring the Taste) for me!

Here we have big medieval impact with the second and sixth songs - On Reflection and Talybont; and medieval/relax/new age impact with fifth song - His Last Voyage. All songs are very good, but most of them lack a little bit of masterpiece intensity and energy. It's very little indeed in my opinion. The other four songs are almost pure progart with dynamic sense of energy! And so, very difficult and unsure 4.4 stars for me!!!

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Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Review by Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Gentle Giant Reaches Its Mature Peak

Free Hand represents Gentle Giant in their full-blown, refined glory. All of the varied elements of their sound are brought together for one last masterpiece. Some have argued that their albums had become fairly formulaic at this point in their career. This is probably true, as for each tune I can point to corresponding songs on earlier albums. Luckily, the examples of the "formula" on Free Hand are often the best of their type. "On Reflection" continues in the tradition of "Knots" and "Proclamation." "His Last Voyage" reminds of "Think of Me with Kindness" and to a lesser extent "A Reunion." But in each case, the Free Hand versions are extremely strong GG tracks, and if this album were the only one a fan had, the entirety of the band's sound would be well represented.

Contrary to many reviewers, I felt In a Glass House was a very uneven album, one that showcased the band pushing new boundaries after the exit of the eldest Shulman, but not quite succeeding. Free Hand is where the more complex and demanding writing style finds its full stride. The mix is much better, the distribution of vocals is smarter, and the band pulls in a little bit of medievalism again late in the album on "Talybont" and "Mobile." The musical device of "hocketing," tossing melodic ideas between instruments like a hot potato, continues as clever as ever. But most of all, the fun, the fire is back. The boys really sound like they're enjoying themselves.

Despite their signature massive syncopation and complex rhythmic structures, songs like the opener "Just the Same" truly groove. Quirky wide vibrato key sounds and fingersnaps are more humorous than cheesy given the complexity of the composition. "On Reflection" contains the a capella work that many fans like myself love the band for. Here, the sound is more traditionally harmonic and choral than some previous work, but still contains the contrapuntal lines that are the band's trademark. The title track starts with a brilliant interweaving instrumental passage before descending into one of Derek Shulman's occasional forced lead vocal moments. The second half morphs through a reprise of the intro, dreamy keyboards with meandering bass lines, harsh staccato riffs, and it works so well that by the time the song is over the average vocal delivery is forgiven.

The remaining songs are all strong GG works, with each member getting a chance to shine, including Gary Green's wah solo on "His Last Voyage" which evokes a bit of Tommy Bolin in the way he hangs onto notes. Kerry Minnear gets some very nice lead vocal spots, and we are treated to some medieval whimsy.

All in all, I would call this the prototypical Gentle Giant album. It displays the band at their most mature, polished, and consistent. There are no weak songs on this album. The production is great, the sonic balance perfectly keeping the focus on the music rather than the recording. Though other albums may have more perfect individual tracks, this album is perhaps Gentle Giant's best, start to finish.

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Posted Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Review by TGM: Orb
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Free Hand, Gentle Giant The man who first proclaimed that the progressive rock musicians shall wear capes and play solos and not, under any circumstances, write catchy songs obviously forgot to tell Gentle Giant. Their very credible 1975 release Free Hand is a full text of how-to-play-well-without-being-accused-of-masturbation, how-to-write-songs-that-are-both-involving-and-catchy and, more importantly, how-to-put-out-a-great-album. Admittedly, the excitement of this one is somewhat consolidated on the superb side one, and pleasant as the medievally flavoured work of side 2 is, it somehow stops at intelligent, pleasant movement rather than making the murky transition to a full-fledged classic.

The opener is pretty much symbolic of the album as a whole, catchy as hell, opening with the infectiously obtuse shifting of handclaps from speaker to speaker and a bouncy piano part. Gary Greene and Ray Shulman leap to create a polyphonic pop song, taking in its stride the lively saxophone-heavy verses, a chorus introduced by a cool keyboard hook and a bizarre instrumental interlude, moving from a well-thought out shiny synthesiser over a calm groove to a theatrical bit of bending moog mastery with a much sharper jazzy backdrop from Ray Shulman and John Weathers. A happily rocking guitar repeat of the piano riff leads us back into the song proper, and before you know it, the chugging bass rhythm and handclaps have taken us out again. Worth mentioning, Minnear (keys) and Ray Shulman (bass) give great performances on this one.

Now, how I'm meant to review On Reflection is beyond me, but I'll try... here Gentle Giant's amazing capacity for arrangement comes to the fore, with complex vocal parts interweaved with classical density and medieval flavour, interspersed with the band's incredible range of instruments. Derek Shulman's bouncy and impersonal energy on lyrics such as 'In my way did I use you/Do you think that I really abused you/On reflection now, it doe-esn't ma-atter' is matched perfectly by Kerry Minnear's lush yet fragile and affected 'I'll remember the good things how can I forget/ all the years that we shared in our way', and the complimentary gradually introduced xylophone, glockenspiel and piano tracking the various multi-layered vocal parts supplement the feel of individual voices crucial to the song's lyrical theme, as the exquisite low-tempo keyboard-and-bass support for Minnear's great vocal, and with the introduction of subtle violins and cello, this reflective moment leads up to the energetic burst out of the 'all around/all around/ all around...' block harmony before the great rock instrumental conclusion, with bass, guitar and organ trading parts just about every time and yet finding the space to add in. An impression you get from the instrumental parts of this one, which maybe wasn't there in the Giant's early albums, is simply what great musicians they are. Ray Shulman's bass in particular, is probably among my favourite albums for the instrument ever, and this instrumental burst is a prime example of how to play great interesting starts while serving the song absolutely. OK, maybe the fade isn't a perfectly satisfying ending from a musical point of view, but the idea of happily going off from this failed relationship to do one's own thing is suitably conveyed by the defiant melodies springing up over this, and I can't think of a better way to give that impression. A top notch Giant piece, and certainly among my favourites.

If at the time of reading, as at the time of writing, this song is a title track here, open another tab/scroll up and click the play button and I can say with a fair bit of confidence that you shouldn't be disappointed. A typically punctuated Minnear piano and a kicking Gary Greene riff, backed up by its bizarre pauses, an incredibly fun and odd bit of bass from the virtuosic Ray Shulman, as well as some choice drum fills from John Weathers, who, if overshadowed by the other band members is a rock of consistent creativity throughout this record. If you can work out exactly what's going on in the instrumental sections, the first laden with clever piano dissonants and the second a minimal guitar-driven thing with some mystical percussion and a weird marine-sounding keyboard, bulked up by Greene's jabs, you're a braver man than I. The melody is just fantastic, and the little details present everywhere. The quintessential eclectic song? Well, either way, great pop music elaborated beyond recognition and with Gentle Giant's charm and great complexity.

Time To Kill continues quite strongly, opening with a sort of inverted outro, taking thrumming static and suddenly throwing in twenty or thirty seconds of a building riff crammed full of their wonderfully obtuse musical knowledge and then pulling together to give the impression that they're aiming at a sort of running-out-conclusion already as if on the end of On Reflection... but they don't. The shift is straight on into a slightly remorseful rock song with some of the bulky vocals and a suitably great lead from Derek Shulman, alternating between immensely musical band set-ups and a sort of prowling lead bass thing hunting the voice. The wonderful vocal harmonies are almost the precursor to some of the stuff on the later pop albums that I've heard, if much, much better... again, a fade on the end isn't really satisfying, but otherwise a very clever and catchy song... Gentle Giant are fantastic at the combination of the two.

The somewhat tragic and reminiscing His Last Voyage is the album's first sign of flagging just a little... the bulk of it is a sweet medieval-sounding vocal section, and much as Gary Greene's gorgeous acoustic guitar and the band joining together, it goes on a relatively long time for a section where making out the words is a challenge and also one where it doesn't really mesh with the intelligently created introduction and interludes set up to add some flavour for it. Now, in spite of this pleasant but slightly inelegant bit, at the three minute mark, it transforms, a sharp coordination between the piano and bass and a set of remarkable airy fills by Weathers are overlaid with an equally ethereal vocal to give a sort of surrealistic web of ghostlike atmosphere over which Gary Greene finally gets the blues-driven, but creative, solo he seems to have been itching for all album, and a return to the tranquil part brings a real conclusion to a mixed, but at times wonderful, piece.

Talybont (a Welsh town, by the way; nice place, I've been walking there, and the music fits it nicely) is more of a hearts-on-sleeves medieval piece, with twin recorders and a harpsichord; there is a clear main theme throughout, which is frequently echoed, and the superb production of the album really allows some of the song's subtleties to stand out as highlights here, whether in the form of a solid clavichord or clavinet contrast to the playful main theme, or in John Weathers' matching drum work, placing much more emphasis on a mood than a beat. Wonderful work by Minnear and Gary Greene in particular here... overall, a very satisfying piece of music, achieving character without going to the lengths of the rest of the album to do so.

The ending Mobile is, erm, wearing. Yes, it's clever compositionally, I can remember the main theme, and the dense polyphony is still there, and there are a huge number of neat catches, but, by this point in the album, it maybe feels a little odd after the two cute medieval numbers to return to the style of the first half, albeit with a somewhat more prominent lead vocal and a set of discernable and unimpressive lyrics. OK, so the band have a boundless childlike energy and musical knowledge that allows them to slam in vocoders, violins, wah-wah guitar work, suspicious piano work and a creative intensity to shame their contemporaries and their successors, but I can't really say that, either because it's simply not as memorable as half one, or because my musical brain is getting tired and I'm preparing to switch off before Interview (ah, the banes of two-in-one-CDs)... anyway, as a stand-alone song, it's good, but as the ending to such a fantastic album, it doesn't really hold up, and I can't say the random wait-then-drum roll ending is ahead of the fades that characterise the rest of this one.

So, all in all, rush out to your nearest purveyor of quality music, which probably remains either Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com unless you're less of an almost-but-not-quite-rural unfortunate than I am, and acquire or order this album. Or listen to the sample; that might be a good idea first. Alas, the fifth star eludes this one on the grounds that a few of the endings aren't exactly decisive, when the band's ability to write a song ending is really not in question, and Mobile and His Last Voyage fail to stand out in the way the other five songs do. Ah, Gentle Giant, forever stuck on four stars, despite all the talent and individuality... should be heading for In A Glass House and Octopus soon... see if that changes it. Worth mentioning, this is one hell of a bass album, and you get an impression of virtuosity as well as the creativity, individuality and emotion that has, up 'til now, been a constant feature of Gentle Giant's repertoire.

Rating: Four Stars, 12/15 Favourite Track: tough choice; maybe Time To Kill or On Reflection

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Posted Saturday, June 13, 2009

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
5 stars Who would believe me now that my hands are free, that my hands are free?

The last really great and probably the most accessible of Gentle Giants albums, Free Hand proved that the band could write all types of songs. We are treated to excellent instrumentals, advanced vocal numbers, ballads and advanced song structure in general. The album kicks in with some of the catchiest sounds ever heard on a '70s record and that same flow is maintained all the way up to the end.

The composition that really made me feel completely mesmerized was On Reflection. The track is basically Knots pushed even further with some truly spectacular results especially once Kerry Minnear gets a shot in the spotlight. Eventually the band would try to do a similar piece on their next album titled Design but the results are far from the magic that we get here.

Free Hand is simply a masterpiece of an album that should be in every great prog rock music collection. Unfortunately the great album streak that the band had maintained up to this point would eventually go downhill with the later releases. Well, at least Gentle Giant had the decency to disband before the '80s really kicked in and we were spared some possible disasters.

***** star songs: Just The Same (5:34) On Reflection (5:41) Free Hand (6:14) Talybont (2:43)

**** star songs: Time To Kill (5:08) His Last Voyage (6:27) Mobile (5:05)

Total Rating: 4,55

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Posted Saturday, December 05, 2009

Review by Isa
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars |B+| One of the pinnacles of creative composition.

There are few bands with the kind of devoted and musically educated fan-base that Gentle Giant has, and for obvious reasons. Any open-minded musicologist, with an education in music theory and history, should go nuts for this band. Compositional techniques dating to the early Renaissance all the way up to the creation of the album are used, and all in harmony (pun not intended), to create the marvelously eclectic band, Gentle Giant. And this album, Free Hand, is probably among the most mature and precise works of their discography. I feel, though, it slightly lacks the freshness and almost youthful vitality of many albums preceding it, thus is ever so slightly stale yet still very vibrant and now experienced, like a person who has hit his early to mid-thirties. This album still borderlines a five star, one of those albums that just barely falls through the cracks of being a masterpiece of artistic music, yet for which I still of great reverence.

Elements typical (and brilliant) of Gentle Giant are prevalent, starting their pieces in unique and sometimes quite humerus ways, as the opener shows with the rhythmic snapping. We have tons of blending of various instruments, timbres, genres, influences, and compositional techniques from various periods of music history. Counterpoint everywhere, yet flowing wonderfully from track to track. Flawless execution of musicianship and recording techniques. All as usual, only in this album they all come together particularly beautifully.

However, this is by no means another clone of everything the band had done before. As great composers should, they keep variety in their work. Here we have some quite intentionally catchier songs, yet the sanctity of the composition was hardly compromised for it; in fact, ingeniously enough, the craziness and complication of the music adds to the catchy quality in a strange way, as evidenced by the album title track. On Reflection is the strongest track, and probably the band's best work of their entire career; in it, the band pokes fun referring to their own composition techniques with "all a round, all a round." The weakest track is Mobile, which in it of itself is a remarkable weak track.

I suppose in a way this album is virtually a masterpiece, but I never developed the sort of emotional attachment to it, as with all albums I rate as masterpiece status. I have high standards for my music, and this just barely doesn't meet the "epic" bar, as the music lacks the youthful vibrancy of such albums as Octopus and In a Glass House. Another one of Gentle Giant's fine works that every progger should hear at some point, and one of the best eclectic albums out there.

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Posted Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
4 stars The first three songs on this album, Just The Same, On Reflection and Free Hand, all rank as some of the best songs Gentle Giant have ever recorded. It's too bad that the remainder of the album, the songs that made up side two of the vinyl LP, don't fare quite as well. While these four songs are not bad, they don't achieve the greatness that the side 1 songs have. Otherwise this album would have ranked five stars from me.

The first three songs are full of the complexity of structure that makes the best Gentle Giant a true wonder to linen to. The vocal arrangements are like no other band's, the instumental arrangements are a pieced together like a puzzle, and everything falls into place perfectly.

The second half, while having much of those same qualities, sounds rushed, and less intense than the preceding songs. Again, not bad, but none are high up on my play list.

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Posted Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Review by friso
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Gentle Giant - Free Hand (1975)

And the Gentle Giant does it again. Number seven of the big GG8.

I really liked The Power and the Glory and the next effort Free Hand is another example of Gentle Giant's brilliance. The naive period of the first three albums is long gone and Gentle Giant sounds like it knows what it wants on Free Hand. The music is highly sophisticated, but always functional. For some this might be to prog, but I think it's a great example of what bands in the classic period wear capable of. Though Gentle Giant sounds highly professional, this album lacks some ground-braking ideas that made their early works so brilliant and essential.

On this album there are only great tracks, but some seem to be even more special. Just the Same is nice positive mood opening song that reminds me a bit of the opening track of The Power and the Glory. On Reflection is an four part vocal masterpiece with great instrumentation resembling Knots on the Octopus album. This track always get me in a euphoric mood, it's just so much music! The other tracks on the album are all very rewarding, but not as experimental as On Reflection. Therefore I won't discuss side two.

Conclusion. Another great Gentle Giant album, but not one of my favourites. After their fourth album Gentle Giant has found it's sound and they kept making great albums, but sometimes I miss the naive experimentation of the first four records. This leaves us with a very professional, progressive album with lots of great Gentle Giant material. That means I will give it a very very big four stars again.

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Posted Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review by progrules
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Ok, I will have some more explaining to do about this band where my feelings are concerned. So far I have done two reviews (the debut+Three Friends) and gave them respectively 3 and 4 stars. That could give the impression I quite like the band but this is not the case. Here we have an example of an album by them that I'm not at all fond of. And strange enough it's one of their most popular ones amongst fans. A fan I'm not obviously and there will be something I don't understand when I listen to their music.

The most important thing that makes me feel very ambivalent about them is: why does a band that is so talented (at least I agree about that) need to play their music in such a daft way. Anyone who can explain this to me is welcome to send me a pm. But I haven't got a clue. Take Just the Same for instance, a song that's all about rhythm and a-rhythm, so far no problem. But what on earth is that crazy key sound doing in the middle for several times. It makes a complete fool of the song and band. Wacky stuff and why ???? It's the same as with their famous song Knots from their album Octopus where the foolishness is expressed by the vocals. I really don't see the point when they play their music like this. And they do this on this album a lot more than on the two previous albums I reviewed. On those the normal music prevailed but on Free Hand there are plenty moments that I cannot appreciate. The only aspect that's really nice on Free Hand is the medieval touch (recorder !) in two of the songs.

I will make this my last review of a Gentle Giant album. I think I already witnessed their two best for my taste and the rest will both be torture for me as well as for the readers and mainly the fans who will get annoyed by those reviews. I've heard enough and I've had enough. I have been confronted with the reason why I don't really like Gentle Giant and will leave them alone from now on. Objectively I can hear this is special and I even understand why many people love them. But I also understand why just as many don't and to be honest, I'm one of them. I know I should give the album at least three stars for originality and quality. But the ratings we give are personal and so I will give my true opinion and will leave it at two.

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Posted Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Review by Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars If you're new to Gentle Giant, this is a great album to get into. It follows basically what progsters should expect out of their music; odd, complex compositions, lots of dynamic and stylistic changes, intricate vocal harmonies, unusual time signatures and the odd non-rock instrument here or there. FREE HAND has all of that stuff, and it's at least a decent album in that regard.

My problem is I don't like the prog rock I'm hearing to be ''expected''; I'd prefer some edgy ''twist'' that makes the music more interesting than perceived. Gentle Giant in the past was always has given me a fix in this respect, but FREE HAND wouldn't do that. To put it bluntly, the music here sounds rather forced. All of the metres, changes, instrumentations, etc. sound expected, losing a natural vibe to it that really can't be explained.

Maybe it's because after hearing three previous Gentle Giant albums, this one sounds just too ''ordinary'' by comparison; rather bland offering nothing adventurous for me. ''Free Hand'', ''Time to Kill'' and ''Mobile'' are all terrific songs, but they lack a certain creative spark that ignited things like ''The Runaway'' or ''The Boys in the Band''. There's plenty of good music here that newbie progsters will enjoy thoroughly and objectively speaking, FREE HAND has high prog credentials. However, if you've heard other earlier albums by this group, this one will sound like a slight disappointment.

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Posted Sunday, March 07, 2010

Review by Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Perhaps I'm missing something, or perhaps after years of familiarity with this album, something has not yet fully "grown" on me. However, ss of now, I just don't view Free Hand as great album by any means. In fact, I believe I prefer each album that came before it. In addition, nothing from this album would crack my top 10--maybe even 15 or 20--all time Gentle Giant songs.

Does that make this a bad album, or an album not worth having? Definitely not! There is plenty of solid nu-Giant to be found here, and it still has that unique Giant quirkiness.

Highlights: Just the Same, His Last Voyage, Mobile, Talybont. Again, these are simply good, not great, songs to my ears. The opener is fun, with some syncopated finger snaps throughout, and containing a pleasant, soothing mellotron mid-section. His Last Voyage is at its core a very simple song--particularly considering the band--but it is nicely paced, with nice use of vibraphone (I think that's what it is at least!). Mobile might be the most classic Giant song on here, with a free-flowing happiness that is lessened in their later albums.

There are no dud songs on here, but the rest simply hasn't grabbed me as of yet. The title track strikes me as very repetitive, and here Derek's voice is a bit grating for me. On Reflection is one of the reasons we love the Giant--adventurous and creative. This is certainly not Knots II, but unfortunately sounds a bit overproduced (at least the vocal rounds) and perhaps forced. Still a fun song regardless.

Free Hand is never great, but overall quite solid. Maybe I'll come to regard it higher over time, but for now, this does not rank up with Gentle Giant's best.

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Posted Saturday, June 05, 2010

Review by frippism
COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
3 stars I'm sitting here and thinking about this album. And I think, well it's nice and all, but it's far from GG's best. But then I think of the songs individually, and none of them are bad at all. They're quite quirky and catchy and yet pure GG. But I think the problem lies with the fact that they are catchy. I've always had this ethos- a good prog album is never good on the first listen. I loved this album from the very beginning, and listened to it quite a lot. Now I think that just about after the 20th listen is when things started to get a bit tiring. The hooks that are here are starting to get annoying. But there are definitely some very big positive points: The much talked about "On Reflection" is amazing, and the Capella beginning is one of the most creative things heard in progressive rock. The starting track "Just The Same" I still rather enjoy, but it too is a bit filled with hooks. The two tracks that really annoy me are the title track and "Time To Kill". This tracks are just a bit too, well, "rock". It misses a bit of the things that make GG unique and are both again, filled with a bunch of hooks. "His Last Voyage" is actually really good, the beginning sounding as some of the most challenging riffs I have heard. The two closing tracks are fairly strong. "Talybont" is probably my favorite track, really nailing the medieval/renaissance feel GG has that makes them special. "Mobile" is also very good.

I feel like this album now that I think about it is pretty good. But then I listen to it again and find that unlike "Octopus" or "In A Glass House", this album is missing some of the depth that made those two other albums and some of the other GG albums (Giant For A Day of course excluded) enjoyable listens after the 100th and the 1000th listen. Definite buy for any GG fan, and for those just starting with GG this is a pretty good start, but this is missing what made GG really unique.

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Posted Sunday, August 01, 2010

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
2 stars Free Hand is another fan favorite, but while I have generally been enjoying my ride through the GG discography, this album is an absolute turn-off; it's cold, mechanical, contrived and snobby. I guess my main gripe is that I can't find anything spontaneous or emotive about this album.

GG are a talented bunch, but if their skills are not backed up by memorable songs, their music easily turns into the kind of mathematical constructed precision that I appreciate in a BMW limousine but that is very far removed from what I want to spend my time listening to.

This album sounds dead to me, it leaves no room for interpretation, it's over-rationalized and far-fetched. The only track that I can get into is His Last Voyage, one of those eerie GG songs that clearly show where Toby Driver got his ideas from. I also can't see the point of the continuing medieval madrigal type of singing. After 7 albums it's become really tiresome, a gimmick rather then anything else.

I always appreciated many songs on the preceding GG albums, and Acquiring the Taste even established itself as a favorite car-album past summer, but when it comes to their latter-day albums I'm obviously missing something, that incomprehensible something that makes these albums so appreciated with fans. Hardly 2 stars for me.

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Posted Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I was quite irritated while I was willing to post my initial review for this work. And this music worked so much on my nerves while reviewing this album, that I decided to leave it for awhile and give it another chance to rate better on my musical scale.

But the more I listen to this album, the more I get upset with the music I am listening to. As long as instrumental parts are concerned, I can cope with it. But these vocals are seriously working on my nerves. They are an integrant part of the GG world though. The opening "Just the Same" is a perfect summary of my earlier description.

"On Reflection" conveys some musical masturbation which is quite embarrassing to my ears. And I can only bear the title track with difficulties. Jazz music and annoying vocals: this is my perception of the next and title track. I can understand that there are other opinions than mine. I just hope that fellow reviewers will also understand that there are other opinions as theirs. If I look at the ratings, I belong to the 2% rating this album with only two stars.

The second part of the album can't raise my enthusiasm either, on the contrary. The same irritating mood prevails ("Last Voyage", "Mobile"). I can't help: I don't like this album.

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Posted Saturday, November 06, 2010

Review by tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Ooh, this is better. The band is still taking the same complex, tweaked path they always have, but unlike on much of the last couple of albums, it sounds to me that the band really took the time to think its ideas through before committing them to tape. I mean, they haven't compromised their bizarritude one bit, but instead of blindly accepting every discordant and overly involved idea that passed through their fingers, it seems that they bothered to consider whether it was worth it to accept any given idea. Furthermore, while Octopus may have been their "accidental pop" prog masterpiece, many of the songs here could easily have passed, in the hands of a less ambitious band, as perfectly solid 'normal' pop songs. It should be no wonder that, as complex and proggy much of Free Hand is, it managed to chart respectably, and for several reasons may be the ideal introduction to the band.

Indeed, the first half of this album is nigh unto perfect, easily my second favorite side from the band (my favorite, of course, is side one of Octopus). I guess that there could be more Green and less Minnear (Kerry has somehow carefully snuck his way into the dominant instrumentalist of the band, for better and less for worse, sort of), but otherwise it would be hard to come up with complaints. "Just the Same" gets off to a startling beginning, with snapping fingers (Those pop sell-outs! They should change their names to Alterna-Giant or Gentle-Gianternative!), but on the other hand, they're alternating from channel to channel in an untrivial rhythm, so I guess it's not that shocking. But then you hear this bouncy keyboard line that bleeds poppiness (until you realize it too is going off a bizarre rhythm), then it's echoed by guitar chords that bleed poppiness (with the same realization), then Derek sings a catchy-as-hell (but not conventional) vocal melody while all sorts of strange things are going on underneath to ... poppy effect. Yup. On paper, this combination of raw elements would look anything but memorable, but sure enough, they pull it off. Of course, it also has a bunch of nice atmospheric mid-sections, some with Gary playing slow and pretty lines, some dominated by sax-keyboard jams, none of which manage to detract from the "main" song material or seem particularly 'tacked-on.' Great stuff.

Next up is "On Reflection," which has hands down the most spectacular group vocal arrangement by any art-rock band I've ever heard. They manage to convey a major medieval atmosphere with vocal lines that would make any modern classical composer proud, and the way they intertwine with each other, both melodywise and in the timbre of the members' individual voices, is something that I find myself coming back to again and again on this album. Of course, it's also multi-part, so there are multiple themes in which these amazing harmonies get to frolic, with reprises of the opening coming at just the right points. Yet as great as this track may be, it does not overshadow its successor, the side-closing title track. The opening is a terrific example of how complexity can still be beautiful, and the main song part, which is basically some sort of preverted progressive funk, has to be one of the best combinations of "tweaked" and "memorable" the band ever came up (that's a high compliment, of course). It's screaming out for a go-nuts guitar solo in the middle, which unfortunately never comes, but I definitely don't mind much while listening.

Unfortunately, the second side doesn't entertain me as much as the first (else it would easily get a *****). "Time to Kill" would sound great on, say, The Power and the Glory, but coming out of the shadow of the title track, it doesn't grab me much. Then again, even when I listen to the second side on its own, the track doesn't strike me as particularly impressive - just a decent, strange pop song. Likewise, while I like the jig- atmosphere of the closing "Mobile" quite a bit, not to mention parts of the melody, it still doesn't make me jump up and down for joy. As for the other two, "Talybont" is an ok keyboard-driven instrumental (I'll say this at least - it beats the snot out of the instrumentals on Genesis' Wind and Wuthering), but man, you don't know how much I find myself longing for some trumpets or cellos or glockenspiel. Still, this is the side that has "The Last Voyage," which starts out sounding like something I'd expect on a good Steve Hackett solo album, then gets weird like all GG does inevitably does, but always remains purrty.

All in all, then, it's definitely one of the better GG albums out there. It definitely shows a regained focus at making music that makes sense while still being weird, as opposed to the last album, where the weirdness was mostly running the show. Unfortunately, the balance was about to come undone again, to ill effect.

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Posted Thursday, April 07, 2011

Review by colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Along with the previous two albums, this Gentle Giant work of art is an absolute masterpiece. The overall sound of this album is mostly a combination of the eclectic more medieval based compositions of In a Glass House and the super tight funk inspired The Power and The Glory. The supreme complexity of the music is constant throughout and occasionally makes way for some infectious melodies, which I've always felt Gentle Giant had a knack for. Anyone who loves fantastic bass will love listening to the bass on this album. From the first track, the bass is absolutely wild and extremely creative while being funk inspired.

Very highly recommended and masterly crafted eclectic progressive rock.

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Posted Friday, April 08, 2011

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars After the angry politically-themed Power and the Glory, Gentle Giant changed tack yet again to bring us the thoughtful and profound Free Hand, a meditation on whether there really is such a thing as free will. From the catchy (but still complex) Just the Same to the complex vocal layers of On Reflection (which interweaves its vocal harmonies with some fine vibes from John Weathers) to the tender and poignant His Last Voyage - possibly the most beautiful track the band ever recorded - this is a treasury of brilliant performances from a band who, in their prime, were one of the most consistently excellent groups on the prog scene.

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Posted Monday, October 03, 2011

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
4 stars 'Free Hand' is manic Gentle Giant compositions from end to end with trademark multi part harmonies and frenetic time sig changes throughout. It begins with glorious melodic mayhem on 'Just The Same' and then launches into the weird Gentle Giantism harmonies that sound like some parody of medievalism 'On Reflection'. The opening section is almost maddening in it's delirious harmonising but it soon breaks into some fabulous melodies with a nice gentle dreaminess that pleases my senses.

The best song is to follow with the title track, that I adore when I hear it on any compilation or the original album. The remaster is crystal clear and even better. The vocals of Derek Shulman are excellent throughout, strong and easy to comprehend. 'Time To Kill' is certainly a highlight with some chaotic signatures and wonderful musicianship. The pleasant chimes and acoustic guitars are a feature of 'His Last Voyage' before the very melancholy vocals echo along the melody line. The wah wah lead break is a great augmentation to the jumpy piano line. My least favourite track on the album is the sea shanty instrumental 'Talybont', but it's like a transition and fully instrumental.

The bonus tracks as with all GG remasters are very good and fill the CD nicely. On 'Free Hand' there is previously unreleased '1976 Intro Tape', just an instrumental filler really, and from the John Peel Sessions 'Just The Same', 'Free Hand' and 'On Reflection', all different versions of these gems and nicely performed. Also we have 'Give It Back (International 7" mix)', a strange reggae riff and quite out of place commercial style for this earlier album though works nicely on 'Interview', and 'I Lost My Head (7" mix)' is a very good song. All tracks are intriguing and worth a shot, though not to return to as often as side one of this release. The album is close to a masterpiece, at least side one of the original would be classed as such, but it kind of meanders along in side two, even sounding outdated, like some hippy trip to tune out to. In any case, this is one of the greatest GG albums and should be heard by every lover of eclectic prog.

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Posted Monday, October 22, 2012

Latest members reviews

4 stars It's ironic that this album is my favorite GENTLE GIANT album, seeing as it was the most popular in the US due to it's accessibility upon release (and I'm from the US.) That is not why I like this album so much, however. After listening to all of GENTLE GIANT's albums, I had to pick this and ... (read more)

Report this review (#1261823) | Posted by aglasshouse | Wednesday, August 27, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I recently discovered Gentle Giant from creating a station for them on Pandora. I had heard of them and was curious. At first I wasn't crazy about the singing but I did like the music. After listening to them more, I've grown to enjoy the singing very much. Now it's one of the things that makes th ... (read more)

Report this review (#1101654) | Posted by poeghost | Saturday, December 28, 2013 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Certain bands and their releases we all feel are over-rated here at Prog Archives, so I'll begin with one of my personal least-enjoyable over-praised albums. Many reviewers extol the combination of complexity and accessibility in progressive music, and I do agree that this requires a peculiar ... (read more)

Report this review (#937841) | Posted by Tubes | Monday, April 01, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is not my favorite Gentle Giant album. However, it is probably the most accessable album to people who are unfamiliar with the Giant and their music. As in the name of an earlier album, Gentle Giant is an acquired taste. When I was first introduced to them, in 1978, a friend of mine play ... (read more)

Report this review (#901388) | Posted by wehpanzer | Monday, January 28, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars In the 70s, Gentle Giant deserved the level of recognition that their contemporaries ; Yes, ELP, Jethro Tull, Genesis, King Crimson, Pink Floyd et al....had achieved. Their musicianship and compositional skills were certainly on a par with (or beyond...) these more widely known bands. Possibly ... (read more)

Report this review (#784450) | Posted by Distant Planet | Sunday, July 08, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars One of the most accesible GG records, but still a masterpiece. This album has everything that a Gentle Giant album should have. Incomparable melodies, some weirdness and a merge in many styles. The first track "Just The Same" has a jazz style that I really love and also some weirdness typical of t ... (read more)

Report this review (#772319) | Posted by geneyesontle | Saturday, June 16, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Funk reached its commercial height in the 70s and musicians working in other genres too adopted funk elements, which lends 70s music, or rather what bands are taken to represent the 70s sound, part of its distinct flavour. Herbie Hancock went funky in the early 70s and it was a pervasive influen ... (read more)

Report this review (#755191) | Posted by rogerthat | Saturday, May 19, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It has taken me quite some time to re-immerse myself into the GG catalogue. I have enjoyed every minute of it. Especially with this one. IMHO, Gentle Giant peaks with this album. The compositions and performances are so masterful and mature, so polished and sublime. Gone are the flashy, cerebral, ev ... (read more)

Report this review (#459490) | Posted by BrufordFreak | Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I think I'm bound to dislike Gentle Giant.Like I said in my review of "Octopus", I do not know what my problem with this band, but ... I am not able to rock this complex and anti-commercial of them (well at least it was until this anti-commercial album that I'm commenting, "Free Hand"). I real ... (read more)

Report this review (#414293) | Posted by voliveira | Thursday, March 10, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars "Free Hand" has received mixed feelings from me a number of times. There seems to be something missing that was present in their prior albums; it just doesn't satisfy the listener (me, in this case) quite as well as I thought it would. The album seems to be taking many paths within one song, w ... (read more)

Report this review (#303604) | Posted by Lark the Starless | Tuesday, October 12, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This being my first Gentle Giant album, I must say I came away very pleased! "Free Hand" is fun and sophisticated, with superb musicianship throughout. The biggest thing that sets "Free Hand" apart from many other prog albums, in my mind, is its relatively light touch-there's no draining sel ... (read more)

Report this review (#302338) | Posted by 40footwolf | Wednesday, October 06, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars One thing that cannot be said about Gentle Giant is that they don't live up to their reputation as a weird band. If there was some way to define the Eclectic Prog genre with a single band Gentle Giant would be my leading candidate. No one can even dream of making the music they do. Their music has ... (read more)

Report this review (#288123) | Posted by R-A-N-M-A | Friday, June 25, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The best 37 minutes of my life. Free Hand is Gentle Giant's 7th studio album in my opinion the best up to date. The album is Gentle Giant in their peak, with a perfect line-up and a perfect tracklist. The album starts with one of GG's most famous pieces, Just the Same. Finger snaps? Gent ... (read more)

Report this review (#264357) | Posted by The Runaway | Friday, February 05, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A quirky and extremely pleasing piece of art. That would best describe Gentle Giant's Free Hand album. While at some times complex or weird, Free Hand also contains upbeat, exciting melodies that sometimes become wonderfully catchy, while never losing an inch of the band's artistic edge. Ge ... (read more)

Report this review (#219922) | Posted by topofsm | Friday, June 05, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I've only recently got into Gentle Giant. In fact they're probably the best new band I've heard this year. Oh well, I'm just 25 years too late! The important thing is that it sounds fantastic and fresh even in 2009. In a funny way it reminds me of the way the 'Cardiacs' construct their songs. G ... (read more)

Report this review (#215775) | Posted by Dobermensch | Thursday, May 14, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars IMHO, the absolute peak of Gentle Giant, along with The Power and the Glory. This album is very special. For myself and (i assume) most others the whole appeal of Gentle Giant lies in their sheer complexity of their music. This obviously has its drawbacks...sometimes their music is just so dens ... (read more)

Report this review (#212772) | Posted by Eapo_q42 | Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars While this is not my favorite Gentle Giant release, it does contain a number of great songs. The opening Just the Same, as well as the the next two tracks, would come off much better in a live setting. However, they are sufficiently well developed and arranged here to give great pleasure to th ... (read more)

Report this review (#208493) | Posted by infandous | Tuesday, March 24, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars For many people, myself included, it takes a number of listens to really 'get' a gentle giant because there a lot of musical complexity, but I would say that it is more hidden and you will not appreciate many of the best parts on your first listen. With that said, I have listened to Free Hand ma ... (read more)

Report this review (#207623) | Posted by rpe9p | Tuesday, March 17, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Okay, Okay, this is definitely a masterpiece of Gentle Giant's. I had a hard time deciding this for a while, but after listening to it for months, it has grown on me to the point of absolute listening pleasure with every song, and after analyzing the album itself, it is certainly another one of th ... (read more)

Report this review (#163612) | Posted by Draith | Monday, March 10, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Every top prog band has their ULTIMATE masterpiece. Their magnum opus, if you will. Yes has Close to the Edge, King Crimson has In the Court of the Crimson King, Genesis has Selling England by the Pound and....... Gentle Giant has Free Hand. This is GG's last great album and it is their VERY ... (read more)

Report this review (#157332) | Posted by wbiphoto | Monday, December 31, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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