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OCTOPUS

Gentle Giant

Eclectic Prog


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Gentle Giant Octopus album cover
4.26 | 1199 ratings | 123 reviews | 56% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music


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Studio Album, released in 1972

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Advent Of Panurge (4:45)
2. Raconteur Troubadour (4:03)
3. A Cry For Everyone (4:06)
4. Knots (4:11)
5. The Boys In The Band (4:34)
6. Dog's Life (3:13)
7. Think Of Me With Kindness (3:31)
8. River (5:52)

Total Time: 34:15

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Gary Green / guitars, percussion
- Kerry Minnear / all keyboards, vibraphone, percussion, cello, Moog, lead and backing vocals
- Derek Shulman / lead vocals, alto saxophone
- Philip Shulman / saxophones, trumpet, mellophone, lead and backing vocals
- Raymond Shulman / bass, violin, guitar, percussion, vocals
- John Weathers / drums, percussion, xylophone

Many thanks to Martin Rushant for laugh coinspin and variable speed oscillator, and Mike Viccars, Moog operator.

Releases information

LP Vertigo 6360080 (1972)
CD Legacy Recordings 32022 (1990)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to Tarcisio Moura for the last updates
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GENTLE GIANT Octopus ratings distribution


4.26
(1199 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(56%)
56%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
33%
Good, but non-essential (9%)
9%
Collectors/fans only (2%)
2%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

GENTLE GIANT Octopus reviews


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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by corbet
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars If some person were to ask you, "hey, what is this prog rock stuff?" you could start telling them about this rock music that's adventurous, ambitious, beautiful, challenging, complex, etc. etc... or you could just throw on "Knots" from this album. I'm glad to exist in this universe where the creatures join together and cook up something as wildly genius as "Knots". Positively the most intricate, head-spinning, disorienting vocal arrangement ever (revered and imitated by such bands as Spock's Beard), rivalled in complexity only by a few of Gentle Giant's other compositions; as well as one of the most magical and timeless endings I've ever heard (with the multiple vocal layers, and frenetic drums...) -- this is far beyond songwriting, this is "musical architecture". Beyond "Knots," the entire album consists of masterful music making, and is a perfect place to get acquainted with GG's delightfully skewed sense of musical logic -- actually, not everyone likes this stuff the first time they hear it. Actually, more typically, most everyone DOESN'T like this stuff the first time they hear it. But what good things in life come without effort and appreciation? One of the best albums ever made (...followed by even "better" best albums ever made).

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Send comments to corbet (BETA) | Report this review (#3712) | Review Permalink
Posted Friday, February 06, 2004

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
4 stars At the time of re-writing my GG review (they paled in comparison with newer reviews from my dear collabs) and after re-reading those, I decided not to spend too much time talking of the music itself, what happens and who they remind me off (no-one but themselves in this album), I have opted for a side route, explaining the background for this album.

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

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

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

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#3715) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Review by loserboy
PROG REVIEWER Honorary Reviewer
4 stars GENTLE GIANT have been responsible for so many great albums, but I feel that "Octopus" rises to the top of them all. "Octopus" delivers their unmistakeable GG sound with strong vocal harmonies throughout orchestrated with some of their best song writing ever. Musicanship is high here and vocals and instruments seem to blend-in perfectly giving the listener a stong feeling of cohesion and not necessarily the precision from other albums.

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#3716) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, March 13, 2004

Review by Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Discovering Gentle Giant was for me, a huge step. I moved from symphonic grandeur (Yes, Genesis and Pink Floyd) to a more underground progressive rock. Lucky for me, the first GG album I purchased was this one. I was strucked immediatly by the 'mathematical' sound . I also discovered in me a fondness for 'medieval' sound (which brought me to Gryphon and then further to Amazing Blondel). Raconteur Troubadour explores the middle age stuff and so is The Advents of Panurge, based on the french litteracy of Rabelais. Gentle Giant is like listening to maths in music (Knots is definitely a good example). It takes a while to like it, but after, you find bands like Yes pompous (and perhaps pretentious?). I mean, when you hear violin or flutes, it's actually them. It's not your basic guitar-bass-keys-drums. Also, humor is very present in their music. Yeah, I like the HUMBLE side of this band. Never we get the feeling that they say :"Hey dudes, preach peace and I love every one of you!" (sorry Jon Anderson but you do sound like Cheech & Chong in 'Up in Smoke'). Great album, but try Glass House and Acquiring The Taste also. Wonderful threesome that is!

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Send comments to Menswear (BETA) | Report this review (#3717) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Review by lor68
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is the most accessible one, among the best albums by GENTLE GIANT, without any excess of virtuosity, except on "Knots", one of the best vocal performances ever (listen also to "On Reflection" from the album "Free Hands"). Besides it's one of the best recordings in the course of the early seventies!! I like indeed this balanced use of Mellotron keyboards and other typical "jazz" instruments! "The Advent of Panurge" is an immortal classic, a fantastic imprinting of their own, often played live... moreover the strange mix of hard rock with some unplugged wood instruments (without regarding of a strange flare, reminding me of such "troubadours era") could represent the best example regarding their style... Recommended!!

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Send comments to lor68 (BETA) | Report this review (#3718) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, April 01, 2004

Review by Carl floyd fan
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is a very folky cd. Actually, it has sort of a medieval kind of feel to it in my opinion. I like the first three tracks but the whole cd feels a little slow. You reallu have to be in the right mood to listen to this one, a chill kind of mood because I like the faster paced cds (Genesis/Colesseum) and the darker ones (Van Der Graaf/King Crimson). Still, this is good considering what these guys were trying to do. If you like Tull, pick this cd up.

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Send comments to Carl floyd fan (BETA) | Report this review (#3726) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, April 19, 2004

Review by daveconn
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars "Octopus" is a fitting title, since the band is playing here like they've got extra arms. I have yet to hear any GG album so skillfully wrought as "Octopus"; if you're approaching the band from the outside, this is definitely the right appetizer. When describing the band's music, words like "medieval", "madrigal", "complex" and "counterpoint" usually find their way into the text, and all of them would apply here. But the album's real achievement is delivering all of these qualities in a remarkably soft sell. They're not out to dazzle you, their genius is simply a natural outcropping of the individuals involved. "The Advent of Panurge" sets the stage for this, introducing all manner of music in as natural and organic a setting as possible so that listeners don't gag on the amount of substance crammed into a single song. Elsewhere, the humorously bleak "A Cry For Everyone" (which seems to poke a little fun at brooding acts like BLACK SABBATH and JETHRO TULL) and playful experiments like "Knots" and "Dog's Life" reveal a band maintaining a sense of humor in a genre (progressive rock) known for being self-consciously serious. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention how good Derek SHULMAN's voice sounds on this record; Derek can sometimes come across as an acquired taste, but he's as smooth as butter on "Octopus". New drummer John WEATHERS also adds some wonderful touches, like the xylophone solo on "Knots."

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

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

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Send comments to daveconn (BETA) | Report this review (#3727) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#3740) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Review by Bj-1
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Octopus was the first Gentle Giant album to be added to my collection and it still remains my favorite, not because of nostalgic reasons but because despite listening to the album around 250 times I kept discovering new things about it. It's really a rollercoaster of moods and structures focusing heavily on medevial elements and experimentation (bordering avant-garde sometimes), it's probably Giant's most daring album when it comes to inspiration. The avant-garde vocal workout "Knots", one of the bands signature songs, is easily the most "far out" piece here and it's odd structure is as memorable as the piece itself. Great stuff! John Weathers is introduced here on drums and works splendidly as a solid backbone on this otherwise complex and highly adventurous music. This was also Phil Shulman's last and you can easily hear his absence on later GG albums.

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

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Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2004

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

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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Posted Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Review by penguindf12
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars An hour of pure genius crammed into one 35 minute disc. There aren't any long songs here, each being around the 4-minute mark, but these short songs might as well be, given the amount of material in them. Gentle Giant has been drooled over by many a prog fan, and not for nothing. They have to be one of the most innovative bands in history, mixing medieval vocals with pre-metal, symphonic rock, and any number of other styles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Review by Philrod
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Gentle Giant's followup to Three Friends, this album lets down the hard rock sound and goes into more complex territories. The songs aren't that long, but all the more appealing in the way they are constructed. The mood are incredibly well made, starting with ''The Advent of Panurge'', constructed around the great bass work from Ray Shulman and the guitar of Derek Shulman. The album is influenced by the medieval period, as the rest of Gentle Giant's music, but this is no fairy music. Jazzy at times, this album is also probably the band's most accessible. Highlights count ''Knots'' a vocalistic tour de force, and The Boys in the Band, a song about, well, the boys in the band. You can listen to every insturment alone here, and it will still make great music. This is probably Gentle Giant's album that stood the test of time in the most untouched way. Still today, the melodies are fresh, the moods inspiring, and the playwork magnificent. An quasi-masterpiece. 4.5/5

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Posted Monday, June 20, 2005

Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars All the five stars are well justified! This album is inspired by Rabelais and reminds me of Teofilo Folengo's "Baldus", a great poem in false-latin language that tells the story and the adventures of giant friends. They spend the time togheter eating in the pubs, wasting the same pubs, and receiving all the pleasure that life can give us. This is the vein of "Octopus". In particular I love "The advent of Panurge" and "Think of me with kindness", but the others are of a so highest level that it's impossible to find anything wrong. Only greatness from Gentle Giant!!!

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Posted Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Review by Zitro
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars An Album I fail to understand. The melodies are strange and don't captivate me, instrumentally, it is very strange and The album is painfully short.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Grade : D

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Posted Friday, August 12, 2005

Review by Marc Baum
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars It's somehow painful to choose one Gentle Giant album of their early period ('70-'76) to call their best, because any single record between these years was and still is something special on it's own way. My personal favourite Gentle Giant album is "Three Friends", which was my introduction to them and still is the one to beat in my personal point of view out from the whole work of GG, even I consider "In A Glass House" as their overall best, followed by "The Power And The Glory" as their "peak" and "Free Hand" as their "zenith" ("Interview" was also very good, but doesn't count in this matter). I simply fell in love with that record, specially the melodic attitude (remember "School Days" or "Three Friends") was more foundable than on every other GG record.

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

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

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

Essential: a masterpiece of progressive music

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Posted Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Review by horza
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Feels strange to be reviewing a Gentle Giant album as a relative newcomer to them. I can say that I have no preconceptions or bias. I claim no knowledge of when they were at their best or what led to their demise. I have to say that one track on this album makes it worth buying alone. The opening track 'The Advent of Panurge' is,to my mind,a CLASSIC. Excellent lyrics, and superb musicianship, and the kind of timing that reminded me of how I felt when I heard 'Dance on a Volcano' many years ago. Its up there now amongst my prog favourites. 'Raconteur Troubadour' seems typically English to me, the type of thing morris dancers listen to whilst watching cricket on ye olde village green. I'm unsure whether its really my thing though. 'A cry for everyone' reminds me a little of Jethro Tull,but I feel Anderson is the better singer of the two. Its a great track all the same, but not the best on the album. 'Knots' is pretty different by any standards. I know it inspires lots of people on the PA,and I have to agree that it is appealing in an eccentric way. The middle section of the song borders on Zappa/early Yes. 'The boys in the band' starts with the sound of someone tossing or spinning a coin on a table and then gets down to business. Its a nice instrumental,but seems to be missing something. 'Dog's Life' is a musical ode to mans best friend. Pink Floyd's 'Seamus' was also,I believe,an ode to a dog, however Gentle Giants canine-tribute is simpler and more to the point,and humorous to boot. The penultimate track 'Think of me with kindness', is pleasant enough without really DOING very much. The album closer 'River' is pretty bluesy and a grower. The whole album pays you back the more you listen to it. Its certainly not an immediate gratification that Gentle Giant offer. I'd say this album is well worth having.

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Posted Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Review by Tony Fisher
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I like this album; not a lot, but I like it, to coin a phrase. It is the first fully developed GG effort, full of quirky rhythm changes, complex vocal harmonies and a huge variety of instruments. It was the last to feature the third of the Shulman brothers, Philip, and though his contributions are worthwhile, his loss was not terminal. GG are never easy listening and this album is challenging in the extreme. There are many great moments but a few lows as well, which is typical of the band and these can occur within the same track. Catherine Motuz's review hits the nail on the head except for the rating in my opinion. I prefer Free Hand overall, so this is a 4* effort.

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Posted Saturday, November 12, 2005

Review by b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I might say this is my favourite album from them. Everything is good music. And the others are good, beetween '71 and '75 the best period. A true prog band. Try to listen to the beautiful Think to me with kindness, superb, like the instrumental one. A must for every prog lover.

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Posted Wednesday, January 04, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Review by NJprogfan
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars My second favorite Gentle Giant album, (Freehand is my fav, btw) it's also probably their most medival. The first side of the album is out-and-out classic Gentle Giant with "Raconteur Troubadour" and "The Advent Of Panurge" a firm base of medival prog. Nobody can match their muscianship, but when it comes to singing acapella, "Knots" proves it. Just flat out awesome! The brother Phil's horn work gets little play on this album, but when it does as in "The Boys In The Band" it gives the music that extra little kick of color and besides, it's a showcase for the band whenever they played it live. "A Dog'e Life" gets little respect, but if you listen carefully, the boys try alittle electronic music with a game show tick tock beat, (if you grew up watching game shows in the US, you'll understand) Kerry uses a weird synth sound that's very sparse, but it enhances the song brillantly. "Think Of Me With Kindness" is the pretty ballad. The band usally have one on every release and it's as good as all the others. The only song that falls a tad below excellent is "River". It just seems a little out of sync, especially Ray's singing. It's almost like he's trying to catch up with the band. What saves it is Gary's bluesy guitar solo in the center. You don't get to hear him wail like this too often. All in all, a masterpiece of prog from a band that pretty much is all alone when it comes to originality. You absolutely can't go wrong with this album. Just plain stunning!!

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Posted Monday, June 05, 2006

Review by Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A good album, but I don't see what the big deal is. Gentle Giant are a band that redefined the term complex. They don't have sprawling side long epics, instead they make up for it by having complex, challenging, and quirky shorter songs. The musicianship and creativity in this album is unsurpassed, but they main problem I have is that this album is on the shorter side and some of the pieces just lack that cutting edge. From the great groove of The Advent of Panurge, to the gentle fugues of Knots, this album is varied, it has substance, and it has some great grooves. The musicianship is quirky, complex, and catchy, the vocals range from searing to hypnotic, to even, regrettably a bit contrived, but there still is a lot to like about this album.

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

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

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

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

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Posted Sunday, June 25, 2006

Review by Australian
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Octopus is an album I have trouble rating, sometimes I can listen to it back to back and enjoy every second of it, and, other times I cannot stand it. It's strange but this circumstance occurs regularly with me with many albums. There is one song I can always enjoy on Octopus and that song is, A Do's Life, it brings me fond memories of my little Scottish terrier who fits the description perfectly. This is quite a strange song and the harmonies of the violin and synthesizer (I think it's a synthesizer) clash. It amazes me that these clashes still sound good, probably due to the fact that Gentle Giant are very igneous.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Review by OpethGuitarist
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Octopus manages to captivate us without going overboard with a concept, and trust me, that's a good thing. Gentle Giant have created a very fine album here, incorporating quirky antics with some smooth melodies, taking advantage of their instrumental talents to give them a broad symphony like sound.

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

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

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Posted Thursday, October 12, 2006

Review by Eetu Pellonpää
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album is yet my only encounter with this popular band, and it didn't impress me very much. I bought an used copy of the vinyl just on basis of the neat Dean gatefold cover, but I believe that the feelings which this group create aren't dramatic and powerful enough to match my too demanding and limited taste. The melodic ballad "Think of Me With Kindness" was the most pleasing track here for me. The vocal harmonies and arrangements are technically great, so the appreciation here is probably just a question of preferred style.

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Posted Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Review by Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I was very surprised that I didn't love this album, I mean look how highly rated it is. Of their first four albums this is the one I like the least. "Acquiring The Taste" and "Three Friends" are amazing and their debut is one I enjoyed a lot. I just found the sound to be really dense on this one with little in the way of emotion or power.

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

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

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

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Posted Saturday, April 28, 2007

Review by obiter
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars As someone who was introduced to the prog phenomenon through yes in the 1970s I was a late comer to Gentle Giant. My loss. In some ways it's odd reviewing albums you've known for over 25 years (for some people they'll have listend to this album 35 years ago!!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Review by 1800iareyay
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Octopus was released in 1972, against prog staples like Foxtrot, Thick as a Brick, and Close to the Edge. It holds its own against those masterpieces, but in its own way. Whereas Yes, Tull, and Genesis released albums fll of grandeur and epic tracks, GG opted for shorter, more personal sounds. The result is one of those rare prog classics that is defined by its restraint, not its technical display. That is not to say that the music is simple. Quite the contrary, it has some of the most complex arrangements you'll ever hear. However, the complexity works in a way that makes the songs sound simple.

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

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

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

Grade: A

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Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2007

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

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

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Posted Monday, July 30, 2007

Review by Fight Club
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Strange at first, but ultimately rewarding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Saturday, October 06, 2007

Review by FruMp
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is a masterpiece of technical prog rock that will do your head in.

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

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

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

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

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Posted Saturday, October 20, 2007

Review by Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I was initially confident in my 3-star rating of this album, but I have to admit that I simply wasn't doing it justice. The creative energy and general irreverence for traditional (generic) popular music on Octopus is refreshing and worthy of respect. Octopus is not consistently great, but it certainly contains enough highlights to merit a 4-star rating in my book.

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

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

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

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

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Posted Monday, December 31, 2007

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The fourth album from Gentle Giant is another masterpiece album from the masters. Octopus has all the ingredients that make every Gentle Giant album so exceptional. Great intriguing melodies, polyrythmic structures, time signature and tempo changes and outstanding musicianship. And on top of that some of the best composed songs ever in prog rock. What makes Gentle Giant so great in my eyes is that they are their own. They make use of influences from several genres including hard rock, classical chamber music, mideavel music, avant garde and jazz. They mix them all and out comes the progressive wonderchild Gentle Giant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Saturday, March 08, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

3 stars.

//LinusW

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Posted Sunday, May 04, 2008

Review by Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Troubadours of rock and roll

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

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

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

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

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Posted Sunday, August 03, 2008

Review by LiquidEternity
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Possibly the best album by Gentle Giant, which is possibly the greatest band of what is possibly the greatest era of prog music. So, this is possibly the greatest album of all time. Hard call to make, but it is undeniably one that should not be ignored.

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

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

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

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

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Posted Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
3 stars Don't look here for a masterpiece? Try 'Free Hand' and 'Three Friends'.

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

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

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

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Posted Friday, October 10, 2008

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

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

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

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Posted Wednesday, October 22, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars The fourth album from Gentle Giant has eight legs, I mean, "opuses." Each song shows a different side of the band, which is quite a testament to how versatile they are. This is one few progressive rock fans should be without, particularly someone interested in Gentle Giant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Friday, December 05, 2008

Review by J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Gentle Giant is one of the biggest names in 70's progressive rock, and Octopus is arguably their most famous album among prog fans. Gentle Giant is a band that has never impressed me very much, though I must admit that I find Octopus to be a rather enjoyable album.

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

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

Conclusion:

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

3 stars.

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Posted Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Review by Negoba
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars First love always seems sweeter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Send comments to Negoba (BETA) | Report this review (#194521) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, December 20, 2008

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
2 stars A giant octopus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Thursday, January 01, 2009

Review by poslednijat_colobar
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars It's really strange album by Gentle Giant. It proves, that GG is very strange band and this band have produced albums for all tastes. Gentle Giant is like an ocean, exactly because of that. They approach to every next album so different, so it's almost imposible to be a fan of all of their albums. I prove it to myself. This album truly is not for me. After Three Friends, I adore, I haven't the senses to understand this one. It's completely unclear and strange for me. I think it's too folky and that's the main reason for me not to understand it good. The members show their musical abilities in very precise manner. This is not rock exactly in it's full meaning. I feel it's not something bad and that's all. It's not something good for me, too! I know it's an album I'll never choose to listen to, between it and something else by the band. This let me believe, I have to vote here exactly by the definition of the stars and this means - Collectors/fans only (respectively 2 stars)!

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Posted Monday, March 23, 2009

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
4 stars Octopus or Octo-opus, as some might call it, is exactly what the title implies. Namely an opus consisting of eight parts!

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

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

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

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

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

Total rating: 4,48

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Posted Sunday, May 10, 2009

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
5 stars This was the first Gentle Giant album I ever heard. It is a concept album, that tells the story of a young octupus named "Panurge" (yes, his father was cruel, but who wouldn't be, with a name like "Pantagruel"?). One day, while playing with his ocean friends, Panurge happens to pass by a fishing boat. There he hears the singing of a Raconteur Troubadour. From then on, Panurge dreams of being human. He lets out A Cry For Everyone, and ties himself in Knots. Finally, he locates The Boys In The Band, who introduce him to a wizard, who grants his deepest wish. He is now a human, with big Disney eyes (nowhere near as big as anime eyes, but you get the idea). But after joining the band, he befriends a dog. He sees the cruel way people treat the dog, and pities the Dog's Life. He begins to regret his wish, leaves the band, asking the group to "Think Of Me With Kindness". They don't. Yearning for his past aquatic life, Panurge spends the rest of his days by a River.

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

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Posted Thursday, December 24, 2009

Review by friso
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Gentle Giant - Octopus (1972)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review by Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The beefiest set of eclecticism you can get, and it flows beautifully. OCTOPUS is one of those premiere prog rock albums that can take some time to grow warm towards. No doubt looking at the barrage of instruments played that you're going to go for one hell of a thrill ride, but the way the tracks flow together really arouses a euphoria that I cannot explain.

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

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

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

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Posted Sunday, February 28, 2010

Review by tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars If you're only going to buy one Gentle Giant album, then this is it, the greatest accidental pop album of all time. Yes, you read that right, all you Gentle Giant fans - I just "defiled" one of the most incredibly complex, avantgarde and dissonant prog albums ever by calling it pop (well, accidental pop to be precise). Before your head explodes in confusion, allow me to explain what I mean. I once watched a TV interview with actor/comedian Mike Myers where he made a very astute observation about film genre boundaries: paraphrasing him, he said that the fundamental difference between comedy and drama is that comedy is faster. So it is with this album; yes, there are an insane number of time-signature and key changes throughout, and the emphasis has almost completely shifted from "let's augment good songs with weirdness" to "let's frig everything up as much as we possibly can," which normally would make me somewhat iffy on the album's quality. But here's the thing: except for the (excellent regardless) closer, all of these songs are in the three-to-four-and-a-half- minute range (ie a "normal pop length"), and because of this, the abundance of ideas here are necessarily compressed to an almost absurd degree. The result is that all of these weird ideas hit the listener at a rapid-fire pace, and they do so in such way that they unintentionally become totally memorable. Hence, each of these tracks is filled with, you guessed it, pop hooks, though of the most perverse variety.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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

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

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Posted Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
3 stars This is the first Gentle Giant album I ever heard and it managed to put me off the band for more then 20 years. I've recently acquired the taste by submerging myself in the mysterious world of their first three albums, but it looks like Octopus still continues to sound rather artificial and uninvolved to me.

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

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

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Posted Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Where they put it together--the definitive Giant

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

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

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

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

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Posted Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This was the last GG album I ever purchased (the third one as far as I'm concerned). I used to be a completionist for bands like VDGG, Genesis, Floyd, Yes, Purple, Led Zep but GG never belonged to my fave bands. Far from it.

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

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

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

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

Three stars.

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Posted Saturday, November 06, 2010

Review by octopus-4
COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
5 stars An album with more than 100 reviews doesn't need my one for sure, but with my nickname I couldn't resist to add one.

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

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

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

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

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Posted Monday, November 15, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Friday, April 01, 2011

Review by colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Octopus is where Gentle Giant's true musical voice started to take shape, and that is obviously so on this album. The medieval elements in the music are very prominent, as is the super complexity of all the arrangements. This was never a favorite of mine in the Gentle Giant catalog, but it's hard to not adore the musicianship of these people. Though the tracks here are usually brutally complex, they have a certain beauty that Gentle Giant alone was able to pull off. I'm not quite sure how to explain that point any further. Anyone in love with fantastic bass tone would love the bass playing on this album, and it really sticks out in the mix. Highly recommended.

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Posted Friday, April 08, 2011

Review by baz91
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars With seven of it's eight songs clocking in at under 5 minutes, and the final track being just short of 6, 'Octopus' might seem like a more commercial album than it's predecessors. However, this could not be further from the truth: 'Octopus' is a lesson to all that prog can be concise and still great. All of the tracks show Gentle Giant's fascinating complexity and adventurous song writing. This album feels very much like 'Acquiring the Taste, Part II', as each of the songs are very different from each other, showing Gentle Giant experimenting with new sounds and ideas. This was my first GG album, and I was taken in by the intriguing song-writing and the astonishing technicality of their musicianship. For more prog-points, the artwork was done by none other than Roger Dean. The funny title is, of course, a play on words where "Octo-opus" refers to the fact that there are 8 songs on the album. One of my favourite things about this album though, is that for each song there is a brief note about the music in the liner notes (on any version I believe).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Tuesday, April 12, 2011

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

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

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Posted Tuesday, August 09, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted Sunday, February 12, 2012

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

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

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

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

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Posted Monday, May 27, 2013

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5 stars The 2nd album from GENTLE GIANT in 1972 turned out to be one of their most popular and possibly the one that is the heaviest and just like the ink-shooting self-propelling intelligent mollusk that the album is named after, it too has the ability to suck you in with its eight tentacles except inste ... (read more)

Report this review (#1131905) | Posted by siLLy puPPy | Saturday, February 15, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is for many the top of the Gentle Giant's career, and I actually think so. Compositions and executions are at their very peak without a doubt! Nevertheless I think this is the least album to hear if you are an amateur in Gentle Giant. This work in particular is complicated, and you only b ... (read more)

Report this review (#1026538) | Posted by MyDarling95 | Saturday, August 31, 2013 | Review Permanlink

1 stars Should you chance to see the original vinyl release of Gentle Giant's Octopus available at a secondhand record store, especially at a dirt-cheap price, buy it - not so much for the music, but for the iconic Roger Dean artwork that graces the sleeve. With that little homage to one of my favorite ... (read more)

Report this review (#941287) | Posted by Tubes | Monday, April 08, 2013 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Octopus is widely varied in terms of reception. Some people live by this album, others hate it. This is my own personal take. I think this album is absolutely brilliant. GG's most varied album, each track brings something different to the table that makes this album overall perfect. "The A ... (read more)

Report this review (#883915) | Posted by InAGlassHouse | Saturday, December 29, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars If I were to choose an album which I think best represented the overall sound of Gentle Giant, it would be this one. Surely this is also one of the most influential albums as well, with artists such as Echolyn and Spock's Beard creating musical ideas inspired by these guys. Musically, it has the com ... (read more)

Report this review (#875198) | Posted by Mr. Mustard | Wednesday, December 12, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars By 1972, prog was already pulling in conflicting directions. Bands began to emerge from the shadow of early movers King Crimson and Pink Floyd and establish their own styles. And, unlike in most rock based genres, these styles tended to be unique and even conflicting. Jethro Tull were involved ... (read more)

Report this review (#581432) | Posted by rogerthat | Sunday, December 04, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars This is it !! The type of albums which makes me fall in love with art and prog rock. Octopus is full of quirky details and melodies. A mix of pastoral church music, symph prog, quirky jazz and folk rock. That and a lot of other things. It starts with the superb The Advent Of Panurge and then g ... (read more)

Report this review (#573794) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Wednesday, November 23, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars While not my favorite GG album, it is, indeed, a classic. I agree that this period from 1971's "Acquiring the Taste" to (through?) 1976's "Interview" is among the most highly sustained in rock history. Six, maybe seven, great albums! In a row? Who else can lay such a claim? Not Hammill, not Rush, no ... (read more)

Report this review (#459472) | Posted by BrufordFreak | Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Another mediocre album of Gentle Giant. Sorry, I can not stand this band.I not know if it is the fault of the singer (who, again apologizing, has a horrible voice) do not know if it is the use of strange instruments to my lay ears (I've already apologized?), the fact is that Gentle Giant is a ban ... (read more)

Report this review (#379947) | Posted by voliveira | Friday, January 14, 2011 | Review Permanlink

3 stars As a fan of just about any style of Progressive Music, I can truly appreciate what Gentle Giant brings to the genre. I have not, however, heard much of their work, only a few albums such as this one and Three Friends. While I do enjoy what I have heard, I do not find myself going nuts over the ... (read more)

Report this review (#353466) | Posted by mohaveman | Wednesday, December 15, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars For the innumerable subgenres of progressive music, there are, to my mind, two main distinctions worth drawing: the complex and the symphonic. There is, to be sure, some crossover, but all the big bands can be lumped primarily into one or the other, with the understanding that the very nature of th ... (read more)

Report this review (#320212) | Posted by KyleSchmidlin | Monday, November 15, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars One of my personal favourites from Gentle Giant. "Octopus" remains to this day one of their more consistent albums, with each song having its own personality that makes the album quite diverse and a pleasure to listen to. This is definitely one of their stronger works, possibly even their strong ... (read more)

Report this review (#295831) | Posted by Lark the Starless | Sunday, August 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Twenty years ago I would have hated Gentle Giant. I was into Bauhaus and Dead Can Dance at that time. Now I'm older and wiser (ahem!). This is the first Gentle Giant record I heard around five years ago. I was immediately struck by the extraordinary time signatures which reminded me a lot of t ... (read more)

Report this review (#287525) | Posted by Dobermensch | Sunday, June 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Gentle Giant is one of the best bands ever. Their music is wonderful but not that accessible. Or you like the music well, and you'll be a fan forever, or you don't like it at all. I know too many people who do not like Gentle Giant, mainly, in my opinion, because people find the music too comp ... (read more)

Report this review (#261359) | Posted by mscbox | Sunday, January 17, 2010 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Tres disappointed has the listening of this album presented by the criticisms(critics) for Meilleur Gentle Giants, I do not absolutely agree top, anything has to see with the leader of eouvre' Three Friends ' for example. I find the difficult album. The dexterity of the musicians and the choirs ... (read more)

Report this review (#228018) | Posted by Discographia | Thursday, July 23, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This album is very special to me because it is the first prog album I ever heard and the one that hooked me into progressive rock. I love Gentle Giant, I think they are one of the most creative and talented bands of all time, and this album is a great statement of what Gentle Giant was all abo ... (read more)

Report this review (#227956) | Posted by natewait | Thursday, July 23, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars What a stunning suprise! When I first heard this, I consider it to be non-musical and randomized nonsense. But afterwards, there was something that draw me back to it. Maybe it was the stunning cover art and the fact that the music sounded like nothing I have heard before. So I finally decided ... (read more)

Report this review (#220010) | Posted by Eastvillage | Saturday, June 06, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I don't know why but I just erased this entire CD from my iPod. Many months later someone lent It to me to hear it again and boy, was I mistaken the first time! Now It is my current favorite among their recordings. I just coul not imagine how some could live Its life without knowing of "Knots" a ... (read more)

Report this review (#216440) | Posted by steelyhead | Monday, May 18, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Octopus was my first initiation into Gentle Giant therefore I may be a bit prejudiced. I am not typically an aural fan of the 1970's with a few exceptions as I find the era to have typically poor production values. I am an audiophile and this is important to me. Octopus smashes conceived notions ... (read more)

Report this review (#201400) | Posted by Timdano | Sunday, February 01, 2009 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is an amazing album. Very funny melodies, great instrumental passages, good skills, Inspired vocal games. And the most important thing here is the diversity. Gentle Giant mixed a lot of rythms with great coherence. The sound is very happy almost Carnivalesque, sometimes one could imagine ... (read more)

Report this review (#172796) | Posted by Kurpij | Sunday, June 01, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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