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Frenetic Zetetic View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Gentle Giant 1970-1976 Discography Analysis
    Posted: January 27 2018 at 02:37
As we all know - and as stated here on ProgArchives.com itself - Gentle Giant is one of the most paradigmatic progressive rock bands to ever exist. They combine all the best elements from the best bands, and manage to make it unique and magical. Gentle Giant might as well be an institution of progressive rock at this point.

From 1970's Gentle Giant (ST) right on through 1976's Interview, the band was firing on all creative cylinders. All of their best, most classical prog elements are present in each of those eight records. It wasn't until 1978's The Missing Piece that they really started to shift gears toward more pop oriented song structures, arrangements, and vocal lines. Still, however, the boys in the band manage to still give it that GG flair, despite not being quite on par with their earlier records.

Because I'm such a massive GG fan, and because I recently broke out my copy of Interview for my daily trips across and around town, I had a bit of time to digest and analyze the last "real GG record" (most prog and GG fans don't really care much for Giant for a Day and Civilian) before they started winding down a bit.

Thoughts on Interview:

  • This record is above average, despite the period in GG's catalog in which it was released. 
  • The tracks are all solid, experimental, and still have that classic GG flair. 
  • Yes, the arrangements can be considered slightly weaker, but overall the same formula is being applied. Layered vocals, odd meter shifts, and plenty of killer hooks, riffs, and lyrical lines throughout. 
  • The title track, Empty City, and I Lost My Head are my personal standout tracks. Another Show is a catchy rock song with fun synth moods (and mods!) throughout. 
  • Give it Back even touches on reggae themes a bit!

What are your thoughts on Gentle Giant's discography and legacy, and their last "real record", Interview, in particular? I know we've all discussed Acquiring the Taste - Free Hand to death, but I thought this would be a unique spin/analysis on the band! Discuss!

Jazz fusion all day, baby.
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Tom Ozric View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 27 2018 at 03:20
Interview is still a great album for me, too. There isn’t a duff track to be found, though it is the ‘weaker’ 4 star record.
I don’t mind The missing Piece, I can’t stand Giant For A Day (a major blunder, if you care to ask) and Civilian showed hope they may have been a top-notch, artsy New-Wave Rock band.
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Frenetic Zetetic View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 27 2018 at 14:02
Originally posted by Tom Ozric Tom Ozric wrote:

Interview is still a great album for me, too. There isn’t a duff track to be found, though it is the ‘weaker’ 4 star record.
I don’t mind The missing Piece, I can’t stand Giant For A Day (a major blunder, if you care to ask) and Civilian showed hope they may have been a top-notch, artsy New-Wave Rock band.

I agree on all accords, my friend! I actually love every single album they put out, despite the slight decline from 78-80 etc. It still blows my mind people ask for new prog but avoid this band because it's too hard to click instantly lol. GG is the best!
Jazz fusion all day, baby.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 27 2018 at 19:33
Bought Interview around the time of release in 1976 after having all previous releases.

It never gelled with me; apart from I Lost My Head and to a lesser extent Timing the other tracks just never "did it for me".

In fact, I prefer the more commercial ""The Missing Piece"" and am a big fan of ""Civilian".... I tend to play these 2 a fair bit.

Giant For A Day
is their nadir....I still try to find some redeeming features in it...maybe Gary Green's Arabic-tinged guitar riffs in the title track but that's it!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 27 2018 at 21:59
My friends and I had no idea who GG were when we bought tickets to see Yes in '76 at the San Francisco Cow Palace.  Of course Yes were amazing as we expected, but GG was a huge surprise and blew us away.  I went out the next day and bought Free Hand while my best friend bought The Power and the Glory.  Over the next couple years I added all the albums before Free Hand and GG became (and remain) one of my fave bands.  It wasn't until a couple years or so later that I finally bought Interview.  I never really cared for it much and ranked it about even with The Missing Piece (followed by Civilian and I honestly never bothered buying Giant for a Day, I let my best friend buy it first so I didn't have to LOL

Then the CD revolution arrived and Interview gained new life and a much greater appreciation.  I think it was because I never had that great of record players back in the day and the quiet parts and dialog on Interview just got lost.  On CD I was finally able to really appreciate the humor of the "interview" snippets between the songs which lead to more listens and getting into the songs better.  At this point I'd have to say Design is one of my fave GG songs ever and I'd rank Interview in my top 5 GG albums Wink


Edited by The.Crimson.King - January 27 2018 at 22:00
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 27 2018 at 22:25
Originally posted by Frenetic Zetetic Frenetic Zetetic wrote:

Originally posted by Tom Ozric Tom Ozric wrote:

Interview is still a great album for me, too. There isn’t a duff track to be found, though it is the ‘weaker’ 4 star record.
I don’t mind The missing Piece, I can’t stand Giant For A Day (a major blunder, if you care to ask) and Civilian showed hope they may have been a top-notch, artsy New-Wave Rock band.


I agree on all accords, my friend! I actually love every single album they put out, despite the slight decline from 78-80 etc. It still blows my mind people ask for new prog but avoid this band because it's too hard to click instantly lol. GG is the best!
Funny - during the late-80’s, when I started collecting records, I saw Octopus - cool, Roger Dean art !! Looking inside, hmmm, Kerry Minnear, Keyboards.......I thought a ‘chick’ can’t play Prog keyboards. Y’know, Kerry (usually a girl’s name - yeah, I was Uber-ignorant....). Sometime mid-90’s, a friend of mine couldn’t resist and chanced a copy of the LP and said it is great. I sampled, dug it, and I now have all their LP’s, bar Giant For A Day ;which was the last I acquired, was repulsed, literally frisbee’d it, only to buy another copy of it a few years later, and cashed it in. I do like Civilian a lot, though.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2018 at 03:04
Originally posted by Tom Ozric Tom Ozric wrote:

Originally posted by Frenetic Zetetic Frenetic Zetetic wrote:

Originally posted by Tom Ozric Tom Ozric wrote:

Interview is still a great album for me, too. There isn’t a duff track to be found, though it is the ‘weaker’ 4 star record.
I don’t mind The missing Piece, I can’t stand Giant For A Day (a major blunder, if you care to ask) and Civilian showed hope they may have been a top-notch, artsy New-Wave Rock band.


I agree on all accords, my friend! I actually love every single album they put out, despite the slight decline from 78-80 etc. It still blows my mind people ask for new prog but avoid this band because it's too hard to click instantly lol. GG is the best!
Funny - during the late-80’s, when I started collecting records, I saw Octopus - cool, Roger Dean art !! Looking inside, hmmm, Kerry Minnear, Keyboards.......I thought a ‘chick’ can’t play Prog keyboards. Y’know, Kerry (usually a girl’s name - yeah, I was Uber-ignorant....). Sometime mid-90’s, a friend of mine couldn’t resist and chanced a copy of the LP and said it is great. I sampled, dug it, and I now have all their LP’s, bar Giant For A Day ;which was the last I acquired, was repulsed, literally frisbee’d it, only to buy another copy of it a few years later, and cashed it in. I do like Civilian a lot, though.

No worries, I've been pronouncing Kerry's last name incorrectly until recently. Apparently it's pronounced "mini-ear". Kerry and Ray are both criminally underrated on their respective instruments.

Originally posted by The.Crimson.King The.Crimson.King wrote:

My friends and I had no idea who GG were when we bought tickets to see Yes in '76 at the San Francisco Cow Palace.  Of course Yes were amazing as we expected, but GG was a huge surprise and blew us away.  I went out the next day and bought Free Hand while my best friend bought The Power and the Glory.  Over the next couple years I added all the albums before Free Hand and GG became (and remain) one of my fave bands.  It wasn't until a couple years or so later that I finally bought Interview.  I never really cared for it much and ranked it about even with The Missing Piece (followed by Civilian and I honestly never bothered buying Giant for a Day, I let my best friend buy it first so I didn't have to LOL

Then the CD revolution arrived and Interview gained new life and a much greater appreciation.  I think it was because I never had that great of record players back in the day and the quiet parts and dialog on Interview just got lost.  On CD I was finally able to really appreciate the humor of the "interview" snippets between the songs which lead to more listens and getting into the songs better.  At this point I'd have to say Design is one of my fave GG songs ever and I'd rank Interview in my top 5 GG albums Wink

Awesome post! Design is absolutely a top-tier GG vocal workout track, no doubt about it. It's deceptively complex for the era it came out in, even by GG standards.
Jazz fusion all day, baby.
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Tom Ozric View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2018 at 03:29
GG are a Progressive ‘institution’ . I think Hammill and VDGG are equivalent.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2018 at 10:04
Originally posted by Frenetic Zetetic Frenetic Zetetic wrote:

Awesome post! Design is absolutely a top-tier GG vocal workout track, no doubt about it. It's deceptively complex for the era it came out in, even by GG standards.


Ya the vocal counterpoint on Design, Knots & On Reflection are all fantastic.  When GG broke into the Knots section of "Excerpts from Octopus" that night I saw them back in '76, the crowd didn't know what the hell was going on!  Bands just didn't do things like that onstage, but it just made me love them even more LOL
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2018 at 13:31
the first gentle giant is my favorite especially the song funny ways the octopus had think of me with kindness and a dog,s life interesting and three friends has mister class and quality excellent song.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2018 at 13:51
Indeed, their vocal counterpoints are breathtaking. Which reminds me, Spock’s Beard has done similar things, the only other band I’ve heard do this successfully.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2018 at 16:16
I really like the Bootleg called 'Playing the foole in Wonderland' which was supposedly recorded live in 1975 on stage but feels more like its recorded live in the studio or on sound stage.. good quality recording of tracks from across the 1971-75 period and the single/ lp outtake track 'Power and the glory'.

In all honesty, 'In a glass house' was the only lp of GG I had heard during the 70's and that I discovered the rest of their discography in the 1980's.. whilst not in my top 10, they are, without doubt, probably the most diverse 'mainstream progressive' band in terms of their instrumentation and most of their arrangements. They have grown on me and have of late moved up to be hovering just, just outside my top 10. 
'Arse, Feck, Drink. Girls..' Father Jack Hackett, Craggy Island.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2018 at 16:48
Originally posted by Tom Ozric Tom Ozric wrote:

Indeed, their vocal counterpoints are breathtaking. Which reminds me, Spock’s Beard has done similar things, the only other band I’ve heard do this successfully.


I'd add Haken's, "Cockroach King" from The Mountain and Kevin Gilbert's, "Suit Fugue: Dance of the A&R Men" from The Shaming of the True as another couple cool examples Wink

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_e4YX73Ww4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5Zx-0om5N0 
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 28 2018 at 16:51
^ Gawd, I forgot about Haken, gotta get back to The Mountain.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 30 2018 at 01:54
to.....................O.K. .... bump....
Ray Shulman is an incredible talent, and not only on bass.....
I recall back in the late-90’s, a friend who manages a 2nd-Hand record shop (since 1984, and he still does !) got hold of the VHS of the Sight and Sound gig (the performance surrounding the Missing Piece album, now officially available as GG at the GG) and did a copy for me. I was blown away !! This is nothing compared to their earlier antics. Just superb !!
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 30 2018 at 02:21
Originally posted by Tom Ozric Tom Ozric wrote:

to.....................O.K. .... bump....
Ray Shulman is an incredible talent, and not only on bass.....
I recall back in the late-90’s, a friend who manages a 2nd-Hand record shop (since 1984, and he still does !) got hold of the VHS of the Sight and Sound gig (the performance surrounding the Missing Piece album, now officially available as GG at the GG) and did a copy for me. I was blown away !! This is nothing compared to their earlier antics. Just superb !!

Agreed, and I believe I've seen what you're talking about! Ray was/is the man. It's always fun watching them all switch instruments on stage. It's impressive seeing Derek pick up the bass and strum along on older GG tracks, too. Those guys are so friggin' phenomenal.
Jazz fusion all day, baby.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 30 2018 at 03:12
I much prefer Interview to TP&TG and FH, because it's also more fun... and sounds warmer as well.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 30 2018 at 03:23
Originally posted by Sean Trane Sean Trane wrote:

I much prefer Interview to TP&TG and FH, because it's also more fun... and sounds warmer as well.

Freehand is awesome, but it's also one of my least-listened to of the mid-70's GG records. I realized this last night, actually. I usually go for In a Glass House, TPatG, or Interview FIRST.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 30 2018 at 03:44
^ Actually, I would agree too, thinking about it. Freehand vs. Interview.......tough call.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 30 2018 at 03:52
Freehand is pretty much perfect, because it blends the still-intricate complexity of the earlier records, before they started stripping that away in favor of more pop sensibilities. Interview is actually the perfect combo of that for me personally.
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