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Gentle Giant - Gentle Giant CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

3.95 | 1257 ratings

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4 stars The debut album of one of the most distinctive, original prog bands of the so-called 'classic' era contains in embryonic form all the elements that would be developed in their later output. In the space of seven tracks, Gentle Giant run the gamut of styles, from hard-edged rock to exotic, medieval-influenced vocal harmonies. Each of the compositions has its own individual personality, and each is intriguing enough to create a keen awareness of the band's potential for genuinely progressive music. Moreover, the instrumental and vocal abilities of the six band members are so impressive as to leave the listener wanting more, though without giving the impression of 'art for art's sake' so frequent in more recent bands.

Gentle Giant's unusual line-up allows them to make use of a wide range of instruments, some of them not commonly used in any rock genre. That gives their music a richly orchestral feel, particularly evident in the haunting, string-laden "Funny Ways", which features also some superb, intricate vocal harmonies - soon to become one of the unique characteristics of the band's sound. In other tracks, the band explore different musical avenues, such as guitar-driven hard rock in album opener Giant; or lounge-style, languid jazz in "Isn't It Quiet and Cold?" - another song in which strings play an essential part, paralleled by the lazy, sometimes almost poppy vocal lines. On the other hand, "Alucard" (Dracula spelled backwards, for those interested in trivia) is jagged and even dissonant, punctuated by trumpet bursts and eerie, avant-gardeish vocal harmonies; while Why Not?, another hard rock-flavoured number enhanced by a brilliant guitar solo, features a surprise break in the form of beautiful, medieval-style vocal harmonies.

While short instrumental "The Queen" (GG's take on the English national anthem), definitely the least successful item on show, closes the album in a sort of anticlimactic way, the 9-minute-plus "Nothing at All" is undoubtedly the pièce de résistance. Unlike most of their contemporaries, the band never went too much for lengthy compositions, preferring to pack a lot of musical value in shorter, denser tracks. "Nothing at All" is one of their rare concessions to the fashion for 'epics' - starting out with a lovely, melancholy, acoustic melody that develops into a harder-edged ballad, suddenly interrupted in the middle by a drum solo. Though I am aware that not everyone shares my opinion of this song, which in a way is not as coherent as the other tracks on the album, I still find it a very intriguing, unusual composition for the band's standards.

Admittedly, Gentle Giant can be much of an acquired taste. For every person who worships them and thinks they are the best thing that ever happened to music, there are five (or even ten) who are left cold by their unique, highly intellectual take on prog. Personally, I am somewhat in the middle - not truly a dedicated fan, but definitely someone who finds the band's technical proficiency and seemingly endless supply of influences deeply fascinating. While not a masterpiece, "Gentle Giant" is an excellent introduction to the band's musical world, and a very rewarding, warmly recommended listen in itself.

Raff | 4/5 |


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