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Gentle Giant - Octopus CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

4.30 | 1871 ratings

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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.

penguindf12 | 5/5 |


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