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Gentle Giant - Playing The Fool - The Official Live CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

4.52 | 422 ratings

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4 stars Gentle Giant - Playing the Fool - The Official Live (1977)

This prog live album is quite famous in the prog community, and for a good reason. By the time this album was released it was perfectly clear (after many many brilliant studio albums) that Gentle Giant was one of the best progressive rock bands in the fields. Their amazing musicianship, use of a huge amount of instruments, musical innovation, vocal experimentation and quantity of quality material is perhaps unmatched. It's a real treat to have a band that is really Progressive with the big P. Lately I've seen two live dvd's of Gentle Giant and I was amazed by how these extreme hard-to-play arrangements actually work on stage and how many instruments they played. Of course this is still the case on a live album on double vinyl of the same years. Yes - Gentle Giant proves to be perfectly capable of playing their rocket-science compositions on stage.

The live versions of most tracks are reminiscent of their original studio-tracks, but on Excerpts From Octopus the band shows it's also capable for re-arranging the most difficult compositions for - say - two acoustic guitars. The acoustic guitar skills of (otherwise) bass and violin-player Ray Shulman are really a pleasant surprise. Furthermore Kerry Minnear impresses on the extended metalophone solo on Funny Ways. It's also good to see some extended solo's here and there and some new compositions or intermezzo's that aren't present on the studio-albums. I must admit I did however miss some of the folky vocals during the gentle moments of (I think) Kerry Minnear, his pleasant voice could have been used a bit more in my opinion.

The sound of this live album is good, but don't expect a hard-rock production or sound. The album sounds as if only the sound coming from the stage was recorded and it seems that there was little post-production. The compositions/songs chosen for this live-set are all interesting, but I must admit I'm not that blown away by 'Free Hand' (a song that didn't impress me earlier) and by 'The Experience'. Now I feel tempted to say which songs I would liked to have seen on this live-set, but that information is irrelevant.

Conclusion. This is one of the stronger live albums of the progressive rock genre and it proves that Gentle Giant wasn't a studio phenomenon. Actually, it can help to appreciate their studio-offerings even more, by knowing they could easily reproduce these intricate atmospheres and multi-instrumental parts on stage. Still I'm not giving the five star rating, just because I still prefer the dedicated and mysterious sound of their studio recordings (mainly of their early period), live their music seems to be 'easier to get into'. Still a brilliant live record. Four and a halve stars. Recommend to those who already own some albums by Gentle Giant, others should start with albums like Acquiring the Taste, Octopus or perhaps Free Hand. This isn't the kind of music that most of us like instantly.

friso | 4/5 |


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