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Gentle Giant - The Missing Piece CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

2.97 | 550 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Contrary to popular belief, Prog Rock didn't immediately roll over and die with the arrival of Punk. In retrospect nearly every major English Progressive Rock band (with the exception of ELP, already struggling in the tar pits of dinosaur superstardom) met the social upheavals of the era with some of their most assured music to date.

Think of Genesis with "Trick of the Tail"...Pink Floyd with "Animals"...Yes and Jethro Tull with "Going For the One" and "Songs From the Wood". Even cult acts like Camel and Van Der Graaf (note the newly re-tooled moniker) successfully reinvented themselves in "Rain Dances" and "The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome".

And you can make a similar claim about Gentle Giant with their 1977 album "The Missing Piece". It's nowhere near the same creative plateau as "The Power and the Glory" or "In a Glass House", but if nothing else the album proved that even the quirkiest Proggers could sacrifice a little eclecticism without compromising their unique musical character.

A rediscovered surge of energy and enthusiasm is immediately evident in the album opener "Two Weeks in Spain", and in the aggressive curtain closer "For Nobody", the latter song in particular making the strongest case for a new, revitalized Gentle Giant. Echoes of bygone delicacy can be heard in the aptly titled "Memories of Old Days", although I wish Kerry Minnear had been allowed the lead vocals. And no one would ever mistake the choppy, spasmodic rhythms of "Who Do You Think You Are?" or the clattering thing called "Winning" for Top-40 sell-outs.

Even the admittedly stupid hillbilly stomp of "Mountain Time" never fails to put a smile on my face, prompting as it does a mental image of the barefoot Shulman boys passing around a jug of Appalachian moonshine.

You could argue that the tongue-in-cheek Punk Rock riposte of "Betcha Thought We Couldn't Do It" was never going to convince an audience of kids with safety-pins in their ears (it had a few too many chords). But the only obvious misstep on the album was the Arena Rock wannabe anthem "I'm Turning Around", according to Derek Shulman written at a moment's notice under record company duress.

Too bad the band never followed up on the blueprint drawn here, instead topping a solid new foundation with the flimsy tinker-toy edifice of "Giant For a Day" the next year. It's as if, having found the piece to complete the puzzle, they couldn't understand the finished picture, a pattern likewise followed by too many other Prog Rock bands around the same time: see the albums "Tormato", "Stormwatch", "...And Then There Were Three", even (despite its massive popularity) the bloated beached whale known as "The Wall".

In retrospect maybe it wouldn't have mattered. "The Missing Piece" showed that yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. But your jaded friends and neighbors still won't take any notice.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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