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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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Symphonic Team
5 stars Gentle Giant's live triumph is flawless musicianship.

Gentle Giant's live album "Playing The Fool" is a treasure of prog rock at its most exquisite, intricate and whimsical. The sound captured live is quintessential Gentle Giant and almost works as a type of best of the Giant. There is enough variation on offer to make it a worthwhile addition to any collection. The best bits of "Octopus" are here, and tons of medley's and montages of Gentle Giant's inimitable style. The music is full blown prog revved to the max with wonderful soloing on descant recorder on 'Funny Ways', and soaring strings on 'Runaway/ Experience'. This set list is as good as I have heard from Gentle Giant. The brilliant 'Free Hand' and 'Peel The Paint' are played to perfection. 'Free Hand' is perhaps the best I have heard it with wonderful complex time sigs and Minnear's mind bending keyboards.

The original vinyl was a huge multiple vinyl release but it all fits very neatly on one CD and although there are annoying breaks in the tracks, it is great to hear this in one sitting without having to turn over one vinyl side after another. The version I own came with the inferior but entertaining "Civilian" album. It is possible to buy this live album without the extra album but I certainly recommend the double release for value. The 20 page booklet is of high quality with tons of pictures and interesting information about both albums. There are some great quotes in the book liner notes such as "this British band is just the cup of tea for aficionados who demand virtuosity, progress and originality in their mix," and "they are a musician's band who slowly hypnotise all." The liner notes feature two essays about both "Playing the Fool" and "Civilian". The booklet centrefold is a concert pic with a weird progress chart showing all the concert locations during the tour appearing like some alignment of the stars. Certainly the stars were in alignment when the band played this concert. It is flawless.

The guitar on 'So Sincere' is jaw dropping for instance, and Shulman's vocals are spot on target. Many of these tracks are better than the original studio takes. I love how the band move from track to track seamlessly blending them in and pushing the boundaries with incredible harmonies and musicianship. John Weathers' extended tribal drum solo on 'So Sincere' is worth a listen too along with Minnear's vibes. The violin of Ray is also wonderful throughout, such as on 'Sweet Georgia Brown'. It is really is an incredible performance from the whole band. It is hands down Gentle Giant's best album.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |


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