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Gentle Giant - Octopus CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

4.31 | 2100 ratings

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3 stars Gentle Giant's third album Three Friends (1972) had a concept about childhood friends drifting apart as adults. The overall approach was a bit more direct than on Acquiring the Taste (1971), but there's the great favourite of mine, the complex and emotionally powerful 'Schooldays' with Kerry Minnear's lead vocals and featuring Phil Shulman's son Calvin on choirboy vocal part in the middle. The drummer on Three Friends was young and unexperienced Malcolm Mortimore, whose stay remained short due to the motorbike accident. John Weathers from Wales proved to be the ideal man til the end of GG's career.

Octopus is often said to be GG's biggest classic. I can't say it's my favourite album, a bit too much emphasized on the rough and hard-rocking side of their eclectism. Derek Shulman's vocals are quite aggressive in songs such as 'A Cry for Everyone' or 'River', and Kerry Minnear's ethereal style is less heard here, apart from his dreamy and romantic 'Think of Me With Kindness' which I like a lot. The instrumental 'Boys in the Band' (a dedication for the roadies if I'm not mistaken) has a lot of fast energy. 'Knots', with its labyrinths of vocal polyphony, is one of the most complicated songs rhytmically that GG ever did - needless to add "or any band". It's based on R. D. Laing's writings about the laws of human relationships. But is it really music for the heart, or just for the brain?

The opener 'The Advent of Panurge' revisits the world of Rabelais, less charmingly than Acquiring's 'Pantagruel's Nativity' but with at least as much complexity. A great track, but again maybe a bit too... gibberish! 'Raconteur Troubadour' has nice medieval elements, it goes forward so joyously that I forgive Derek's shouty vocals.

After Octopus GG had to deal with the departure of the eldest Shulman brother Phil, but the following albums nevertheless saw the band continue firmly in their quest for perfection. Along the way they ripped down the formerly vast range of acoustic instruments. The Power and the Glory (1974; coincided with the Watergate scandal) is again a concept album and one of the most accessible works in their career. Free Hand (1975) may very well be my favourite GG album, but Octopus it most certainly isn't. I don't argue it being a celebrated prog classic full of amazing talent, truly deserving its high status, but for my personal enjoyment three stars is enough. There are two different cover arts, I prefer this one by Roger Dean, the octopus in a jar is nearly tasteless.

Matti | 3/5 |


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