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


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

4.52 | 422 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars This is, quite simply, THE Gentle Giant album for me. Could be because it was my first one? Possibly, but this has a power and drive to it that none of their studio albums could match (having heard other live albums of theirs, I must say that this was true of their live shows in general).

I first got this when a friend loaned me his cassette copy back in the early 90's, saying that he thought it was okay, but nothing particularly special, and that it was "like Yes". Well, he must not have listened to it much. In fact, neither did I. I didn't know what to make of it at the time, being immersed in Pink Floyd, Rush, and ELP for the most part. After a couple play throughs I didn't listen to it again for half a year or so. But at some point I had a vague recollection of complex vocal rounds and even more complex melodic interplay and pulled it back out. After a couple more attentive listens I decided it was the best music I'd ever heard.

Time and a string of great bands has somewhat changed this viewpoint, of course, but GG is still one of my favorite bands of all time. And this album is a large part of the reason for that. From the absolutely stunning opening of Just The Same, through the mind boggling vocal antics of On Reflection and the intense complexity and power of the Octopus medley (with one of the finest acoustic guitar duets ever recorded), through the sublime yet still powerful Funny Ways, the first half is flawless GG all the way. For me, that was Side A of the tape (and presumably the first LP of the 2 LP release). Pure musical bliss I must say.

The second half of the album is more quirky and the material somewhat less of "essential" GG, but no less enjoyable. Especially Free Hand with it's far more effective (than the studio album) live arrangement featuring a blazing Gary Green guitar solo. The Runaway/Experience don't sound much different from the original album versions, but that in itself is impressive. So Sincere is the only song that has started to wear on me over the years, being a song that is seemingly strange for the sake of strangeness and difficult for the sake of difficulty, rather than a coherent musical statement. But it's still impressive to hear it pulled off live, even if I've grown more than a little tired of the mostly uninteresting "drum bash" at the end. Sweet Georgia Brown is a nice interlude that shows the band didn't really need electricity to perform good music. And the final medley of songs is sort of an anticlimax, not exactly being the best GG material to end a show with, but still good and excellently performed.

So in the end, because of my emotional attachment to this album, I must award the extra fifth star. It really is, in my opinion, a masterpiece of progressive music, even if it is a live album. Those who are not huge GG fans, a solid 4 is probably the best rating. If you have never heard the band and are looking for a great place to start, this is it without question.

infandous | 5/5 |


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