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Gentle Giant - Free Hand CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

4.30 | 1714 ratings

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5 stars This was Gentle Giant's first release on the Chrysalis label and it was also an attempt to make their sound a little more accessible. I say a little more accessible, because it was just a very slight compromise and they really didn't lose much of their sophisticated yet very progressive sound. Eclectic prog is the perfect genre for this band because eclectic definitely defines their music. Very odd meters and time signature changes pop up constantly. Yet their sound is very renaissance sounding, folkish, yet complicated with plenty of jazz mixed in. This slight adjustment to their sound ended up being the thing that would bring them to the attention of the American audience they were trying to attract. And they did it without much of a compromise to their sound, other than maybe cutting out much of their classical/modernistic sound, becoming a little less avant garde, yet still keeping things technically difficult. Even hardcore prog fans seem to have a hard time penetrating the accessibility of their sound, but this album did become the most accepted.

This album is excellent, even more complex than the prog folk masters Jethro Tull. It is not easy to appreciate on the first listen because it is so complex and, yes, eclectic. Their folk leanings shine through but never overbearing. Composition and formation of the songs is anything but conventional. The vocals are a little strange, and I find them the hardest thing to get used to, but keep with it and you will come to accept it. As far as the instrumental passages here, you will find yourself wanting to dance a jig at times, but the music never remains with a constant enough beat that you just can't quite seem to get the right beat, and that is how it should be with this music. The only way you can dance to this is in a madman style.

I will not try to break down these complicated songs, they are there for you to listen to and plenty of other reviewers have already done that for you if you are interested. The sad thing is that Gentle Giant, even though they have a huge cult following, never really caught on and received the high regard and awe-struck status that other progressive bands like Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, King Crimson and many other received, but they are very deserving of that status. Their music is definitely complex, the most complex folk-oriented music you will ever hear. They can't be considered folk prog though because it is too complex and also incorporates jazz, electric music, and modernistic styles. Hence, with the many genres incorporated, even with the overall medieval rock sound, there is just so much more than that. I mean, what other band would be able to take the vocal acapella harmonies in "On Reflection" and perform it outside of the studio without a conductor? I doubt there are many that could do that. Sure there are many that could play the difficult passages and odd time signature changes that exist in songs like the popular title song "Free Hand" but they would only be those who were the most talented, and I doubt they would be able to do it without a lot of preparation. Have you ever heard anyone cover a Gentle Giant song off the cuff in concert? I don't think so.

Yes this is great stuff and should be considered a masterpiece of prog and nothing less. Even if you don't like it, you should still own it and try to let it work it's way into your mind. Simply amazing. Essential music for all prog fans.

TCat | 5/5 |


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