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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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5 stars Review Nš 46

Gentle Giant is, for me, one of the best ten progressive bands that have already existed and is surely one of the most innovative and experimental of all. Gentle Giant is a truly progressive band in all the meanings of the word and always has been a band that never made big commitments, to become a more commercial group. Compared to some other huge bands at the time, such as Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd, for instance, the Gentle Giant's music was always extremely complex and intricate. It was the main reason that never helped them to expand more their fan base.

'Playing The Fool' is their debut live album and was released in 1977. This live album was recorded one year after their eighth studio album 'Interview' released in 1976, which is in general considered the last great studio work of Gentle Giant. 'Playing The Fool' is a perfect example that demonstrates in live, the group's complex musicianship and talent as well as showcasing versions of themes which are in some cases greatly modified from their original studio versions. This is even more remarkable, due to the great complexity of the band's music and which seems to me that is extremely difficult to be performed live. However, Gentle Giant played their complicated music with all perfection.

My 'Playing The Fool' version is the Castle CD. So, my 'Playing The Fool' is a live album with nine tracks and this is the version that I will review. In some cases the tracks are divided in two parts that corresponding to songs which were played together. The first track 'Just The Same/Proclamation' opens the show in a very effective way and 'Proclamation' actually turns into 'Valedictory', the last track on 'The Power And Glory', towards the end. 'Just The Same' and 'Proclamation' were originally released on 'Free Hand' and 'The Power And The Glory' in 1975 and 1974, respectively. The track was performed live in D'sseldorf, Germany. The second track 'On Reflection' was rewrite when compared with the original version. The middle section has been moved to the beginning and a completely new theme appears at the end of the song. It was originally released on 'Free Hand'. The track was performed live in D'sseldorf, Germany. The third track 'Excerpts From Octopus' is a 15 minute medley of their album 'Octopus' released in 1972. It was a version partly and strongly rearranged of parts from the record. It opens with "The Boys In The Band" that goes into acoustic instrumental versions of "Raconteur Troubadour" and "A Cry For Everyone" before going into "Knots" and the highlight of the medley, "The Advent Of Panurge". The latter one has been extended by a recorder part in the middle that further strengthens the song's medieval feel. The track was performed live in Paris, France. The fourth track 'Funny Ways' was originally released on 'Gentle Giant' in 1970 and features a lengthy solo on vibes. The track was performed live in Munich, Germany. The fifth track 'The Runway/Experience' is made of two tracks originally released on 'In A Glass House' in 1973. Here, Derek Shulman is singing the Minnear's parts on 'Experience', and the heavy mid-part is slightly faster than on the original version. The track was performed live in Paris, France. The sixth track 'So Sincere' has been stretched out to ten minutes by a lengthy instrumental part that starts with some really sparkling guitar work from Green, before it goes into a percussion part that is really better than the usual drum solos you'll find on most live albums. It was originally released on 'The Power And The Glory'. The track was performed live in Paris, France. The seventh track 'Free Hand' is, as you would expect, hard rocking and energetic. They even dropped the quiet mid part in favour of a much louder jam. It was originally released on 'Free Hand'. The track was performed live in Brussels, Belgium. The eighth track 'Sweet Georgia Brown' is an original and very short instrumental piece that sounds as a jazz piece of music based on violin. The track was performed live in Brussels, Belgium. The ninth track 'Peel The Paint/I Lost My Head' is a short version of two tracks originally released on 'Three Friends' and 'Interview' in 1972 and 1976, respectively. The track was performed live in Paris, France.

Conclusion: Gentle Giant never ceased to impress me, except after the 'Interview' album. Too bad their last three studio albums which are more pop oriented and have clearly shown the signs of weakness as the truly dark ages that were pointing at the horizon of the progressive rock music. However, Gentle Giant had proudly let their personal mark in the progressive rock music, and until then, their musical quality level had rarely been equalled. 'Playing The Fool' is without any doubt one of those cases. It has great performances of a very complicated and technically brilliant music. The final result is a very good track list with a great sound quality level. All of these factors contribute to that 'Playing The Fool' can be seeing as a great live album. With it, we have a great live album that will long live in the progressive rock history as one of the best live albums ever made by one of the best and most unique bands of the genre.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |


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