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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 An Essential Live Prog Rock Album of all time ...

There are two reasons why I need to review this legendary live album. First, I've just recently watched the band live performance through a video DVD titled Giant On the Box (2004) that features the band's performance and activities during the span of 1974 - 75. It's a wonderful live video especially for me having been listening to the band's music in the last thirty years something. Second, I am in a discussion through email with the reader of this site who lives in Pittsburgh USA. We are close, age-wise as well as taste-wise. He told me that he just got the double LP version of Playing The Fool which he lost it somewhere. According to him this is an excellent live album. Well, I fully agree with him.

This live set was recorded from the band's European Tour in September - October 1976; two years after their performance in Brussels TV recorded for the Giant On The Box DVD with the same line-up. By the time I listened to this album through a cassette I could not imagine how the band played their complex repertoires on stage especially with variety of instruments - over 30 plus types of instruments. Having seen the video, I can now imagine how the band members play their multi instruments. The album starts off with rapid-fire fingers punch of Kerry Minnear with his electric piano / keyboard through "Just The Same" from Free Hand album. It's an energetic opening track with a fully accentuated vocals and choirs. Derek shouts: "See me, what I am, what I was, what I'll be, Hear me, understand that I'm not what you see.". What a well positioned song as it opens the show with appropriate lyrics. The keyboard interlude and guitar riffs are truly magnificent! This opening track sparks the light for the rest of their performance.

The performance continues seamlessly to a dynamic track with great voices "Proclamation" from The Power and The Glory album. It has a slightly different arrangement from the original studio version especially on the piano intro combined with excellent guitar fills. Very nice. I can not let my mouth shut when Derek starts singing : "You may not have [applaud from the crowd!] all you want or you need, all that you have has been due to my hand, it can change, it can stay the same, who can say, who can make their claim. Hail hail hail ." Unfortunately there is one lyrical verse that is deleted with this live version, i.e the part that starts with "The situation we are in at this time .". But it's OK, it still a great song performed live.

It's so lively performance, I would say. With a long woodwinds and violin intro, "On Reflection" was performed flawlessly with its famous and beautiful choirs "In my way did I use you, do you think I really abused you On reflection now it doesn't matter:..." that has been the main characteristic of Gentle Giant. There is also an excellent acoustic guitar duo, I guess between Ray Shulman and Gary Green (now I can tell), during "Excerpts From Octopus" which received applaud from the crowd. The choral section combined with vibraphone is also very nice. Gary Green is a great guitar player. The exploration with other instruments including woodwinds and percussion is also performed beautifully.

"Funny Ways" which actually I did not favor initially through the studio version, has now become my favorite (after 30 years? Yes! It's due to the footage of the Giant on the Box DVD!). "Experience" starts off with a very inventive keyboard work by Minnear followed with fully accentuated voice of Derek combined with dynamic drumming by Weathers. "So Sincere" which was initially very hard for me to digest is now another good song as well as I now enjoy the violin and cello work here. "Free Hand" with its bluesy based rhythm is also performed energetically through excellent harmony between music and vocals, performed in energetic fashion. The live album concludes with an excellent medley "Peel The Paint / I Lost My Head" which is performed brilliantly.

In summary, having been more than 28 years now I still find listening to this excellent live album is very rewarding. Personally I could not give any rating less than 5 stars as this album is truly masterpiece of live prog rock album of all time. For those of you are familiar with the music of Gentle Giant from 1970-1976 would also find this album is an excellent addition to prog collection and I'm sure that at least you would give an at least 4 stars rating. I'm ready being blamed as too na´ve - but it's true I'm telling you that this band is truly FANTASTIC! Highly recommended. Keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours,

GW - Review #323

What will I feel maybe tomorrow, but time not real, hours I can borrow, so until for now, as long as how, I can't remember what I said. I lost my head." - taken from "I Lost My Head" by Gentle Giant "Interview" album.

Gatot | 5/5 |


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