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Gentle Giant - Civilian CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

2.78 | 434 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Gentle Giant's last studio album showed a strong rebound from the desperate sell-out of 1978's "Giant For a Day" (which isn't saying much, admittedly). But it still completely negated the original vision statement offered by the band on their sophomore album "Acquiring the Taste" in 1971. To refresh your memory, and put this final effort in perspective, I quote:

"It is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular. We have recorded each composition with the one thought - that it should be unique, adventurous and fascinating. From the outset we have abandoned all pre- conceived thoughts of blatant commercialism."

Well, a lot can happen in less than a decade. But don't blame Messrs. Shulman, Shulman and Minnear for the epic erosion of their youthful idealism. The entire music industry was going down the drain in 1980, and bands like Gentle Giant were simply caught in the undertow.

Still, if it ain't exactly (or even approximately) Progressive Rock, the new sound of the band was still solidly, simply Rock. There really isn't a weak track on the entire album, and more than a few songs show real muscle: "Number One", "Inside Out", "All Through the Night". The album opener "Convenience" is an admirable stab at mainstream Rock-Moderne, especially if you ignore the anachronistic synthesizer burbles, an unfashionable indulgence in New Wave 1980. And it's tempting to read an ironic self-awareness in the title of the final song (on the album and of the band's recording career): "It's Not Imagination".

Drummer J.P. Weathers has gone on record calling it "a fantastic album", which only makes me wonder where his head was at during the studio sessions for "The Power and the Glory" and "In a Glass House". The rest of the group was a little less generous in their praise. "I don't have particularly fond memories of any of it", recalled Kerry Minnear. Ray Shulman added, "I had a horrible time...even now I just can't listen to it." Brother Derek was even more succinct: "really contrived" was his blunt evaluation of the band's final three albums.

So, who are you gonna trust: the founding members of the original group, or a drummer nicknamed 'Pugwash' who liked to wear an Oakland A's uniform on stage? (As a fellow Bay Area baseball fan I appreciate his taste, but historically I've always been a National League supporter...)

The truth is probably somewhere in between those two poles of opinion, much like my own Prog Archives rating. The album may not have been the ideal swan song for one of the most inventive rock groups of the 1970s, but they were at least smart enough to call it quits before doing something really hiring The Buggles as a back-up band, or something.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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