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GENTLE GIANT

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Gentle Giant biography
Formed in 1970 in London, UK- Disbanded in 1980

GENTLE GIANT is known as the paradigmatic progressive rock band. With an uncomparable musicianship, they went as far as no one ever did into unexplored grounds in the progressive music, navigating over dissonant 20th-century classical chamber music, medieval vocal music, jazz and rock. The multi-instrumentation capabilities of the musicians gave such dynamic to their music, which set parameters to a whole coming generation up to these very days. They explored Moogs, Mellotrons and Fender Rhodes usage with such majesty! Not to mention other instruments like oboes, violins, cellos and horns among others.

The band was able to come across the 70's maintaining an outstanding level on their music, altering their style over the years and keeping the quality as only a few bands were able to do. Among their magnificent discography, all the albums from "Acquiring the Taste" through "Playing the Fool" are essential progressive rock releases (with the possible exception of "Interview"). This portion of the band's career would see a fittingly grand conclusion on the live "Playing the Fool" album. What more is there to say about these masters of progressive music?

See also: Three Friends

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GENTLE GIANT discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

GENTLE GIANT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.95 | 1201 ratings
Gentle Giant
1970
4.26 | 1507 ratings
Acquiring The Taste
1971
4.11 | 1213 ratings
Three Friends
1972
4.30 | 1933 ratings
Octopus
1972
4.34 | 1655 ratings
In A Glass House
1973
4.30 | 1578 ratings
The Power And The Glory
1974
4.28 | 1476 ratings
Free Hand
1975
3.74 | 739 ratings
Interview
1976
2.97 | 548 ratings
The Missing Piece
1977
2.34 | 480 ratings
Giant For A Day
1978
2.78 | 433 ratings
Civilian
1980

GENTLE GIANT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.52 | 428 ratings
Playing The Fool - The Official Live
1977
3.59 | 26 ratings
In Concert (BBC Radio 1)
1994
4.12 | 59 ratings
Out Of The Woods
1996
2.48 | 34 ratings
The Last Steps
1996
4.14 | 63 ratings
King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents
1998
4.05 | 31 ratings
Out Of The Fire
1998
1.86 | 16 ratings
In A Palesport House
1999
4.14 | 46 ratings
Totally Out Of The Woods
2000
1.98 | 20 ratings
Live Rome 1974
2000
2.22 | 14 ratings
Interview In Concert
2000
1.85 | 13 ratings
Artistically Cryme
2002
3.74 | 23 ratings
Experience
2002
1.41 | 8 ratings
Endless Life
2003
3.92 | 10 ratings
Missing Face
2003
1.94 | 14 ratings
Way of life
2003
2.21 | 10 ratings
Prologue
2003
3.95 | 3 ratings
Playing the Cleveland
2003
4.25 | 4 ratings
Live In New York 1975
2005
2.53 | 8 ratings
Santa Monica Freeway
2005
3.55 | 23 ratings
King Alfred's College Winchester
2009
3.92 | 28 ratings
Live In Stockholm '75
2009
3.94 | 29 ratings
Live at the Bicentennial
2014

GENTLE GIANT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.64 | 196 ratings
Giant On The Box
2004
4.27 | 98 ratings
GG At The GG
2006

GENTLE GIANT Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.50 | 2 ratings
The Original Studio Gentle Giant - Vol. 1
1974
4.50 | 2 ratings
The Original Studio Gentle Giant - Vol. 2
1974
3.49 | 19 ratings
Giant Steps...The First Five Years 1970-1975
1975
3.13 | 4 ratings
Pretentious For The Sake Of It
1977
0.00 | 0 ratings
Circling Round The Gentle Giant
1981
4.17 | 3 ratings
Gentle Giant
1982
0.00 | 0 ratings
Il Grande Rock
1991
4.39 | 56 ratings
Edge of Twilight
1996
3.14 | 65 ratings
Under Construction
1997
4.23 | 36 ratings
Free Hand/Interview
1998
3.23 | 33 ratings
Scraping The Barrel
2004
4.26 | 23 ratings
I Lost My Head - The Chrysalis years (1975-1980)
2012
2.17 | 14 ratings
Memories Of Old Days
2013
4.32 | 38 ratings
Three Piece Suite
2017

GENTLE GIANT Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.00 | 1 ratings
Rock Power
1971
4.62 | 13 ratings
Prologue
1972
4.50 | 16 ratings
In A Glass House
1973
4.36 | 23 ratings
The Advent Of Panurge
1973
4.54 | 13 ratings
The Power and the Glory
1974
3.83 | 6 ratings
Give It Back
1976
3.00 | 6 ratings
I'm Turning Around
1977
3.88 | 8 ratings
Two Weeks in Spain
1977
4.45 | 11 ratings
Just the Same (live)
1977
3.00 | 5 ratings
Mountain Time
1978
1.56 | 8 ratings
Thank You (edit)
1978
3.33 | 4 ratings
Dando Vueltas
1978
3.17 | 6 ratings
Words from the Wise
1978
2.33 | 3 ratings
Underground
1980
2.20 | 5 ratings
All Through The Night
1980
0.00 | 0 ratings
In A Power Free In'terview
2009
1.62 | 4 ratings
The Power And The Glory
2010

GENTLE GIANT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Three Friends by GENTLE GIANT album cover Studio Album, 1972
4.11 | 1213 ratings

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Three Friends
Gentle Giant Eclectic Prog

Review by iluvmarillion

4 stars This comes from a period between Acquiring The Taste and Octopus, when the music of Gentle Giant is very complex and experimental. Comparison wise it's a bit like gazing at a painting by George Seurat. Appreciation of the pointillism of post-impressionist art improves with your understanding of impressionist art. Likewise I would think it useful but not essential in liking this period of Gentle Giant to have a grounding in rock and jazz and maybe have been exposed to a bit of classical music, but it doesn't guarantee that you're going to like it. Sometimes the listener has to make a leap of faith to music that's a little bit more difficult, or different to appreciate. If the scale of the jump is too high to make, then the music loses that connection with the listener. Maybe, it's that the music is too elitist to appreciate, or that people are being taken out of their comfort zone and don't want to go there? This was the danger that Gentle Giant faced in their early days, which they never really overcame. They simplified their approach after Octopus without compromising on their musical integrity. However, they never really endeared the public to their music in the way progressive groups like Yes and Genesis did.

The extraordinary thing about Gentle Giant that stands them apart from other groups is that they are all multi- instrumentalists. All can sing. Kerry Minnear is a classically trained pianist with a degree in composition from the Royal Academy of Music. Ray Shulman is one of the great bass players in rock. His bass line is more, or less, continuous and acts as a counterpoint to the keyboard runs which tend to go in stops and starts. The beauty of the music is that it all interacts, but it generally doesn't come together at the first listening.

The album concept of Three Friends is very straightforward. Three boyhood friends grow up together then are separated by their circumstances. Prologue (nostalgic look over their fate). Schooldays (remembering when they met and grew up at school before they separated). Working All Day (one becomes a road worker). Peel The Paint (the second becomes an artist). Mister Class And Quality (the third becomes a white collar worker). Three Friends (how fate, skill and chances separated them). The vocal line and use of the musical instrumentation, describes the journey of the three friends from childhood.

The mini-moog of Prologue represents the main theme and is built on by Hammond organ and 12-string guitar. The bass guitar with piano is syncopated to signal the passing of time just as the chorus sings, "days change into years". In Schooldays the vibraphone represents the playfulness of the school yard with bells ringing and remembering the fun it was when the boys were together. Pounding piano keys and moody mellotron indicate those days are about to change as the child voices reminiscing what it was like, are competing against the more serious side of homework and attending to teacher demands. The scaling notes of clavinet, guitars and sax, ascending and descending indicate the mundane nature of manual work as Derek Shulman sings the main verse of Working All Day. Bach like organ introduces Peel The Paint before the fuzz guitar breaks up the organ theme and then some very psychedelic electric guitar playing describes the feeling of the artist unconstrained by the worries of time. Contrasting with the life of the artist, the third of the friends has the most practical of lives working in an office. The bright and breezy tones of electric piano with violin and tambourine describes the easy life he has giving and taking orders. The last song, Three Friends, is a worldly chorus of mellotrons reprising the main theme.

Three Friends has a harder edge than the preceding album, Acquiring The Taste. Octopus, to follow, goes a little harder again. I largely ignored these albums when I was younger, preferring the next trio of albums, In A Glass House, The Power And The Glory and Free Hand. This early phase in Gentle Giant's discography is as equally rewarding as the other.

 The Power And The Glory by GENTLE GIANT album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.30 | 1578 ratings

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The Power And The Glory
Gentle Giant Eclectic Prog

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars GENTLE GIANT fans are nothing if not an attentive lot, as this isn't the sort of music you can just allow to wash over you and come out cleaner for it. So I'm somewhat surprised that, though most acknowledge that the original closer "Valedictory" reprises the melody of the opener "Proclamation", I haven't found any references to the penultimate cut "The Face" also being eerily similar. Well, I guess the eerie part is a given with the Giant, but, hey, if I had stumbled on a hook like that I'd probably install it everywhere whether people were asking for it or not. And I'm guessing some Giant fans look down their noses at a hook.

"Proclamation" itself outshines most everything in the band's discography, exploiting the herky jerky rhythms for which the band is known to stunning effect and, in parts, rocking very hard but with a rare focus. Here and elsewhere, the clavinet and especially the electric piano of Kerry Minnear hold tcourt, and gently brush the gorgeous and surprisingly accessible ballad "Aspirations", This is followed by "Playing the Game", another standout with...gasp..another earworm?

There was a time I just would have thought this was a slightly less oily release but I'm ready to proclaim that, if only on the "Power and the Glory", I almost sort of "get" GENTLE GIANT., or at least I can use some type of cheap translate app to approximate that self satisfied feeling of intellectual superiority that comes with such potency. Sure, "So Sincere", "Cogs in Cogs" , and "No God's a Man" are annoyingly smarmy, but if they weren't, I don't think fans would go to bat for "Power and the Glory" like they do. And that's their job, not mine. Nifty.

 The Last Steps  by GENTLE GIANT album cover Live, 1996
2.48 | 34 ratings

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The Last Steps
Gentle Giant Eclectic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This soundboard recording is aptly titled, for its source is the last ever Gentle Giant show. It's rather appropriate that it takes place at the Roxy in LA, for not only had Derek Shulman made Los Angeles his home by this point, but Los Angeles also the band suffer an awkward early experience at the Hollywood Bowl where their classic prog sound did not find an appreciative audience at all (not Gentle Giant's fault - in retrospect, putting them on as a support act for Black Sabbath seems to have been a poor move). It's rather nice to hear the band get a more respectful - even enthusiastic reception in LA here.

That said, the set may be worth more in historical interest than it is in terms of pure listening pleasure: the sound quality is not that great. (It's not completely unlistenable - but it's rarely better than just "OK".) The recording has most recently been released as part of the Unburied Treasure boxed set, in which context it's been tidied up about as much as is possible, and that still isn't exceptionally tidy.

Still, it's interesting to sample a setlist which leans heavily on Civilian and includes picks from The Missing Piece and Giant For a Day (and a light sprinkling of material from as far back as Octopus). With recent Gentle Giant albums not sounding much like Gentle Giant, it's actually surprising how well the setlist flows despite this.

It also helps that the band are in a jolly mood here. When so many bands disband acrimoniously, it's nice that Gentle Giant seemed to go out on a comparative high. No, Civilian didn't bring them back the success they had with their classic run of albums from their debut to Playing the Fool, but they seem to be playing to a very enthusiastic audience here. They may have found themselves in a creative cul-de-sac that they couldn't navigate their way out of after three studio albums casting about for a fresh direction, but considering the legacy they left behind and the more controversial steps they'd recently taken, The Last Steps shows that there was still some spark left in their newest material and the band's end was far from embarrassing.

 Civilian by GENTLE GIANT album cover Studio Album, 1980
2.78 | 433 ratings

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Civilian
Gentle Giant Eclectic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars As with the preceding Giant For a Day and the first side of The Missing Piece, this certainly doesn't sound much like the Gentle Giant we know. But wait, stop a moment... imagine, if you will, that this isn't the last Gentle Giant, but the sole album from a band new project (perhaps you could dub it "Civilian" like the album title) which just happens to have the same personnel. Approach this like the bridge between New Wave and prog it was constructed as - imagine, say, Utopia playing CBGB's - and you might find this to be an intriguing and badly underrated work from a time of tumultuous change both in the music industry and critical tastes.

No, the Civilian-era Gentle Giant didn't last long - but in combining a few post-punk ideas into their music whilst retaining some of their older vocal harmonies, they end up producing something which wouldn't be too out of place alongside the early works of Twelfth Night or Pallas. Yes, it's Gentle Giant selling out, as was their previous album, but they're selling out even more interestingly here and of the three post-Interview studio albums they put out, Civilian is the one whose bad rap is perhaps least deserved.

 Giant For A Day by GENTLE GIANT album cover Studio Album, 1978
2.34 | 480 ratings

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Giant For A Day
Gentle Giant Eclectic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars It's really no surprise why Giant For a Day gets a harsh ride from critics and fans. Whilst I personally quite enjoy it, I think its biggest flaw is that it was released as a Gentle Giant album. Had it been the debut album for a new successor project, perhaps it would not have been weighed down by the baggage of the preceding 10 albums (including Playing the Fool).

As it stands, however, the reasons for its commercial and critical failure are painfully clear. Nobody who'd fallen in love with Gentle Giant's distinctive, original style of prog could fail to find this album jarring compared to the group's earlier work (though those who paid close attention to the first side of The Missing Piece would at least have had warnings that things might develop in this direction).

Equally, it was deeply unlikely that anyone who'd already disliked Gentle Giant would have given them a second chance. (Why would they expect the band's 10th studio album to sound all that different to the preceding 8 years' worth of work?) And anyone new to the band and curious about them would surely have been steered by word of mouth from fans to more widely-celebrated albums by the band, and probably correctly so.

Putting the Gentle Giant name aside, though, and assessing this album based purely on the music, this isn't actually that bad. Yes, the vocal harmonies owe more to Kansas than to the Gentle Giant of old, but the band turn out to be not too shabby at turning out quirky pop with a progressive sheen to it - the sort of material which many of their peers would resort to in the early 1980s in order to adapt to changing times. In this way, you could argue that Gentle Giant were actually as ahead of the times here as they were for much of the rest of their career - it's just that the times they were foreseeing would prove to be a difficult era indeed to be a prog band.

I rather like Giant For a Day - in particular, it feels to me like a more consistent album than The Missing Piece, which was split between attempts at poppier works on its first side and more classically prog-sounding songs on its second side, with the result that whilst, yes, the prog pieces do make it more palatable for fans of Gentle Giant's classic sound, but as an overall album it comes across as somewhat disjointed. Here, at least, the band seem to have settled on a direction and have a specific music statement to make with the album.

Unfortunately, it's not something anyone wanted to hear at the time of release; nor will it scratch the itch if you are in a particular mood for a Gentle Giant album which sounds, well, anything like Gentle Giant. On the other hand, if you're in the mood for quirky late-1970s pop rock with a few progressive tricks up its sleeves, it's a fun little listen... just pretend you didn't see the band name on the cover and you'll probably enjoy it better.

 In A Glass House by GENTLE GIANT album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.34 | 1655 ratings

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In A Glass House
Gentle Giant Eclectic Prog

Review by progtime1234567

5 stars After listening to just this album and Octopus, I already consider myself a Gentle Giant fan. The album is a great record and should be heard by all fans of progressive rock. I would put this record on the shelf right next to Red by King Crimson and Close to the edge by Yes. Gentle Giant has a unique sound that is only comparable to King Crimson's sound in the 1970's. The album is very complex and all the songs sound unique and different from each other. The only only other Gentle Giant album that does this is Octopus.

This album makes me want to explore the territory that Gentle Giant has in the music world. The album is a masterpiece of prog rock music and should be heard by all prog fans.

 The Missing Piece by GENTLE GIANT album cover Studio Album, 1977
2.97 | 548 ratings

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The Missing Piece
Gentle Giant Eclectic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars You can't say they didn't warn us. On Gentle Giant's Interview - the studio album before this one - the band showed signs of wanting to experiment with musical sounds beyond the scope of the prog spheres they'd comprehensively conquered on their run of albums from the self-titled debut to Free Hand. (Give It Back, with its hints of reggae influences, was perhaps the biggest clue there).

No, 1977's The Missing Piece was not, in retrospect, such a bolt from the blue as you might think - but even so, fans may be forgiven for being shocked by the comprehensive gear shift presented here. There is a logic to the album's structure which the CD format rather obscures; in the original vinyl configuration, the last four songs - prog pieces which sit comfortably next to earlier material, if a bit simplified compared to their most complex experiments - form the second side, whilst the first side is dedicated to the band's experiments in different musical genres and approaches. This division of two halves almost makes this an implicit concept album, or at the very least follows a theme - a balance between on the one hand exploring new territory and on the other developing familiar turf.

The punkish Betcha Thought We Couldn't Do It would be the most radical departure here, but overall there's hints of influences being picked up from the rising New Wave which doubtless, after further consideration, eventually yield the sound of Civilian, the band's final studio album.

In a way, Gentle Giant were once again ahead of the curve here - most of the prog groups who would eventually adopt a more commercial sound in the face of the coming decade were still playing in broadly their old styles in 1977. (Consider that this would be when Yes were Going For the One and Steve Hackett was still in Genesis.) It's no surprise that several band members would eventually land on their feet in record company jobs cultivating new generations of talent, because here they've clearly spotted the way the wind was blowing well before many others did.

The fact that they don't seem to have a strong idea here of which direction to go in next may justifiably be considered the first sign that the band was in its waning days. Had they chosen one distinctive direction to go in and committed to it at this point, then perhaps they'd have weathered the coming storm.

As it is, The Missing Piece is, true to its cover art, much like a collection of spare jigsaw pieces - each of which offers a snippet of an interesting-looking picture in its own right, but none of which fit together to come to a cohesive whole as an album. Nonetheless, some of those individual pieces are pretty fine. The second side of the album is pretty solid, whilst the experiments of the first part will grow on you if you allow them to. It wasn't enough to save the day in the long run - but perhaps it was good enough to keep the Giant ploughing on just a bit longer.

 Civilian by GENTLE GIANT album cover Studio Album, 1980
2.78 | 433 ratings

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Civilian
Gentle Giant Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars Prog's most celebrated cult band GENTLE GIANT spent the first half of the 70s releasing one innovative and exceedingly adventurous album after another capturing the hearts of the most ambitious progheads of the era but sadly those were few and far between which meant that while GENTLE GIANT would blow the minds of musicians and other fans who were willing to take the time to understand the complexities involved in crafting such musical meistrohood, the financial payoffs were quite bleak. Without knowing that it would take the public decades to catch up with the grand vision, GENTLE GIANT decided to bail ship and craft a more accessible crossover style of prog which began on 'The Missing Piece' and then went full on pop rock on the following 'Giant For A Day.' When any sort of commercial success failed to materialize after losing its dedicated fanbase, the band sort of panicked and made a rash decision to relocate to the USA.

Derek Schulman took the lead in the business affairs of the band and decided that the band needed to adapt a more American sound so in 1979 the boys left jolly old England and went Hollywood in sunny Los Angeles. The experience proved to be unpleasant as none of the GENTLE GIANT guys really liked it there at all but they were determined to give it all they had and craft the quintessential rock album that would blow away the competition and change their fortunes into the next Boston, Eagles or even Aerosmith and so the crafty guys who had formerly cranked out such prog masterpieces like 'Octopus' went into the studio and recorded a tamed down new version of GENTLE GIANT which resulted in the bands 11th album CIVILIAN. Long gone were all those bizarre contrapuntal prog workouts and so too were gone the days of those innovative vocal harmonies gone bonkers tinged with medieval splendor. In were shorter no nonsense hard rock power chords with 4/4 timing with some keyboard flavors thrown in for good measure.

And so it was. CIVILIAN emerged in March 1980 approximately ten years after the band's formation and in many ways is more of a harder rock rendition of the pop flavored psychedelic hooks that the three Schulman brothers were producing with GENTLE GIANTS precursor Simon Dupree & The Big Sound. To my ears the staccato keyboard stabs and gentle on the ears melodies are right out of that 60s era pre-GIANT playbook (just listen to 'Kites') however CIVILIAN takes the band into the contemporary pop rock territory where they wouldn't sound out of place on tour with let's say REO Speedwagon, Foghat, Foreigner, Journey or even early 80s Heart. Despite grandiose visions of breaking into the American market, CIVILIAN was pretty much shot down from the start with little or no interest which after a short tour finally was the last straw that made the band realize there were absolutely no more options at this point and broke up never to return again. While many claim CIVILIAN to be the worst piece of musical trash ever to emerge from a recording studio, the truth is that this is GENTLE GIANT and absolutely nothing they did was terrible, however it is true that this is the weakest of the pop trilogy of albums and the nadir of their otherwise impressive run.

Beginning with some new wave sounding keyboards the opening 'Convenience (Clean and Easy)' is a track all about the American lifestyle where things are designed for single consumption and to make a life on the go culture. The track pretty much sets the tone for the entire album with heavy plodding drums and bass along with hard rock guitar riffs, power chords and the noticeable absence of all those wonderful accoutrements such as violins, xylophones, flutes and all the other yummy ingredients GENTLE GIANT threw into the melting pot. CIVILIAN pretty much follow this template and acts as if it really were just another band from LA with simple to follow melodies, non-intricate rhythms, the predictable verse / chorus / bridge compositional style and lyrics that didn't stray off into esoteric existential quandaries. All packaged neatly for public consumption but the public forgot to come to the party.

Tracks vary in quality with some like 'All Through The Night' and 'Underground' being quite catchy and really addictively catchy pop rock songs but some like 'I Am A Camera' reeks of ridiculousness along with many more that are inoffensive but hardly memorable either. The problem with CIVILIAN is not that it is a hard rock album at all but in the fact that this sort of musical style places the focus on the lead vocalist. Unfortunately Derek Schulman does not have the vocal charisma of the heavy hitters of the era like Lou Gramm of Foreigner or Steve Perry of Journey and that is the album's biggest pitfall. The musicians get the job done but by deemphasizing the band's quirky prog workouts where Schulman's vocals worked perfectly, they inadvertently opened themselves up to that greatest weakness of all and when all is said and done these guys' brand of hard rock just seems rather ordinary. Likewise the pop hooks aren't nearly as catchy and quirky as 'Giant For A Day.' I hated this the first time i heard it as well but after many spins it has grown on me. Not a bad album at all but it certainly isn't a great one either and signifies the day this GIANT ended its decade long existence.

 Giant For A Day by GENTLE GIANT album cover Studio Album, 1978
2.34 | 480 ratings

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Giant For A Day
Gentle Giant Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars GENTLE GIANT was prog's greatest cult band as it emerged from nowhere in 1970 and cranked out one stellar album of the most eclectic arrangements possible under the banner of rock music and thus this band was so ahead of its time that it has literally taken the rest of the world decades to catch up with these musicians' experimental mix of disparate musical genres into an overall sound that was and still is unmatched. While the band has become legendary, things weren't so great for this talented crew of multi-instrumentalists who were known as being too complex and progressive for even the progressive rock crowds but there were a few stalwart hardcore proggers of the day who rabidly followed the great GENTLE GIANT wherever they went through thick and thin. Well, that's until the band decided to take a turn to the poppy side of the force. So much for tolerance from the rabid fans.

In the mid-70s as the musical tastes were turning towards more simplified forms of music from the perceived overweening pomp of prog found itself in an existential crisis. Either adapt to the newer trends or die. True that certain newer strains of prog like the avant-garde weirdness of Henry Cow and Univers Zero was finding a new niche in complex music as well as crossover artists like Rush but for the most part even the bigwigs of prog like Yes, Genesis and Jethro Tull were taming things down a few notches. Having been one of the underdogs at least in terms of commercial success, GENTLE GIANT was also forced to do or die so do they did. While a few more trendy musical elements like reggae trickled into "Interview," it was the band's ninth album "The Missing Piece" where they decided to go in a more pop direction but on that album the band was sort of sticking their feet in the swimming pool without committing to jumping in. All that changed on the band's tenth album GIANT FOR A DAY which found all the provocative use of counterpoints, medieval themes and prog excesses completely disappearing for good.

Despite this album being almost universally panned and also happening to be the lowest rated of any GENTLE GIANT album, GIANT FOR A DAY is actually quite an eclectic album in its own right. While all the prog elements that graced the band's most ambitious albums like "Octopus" and "In A Glass House" are nowhere to be found, the five members of lineup of GENTLE GIANT still incorporated many styles and ideas into their pop rock hooks and as far as catchy melodic melodies go, GIANT FOR A DAY is a much more cohesive and satisfying pop rock album than its predecessor, at least in my world. While it's clear that GG was going for pop crossover mainstream success in hopes of joining the ranks of mega-selling acts like The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac or David Bowie, the band was still subtly sophisticated in how they crafted their tunes and if one listens carefully, it's obvious that these guys were still quite passionate about the music they were crafting as much attention was paid to crafting the very best melodic pop hooks possible.

The album begins with a familiar style of GENTLE GIANT with the opening "Words From The Wise" which finds the band's vocal harmonizing usher in an energetic rock groove with Gary Green setting the stage for a guitar groove led song structure with pounding bass and drums as the subordinate rhythmic heft. Other catchy guitar led hooks unfold on the upbeat rockers "Little Brown Bag" and "Rock Climber," the latter which displays the use of stride piano runs from Kerry Minnear. Two softer acoustic guitar ballads include "Take Me" which sounds something like a Supertramp song in the vein of "Give A Little" and the only tune that Derek Schulman didn't provide lead vocals, the Paul McCartney sounding "Friends" which featured drummer John Weather as vocalist in chief. This tune sounds right of the the "Yesterday" playbook and is actually equally compelling. Weather's voice is a surprise in how tender and precise it is.

My favorite cut of all has to be the extraordinary title track which finds the band crossing the line into new wave with a jittery Devo staccato robotic groove with a call and response between Schulman's lyrics and guitar licks. The track is off the charts catchy and the only song off this album that the band has ever played live. There was no tour to support this album which could be one of the reasons it may have been mostly forgotten. Another cool song is "Spooky Boogie" which is a playful instrumental that would make a good Halloween playlist. I could totally see this in tandem with an Elvira, Mistress of the Dark video where she's doing one of those nipple ring twirls. You know where she does one, then does the other and then both simultaneously? Ha! Other styles i detect vary from Steely Dan jazz-rock in "No Stranger," the boogie fueled soft rock of "Take Me" and the tear jerking "It's Only Goodbye" which milks the guitar for all its worth into a sad sorrowful lick that crafts a very distinct melodic development.

For prog snobs this will surely cause them to lose their lunch as the prog years had been completely extinguished and the pop hooks are all sprinkled with sugar and saccharine possible but out of all the sell out prog bands that crafted mesmerizing and really cleverly crafted pop rock hooks, GENTLE GIANT really hit a high note on GIANT FOR A DAY and along with albums such as Yes' "Drama" and "90215," Genesis' early 80s albums, King Crimson's "Discipline" and other progressive pop albums by Asia and Supertramp, this GENTLE GIANT album ranks high on my list and is actually an album i love to play on a regular basis. The tracks are super catchy, pleasantly diverse and yet just off-kilter enough to stand out from anything else even by GG itself. Yep, i'm in a lonely room loving the heck outa this album but if you view this from an objective lens with no comparisons to the past and judge it solely on its own merits, then there's no denying that GIANT FOR A DAY is a really brilliant pop rock album that if done by a more commercial band could've been a huge hit. In other words, the music is so much better than the awful album cover could possibly convey. I LOVE IT!

 The Missing Piece by GENTLE GIANT album cover Studio Album, 1977
2.97 | 548 ratings

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The Missing Piece
Gentle Giant Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars Even the most popular prog acts were feeling the pressure around 1976 when the music industry made an abrupt turn towards punk rock, heavy metal and more danceable styles of music such as disco and new wave. Best selling acts like Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes, Genesis and even non-English bands like Magma were jettisoning the lengthy epic fantasies that celebrated musical excesses by increasingly upping the ante of complex monstrosities until the style had pretty much alienated the next generation. The answer was to retreat back to simpler times and become followers instead of leaders. While even the big bands of the day were feeling the pressure to conform or die, bands like GENTLE GIANT that were known for being ridiculously complex and experimental even in prog terms were hit even harder.

After the 'Interview' album GG performed their last tour of their over-the-top contrapuntal rich menagerie of music styles and decided to simplify in the hopes of joining the more mainstream rock world where bands like The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac were selling gazillions and a cash starved GENTLE GIANT was eager to finally reap of the rewards of its hard work ethic that brought forth some of the most demanding musical artifacts from all of the 70s. The answer was the band's ninth album titled THE MISSING PIECE which served as a transitional album between the prog rich past and the soon to be pop rock reality that would last for only three albums before the band called it quits and never looked back. For the first time GENTLE GIANT also were looking at younger acts for inspiration instead of pioneering. While hints of more contemporary ideas were tucked neatly into 'Interview,' on THE MISSING PIECE the band shamelessly engaged in pure pop rock and even added some punk elements.

The album is roughly half of the newer pop oriented style that the band would release two more albums with and a second side that would dish out a few more proggy performances as a nod and a sad goodbye to the loyal fans that came before although these too were more watered down prog. Starting with the opening 'Two Weeks In Spain' it's clear that the old GENTLE GIANT was nowhere to be found. The catchy funky grooves laced with receptive guitar riffs and more banal lyrics signified a surrender as the band joined the brave new world of simpler music and carries it through with five tracks that add elements of funk, hard rock and even honky tonk piano to craft some catchy pop hooks without a trace of the complex harmonic interplay or crazy time signature rich instrumental tapestry of Renaissance folk fueled rock with classical and jazz overtones. The stand outs for me include the fiery 'Betcha Thought We Couldn't Do It' and the more funk fueled 'Mountain Time.'

The second side starting with 'As Old As You're Young' takes a drastic detour and looks towards the past with those crazy jittery keyboard fugue like performances along with the more dramatic polyrhythms, however they are all teased into packets of accessible pop hooks with verses, choruses and moments of instrumental interludes. 'Memories of Old Days' almost seems to lament the past that is no more with a slow lugubrious tempo and a pinning for the passion that made GG such a unique act in the first place. The only track of any substantial playing time at over seven minutes, this one reflects and contemplates the new decisions mostly on acoustic guitar and electric piano and a nice little revisitation of the Medieval folk themes that were always a part of the band's previous repertoire. 'Winning' is a percussion rich track that sounds like nothing else the band had ever done but also prognosticates the more pop rock direction of the next two albums only along with some easy listening contrapuntal additions for good measure. The album ends with the best track of all, the hyperactive 'For Nobody' that actually sounds like a leftover track from either 'Free Hand' or 'The Power And The Glory.'

While those who lived through the GENTLE GIANT years probably cringed when they first encountered THE MISSING PIECE, personally as a connoisseur of pop music lover outside of my prog addiction, i have to say that GENTLE GIANT did a decent job of mixing the old and new together and although not nearly as satisfying as other prog turned pop bands' albums like Yes' 'Drama' or King Crimson's 'Discipline,' the result isn't as bad as many make it out to be. The band clearly had as much talent crafting clever pop hooks as well as the wild prog workouts they are more famous for. While the album is decent it certainly lacks a cohesive feeling and as a pop rock act hadn't quite mastered the undeniable catchy hooks that would come to fruition on 'Giant For A Day.' There are many quality tunes on this one and the band members are on full fire instrumentally speaking. Unfortunately nothing is quite of the quality of scoring a chart seeking hit but as progressive pop tunes many of these are quite addictive. Personally i prefer the following album.

Thanks to Ivan Melgar M for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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