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Old 05-20-2009, 10:42 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Comus says: Be a Gentle Giant for Seven Days!


TO LISTEN TO GENTLE GIANT
Now ignoring my incredible paint skills for a second, here's a pre-recorded message:

Hello musicbanter! Itís Thursday, and for some reason that screams to me itís time to shove some prog down your throat. Infact every day for the next seven days Iím going to shove some prog down your throat, more specifically in the shape of one band. Thatís right, for you nubs doing discography threads over several years. Iím going to review, in order, Gentle Giantís seven essential albums in a week.

This is to prove that prog doesnít have to be all wankery and serious composition. Gentle Giant are perhaps one of the most fun bands in the progressive rock mainstream. Relying less on overt humour like Caravan and rather keeping their songs fun in a more subtle way. Youíll notice a lot of quirks about their music and lyrics, as we travel through this wonderful week.

I'd like this to stay in general music for the week it takes me to finish it please, would be appreciated.
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classical music isn't exactly religious, you know?
um

Last edited by Comus; 05-20-2009 at 10:47 PM.
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Old 05-20-2009, 11:18 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Gentle Giant – Gentle Giant



Tracklist:
  1. Giant
  2. Funny Ways
  3. Alucard
  4. Isn't It Quiet and Cold?
  5. Nothing At All
  6. Why Not?
  7. The Queen

Year: 1970

This is not an album for everyone, but it’s most certainly a very interesting listen. The album starts on an unusual note for Gentle Giant in general. A quite under produced vocal performance surrounded by quite pristine instrumentations. As such, from the first few seconds you find out what Gentle Giant are all about. This is music for the sake of music; it’s for them as much as it is for us, which makes for an incredibly interesting listen.

You’ll immediately notice a lot of recurring melodies through a lot of differing instrumentation, adding a lot of depth to a great song. Funny Ways is far much more like the Gentle Giant most people know, the vocals are crisp and pristine, but still retain just that little edge of weird. I love everything that’s going on in the background here. The brief guitar solo here are very much reminiscent of the late 60’s British blues, and it’s always an unexpected turn.

Of course Gentle Giant aren’t a typical prog band. The songs aren’t all about virtuosity, solos and side long epics. For Gentle Giant, they were all about finely crafting songs for the sake of the songs, not the instruments within. This quality about the band is showcased very well on Alucard. Some very interesting synthesisers and vocal production makes it a very enjoyable and refreshing listen. But before you judge, and say “oh synthesisers, I bet they’ll sound like yes”. Not so, the synths here actually sound like synthesisers! There’s nothing much symphonic about them. You’ll be treated to a jazz style freak out at the end of Alucard here, and I must say it is a delightful way to introduce the next track.

And speaking of delightful Isn’t it Quiet and Cold? Serves as a lovely, cello-filled, interlude between the more demanding prog. More specifically Nothing at All, the longest song of the album features some of the more beautiful vocal harmonies and guitar melodies that you’ll find on any Gentle Giant song. Featured on this song is perhaps one of the most enjoyable drum solos you’ll ever find. Backed up by a wonderful keyboard performance by Kerry Minnear which fades from left to right and back again in a wonderful rollercoaster of production. It really is so good that you’ll want to replay the track to experience it again.

The album then takes yet another twist with Why Not? and we end up with some late 60’s style hard rock. Which quickly changes yet again to keep you on your toes, and once again cements Gentle Giant’s place as one of the more fun prog bands. Speaking of fun, ever wanted to hear the British anthem played on guitar? No? Seriously? Oh, well they do that to end this album off.

There are many strong points of this album, and it’s one hell of a debut, it can hold it’s own in the world of prog. But can it hold it’s own against the rest of Gentle Giant’s classic albums?

8.5/10
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Old 05-20-2009, 11:28 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I never got all the nonsense about prog not having a sense of humor. I guess you could say that about Yes. But King Crimson, Genesis, ELP and Jethro Tull applied a lot of humor to their work. Bands like Gong and Caravan had an especially great sense of humor.

I mean Gentle Giant did an album with a cover that had a tongue drooling over an apple that looks deceptively like an asscrack. Ok. Maybe it wasn't brilliant or tasteful humor. But there was humor.

Gentle Giant were one of the more subtle prog bands, but "subtle" is quite a useless word in proggyland. Their music is still full of all the whimsy and bombast one comes to expect from 70s prog. But their compositions rarely featured really long solos and the longest songs they ever did were 8 minutes, generally their songs are pretty short, but they pack a real punch, because they manage to cram so much into their songs. And yet it never feels bloated.

They were quite possibly one of the most eclectic prog bands. All of the band's members are talented multi-instrumentalists, they employ many instruments into the GG sound. Sax, Trumpet, Violin, Cello, Vibraphone. The polyphonic vocal harmonies are another trademark of the band. There's much classical influence in their work, but less oriented towards Neoclassicism than other prog bands, it ranges from the Renaissance and Baroque to Impressionists like Debussy and Expressionists like Schoenberg. With some psychedelia, free jazz, folk and even some blues thrown in.

They express their virtuosity through their music but without trying to compete with each other and they never noodle. They're among the most brilliant melodists in prog, and their composition skills is nothing short of amazing.
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Old 05-20-2009, 11:36 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Cool. I loaded Octopus on my iPod for tomorrow once I saw your first post. I don't have the self-titled so I'll have to stream that from last.fm, thanks for the links (I usually don't think to stream stuff).

Gentle Giant is definitely an acquired taste, some stuff I have heard I didn't like. But Octopus, In a Glass House, and The Power and the Glory I do like after a few listens. I'll plan to check out the other ones you post as I always intended to check out more than those 3.
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Old 05-21-2009, 12:39 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Giant is still one of my favorite GG songs. It's the first song I heard from them and it really grabbed me, it's what got me interested in the band.

Alucard, Isn't It Quiet and Cold? and Nothing At All are other highlights.
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Old 05-21-2009, 05:51 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Haha Gentle Giant is my favourite prog act at the moment and seeing as Anteater reviewed acquiring the taste not too long ago and you mentioned Octopus in your 1001 thread, I thought I'd add to the wind in their sails and also write up a review of Octopus and - of course as you know - a tribute thread dedicated to the band.

As I wrote up the thread, I thought about how cool it would be to actually have reviews of all their greats and this thread is gonna be an awesome companion to the other
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Old 05-21-2009, 12:50 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by boo boo View Post
Giant is still one of my favorite GG songs. It's the first song I heard from them and it really grabbed me, it's what got me interested in the band.

Alucard, Isn't It Quiet and Cold? and Nothing At All are other highlights.
The more I hear this album I start loving every song more and more, but yes, yes, yes AND YES on these four being brilliant.

For those of you brave enough to try to keep up with me, try doing reviews of the albums too, to make it even more interesting.

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I don't have the self-titled so I'll have to stream that from last.fm, thanks for the links (I usually don't think to stream stuff).
Thank tore for making a script.
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Old 05-21-2009, 02:35 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Thank tore for making a script.
Haha, told you it would come in handy

By the way, nice review of their debut! .. And I'm very much looking forward to tomorrow's acquiring the taste
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Old 05-22-2009, 12:49 AM   #9 (permalink)
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The album starts off with a spacey synthesiser melody rolling into the quaint trademark Gentle Giant vocals giving a quiet air of expectation about the album. Suddenly you’re introduced to a very eclectic mix of instruments and melodies all fighting for prominence over the vocals. You’re also treated to a few lovely guitar solos cutting through the rather aggressive melodies and keyboard riffs. The song ends in a wave of tinnitus and suddenly everything has calmed down.

Edge of Twilight has some lovely relaxing vocals, and it continues the trend of quirky little out of place melodies. But it also has a very bombastic drum solo dividing the song into two parts. The whole thing plays incredibly well, and incredibly tight, you can feel that the band has matured. The whole album, as Derek pointed out in his review, was basically a big middle finger to the music industry as a whole. As such they basically recorded what they felt sounded good, at the risk of alienating their fans.

The effect was pretty much completely the opposite, you’ll fall in love with the sincerity of this album, it sounds so organic. And that’s because it is, this is what Gentle Giant wanted to write, and it marks an early shift in their music. The whole album seems to flow through because of this natural sound, and as such nothing feels forced. None of the long instrumental passages get boring, because they’re not “showing off” but rather playing how they want to play.

Take the guitar solo on The House, The Street, The Room, it’s quite proficient yes, but Gary Green can do more complex stuff. This is just what he found sounded best, and what way to do that than through a 12 string wah-wah guitar solo straight from the heart.

The House, The Street, The Room

After the brief instrumental interlude of Aquiring the Taste comes quite possibly one of the most catchy tunes Gentle Giant have ever made. You’ll find it hard to not sing along to Wreck’s “Hey-yeah-yeah hold on”, I can’t contain myself that’s for sure. Combine this with a very catchy synth/guitar riff and you have yourself a massive winner. You’ll grow to love the little instrumental solos that occasionally sneak into the forefront. The beauty of it, as stated before, is that it’s music for the sake of music, not for the sake of “oh, every song needs a guitar/drum/keyboard solo dude!”

Nothing seems out of place here, and that’s the beauty of this album, while nothing is expected or boring either, it’s just that way because that’s how Gentle Giant wanted to make their album. So here we finally have a progressive rock album, that is completely sincere in its construction of music, nothing is there to “sound progressive” this is jus what they want to play. I know I’m hammering the point home, but it just makes this for such an enjoyable listen.

Overall this is a very very strong addition to Gentle Giant’s catalogue. You’ll find a heavier, more honest and straight forward Gentle Giant here, there’s not a lot of catchy vocals or lyrics like a lot of their other albums. But you’ll find lots and lots of catchy melodies and riffs. Overall it’s a lot stronger and more cohesive than their debut and as such does most certainly deserve a higher score.

9/10
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Old 05-22-2009, 03:53 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Great review I basically agree with everything, I think. One funny thing I discovered when I first listened to this is that I'm absolutely sure I have an old module file (tracker music files of old) which has the interesting little bit from about 2:00 into Edge of Twilight in it and so that evoked some real nostalgia with me. I think my favourite tracks are Pantagruel's nativity or Black Cat, but yeah - as you say, songs like Wreck are insanely catchy.

All in all a great album, only good songs. Interestingly, I found this little piece of trivia on the album's last.fm page :

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Originally Posted by last.fm
In an interview of March 1998 in 20th century music magazine RAY SHULMAN states: … “I think ACQUIRING THE TASTE, our second record, was probably the purest in terms of making music. We just made music and it was never for any other reason. There were no business concerns because we weren’t even known.”
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