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Old 05-27-2009, 02:12 AM   #28 (permalink)
Comus
I'm sorry, is this Can?
 
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And this album brings us nicely to the end of a five year journey spanning seven great albums. Free Hand, as you’d expect is yet another departure, marking a Gentle Giant tethering on the edge of prog obscurity. The complex layering is mostly gone; however the lovely melodies and vocals still remain in small doses. You’ll find a lot more solo driven material here rather than repetitive, catchy vocals. The first track, Just The Same is a perfect example of this, solo after solo with a few melodies thrown in to keep the song together.

The charming edge of Gentle Giant remains with little touches like the all vocal introduction to On Reflection which sports some fantastic melodies. Overall it’s a very simple vocal driven song. Which works very well in the short context of the start of the album, however it shows a focus towards the less complex arrangement Gentle Giant is know for. The trend continues with Free Hand, everything seems properly stripped down here, while still keeping some of the quirkiness from their earlier albums with random melodies.

As with all Gentle Giant albums this one is guaranteed to keep you on your toes, they never really get predictable. Even with a stripped down sound you’ll notice a lot of new things on subsequent listens. One thing you’ll notice is because of the stripped down sound, the songs seem to just flow away, the title track feels like a 2 minute song instead of a 6 minute one. Especially if you’re used to there being a lot of melodies, it seems like it would work in a completely opposite way, but it seems to just flow really well.

My main problem with this album is that the whole band seems detached. It’s like they’re no longer putting their entire attitude into the music. It can start feeling a bit mechanical and stale and not to mention safe. For a band that was created due to a collective distaste for what they felt was 60’s pop they’ve started losing their edge. The album is by no means poor, but you rarely catch the glimpses of Gentle Giant at their best here.

This is probably the last album you should get, prog fans seem to love this album for some reason I can’t really understand. It’s great, but it doesn’t really surpass any of their other classic albums. It’s a shame to end on a low, but in the end this album would probably be the pinnacle of a lot of bands.

8/10
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