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Old 06-11-2014, 02:19 PM   #21 (permalink)
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^ Thanks Antie.

In a way I'm kinda dreading my next review, it's the last of the great Giant albums, after that it's my sad duty to cover the pop-Giant.

I'm in an even bigger minority that picks 3F as my favorite...
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Old 06-12-2014, 11:57 AM   #22 (permalink)
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I just wanna throw this out there. The first XTC album I heard was English Settlement, my reaction (other than loving it) was that this sounded like what pop-Giant might've evolved into given enough time. I'm talking about their post 1977 output here.
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Old 06-16-2014, 01:09 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Default Interview (1976)

By 1976 Giant had been at it for 6 years, working so hard in such obscurity, endlessly touring as opening acts for bands that were earning millions and millions, many significantly less talented, while they were plugging away making a living wage and not much more than that. In addition the entire Prog genre was receiving mounting criticism and scorn from the by-now fully developed DIY movement (and in many cases rightly so). Out of this comes their last great studio album, Interview.




Interview is considered by many a concept album, I guess you could call it that but I tend to think of it as a theme album (IMO there is a difference). The title of the album, and the opening track, explains the entire theme (or concept if you prefer), they are being interviewed. And they really let the interviewer have a piece of their mind.

The title track opens with some of the ANGRIEST tones and lyrics in the entire Giant catalog. The music still comes first, of course, they accentuate the loud pissed-off verses with delicate instrumental fills. But make no mistake, they are fed up with every stupid question they've been asked all over the world for the past 6 years. There is even an instrumental bridge beginning at 3:27 that appears to reflect the dolting, slack-jawed idiocy of the music press, more dumb questions being whispered behind the goofy notes




The anger of the title track gives way to tired resignation in "Give It Back", the full trademark Giant instrumental interplay and off-time signatures are all here, especially in the bridge section, the lyrics overshadow this with a palpable frustration




The resignation gives way to utter despair in the centerpiece of the album, one my absolute favorites in all the Giant catalog. "Design" IMO outdoes even "Knots" and "So Sincere" as to the signature Giant dissonance. Interesting to notice that the pre-MTV performance videos that were made for many of the songs on this album were not made for "Design", I'm certain that they knew this track had zero chance of any wide mainstream acceptance, yet they made this the centerpiece, ending side one. This is simply great art for the sake of it. And without question, "Design" is depressing. Great art very frequently is.

"As Years Drift By / And Future Dies"




I can't even begin to explain the love that I have for this piece of music.


Unfortunately, side two opens with the first song in the entire Giant collection (since "The Queen" at least) that I didn't like at all, on any level (although in my next two reviews there will be an abundance of this). "Another Show" is just BITTER. Yes, they had been unmercifully touring touring for six years with very little return in investment, and they were sick of it (even losing one of their members, the third Shulman, Phil, in the process), and I get that the music is meant to reflect that, but OMG is this song unpleasant to listen to. Their chops are all still there, but yikes...




Fortunately the next track is wonderful, "Empty City"




"Timing" is another solid track, reflecting the good-news-offset-by-bad-news story that was their entire career




"I lost My Head" closes this last great Giant album, and the live album aside this is the last truly great song Giant ever released. Absolutely love this, especially the way it stomps on the LOUD pedal at 3:03




Up next, my sad duty to review the single most disappointing album of my life, The Missing Piece.
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Old 06-20-2014, 12:57 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Default The Missing Piece(1977)

So by now it's September, 1977. I'm 19 years old, living at my mom's house in Northeast Portland, reading the Portland newspaper (they were delivered to your front porch everyday, they looked like this)



(JIC some of you younger folks don't know, they've since kinda gone the way of the phone booth)

...so as I peruse, an ad from a nearby record store catches my eye...There's a new Gentle Giant album!

I drop the paper, run out to my bicycle, and pedal like mad for about a 5 mile round trip, then arrive back home with a copy of the latest Giant album, The Missing Piece




I slit the cellophane, pull out the inner sleeve, carefully pull out the record, gently place it on the spindle, and cue up the tonearm to the lead in groove to the opening track, "Two Weeks In Spain". I am fully prepared to be astounded...




Huh? WTF? I'm sitting there all through the three minutes, waiting for this song to start being Giant and stop being boring. It never happens. This is the worst Giant song I'd ever heard. Surely the next track, "Turning Around", will be better




So by this time I'm just sitting there slack jawed. Two dumb songs in a row. They had never disappointed me before, but I'm sorry, this is crap. They sound like they've dumbed their music down, like they want to get radio play. BORE-RING. Ok, *surely* they'll snap out of it on the next track, what's the name? (checks album cover) "Betcha Thought We Couldn't Do It". Uh-oh, that doesn't sound good....




You're right, I definitely thought you couldn't put out boring crap like this. They think, *think*, they're being punk. Not even close. They stopped being who they were and were trying to be someone else, and that just about never works. And it certainly isn't working now. From this point forward I have no expectation of hearing anything good from my favorite band.

The next song continues the crapfest, "Who Do You Think You Are"




Yawn. What'd I pay for this record again?

Next up, "Mountain Time". Zzzzzz




I don't remember for certain, but I don't even think I turned the album over. Eventually I did listen to side two, and it's not as awful as side one, but still not very good. It sounds like Giant trying to be Giant at the jump-the-shark point of their career, "As Old As You're Young"




The best song on this album, without a doubt, "Memories of Old Days", still isn't as good as anything on Interview, "Another Show" included, but it's better than anything else on this gawdawful album.



Another failed attempt at the more classic Giant follows, "Winning". They sound like a parody of their former selves here



The closing track is the only other track that kinda works in the traditional Giant style, "For Nobody", this is actually pretty good, I like the attempt at signature Giant vocal layering but the phase-shifting effects really detract from it. The overall effect is too little too late...




Two albums left to review. As bad as The Missing Piece is, their next was the absolute nadir of their career, by near unanimous consensus. The only Giant album I've never even owned a copy of, Giant For A Day, is, sadly, next
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Old 06-20-2014, 11:46 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Default Giant For A Day (1978)

This came out when I was living in Bamberg, West Germany on active duty in the Army. I was informed by friends and family not to even bother with this one, it made The Missing Piece seem like Octopus. Wise advise, this. I never bought a copy, I have never owned this album, & I will make this short and sweet. This album is BAAAAAAD.



Of particular note, the STUPID album cover suggests that you are encouraged to destroy it to make a cardboard mask out of it. It would be vastly more entertaining than listening to it.

Side One

"Words From The Wise": Crap




"Thank You": Dreck




"Giant For A Day": Poo




The one, the ONLY kinda/sorta good song on this embarrassment, "Spooky Boogie"




"Take Me": Shit




Side Two

"Little Brown Bag": Just an inch better than the previous attempts at straight-up rock & roll, still horrid tho




"Friends": John "Pugwash" Weathers only song, not as terrible as most of this album, sounds a lot like pre-XTC actually. It's ok




"No Stranger": Excrement




"It's Only Goodbye": Meh




"Rock Climber": Nope, this doesn't work either. Thankfully it concludes this abortion of a Gentle Giant album




There is one album left to review, and while the members of Giant hate it I think it is the only successful attempt at Pop-Giant. Civilian is next
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Old 06-21-2014, 12:50 AM   #26 (permalink)
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Love this thread Paul. Nice work! Just picked up "Three friends" on vinyl today for $15, in really good shape. As you explained, it's the cover from the UK self titled debut, not the other cover. Loving this band.
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Old 06-21-2014, 01:20 AM   #27 (permalink)
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^ Just for the love of God don't get TMP or GFAD
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Old 06-21-2014, 01:22 AM   #28 (permalink)
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^ Just for the love of God don't get TMP or GFAD


I'll save those for last.
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Old 06-21-2014, 08:49 AM   #29 (permalink)
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Lmao, that mask is amazing. Did GG want people who bought GFAD to follow the instructions and then get mistaken for serial killers?
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Old 06-21-2014, 08:47 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Default Civilian (1980)

By 1979 Giant gave it one more try, surely they could do better than the near-total disaster that was Giant For A Day. The band picked up their entire act, moved it to LA and hooked up with the famed Geoff Emerick, and recorded what turned out to be their final album, Civilian




(I think the way the band name and album title are melded as one in this album cover is very clever, a MAJOR improvement over the STUPID cover for the previous album)

The idea behind the move was Derek Shulman's, who by this time had effectively become the band's manager, and who saw the US as the last, best hope at commercial viability. Many of the band members didn't like the move, most notably Kerry Minnear and Derek's brother Ray. This discomfort led to a general dissatisfaction with the album (Kerry Minnear was pleased with it) and eventually the band.s dissolution shortly after the album's release.

Like the two albums that preceded it, Civilian is nearly unrecognizable as the trademark Giant form that I had so fallen in love with 8 years earlier. Unlike those two albums, at least to my ears, this time they pulled the stripped-down straight-ahead style off. Don't get me wrong here, Civilian is not even CLOSE to any album between the eponymous debut and the great live double-album, at all, but it *is* IMO the one successful attempt at Pop-Giant, and I do enjoy the album on that level. I hadn't listened to a MINUTE of The Missing Piece or Giant For A Day for YEARS before posting the above reviews, but I've spun the songs from Civilian the entire time. The members of the band may not like it but I do.

Some consider Civilian a concept album, but I don't. I think the "concept" (some kind of futuristic Brave-New-World society) was cooked up after the fact, I don't believe they went to the studio with this plan.

The album opens with "Convenience (Clean And Easy)", pretty clearly a comment on American culture.This is a very good rocker IMO




Another good rock song follows, "All Through The Night"




The next song is the GORGEOUS ballad, "Shadows On The Street". This would definitely be a strong candidate for one of my ATF songs to sing, due almost entirely to the bridge/chorus (hard to say which) that starts at 1:55, just beautiful




Giant has always proclaimed that the decision to attempt to record simpler, more potentially commercially viable songs was a mutual band decision. I've personally believed that was a half-truth, that they were under pressure from the record execs to sell some damn records. My evidence for this is the next track, "Number One" which ends side one.




Side two opens with a KILLER rocker, "Underground"




Yet another fine rock song, "I Am A Camera"




As much as I enjoy every single song on Civilian, my absolute no-doubt-about-it favorite follows, "Inside Out"




The vinyl record concluded with "It's Not Imagination"




...which, as the final note fades, leads into a few samples much in the same way that In A Glass House did, saying the prophetic words "That's All There Is". Thus ends the great career of the mighty Gentle Giant, with a couple missteps near the end that in NO WAY tarnish all the magnificent music they made. (If you got a reissued CD there was a bonus track , but I don't really like it, plus I think it's revisionism anyway and will not include it in this review).

As for what became of them after the 1980 breakup, I will quote Wikipedia

"Following the dissolution of the band, Derek Shulman went on to a highly successful career in the organisational side of the music business (initially promotion and artist development for PolyGram, followed by A&R at Mercury, becoming president of Atco Records, after which he became President of Roadrunner Records. He now is the owner of new music company 2Plus Music & Entertainment). Ray Shulman moved into soundtrack work for television and advertising before becoming a record producer (working with, amongst others, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Sundays, and The Sugarcubes). He has written soundtracks for computer games, as well as producing DVDs for artists such as Genesis and Queen.

John Weathers went on to drum for Man (an association that lasted until 1996) and most recently was spotted playing drums for Glenn Cornick's Wild Turkey again (2006). Gary Green (having settled in America, near Chicago) went on to play with various Illinois bands (including Blind Dates, The Elvis Brothers, Big Hello, and Mother Tongue) and guest on recordings and at concerts by Eddie Jobson and Divae. Kerry Minnear returned to the UK and settled in Cornwall, spending many years working in gospel music. He now runs Alucard Music, the organization supervising the legal and royalty issues regarding Gentle Giant's music.

Phil Shulman retired entirely from the music business following his time in Gentle Giant. He subsequently worked as a teacher, in retail, and ran a gift shop in Gosport, Hampshire, UK before his retirement. He was briefly in a band with his son Damon Shulman and recorded several pieces with him. Several of these (under the collective title of Then) were spoken-word pieces in which he reminisced about his upbringing in the Glasgow slums. One of these pieces - Rats - appeared on Damon Shulman's solo album In Pieces and can be heard as an audio stream on Damon Shulman's homepage and MySpace page (made available in April 2008).

Original Gentle Giant drummer Martin Smith settled in Southampton and drummed with various bands there - he died on March 2, 1997. Second Gentle Giant drummer Malcolm Mortimore has continued to work as a successful sessions drummer in the rock, jazz, and theatre fields."


As for reunions:


"Despite having seen many of their progressive rock contemporaries reunite for moneyspinning tours, Gentle Giant are notable for having consistently refused to reunite as a full band. In 1997, the Gentle Giant fanbase unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the members to perform a reunion concert. Reasons cited by members for their rejection include busy schedules, health problems, lack of practice on instruments, and other personal reasons. Asked about a possible reunion in 1995, Phil Shulman replied "we lead such disparate lives now and different lifestyles, different attitudes... I think it's impossible."[18] In 1998, Ray Shulman asserted "For me and Derek, the disruption to our lives now, I can't see how it would be worth it. It would be very difficult. The whole process would take such a long time and you would have to give up what ever you are doing. We both have careers independent of GG.

There have been two partial reunions, both featuring between two and four of the band members and with neither event being identified as a formal reunion of Gentle Giant. The first of these took place in 2004 and the second in 2008 (developing further in 2009).

The 2004 partial reunion featured four former Gentle Giant members - Kerry Minnear, John Weathers, Gary Green, and Phil Shulman (who only participated as a lyricist). This quartet reunited as a studio-only project solely in order to record three new compositions for the Scraping The Barrel box set ("Home Again", "Moog Fugue", and "Move Over"). There was no live activity and the quartet disbanded immediately after the recordings.

A 2008 partial reunion involved the creation of a new band called Rentle Giant in order to play Gentle Giant material. This band featured two other former members of Gentle Giant (guitarist Gary Green and drummer Malcolm Mortimore) who recruited three noted jazz-fusion musicians to complete the band - Roger Carey (bass and vocals, from Liane Carroll's band), Andy Williams (guitar, collaborator with Carey in the Engine Clutch And Gearbox trio), and John Donaldson (piano and keyboards). Green also contributed lead vocals to some of the songs. In March 2009, Green and Mortimore were joined by a third Gentle Giant member - Kerry Minnear - and Rentle Giant consequently changed its name to Three Friends. At the same time, the band expanded to a seven-piece by adding current 10cc vocalist Mick Wilson as dedicated lead singer. About six months later, it was announced that Minnear was leaving the band for personal reasons, and that Three Friends planned to continue as a six-piece. Minnear later revealed that the split was amicable and that he had left for reasons of respect (as the Shulman brothers had "not been particularly enthusiastic" about the existence of Three Friends). [24] Carey, Williams and Donaldson have subsequently left the band and been replaced by Lee Pomeroy (bass), Gary Sanctuary (keyboards) and Charlotte Glasson (violin, sax).

Minnear has also recently announced plans for him to collaborate with Ray Shulman on a new writing project."
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