Gentle Giant – 50th Anniversary Vinyl Reissues

Gentle Giant – 50th Anniversary Vinyl Reissues
Gentle Giant/Acquiring the Taste/Three Friends/Octopus
Alucard Music
Release Date: 03/04/2020
Running Time: 37:00/39:26/35:24/34:09
Review by Paul Monkhouse

One of the originators of Prog Rock and active between 1970 and 1980, Gentle Giant were a unique band and their mix of rock with jazz, folk, soul and classical music made them certainly stand out from the crowd. They were also certainly prolific, releasing eleven albums that charted their arc from their experimental titular first release through to the hard rock of “Civilian” at the end of their career. Having allegedly turned down Elton John as their vocalist, the core of the band consisted of three brothers, Derek, Ray and Phil Shulman, accompanied by Kerry Minnear and Gary Green with the line-up changing only slightly over the years with Phil leaving in 1973 and three various drummers coming in and out of the fold. The first four albums have now been re-released in their full glory and certainly make for interesting listening, their content at times challenging but always nothing less than rewarding and hugely enjoyable.

Their debut, “Gentle Giant” (8/10), treads a path that blends more traditional rock and blues with the classical, the multi-instrumentalist musicians and was produced by superstar producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie / T Rex). From the sweet ‘Funny Ways’ to the Beatle’s like eccentricity of ‘Isn’t It Quiet And Cold’ and onto the heavier psychedelic guitar-centric ‘Why Not’ the album bristles with great tracks that capture the spirit of their late 60’s origins and add a very new decade sensibility. It’s certainly a captivating experience and one that bears real exploration as you go on this fantastical journey with a band who were determined to break new ground.

Things got even more experimental on the follow up, “Acquiring The Taste” (6/10) which at times delves much more into jazz and electronica passages that mix in orchestral instruments and motif. With Visconti at the desk again, tracks like ‘Edge of Twighlight’ are a real melting pot of ideas and sounds with barely a hint of the more straight ahead influences rock shown in the first album. Whilst some things did stray off an entirely different path there are other moments that really work magnificently such as the blues and heavy soul album closer ‘Plain Truth’ which winds its merry way through some thrilling passages.

Gentle Giant seemed to reign in some of the more excessive limits of their musicality and head to calmer waters with “Three Friends” (8/10) and this concept album is considered one of the real highpoints of their career. With the band growing in confidence, they took over the job of producing themselves and created something that gave no quarter but sounded exactly how they wanted it to. Mixing their flair for classical music arrangements and some heavy R&B, the album follows the lives of its titular subjects as they grow up and go their separate ways in the world. Highlights include the fantastically evocative ‘School Days’ and the heavy blues bluster of ‘Strip The Paint’ as Gary Green’s guitar tears things up in no uncertain terms.

1972 was obviously a very fertile year for the band as “Octopus” (9/10) came hot on the heels of “Three Friends” and is considered by most people to be the finest in their canon. Lulling you with two relatively gentle tracks, the third, ‘A Cry for Everyone’ sees Gentle Giant heading into definite hard rock territory and the track shapes up to be their heaviest yet. More jaw dropping sideways moves and staggering musicianship draw the listener in to what is still an utterly compelling listening experience forty-eight years later. Of special note are the closing duo of tracks ‘Think of Me with Kindness’ with its lush and ever-changing patterns and the virtuoso ‘River’ that seems to pull in all their finest ideas into one perfectly formed six-minute track. If you’re brave and want something that will both challenge and entertain, you can’t go wrong with the brilliance of “Octopus”.

Gentle Giant (1970):
01. Giant
02. Funny Ways
03. Alucard
04. Isn’t It Quiet & Cold
05. Nothing At All
06. Why Not
07. The Queen

Acquiring The Taste (1971):
01. Pantagruel’s Nativity
02. Edge Of Twighlight
03. The House The Street The Room
04. Acquiring The Taste
05. Wreck
06. The Moon Is Down
07. Black Cat
08. Plain Truth

Three Friends (1972):
01. Prologue
02. School Days
03. Working All Day
04. Peel The Paint
05. Mr Class & Quality
06. Three Friends

Octopus (1972):
01. The Advent Of Panurge
02. Raconteur Troubadour
03. A Cry For Everyone
04. Knots
05. The Boys In The Band
06. Dog’s Life
07. Think Of Me With Kindness
08. River


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Monkhouse and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.