I had just started to work my way into Prog-rock when i heard this fellas for the first time.
I already knew YES and Canterbury rockers like Caravan, Camel, Soft Machine(later on i will do a Thread on this marvelous lunatics) and Gong.
So far so good, I got used to the undercurrent jazz-rock mood felt in the Canterbury scene albums so listening to GG wasn´t all that hard, i loved their music right away.
My first album was Three Friends
and has been since then one of my favorites.
If Caravan´s 1971 brilliant in the land of grey and pink(
to this day my personal favorite of all times)
was my "nightcap" GG´s Three Friends
was my morning breakfast.
I listened to it everyday before i went to school or catching the bus to school on my Walk-Man(I´m so old!).I had managed to record from the cd to a K-7 tape, at that time Disc-man was highly expensive item...
This is probably one of the craziest bands i have ever heard, if you know them you will now what i mean by saying that GG is truly a Avant-guarde band.If you don´t know them yet or never took time to listen to anything by them i strongly recommend for you to run to a record store and pick up Octopus , Acquiring the Taste
or Three friends;
Here´s their bio:Formed at the dawn of the progressive rock era in 1969, Gentle Giant seemed poised for a time in the mid-'70s to break out of its cult-band status, but somehow never made the jump. Somewhat closer in spirit to Yes and King Crimson than to Emerson, Lake & Palmer or the Nice, their unique sound melded hard rock and classical music, with an almost medieval approach to singing.
Gentle Giant was born out of the ruins of Simon Dupree & the Big Sound, an R&B-based outfit led by brothers Derek, Ray, and Phil Shulman. After switching to psychedelia in 1967 and scoring their only major hit that year with "Kites," as Gentle Giant the group abandoned both the R&B and psychedelic orientations of the previous band; Derek sang and played guitar and bass, Ray sang and played bass and violin, and Phil handled the saxophone, augmented by Kerry Minnear on keyboards, and Gary Green on guitar. Their original lineup also featured Martin Smith on drums, but they went through several percussionists in the first three years of their existence.
In 1970, Gentle Giant signed to the Vertigo label, and their self-titled first album -- a shockingly daring work mixing hard rock and full electric playing with classical elements -- came out later that year. Their second effort, 1971's Acquiring the Taste, was slightly more accessible and their third, Three Friends, featuring Malcolm Mortimore on drums, was their first record to get released in the U.S. (on Columbia). Their fourth album, 1973's Octopus, looked poised for a breakthrough; it seemed as though they had found the mix of hard rock and classical sounds that the critics and the public could accept, and they finally had a permanent drummer in the person of John Weathers, an ex-member of the Graham Bond Organisation.
In 1974, however, Gentle Giant began coming apart. Phil Shulman decided to give up music after the Octopus tour, and became a teacher. Then the group recorded the album In a Glass House, their hardest-rocking record yet, which Columbia's U.S. arm rejected as too uncommercial. The two-year gap in their American release schedule hurt their momentum, and they weren't heard from again until the Capitol release of The Power and the Glory in 1975.
Gentle Giant released Free Hand, their most commercial album, in 1976, but then followed it up with the jarringly experimental Interview. After the 1978 double-album Playing the Fool, the group went through a seeming change of heart and issued a series of albums aimed at mainstream audiences, even approaching disco, but by the end of the 1970s their popularity was in free-fall. Minnear, who had been playing an ever-more central role since the mid-'70s, had already left the group when Gentle Giant called it quits in 1980. Ray Shulman later became a producer and had considerable success in England working with bands like the Sundays and the Sugarcubes, while Derek Shulman became a New York-based record company executive.
~ by Bruce Eder, All Music Guide
And a here´s a insight on their music by a fan: One of the most original British progressives, with an unlikely mix of dissonant 20th-century classical chamber music, mediaeval vocal music, jazz and rock. The first album is one of the most progressive efforts of 1970, but still not totally developed. Still, they are one of the first British bands to experiment with the Moog synthesizer, and they use cellos, violins, reeds and horns to round out the sound, as well as the usual guitar/organ/bass/drums. Experimentation with dissonant vocal harmonies ("Alucard") and improvisation ("Nothing At All") is already present, but for the most part it's pretty straightforward rock, but with odd instrumentation. Interesting as a band in progress. Acquiring The Taste shows significant advancement as far as complexity goes, adding (acoustic) clavichord and [color=darkorange]Mellotron
to the keyboard banks, and also beginning to use tuned percussion such as vibes, xylophones, tympani and the like. The addition of askew time-signatures, or at least syncopated rhythms, to many tracks shows them delving ever deeper into experimental territory. The complexity of much of the music here is astounding, listen to "The House, The Street, The Room" for a fine example. By incorporating rock and neo-classical sections side-by-side, they reach a new level of musical intricacy. An excellent album. Three Friends
is a rather mundane concept album, the music to which takes a LONG time to grow on you, but eventually it DOES grow on you and in a big way. More accessible than Acquiring
, still incorporating odd dissonances though. Octopus
finds them becoming quite conceptually bizarre, with a far more overt mediaeval bent, yet also using 20th century icons such as Albert Camus and R.D. Laing as a springboard for song ideas. Listen to the madrigal-like "Knots" for a truly odd exercise in musical counterpoint. Intriguing and essential. In A Glass House
contains some of their most daring, provocative music. Note the dark "An Inmates Lullaby," using percussion as its only instrumentation. "Way Of Life," "The Runaway" and the title track are among the best music the band produced--ever! Highly recommended. Power and The Glory
continues this artistic plateau, with shorter, but still strong, songs. "Aspirations" is a lovely softer piece. "Proclamation," "The Face" and "No God's A Man" are among the other fine songs, but it's so hard to decide as they're ALL great. Fans of complex prog--don't miss this one! Free Hand
is probably their most accessible to date, yet without compromise to complexity. "On Reflection" is another madrigal-based piece that works well, though not as weird sounding as "Knots." Probably the best album for starters, as it's at once listenable and uncompromising. Interview
is quite the opposite of its predecessor, very dissonant and unsettling, especially on the mostly all-vocal "Design." "Give It Back" resembles askew reggae, the title track and "I Lost My Head" are other standouts. Playing The Fool
is "the official 'live' Gentle Giant album." An interesting overview of the band's entire career up to and including Interview
. Many of the songs are spliced together in medley form, yet they still pull it off: note the 16-minute "Excerpts from Octopus
." Later albums became more commercial, generally unenthused reports on them has caused me not to even bother. I'd suggest you do the same.[/color]
-- Mike Ohman