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Gentle Giant - Gentle Giant CD (album) cover

GENTLE GIANT

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

3.91 | 1068 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Luqueasaur
4 stars The birth of a realization, the rise of a high expectation: 8/10

KING CRIMSON triggered a devastating revolution with its magnificent debut in 1969. Phil, Derek, and Ray Schulman failing to attain commercial success through pop singles, decided to embrace that rising musical insurgency creating their own project. As they were proficient multi-instrumentalists, their search for equipollent musicians was arduous. After gathering the graduate from Royal Academy of Music Kerry Minnear, the semi-professional but flexible Gary Green, and Martin Smith, the Schulman brothers decided they assembled a sufficiently talented gang.

Legend foretells that a Somersetian giant, upon listening to an uncommon tune, scouted through all of Britain for its source, ultimately meeting "six dedicated musicians tearing off a rendition of 'Why Not?' at a thousand watts". The mythical being befriended them and they all even took a picture together, which is the album cover. Flattered by the creature's tenderness, the band was named in its honor: GENTLE GIANT.

This album, GENTLE GIANT, is a mammoth release with unpredictable experimentation that took 1970 by surprise. It suffices to demonstrate the band's stratospheric ambitions and potential, even though it is not in any way nearly as mind-bending or brutally complex as their later works.

Roughly, GENTLE GIANT offers an amalgam of blues, jazz, classical and baroque music, rhythm & blues and folk. This comprehensive diversity was a consequence of differing habitats and aptitudes of the band members: Derek Schulman brought the R&B; Phil Schulman, folk, and jazz; Kerry Minnear exhaled classical influences and Gary Green outputted bluesy lines. Worth mentioning, too, is that both Derek and Minnear were vocalists contributing, respectively, with their energetic and delicate voices.

Giant is a hell of an opener: with audacious self-describing lyrics, they succintly express their manifesto and pretensions.

Alternating between bombastic and symphonic sounds, it is the perfect demonstration of the album's hard-rocking vein whilst still maintaining some unpredicted influences such as jazz or classical music. Funny Ways is the 'gentle' part of this equation; Minnear's soothing vocals, acoustic guitars, and violins contributes to a sweet medievalist atmosphere. Isn't it Quiet and Cold? is a short folksy song, its heartwarming vaudevillian tone does not fit with the pessimistic lyrics. However, it does fit the xylophone solo.

GENTLE GIANT unleashes its claws in Alucard, the album's most complex and perverse track. Brutally distorted - and rather funky - synthesizers with virulent bass boost; agonized, desperate acapella vocals; a frenzied multi-instrumentalist section, all conjured together to construct the imagery of a meeting with Alucard - or Dracula, backward. Definitely avant-garde for 1970. Rather creepy even for today's standards?

Another interesting track is Nothing at All, GENTLE GIANT's clearest mixture of folk, blues, and smooth jazz. Clocking at almost nine minutes, it is one of GENTLE GIANT's longest songs due to the midsection. Recorded with an electronic device no more potent than a sugar beet, Martin Smith's echoed (ugh, the mixing is terrible) drums madly solos for a few minutes until an emotional classical piano joins the fun. Perhaps seduced to the drums' ecstasy, the clavier abandons its pompous posture, goes berserk, and frantically jam along the percussions. An unconventional duet that symbolizes GG's unconventional preferences.

This debut's eclectic hard-rocking style is abandoned as the band members opted for a more symphonic and less guitar-oriented sonority. GENTLE GIANT might not be the band's definitive sound, but it still means everything GG represents: to break boundaries as vividly and boldly as possible; and to be a gentle giant. Gentle, because seldom is their music aggressive; giant, because seldom is their music not colossa.

Emerging successful, defiant, together the parts make a Giant.

Luqueasaur | 4/5 |

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