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Gentle Giant - Octopus CD (album) cover

OCTOPUS

Gentle Giant

 

Eclectic Prog

4.29 | 1698 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

VianaProghead
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Review Nº 134

'Octopus' is the fourth studio album of Gentle Giant and was released in 1972. The symphonic sound of their second and third studio albums was partially abandoned in 'Octopus', which has at sometimes traces of hard rock and folk rock too. It became the band's hardest rocking album until that date. It maintained the Gentle Giant's distinctive broad and challengingly integrated styles, with one of the highlights being the intricate madrigal styled vocal workout 'Knots', whose lyrics are taken from various verses of poetry from the R. D. Laing's book, edited with the same name.

'Octopus' marked also a new change in the line up of the group. It marked the change of their drummer Malcolm Mortimore who replaced their former drummer Martin Smith on their previous studio album 'Three Friends'. He left the band and was substituted by John Weathers. This was also the last album of the band to feature Phil Shulman. This new line up of the group coincides also with what is generally considered the best musical period of the band. It's also interesting to note, that in 2004, Ray Shulman commented that 'Octopus' was probably Gentle Giant's best album.

The line up is Gary Green (guitars and percussion), Kerry Minnear (vocals, keyboards, vibraphone, cello, Moog and percussion), Derek Shulman (vocals and alto saxophone), Phil Shulman (vocals, saxophones, trumpet and mellophone), Ray Shulman (vocals, bass, violin, guitar and percussion) and John Weathers (drums, percussion and xylophone).

'Octupus' has eight tracks. All songs were written by Kerry Minnear, Phil Shulman, Derek Shulman and Ray Shulman. The first track 'The Advent Of Panurge' is a song strongly influenced by jazz music, full of energy, with varied melodies and different singing styles. It's apparently a chaotic song where all instruments seem to be played in different directions. Which is more impressive in this music is that in the end we have a song with an excellent harmony. The second track 'Raconteur, Troubadour', differently from the previous debut song, is a song with some medievalism influence, although it explores different types of music. It's a song where the violins and cellos reign and guide all the music. Once more it's a song with great vocals and is also very well accompanied by an excellent keyboard work. The third track 'A Cry For Everyone' is a completely different song. This is the first real rock song on the album. It's a very energetic song with an excellent melody, stunning vocals, a great guitar riff and it has also great keyboard work. It became a legendary and classic Gentle Giants' song. The fourth track 'Knots' is the less accessible track on the album and is also one of the most complex and intricate songs ever composed by them. It's an avant-garde song that explores a cappella vocal style by the four vocalists. This song is a perfect example how is good and astonishing the vocal work of this incredible group. It's true that this is a very difficult song to hear, but this is truly a great piece of music. The fifth track 'The Boys In The Band' is the only instrumental track on the album. It's a relatively complex and a fast jazz musical composition with different rhythms and tempos. It's a song very well arranged with some excellent solos by keyboards, guitar and saxophones. Again, we are in presence of a magnificent track. The sixth track 'Dog's Life' is one of the simplest songs on the album. It's an explorative song with the use of varied and really strange and weird musical instruments. It's a funny piece of music with classical orchestration and beautiful vocals. The final result is very good, nice and truly unique. The seventh track 'Think Of Me With Kindness' is the song which gives us the simpler, quiet and beautiful moment on the album. It's a song with a simplest and beautiful tune and where the singing is honest, simple and sincere with good musicianship. It's a soft piano based ballad where the theme is beautiful and that provides us some really nice musical moments. The eighth and last track 'River' is the longest song on the album and is a strange song but is also, at the same time, a melodic and a fascinating track. Basically, it's a rock song that flows progressively by different themes. It's a very experimental song which use a lot of studio effects like moving the sound from speaker to speaker. It's without any doubt a strange track but it's also, for sure, a perfect way to conclude this excellent album.

Conclusion: 'Octopus' represented my introduction to Gentle Giant's music in the distant 70's years. I'm very happy that my baptism in the progressive rock has been made with bands and albums like this one. 'Octopus' began a series of four studio albums, all followed, and all absolutely stunning. They make part of one of the most beautiful and brilliant pages ever written in the progressive rock music. I don't know really if Ray Shulman was right when he said that 'Octopus' was probably the Gentle Giant's best album. Personally, 'Octopus' is only my fourth choice. Sincerely, it seems to me that I prefer 'In A Glass House', 'The Power And The Glory' and 'Free Hand'. However, this option is only a matter of my personal taste. 'Octopus' is in reality a truly masterpiece and one of the best albums ever made, because it has strong songwriting, great composition, excellent musicianship and a perfect overall performance.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 5/5 |

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