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Gentle Giant - Giant For A Day CD (album) cover


Gentle Giant


Eclectic Prog

2.29 | 433 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Wow! You really can teach an old dog new tricks! The band took some time off after the mediocrity of Piece, and during that time apparently decided to make a serious effort at creating a good pop/rock'n'roll album. I'm guessing that the band honestly believed that, with a strong effort, they could reach a mass audience while at the same time not totally alienating all of their fans. Of course, they were totally wrong on both counts, but that's the fault of circumstance, not of the album, because the album is really quite good. All traces of prog have been wiped away (as opposed to on Piece, where the second half had some weird chord sequences and of course an epic), but when the replacement is solid pop-rock, I can hardly complain.

One big difference between this and the last album is that the long stretches of tastelessness that abounded on Piece are mostly eradicated here - some of the songs entertain me less than others, sure, but only one of them (the power ballad "It's Only Goodbye") makes me wretch in disgust. Otherwise, the album's largely a fascinating exercise in style, one that shows the band occasionally using its experiences in other genres to influence the ideas shown here, without directly cribbing from their previous albums. For instance, we have the opening "Words from the Wise," which starts off by showcasing the band's great vocal harmonies, but in a straightup poppy manner instead of the modern classical stylings of "On Reflection." Even haters of this period of the band tend to like this song (probably because of those same vocal harmonies), even though its gloriously catchy (yet involved) verse melody and chorus bleed poppy goodness at all points.

Or, if you're a fan of the band's long stretches of no vocals, there's a hilarious instrumental called "Spooky Boogie," which uses occasional quiet dissonant keyboard chords to provide a "scary" effect as an augmentation to the nice, jazzy melody. And if you're a fan of the band's ability to combine styles that should have nothing to do with each other, then the title track is for you. Vaguely punkish, with a simple nagging guitar/keyboard pattern driving it forward, as well as booming drumming, it shows a band willing to make a total fool of itself and come up with something extremely entertaining in the process.

The other songs are basically "conventional," but they're at worst nice and at best great, so I'm definitely in no position to complain. "Thank You" is an EXCELLENT acoustic pop ballad, with totally non-trivial chord sequences, a nice vocal performance from Derek (one thing I should note - I like Derek's voice more on this album than I did on the "classic" GG albums. Fancy that.), moving lyrics, and of course those little subtle guitar augmentations in the background. "Little Brown Bag" is a terrific, punchy rocker, with Derek bellowing in a convincing manner, Kerry sounding like he spent hours listening to Gary Brooker's playing on Exotic Birds and Fruit (another example of an art-rock band turning to a 'simpler' sound to great effect) and Gary's guitars sounding like Keith Richards pounding out those crisp lines.

I'm also quite partial to "Friends," which is a solid two-minute acoustic ballad, with John Weathers (drums) on vocals, and all sorts of nice acoustic flourishes underneath the good vocal melody. And of course, there's the brilliant closer "Rock Climber," which took me a couple of listens to like (don't know why), but that I'll likely enjoy for the rest of my life. Man, who would've thought that the prog band that would be able to do real rock'n'roll the best would be Gentle Giant, the ideal band for people who thought rock'n'roll was retched'n'retarded...

The other two songs ("Take Me," which has a nice chorus but that took me a zillion listens to remember how the song goes, and the nice-but-head-drooping "No Stranger") aren't as good, but definitely not bad either. Add up these ten songs, and you have an extremely solid album that, through no fault of its own, completely fell between the cracks of history. Hardcore GG fans will probably hang me in effigy for liking this more than Glass House or Glory, but I really wish they'd reconsider and accept the possibility that there can, in fact, be such a thing as a very good pop album. Like, say, this one.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |


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