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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Gentle Giant

Three Friends

Review by Gary Hill

This disc from Gentle Giant is a great one. All fans of old school prog should pick it up. While there is plenty here to remind people of various bands, Gentle Giant always took those leanings and put them together in a way that was both unique and appealing. This is an excellent example of that. It’s also pretty accessible without being at all mainstream.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Prologue
This jam covers a lot of musical territory. It's full on progressive rock. There are some various points where different instruments take control. It drops to an intricate and involved multi-part vocal arrangement around the minute and a half mark. The piece continues to evolve beyond that. An instrumental break ensues, followed by the return of the wall of voices. There is an extended keyboard based instrumental section from there. It gives way to more rock oriented jamming. That section eventually takes the track to its end.
Schooldays

The first portion of the cut is weird, but yet accessible. It combines RIO-like jazz stylings with an odd vocal line that seems like two different people alternating each word in the line. This eventually moves out to an almost King Crimson-like section and then to neo-classical piano work. A mellower, gentle, vocal line enters over the top of this rather balladic motif and then the song begins to take on drama and danger. Other vocals join as it carries on and this has a definite classical element to it and also reminds me a lot of early King Crimson. Eventually percussion enters and some jazzy melodies emerge, but they continue by working and reinventing this musical theme. A little before the six minute mark they change it to an almost acapella section, but then a pure jazz jam rises up from there. The opening section returns to take this out in bookended fashion.

Working All Day

The swirling guitar sounds that start this off call to mind Robert Fripp. They slow this down – like a tape slowing down, though, and then take us out into a jam that’s like Frank Zappa meets the blues. We get more of the Fripp sounds on the instrumental break. Eventually, though, we are brought out into a jazzy instrumental jam based on this bluesy segment. There’s some killer organ work on this portion of the piece. A short instrumental segue takes us back to the song proper.

Peel the Paint

The first couple minutes of this are a bit weird and understated. It alternates between prog, folk, jazz and classical music. Then it bursts out into another hard edged jam that reminds me quite a bit of King Crimson. It’s got some tasty swirling riffs. There are still some bits of jazz in this mix, though. They bring in an instrumental section beyond this and we get a guitar hero styled guitar solo. Then they drop it  into spacey territory to carry on. As it continues we get some more scorching guitar soloing, this time echoey. Eventually they return to the hard rocking main segment of the song for another go around before they end it.

Mister Class and Quality?

This is more consistent than some of the other material – meaning less dynamic. The majority is in a jazz infused hard rocking progressive rock motif. It’s also a shorter piece, but really segues straight into the disc’s closer, making them seem like two parts of the same song.

Three Friends
They bring this section in with an off-kilter sort of jam, but eventually move it out to music that is related to what we heard in the previous number and in fact, this seems like “part two.” It’s a satisfying way to close things in style.
 
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