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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Gentle Giant

Gentle Giant

Review by Gary Hill

The debut disc from prog rockers Gentle Giant, this is a great album that really does a lot at highlighting their distinctive sound. There is quite a bit of variety here, but in terms of quality, it’s all great stuff.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Giant

Organ leads off the album as it starts this song. It fires out into a fast paced progressive rock jam with a lot of psychedelia in the mix. That holds it for a time, working through several shifts and changes. Then it seems to end, but a new prog excursion with some jazz in the mix emerges for the next movement. It works through a number of changes before dropping back to a much mellower movement. That gets a blast up to more powered up sounds, but it then comes back. It’s quite keyboard oriented. A return to the faster paced rocking provides the conclusion.

Funny Ways
Symphonic instrumentation starts this in a very classical way. It works to a more folk music based concept, with multiple layers of vocals. The piece develops with sort of a combination of those two elements. Eventually it does explode out into more powered up and triumphant progressive rock that serves as a counterpoint to the folkier sounds. The two elements alternate for the rest of the piece with some variants.
Alucard
Jazz and prog collide on the start of this rocking cut. It’s definitely got a lot of fusion and funk built into it. For those not in the know, “Alucard” is “Dracula” spelled backwards. The instrumental introduction runs through for over a minute and is dominated by keyboards. It drops down for a suitably creepy processed vocal section. Then it powers back up after that into a more fusion-like section to continue. Another mellower movement follows, this one feeling a little like Traffic to me. This piece just keeps growing and evolving. It’s a bit creepy at times, but it’s also a real powerhouse that grooves. The closing section is a bit chaotic.
Isn't It Quiet and Cold
This cut is unusual. It’s very much a jazz piece. It’s fun and old fashioned. It’s a good time.
Nothing At All
Over nine minutes long, this is the epic piece of the set. It starts with a gentle and quite pretty balladic section. This general motif holds the song for quite some time, building gradually. It feels very much like a 1960s folk rock piece, but with some progressive rock in the mix. Around the two and a half minute mark it works out to something very much like Cream for a short jam. Then some more freeform, mellower music takes it. That Cream section returns from there. When that ends around the four and a half minute mark a drum solo takes over. As this drum solo continues, piano rises up with a rather classical sounding melody. It starts to turn toward jazz from there. The jam gets quite freeform as it continues. By around the eight minute mark it evolves back out the mellower section that started it. That takes the piece to its close.
Why Not?
This is very much a merging of progressive rock and psychedelia. The mid-track section is a mellow folk based movement that’s very much like psychedelia of the 60s. Then a new jam that’s harder rocking and still proggy takes it. Further down the road they take it out into a smoking hot jam that’s part blues, part jazz and all cool. It makes me think of what a proggier Allman Brothers might have sounded like. A brief drum workout ends it.
The Queen
This is a brief, instrumental, rock variant on “God Save the Queen,” or as we Yanks know it, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”
 
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