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Gentle Giant

Three Piece Suite

Review by Gary Hill

I've wrestled with how to handle this review. In theory the BluRay is the main part of this. It's not a video BluRay, though, but rather audio. When you figure that in, along with the fact that all the new arrangements are included on the CD, it seemed like the way to go would be to review the CD with the other disc as a bonus.

This set is incredibly cool. Steven Wilson has done his usual remix skills with a number of songs from Gentle Giant's first three albums. Additionally a song that was a demo that they used to break into the business is included along with a single. This all sounds really good. I should mention that I've done track reviews of several of these songs before. For the sake of consistency, and since musically these are the same, I've used those track reviews here.

Let's talk about that BluRay for a little bit. It is an audio BluRay. It includes a number of things, starting with the same music on the CD (minus the single). Then we get instrumental versions of those same songs. Finally, this includes the full albums of the three (Gentle Giant, Acquiring the Taste and Three Friends). All in all, this makes for one heck of a bonus.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
The Steven Wilson Remixes:
          
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.

Nothing At All
Over nine minutes long, this is the epic piece of the first album. 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.
Pantagruel's Nativity
Keyboards start this. A voice rises upward to continue it from there. The keys drop away as more of a folk prog vibe takes over. That holds it for a time before a burst of faster paced prog emerges for the instrumental movement. Then we're brought back into the vocal based section. It gets much more involved and powerful this time around, though. They take it back out to the instrumental section after that. Then it drops way down to a mellower jazz meets psychedelic section. Some killer crunchy guitar joins to move things forward. A wall of voices joins after a time in a trademark Gentle Giant fashion. After that movement works through, another instrumental section takes it, this one including a killer guitar solo. The song continues evolving once the vocals return. It eventually works its way out after a short instrumental section.
The House, The Street, The Room
Coming in with a dramatic riff driven sound, the vocals rise up to join into the fray as this builds upward. As this continues there are drop backs to folk prog sections. Then it drops back to a full symphonic freeform section that's tied to the Rock In Opposition school of music. We're brought out from there to some killer riff driven prog. The piece continues evolving. It's very much trademark Gentle Giant.
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.
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.
Freedom's Child
This is listed as a pre-recording contract demo. I'm guessing that is the same thing as a demo. This fits very well under the "folk prog" banner. It's a killer tune that really works well. In a lot of ways it's more mainstream than a lot of Gentle Giant's music. There is still plenty of challenging music built into it, though.
Nothing At All (7" edit)
This single take has a cool jazzy vibe to it. Yet it is built around a lot of folk prog, too. This is decidedly Gentle Giant, though. The cool guitar riff driven section later in the track is just so cool. It's very much a 1970s hard rock sounding cut when it hits that part of the tune. That eventually works through and gives way to an intricate mellow section. The vocals come in over the top of that with a folk music kind of element to them.
 
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