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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Gentle Giant

Free Hand – Remastered

Review by Gary Hill

Another of the new remasters of classic Gentle Giant albums, this is a good one. Of course, when you are talking about GG, you really can’t go wrong.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Just the Same

Finger pops in a demonstration of stereo separation lead us out. Then a bouncy piano set to that popping joins. After a time other elements are added and we’re off on a killer classic Gentle Giant progressive rock jam. It’s a little off-kilter but also very tasty. There are some Zappa-like bits here and there and the little lilting trademark Gentle Giant vocal mode shows up frequently. There are also several Yes-like instrumental breaks. There’s a melodic one that’s perhaps a bit like Genesis, too, but I also hear hints of ELP in that one – and some fusion. We get a full jazz treatment (with some Zappa in it) later, too.

On Reflection
An all vocal section opens this and instruments join later but the cut still has an almost prog chorale feeling to it. Then it drops way down to a dramatic chamber music motif. They alternate between this chorale wall of vocals treatment and the chamber music sounds as they continue. Further down the road we get some bits of ELP-like and Yes-like progressive rock.
Free Hand
They open this with a freeform sounding RIO jam that has hints of King Crimson in it. They take it out from there into a killer hard rocking jam that serves as the backdrop for the vocals. Yet they alternate with more RIO-like work. We are taken through a number of changes and variations before they eventually end it. 
Time To Kill
Some ambient sounds begin this, but then they take into Frank Zappa-like territory. As they continue this becomes more RIO oriented, but there’s a catchy prog element here, too. It’s an intriguing cut that’s classic Gentle Giant. There’s a killer jam later based on a riff that really feels like something we might have gotten from Frank Zappa, but they take it out from there in some different directions for a while before returning to the song proper.
His Last Voyage
The bass line that starts this reminds me a lot of Chris Squire. The track is closer to Renaissance in terms of its old world, nearly classical approach. There are excursions into more jazz-like territory, too, though. They make transitions into a number of different variations and directions as they continue. This has a lot of stylings and motifs built into its structure. 
Talybont
Somehow the classically tinged motif that makes up this short (OK, it’s over two and a half minutes – meaning single length, but that’s short for Gentle Giant) instrumental at times makes me think of Christmas music. It has definite Jethro Tull links at points and is quite close to chamber music during a lot of its length. 
Mobile
Careening this way and that, this prog rocker feels very much like classic Gentle Giant. It’s just not overly special. That said, all Gentle Giant is cool, so it’s good.
 
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