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Hey Gentle Giant fanatics...


Magpel

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(I know there's a sizable nest of them here... ;):thu: )

 

I just picked up Octopus on CD, unfortunately not the remaster anniversary edition, but rather a "nice price" stickered CD for single digits.

 

Here's my question: Is it Phil Shulman or Kerry Minnear singing lead on "Think of Me with Kindness"?

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And then some general reflections:

 

This was one GG album I had only a passing familairty with in my prog-heavy youth, even though it always had a rep as one of their best. Freehand, Interview, Three Friends and, oddly, Missing Piece were the ones I knew best. I remember Octopus as their lushest and most Rennaissance-inlfuenced effort. I'm surprised at how dry and sparse its vibe is. Not disappointed at all I love it. Has there ever been a prog band (indeed any band) that relied less on block chords? Actually, the closest parallels for me are not prog bands at all, but maybe a band like Little Feat, in which no one ever seems to be playing a driving central anchor part; rather everyone plays sparse, syncopated parts around an implied center. It's very high ensemble art in both cases, more arranged in GG and more instinctual in LF.

 

I've been in a little GG phase lately after discovering a bunch of wonderful live clips on Youtube, including a fabulous and completely transformed version of "On Reflection" in London, a mere two months after I saw them live at SUNY New Paltz in late '77, from which my mind is permanently blown. I wept when I found that clip. They were even wearing the same damn clothes (hard to forget Gary Green's overalls or Ray Shulman's prim sweater vest).

 

And yet...I think it has never been virtuosity behind my love of this band, though the multi-instrumentalist prowess is certainly part of the kick, especially live. it is the brainy, weird, lithe, wicked, and ultimately very moving composition that kills me.

 

Hail!

Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
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Well put, John. Yes, I always felt that Gentle Giant's impressive chops were mostly utilized in service of the song rather than vice versa. I also really love their contrapuntal style and how adeptly the individual parts were interwoven into a complex but cohesive whole.

 

It was Kerry Minnear who sang lead on "Think of Me with Kindness." ( More here .) What a beautiful song! As Sruly is fond of pointing out, Gentle Giant also had the ability to create haunting melodies.

 

In my opinion, Gentle Giant never recorded a bad album, but you've got most of their best. I recommend that you put The Power And The Glory and then In A Glass House next on your list. The Power And The Glory is my second favorite Gentle Giant album, just behind Free Hand, and a sentimental favorite because it was my first Gentle Giant purchase. In A Glass House is available only as an import here in the US, but it's easily worth the extra few dollars. :thu:

 

Best band ever! :cool:

 

http://homepage.mac.com/musicproduction/.Pictures/GentleGiant.jpg

 

Best,

 

Geoff

My Blue Someday appears on Apple Music | Spotify | YouTube | Amazon

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If you're into Gentle Giant you might want to check this out- National Health

 

If you like complexity within an atmosphere of melodic fantasy this might be right up your alley. Dave Stewart on keys(not the new wave goof but the Dave Stewart who once had a column for Keyboard magazine...he was also a member of Bruford). Mostly instrumental but the vocal pieces have some beautiful haunting qualities, they are sung by Amanda Parsons and does she ever have an incredible ethereal voice!

 

If you look around you should be able to find some samples to listen to before you make any purchase. I recommend Complete as it contains all three of their album releases on a 2 CD set. There are a couple of other newer releases of surfaced material out there, but these are the original lable releases.

 

Remember at this time Disco was huge and Punk was just coming onto the scene in order to destroy any taste, quality, and musicianship in the world ;)

 

Darkon the Incandescent

http://www.billheins.com/

 

 

 

Hail Vibrania!

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Octopus is a sure-fire recommendation for those curious about Gentle Giant.

 

GG won some sort of award for "Knots", a title off of Octopus. The award had a high-art/public television/longhair credential of some sort. :D

 

It was for composition and performance. Well deserved in my opinion. At least someone heard in them more than just a Rock band.

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MULTIPLE RANTS!!

 

So, I play in 90% original acoustic-based art pop band, and I'm seriously thinking about trying to come up with a two guitar and voice arrangment of "Think of Me With Kindness." I'll have to iron out some of its rhythmic asymmetry--just ride roughshod over it, straighten out the kinks and make it more a folk tune than a musical theater torch song subverted by an avant garde bridge...

 

The woman singer in our group would sing it with the school boy purity it requires. The melody is its own justification.

 

But I'm a bit of a stickler for harmony when I do this kind of adaptation. I really like to catch as much of the internal voice movement as possible, even when converting art songs to folk songs. The baroque-y verse chords will be easy to suss out and apportion to two fairly skilled guitar players, but I might need some help with those impressionistic block chords in the chorus (or whatever you call the section that leads into the words "think of me with kindness...")

In my experience, those kinds of chords do not translate well to guitar--those voicings just don't generate the same colors.

 

So, anyone, off hand, spell those chords for me before I've even sat down to try to ear them out?

 

thx...

 

Yes, I'm full on grooving on Octopus now. Went and watched/listened to some other period prog just to see if I might be experiencing a genre-wide rewakening. Nope.

 

The Yes clips, the ELP, clips, etc., left me unmoved (Yes had some good pop songs wrapped in prog indulgence; ELP has always left me cold for some reason. Kansas, honestly, was the prog band of my youth, and I still consider them musically every bit the equal of the lofty Brit prog bands--the only problem was that sword and sorcery didn't come as naturally to a bunch of midwesterners.

 

The Dregs, in my book, were best described as a prog band because of Steve Morse's microcontrol over composition and arrangement, and I still like them. I'll always have a soft spot for early Genesis, too, especially Selling England...)

 

Otherwise, It's GG, pretty much, for me. The rest of the day is spent listening to Mingus and Elliot Smith and Jonathan Franzen reading from his memoir _The Discomfort Zone_.

 

For me the highlights on Octopus are Knots, Dog's Life, Think of Me With Kindness, and The River. The River is a really cool rock tune, but it does remind you of how much better they got at exactly that style by the time Free Hand came around. In fact, that opening violin/guitar riff very much foreshadows one specific tune on Free Hand, but I'm forgetting which. You can hear the origins of their very odd take on funk on this album, but I think that groove really flowers later. It's the refelctive and oddball stuff that shines on Octopus IMO. They really were avant gardists as much as proggists, in my book. Nowhere is that more apparent than on Knots and Dog's Life. And as kid of was reading the R.D Laing book _Knots_ before I had heard of GG, I must say they do Laing justice as well.

 

And damn, Phil Shulman has a beautiful voice! I actually quite prefer it to Derek's, but losing the horns paved the way to them becoming a leaner, more rocking outfit, I think, so there was a tradeoff.

Check out the Sweet Clementines CD at bandcamp
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I wish I could call myself a fanatic, but I have always respected GG. The kind of musical sensibilities that it took to cover that much musical ground in a single concert, or a single album, is a rare thing, and GG always had at least five of those kindred spirits.

 

Up to their last two or three albums, their music often teetered on the bleeding edge between genius and insanity. After that, it was a stab at writing pop music, at which they sadly weren't particularly adept.

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Originally posted by Fulc:

Up to their last two or three albums, their music often teetered on the bleeding edge between genius and insanity. After that, it was a stab at writing pop music, at which they sadly weren't particularly adept.

Ain't that the truth. And you're exactly right when you "two or three" because Missing Piece is the turning point, but it is not a bad album. There's some classic GG on mixed in with the streamlined rockers. The last two albums are... unfortunate.
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I guess it's all a matter of perspective. Sure, compared to the standard of unfettered creativity that Gentle Giant set during their mid-seventies peak, the last three releases fell progressively short of the mark. Certainly few fans were more disappointed than I was when I first heard Gentle Giant's three chord rocker, "Betcha Thought We Couldn't Do It."

 

Nonetheless, it's important to remember the state of the record industry when Gentle Giant started turning in a more commercial direction. Progressive rock had been bigger in England than it was in America, and English punk rock was a reactionary response that virtually killed off progressive rock. A lot of progressive rock and jazz fusion bands lost their record deals at the time, and perhaps that too would have been Gentle Giant's fate if they hadn't started playing more conservatively.

 

Considering the music climate at the time, I'm glad to have had the last three releases rather than none at all. Even on their final album, Gentle Giant never completely abandoned their signature sound; and if you listen carefully you can hear nuggets of it interspersed throughout even their most straightforward songs.

 

Personally speaking, while I wouldn't recommend any of Gentle Giant's final three albums as an introduction to their music, I still feel that they never recorded a bad album.

 

Obviously, YMMV.

 

http://homepage.mac.com/musicproduction/.Pictures/GentleGiant.jpg

 

Best,

 

Geoff

My Blue Someday appears on Apple Music | Spotify | YouTube | Amazon

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True, too, Geoff, and, as I mentioned, Missing Piece was actually an essential album to me. I thought it was great at the time and would like to re-acquire it. I never owned Civilian or Giant for a Day and was discouraged by what I heard.

 

I often wondered why GG didn't fare as well commercially as some of the other prog bands. Okay, so Yes was huge, Kansas was huge for a while--pop bands in the fashion of the times, really--but GG easily should have sold as well as King Crimson or, whatever, UK. I dunno. Maybe they did!

 

I imagine it was a combination of bad luck, bad timing, excessive difficulty in the music, and a lead singer who, while excellent, didn't have the immediate emotive appeal of a Jon Anderson, Greg Lake, Gabriel/Collins, etc. I mean, I think I read that, in sum, GG has sold about three million albums worldwide. That's not so bad for a band doing what they were doing, I guess. I'd sign for that right now ;)

 

I'm so thoroughly re-infatuated with them that I'm wondering if it is not a full-on midlife crisis...

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ELP, Kansas, Tull, and Yes, for example, had early radio hits to fuel them along. Lucky Man, Wayward Son, Aqualung, and Roundabout were the money-makers. Not all Prog bands had this.

 

Kansas had the "problem" of too many hits and were often not thought of as Prog musicans. Big mistake. They are top notch players.

 

Gentle Giant was never blessed with a hit to fund their further endeavors. They did get a good amount of radio play on both coasts and Chicago, however. ("Album Rock" stations were plentiful at the time).

 

Oddly, the US was where the Prog bands made their money. Gentle Giant had their best support outside of the UK (Italy and the US).

 

My only GG problem album is Giant for a Day. Civilian, their last, has some great songs. Listen to Inside Out. ;)

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Originally posted by Magpel:

True, too, Geoff, and, as I mentioned, Missing Piece was actually an essential album to me. I thought it was great at the time and would like to re-acquire it. I never owned Civilian or Giant for a Day and was discouraged by what I heard.

 

I often wondered why GG didn't fare as well commercially as some of the other prog bands. Okay, so Yes was huge, Kansas was huge for a while--pop bands in the fashion of the times, really--but GG easily should have sold as well as King Crimson or, whatever, UK. I dunno. Maybe they did!

 

I imagine it was a combination of bad luck, bad timing, excessive difficulty in the music, and a lead singer who, while excellent, didn't have the immediate emotive appeal of a Jon Anderson, Greg Lake, Gabriel/Collins, etc. I mean, I think I read that, in sum, GG has sold about three million albums worldwide. That's not so bad for a band doing what they were doing, I guess. I'd sign for that right now ;)

I'm convinced that you need to have either a trained or gifted ear to hear and discern the intricacies of Gentle Giant's rhythms and contrapuntal melodies. I've known non-musicians who liked plenty of other progressive rock bands like Rush, Genesis, ELP, and Yes, but I've never known any fans of Gentle Giant who weren't musicians.

 

Originally posted by Magpel:

I'm so thoroughly re-infatuated with them that I'm wondering if it is not a full-on midlife crisis...

Or perhaps a midlife Renaissance? ;)

 

Originally posted by Prague:

Gentle Giant was never blessed with a hit to fund their further endeavors. They did get a good amount of radio play on both coasts and Chicago, however. ("Album Rock" stations were plentiful at the time).

They also got plenty of airplay on Phoenix's KDKB, my favorite station in the '70s. I first heard Gentle Giant back in 1974 when KDKB played "Playing The Game" from Gentle Giant's then current LP The Power And The Glory. KDKB also turned me onto Genesis, Captain Beefheart, Milt Jackson, Strawbs, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and so much more -- what a great station!

 

Originally posted by Prague:

My only GG problem album is Giant for a Day. Civilian, their last, has some great songs. Listen to Inside Out. ;)

Yeah, I like that one and "It's Not Imagination" as well. Even Giant for a Day had some good songs -- "Words From The Wise" for one, "Little Brown Bag" for another. My only problem with Gentle Giant's rock 'n roll numbers -- other than that they weren't the Gentle Giant sound I yearned for -- is that the band was too tight. They should have studied the Rolling Stones and incorporated some of their trademarked sloppiness... seriously.

 

But the moral of the story ultimately is that Gentle Giant was at their best when they were being themselves. That's not a bad lesson for any of us to learn. ;)

 

http://homepage.mac.com/musicproduction/.Pictures/GentleGiant.jpg

 

Best,

 

Geoff

My Blue Someday appears on Apple Music | Spotify | YouTube | Amazon

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I tried to respond to this thread before, but after writing a lengthy post, it got lost and I couldn't recover it. So, demoralized I didn't post.

 

However, my daughter (who just turned four years old yesterday) is a huge GG fan.

 

She can sing along with Proclamation word for word.

 

Now don't get the idea that I'm projecting on her or anything. My four month old son's middle name is Emerson. However, my little girl does NOT like ELP. I can't get her to sit through anything by Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

 

But when it comes to Gentle Giant she loves them. She's exposed to a lot of music. From They Might Be Giants to Weather Report to Frank Zappa to J.S. Bach to Laurie Berkner.

 

When I put on a new GG album (I am personally just discovering them and I've been buying CDs on a weekly basis) she recognizes them immediately. She asks me "Is that the Gentle Giant?" and I respond that once again she got it right, she then does her happy gasp and shreiks "I LOVE The Gentle Giant!". She thinks that the Giant logo is the lead singer of the band. LOL.

 

Anyway, I am personally having a great time listening to Gentle Giant and sharing the experience with my little girl.

 

Carl

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