Gentle Giant - Gentle Giant

Year of Release: 1970
Label: Vertigo
Catalog Number: 842 624-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 38:06:00

From the very start, Gentle Giant sounded very ... well ... Giantish. That is, on this, their first album, you can hear many of the elements that would eventually gel into the band that Gentle Giant was to become. Gentle Giant (the album) features such band trademarks as Derek Shulman's boisterous vocals (imagine a tough English sailor singing in a bar), Phil Shulman's wonderful falsetto, and inventive arrangements with some unexpected time signature changes and a great sense of dynamics. However, the knotted arrangements that would become Gentle Giant's calling card were yet to appear on their debut.

The first track, "Giant," is the most complex piece on the album, beginning with a quiet organ intro that bursts into Derek Shulman's nearly shouted verses, separated by carefully timed stops and dual guitar and organ parts. The middle of the song features mellotron and organ solos interspersed with stirring choir-like vocal sections before returning to the song's last verse and an abrupt ending. This song, more than any other on the album, is a look into Gentle Giant's future direction.

Track 2, "Funny Ways," begins with acoustic guitar and violin overlaid with a beautiful falsetto melody sung by Phil Shulman. The track soon turns darker, though, when Derek Shulman takes over the vocal. A time change picks things up after the second verse, followed by a guitar solo that returns the arrangement to a soft verse and mellow ending.

"Alucard," which is the third track, is a vampire tale (spell "Alucard" backward to get the joke). After a typical Gentle Giant intro featuring guitar and organ interplay, ethereal harmonized voices fade into each line of the first verse. A solid, though not particularly proggy, instrumental centerpiece brings the song around to another ghostly verse, before the song closes with a return to the opening theme followed by a raucous ending.

A lone synth followed by a short violin and cello theme opens the fourth track, "Isn't It Quiet and Cold?", which has a kind of 1920's feel throughout. This is a mostly acoustic number featuring acoustic guitar, violin, piano, bass, and odds and ends of percussion playing accompaniment to an unassuming, yet pleasant, vocal, sometimes backed with Beatle-esque harmonies.

The longest song on the album, "Nothing at All," starts off quietly with acoustic guitar and a gorgeous vocal melody supported by by terrific harmonies. As the song progresses, the instrument arrangement grows more dense, until electric guitar takes over and Derek Shulman's vocals bridge into a short guitar solo. A gong opens the way into a phased drum solo behind which Kerry Minnear noodles on the piano. Finally, the gong brings the song back to the song's final verse sung in wonderful three-part harmony.

On "Why Not?" the guitar has a definite bluesy, Savoy Brown sound and feel. After the second verse, the song changes from rock to an almost baroque theme that leads into a guitar solo and the last verse, followed by a boogie-blues instrumental section featuring Gary Green's guitar soloing. Gentle Giant playing a boogie?? You bet!

The final song, "The Queen," is just a short, rocked-up version of "God Save The Queen."

While nowhere near as complex as Gentle Giant albums to come, the group's first offering is a good prog-tinged rock album with great ideas and playing. Most of the complexity in this album comes from sudden changes in mood and time rather than from intricately woven parts. Still, considering when it was released, this album was definitely "out there," although it's fairly tame when compared with the progressive rock the 70s would bring.

Giant (6:22) / Funny Ways (4:21) / Alucard (6:00) / Isn't It Quiet and Cold? (3:51) / Nothing At All (9:08) / Why Not? (5:31) / The Queen (1:40)

Kerry Minnear - keyboards, bass, cello, percussion, vocals
Ray Shulman - bass, violin, guitar, percussion, vocals
Gary Green - guitars
Derek Shulman - vocals, bass
Martin Smith - drums
Philip Shulman - saxophone, trumpet, recorder, vocals

Gentle Giant (1970)
Acquiring The Taste (1971)
Three Friends (1972)
Octopus (1973)
In A Glass House (1973)
The Power And The Glory (1974/1990)
Freehand (1975)
Interview (1976)
The Official Live Gentle Giant: Playing The Fool (1977)
Pretentious (1977)
Civilian (1980)
Missing Piece (1977)
Giant For A Day (1978)
In Concert (1994)
The Last Steps (1996)
Out Of The Woods (1996)
Under Construction (1997)
King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents... (1998)
Out Of The Fire (1998)
Live (Playing The Fool)/Civilian (1999)
Totally Out Of The Woods (2000)
Live In Rome 1974 (2000)
In A Palesport House [live] (2001)
Experience [live] (2002)
Endless Life [live] (2003)
Artistically Cryme [live] (2003)
The Missing Face [live] (2003)
Way Of Life (2004)
Playing The Cleveland [live] (2004)
Prologue (2004)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin UK

Added: December 1st 2000
Reviewer: Clayton Walnum

Artist website:
Hits: 2015
Language: english


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