Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Gentle Giant - the Power and the Glory

Gentle Giant is by far my favorite musical discovery of 2008. I still don't know much about this band and I've only perused the albums chronologically from 1970-1974, which were actually incredibly prolific years having released six albums in that time. I chose this one to review because it has so far been the most enjoyable in a plethora of ways, and it has most of the songs that they performed live on a Belgian TV appearance from 1975 which is what initially entranced me about this great progressive band.

Gentle Giant fall best within the fellow countrymen and prog chums of their day: Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Van der Graaf Generator and maybe even Jethro Tull. What sets them apart though is going to be hard to put into words though its clear to me. They have such a fervor for variance and creativity. They are unrelenting in painting the songs on this album with every tasty characteristic and vivid personality trait that they have to offer. Nothing is held back.

The bedrock upon which Gentle Giant's space station is built upon is rhythmically playful melodic synth work accompanied by gleeful, whimsical, and sometimes dissonant vocals. Each sci-fi themed tune is an experimental journey laden with catchy and masterful percussion, which drives forth the varied tempos from groovy stuff to sometimes jarringly technical wankery. When a lot of modern technically proficient drummers can shred their kit to pieces, drummer John Weathers knows his way around a groove without sounding too showy. While the guitar players are also awesome, I don't want to get off on a tangent here. Its important to note that no single member or instrument on this album is doing more than crafting and performing the Gentle Giant armada as a whole.

I dont know much about the limitations and abilities of studios in 1974 but I want to point out also that the recording on this album is unbelievable. It really takes Gentle Giant's style to a new level with great recording, panning and mastering that doesnt sound like a dusty old 70s record. Everything has a nice warm mid range tone that isnt mushy or convoluted.

If you're looking for something to come back to again several times for years to come, this is a must have.

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