Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gentle Giant

@ Wiki
Gentle Giant was a British progressive rock band, one of the most experimental of the 1970s. Textually inspired by philosophy, personal events and the works of Fran├žois Rabelais, the group's compositional purpose was to "expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of becoming very unpopular." Their style bore similarity to King Crimson and Yes, who were active from generally the same time.

Gentle Giant was formed by Derek, Ray and Phil Shulman in 1970 after they dissolved their soul/pop band Simon Dupree and the Big Sound in 1969. The brothers joined with Gary Green, Kerry Minnear, and a succession of drummers to produce a series of twelve albums throughout the 1970s, finally dissolving quietly in 1980.

Their earlier albums were more eclectic and experimental than the later ones. By 1974, as they started to gather an American following, they simplified their songs (which, compared to other rock artists at the time, were still very complex) to gain a wider audience. Free Hand reached the Top 50 in the U.S.

By 1977, as the fashion trends in the music market shifted toward punk and New Wave, the band shifted toward a more commercial sound. In 1979, the band relocated to America to record their twelfth and most mainstream album, Civilian, after which the group disbanded.

There has been renewed interest in Gentle Giant since 1990, with new fan clubs, new releases of live concerts and previously unreleased material, several tribute albums and a failed 1997 attempt by fans to convince the members to perform a reunion concert. Several recent progressive rock bands claim to have greatly been influenced by the music of Gentle Giant, including Spock's Beard and Echolyn.

In 2005, to celebrate the band's 35th anniversary, a series of digitally remastered and specially packaged CDs of their later albums were released, also featuring unreleased live tracks (of varying quality) as bonuses. Many of these albums (most notably, In a Glass House) were previously difficult to purchase in North America without resorting to imports. The re-released albums are: In a Glass House, The Power and the Glory, Free Hand, Interview, The Missing Piece, Playing the Fool (live) and Giant for a Day.

Sadly for fans, the rights of the band's catalogue are scattered among many companies, not all of which are keen on re-releasing the albums properly. In particular, the first four albums have yet to receive definitive CD releases. For example, the title track on Acquiring the Taste begins with an obvious defect, possibly due to a damaged master tape, on all current CD and vinyl releases. The 1996 compilation Edge of Twilight includes a corrected version of the song.

It should be noted that this defect exists on the original 1971 vinyl release of the album, with the opening note bending up as the tape comes up to speed - probably an engineering error. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Bruce Eder @ Allmusic
Formed at the dawn of the progressive rock era in 1969, Gentle Giant seemed poised for a time in the mid-'70s to break out of its cult-band status, but somehow never made the jump. Somewhat closer in spirit to Yes and King Crimson than to Emerson, Lake & Palmer or the Nice, their unique sound melded hard rock and classical music, with an almost medieval approach to singing.

Gentle Giant was born out of the ruins of Simon Dupree & the Big Sound, an R&B-based outfit led by brothers Derek, Ray, and Phil Shulman. After switching to psychedelia in 1967 and scoring their only major hit that year with "Kites," as Gentle Giant the group abandoned both the R&B and psychedelic orientations of the previous band; Derek sang and played guitar and bass, Ray sang and played bass and violin, and Phil handled the saxophone, augmented by Kerry Minnear on keyboards, and Gary Green on guitar. Their original lineup also featured Martin Smith on drums, but they went through several percussionists in the first three years of their existence.

In 1970, Gentle Giant signed to the Vertigo label, and their self-titled first album -- a shockingly daring work mixing hard rock and full electric playing with classical elements -- came out later that year. Their second effort, 1971's Acquiring the Taste, was slightly more accessible and their third, Three Friends, featuring Malcolm Mortimore on drums, was their first record to get released in the U.S. (on Columbia). Their fourth album, 1973's Octopus, looked poised for a breakthrough; it seemed as though they had found the mix of hard rock and classical sounds that the critics and the public could accept, and they finally had a permanent drummer in the person of John Weathers, an ex-member of the Graham Bond Organisation.

In 1974, however, Gentle Giant began coming apart. Phil Shulman decided to give up music after the Octopus tour, and became a teacher. Then the group recorded the album In a Glass House, their hardest-rocking record yet, which Columbia's U.S. arm rejected as too uncommercial. The two-year gap in their American release schedule hurt their momentum, and they weren't heard from again until the Capitol release of The Power and the Glory in 1975.

Gentle Giant released Free Hand, their most commercial album, in 1976, but then followed it up with the jarringly experimental Interview. After the 1978 double-album Playing the Fool, the group went through a seeming change of heart and issued a series of albums aimed at mainstream audiences, even approaching disco, but by the end of the 1970s their popularity was in free-fall. Minnear, who had been playing an ever-more central role since the mid-'70s, had already left the group when Gentle Giant called it quits in 1980. Ray Shulman later became a producer and had considerable success in England working with bands like the Sundays and the Sugarcubes, while Derek Shulman became a New York-based record company executive. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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@ You Tube
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