Buy this album. I don't care who you are, I cannot imagine anyone not being blown away by at least SOMETHING on this incredible album, if not every bit of it.
Gentle Giant was a British progressive rock band that handled a multiplicity of musical styles (from rock and blues to Renaissance madrigals and jazz) and instruments (roughly 30 of them in concert) with ease. The songs were rhythmically complex, the lyrics rich and intelligent, and vocal harmonies could break into four and five parts. That they toured with Yes, Jethro Tull, and Renaissance only begins to give a sense of what they did.
This album came near the end of their peak period, and provides a nearly flawless survey of everything Gentle Giant was at its best. Do you like classical? Cue "On Reflection" and listen to the recorder and cello duet that leads into the proliferant Renaissance-style vocal interplay. Prefer cool jazz improvisation? Put on the gorgeous ballad "Funny Ways" and let Kerry Minnear's steadily building vibes solo make your skin prickle.
Like blistering acoustic guitar duets? Listen for one in the middle of the astonishing musical stew of "Excerpts from Octopus" (which also has the bewildering vocal melange of "Knots" and a recorder quintet!). Or if you want just all-out rocking, put on "So Sincere," which starts with a violin and cello duet in a disconcerting, syncopated rhythm, and jerky, "unmusical" vocal melody (right there you'll have heard something you won't ever have heard before); builds to a breakneck roar on guitar and keyboards; and culminates in a percussion quintet with all five band members pounding drums, leaping to a gorgeous tinkling bells break from which they peel off one by one to return to their drums for a thundering finish. It will leave you stunned and breathless.
I could say so much more about these and other cuts -- the SLIGHTLY more conventional but no less complex rockers "Free Hand," "Proclamation," and "Just the Same"; the lovely ballad "I Lost My Head" sandwiched between the rocking "Peel the Paint" and its own hard climax; bassist Ray Shulman's playful fiddle rendition of "Sweet Georgia Brown" in Brussels; the fabulous INDIVIDUAL movements of "Excerpts From Octopus" -- but that's more than enough.
Just buy the darned album!