Giant Steps Double CD
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Gentle Giant - The First Five Years and more. What more can anyone want? Gentle Giant are still one of the most experimental bands in the genre (as well as one of the most experimental rock bands of the 1970s). Their music was considered complex even by progressive rock standards, drawing on a broad swathe of music including folk, soul, jazz, and classical music. A collection of music drawing from the band's first 5 albums and more! From this collection you get a good idea of what everyone was talking about. A fantastic starting point for beginners and a great companion to Talking Elephant's other Gentle Giant release 'The Edge of Twilight'.
About the Artist
Gentle Giant were a progressive rock band active between 1970 to 1980. The band were known for the complexity and sophistication of its music and for the varied music skills of its members. All of the band members, except the two drummers, were multi-instrumentalists. The band achieved a cult following. Past members included Derek Shulman, Ray Shulman, Kerry Minnear, Gary Green, Phil Shilman, Martin Smith,Malcolm Mortimore and John Weathers.
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If you're familiar with Gentle Giant and these old songs you'll be happy with what these discs give. If you're new to Gentle Giant or marginally curious this makes a great place to start. They were known for being the most complex and virtuosic of prog rock bands, with plenty of on a dime transitions with unusual time signatures, and a wide range of genres often within one song (rock, blues, jazz, folk, madrigal). They made intellectual "head" music, but did so without losing a delightful, even innocent warmth or indulging in excessive noodling. They remind me a bit of Frank Zappa from that era, yet with more commercial appeal.
Generally this set is well produced and arranged (different order than the originals, but it works well here, and it's also nice to get the much shorter original albums combined on the longer playing CD), and although there is a nice little interview between ZIGZAG magazine and the Shulman brothers Derek and Ray from April '75 included in the liner notes, there isn't much other information about who plays what or when these tracks were originally released. But perhaps that was intentional, to present these songs as a whole and outside of time.
There are cuts like Giant from their first album that start off absolutely horrible and then slowly wind up sounding beautiful. It reminds me of my first impressions of Jamaica, being both beautiful and horrible at the same time, which is like a metaphor for life. This cut wound up being a keeper and I will just have to endure the first half of the song. On the contrary, Nothing At All is not a keeper with all of the screaming and drum solos. Songs like Plain Truth and Working All Day sound like some of the worst Frisco late sixties psychedelic scene. Black Cat is just too jazzy for my tastes. The rest are keepers for me. This time around, I will combine tracks from all three of my Gentle Giant albums and arrange them in chronological order in my iTunes library by date of creation, even though live versions can be very different.
By the way, I was fortunate enough to have seen this band live in September of 1972. They opened up for none other than Black Sabbath on their Volume 4 tour. The crowd sat respectfully listening to this band and did not holler for the metal Gods. They took a lot of folks by surprise and some walked away as fans of this band. None of us had ever heard anything like this band before and we probably never will again. Very innovative but not for everyone. Glad that they are being rediscovered these days. This double CD set is a great introduction to them.