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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 26 February 2002
This band were never truly recognised for their amazing talent and originality. Although they epitomised 'progressive music' in the 70', they never managed to break through to the mass acceptance that they deserved.
Three Friends is one of their less acclaimed albums but, for me , in the title track, it has the best song that they ever produced. Coming at the end of a sequence of songs about the different paths followed by three schoolkids, it has a hymn like quality that can bring you to tears.
There are other, equally worthy records by this great band but it will always be 'Three Friends' that I will come back to...maybe because it reminds me to think about my own schooldays and the friends who disappeared into the past.
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on 18 October 2014
Brought back many memories.
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on 11 November 2015
The album I have received is not the Repetoire/Eroc re-mastered and re-packaged album as the reviews for this product led me to believe it would be. Instead, it's the Polygram straight tape-to-disc AAD release which sounds like it was mixed in a muddy puddle with the treble EQ turned to max and the bass EQ left off completely.

The problem here is that Amazon is obviously lumping reviews of different versions under a single generic title thus creating misleading information. Very disappointing.
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The first double-disc reissue of Gentle Giant’s extensive back-catalogue put out by England’s reputable 'Beat Goes On' label remastered the Portsmouth boy’s first two Prog outings at Vertigo Records - "Gentle Giant" from 1970 and "Acquiring The Taste" from 1971 (see separate review for that 2012 Andrew Thompson Remaster).

Now we get those difficult third and fourth albums – "Three Friends" and "Octopus" – which for GG saw huge musical progress and an ever-expanding fan base. Both hailed from 1972 (April and November) and were their last two LPs for the famous Progressive Rock label 'Vertigo' – home of many’d the eye-catching and elaborate gatefold sleeve. Here are the wee beasties...

UK released June 2013 – "Three Friends/Octopus" by GENTLE GIANT on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1090 (Barcode 5017261210906) offers their third and fourth studio albums remastered onto 2CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "Three Friends" (35:27 minutes):
1. Prologue
2. Schooldays
3. Working All Day
4. Peel The Paint [Side 2]
5. Mister Class And Quality?
6. Three Friends
Tracks 1 to 6 are their third studio album "Three Friends" - released May 1972 in the UK on Vertigo Records 6360 070 and April 1972 in the USA on Columbia PC 31649 with different artwork. Produced by GENTLE GIANT and Engineered by Martin Rushent.

Disc 2 "Octopus" (34:17 minutes):
1. The Advent Of Panurge
2. Raconteur, Troubadour
3. A Cry For Everyone
4. Knots
5. The Boys In The Band [Side 2]
6. Dog’s Life
7. Think Of Me With Kindness
8. River
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 4th studio album "Octopus" - released November 1972 in the UK on Vertigo Records 6360 080 and February 1973 in the USA on Columbia PC 32022 with 'an Octopus in a pickle jar artwork'. Produced by GENTLE GIANT and Engineered by Martin Rushent.

GENTLE GIANT was:
KERRY MINNEAR – All Keyboards, Vibraphone, Moog, Cello, Lead and Backing Vocals
RAY SHULMAN - Bass, Violin, Guitar, Percussion and Vocals
GARY GREEN – Guitars and Percussion
DEREK SHULMAN - Lead Vocals and Alto Sax
PHILIP SHULMAN - Alto and Tenor Sax, Trumpet, Mellophone, Lead and Backing Vocals
MALCOLM MORTIMER – Drums ("Three Friends" LP only)
JOHN WEATHERS – Drums, Congas and Percussion ("Octopus" LP only)

Guests:
CALVIN SHULMAN – Boy’s voice on "Schooldays" on the "Three Friends" LP

The outer card slipcase gives the release a classy feel (now generic with all BGO releases) while the 16-page booklet is packed with original details (the Three Friends drawings and Roger Dean’s Octopus artwork) and properly in-depth assessments of the albums and the band by noted writer NEIL DANIELS (done in 2013). The final few pages give you the lyrics to both records - all of it backed up by original album and reissue credits. ANDREW THOMPSON has carried out the new Remasters at Sound Performance in London and both albums are huge improvements over the 1st and 2nd records – real presence and power taking full advantage of the very serious Production values poured into both platters by a band obsessed with getting their aural vision right.

Whilst the first two studio efforts sounded not dissimilar in style to King Crimson and Yes meets Family (Roger Shulman’s lead vocals were even akin to Roger Chapman) – by the time our South Coast Progressive Rock band reaches early 1972 – they sound more Greenslade than ELP. With musical adventure and boundary-breaking forcibly built into their every song – the six-piece band hammer you with virtuosity and ideas. And even though Tony Visconti did a great job on the first two platters (especially their brilliant 2nd LP "Acquiring The Taste") – GG took the Producing helm for Three and Four and man does it show. The short but ambitious concept LP "Three Friends" – stories of three pals who grow and they go their separate ways (some successful – some not) – and the much loved "Octopus" – sound HUGE here.

"Prologue" doesn't make for an 'easy listening' start - jerking/gangly synth chords that eventually settle into an almost church-like set of harmony vocals. The production is fabulous as the boys sing of three childhood friends feeling the 'winds of change' (oh yes folks the concept album). "Schooldays" feels like Greenslade's "Bedside Manners Are Extra" or 1974's brilliant "Spyglass Guest" (see separate review) - dancing keyboards and voices tell of 'happy days' and 'going nowhere' - the amazing vocals and pinging vibraphone building as lyrics come at you about 'pink ice cream' and dull homework and Mister Watson wanting to see the naughty lads in his Master's office. "Schooldays" is incredibly accomplished and at times beautiful in its melodies and scope. "Working All Day" sees the three pals in dead-end jobs whilst at home 'papa was rough...he didn't care for learning...' where they quickly learn that 'everybody's equal' just isn't true. There's a clever guitar/saxophone refrain that holds the five-minute passage together. "Peel The Paint" is a Prog song with choral strings about superficial layers being stripped away to reveal 'the same old savage beast'. The perky "Mister Class And Quality?" follows the more successful of the three buddies with his house and car and pretty wife - sounding very "Tarkus" ELP in its keyboard jabs and containing a wild almost vulgar guitar wig-out where the band simply lets rip. That eventually segues into the final "Three Friends" which mellotrons its way to a rather nondescript ending...

If "Three Friends" was good rather than great - "Octopus" upped that ante. A very Medieval passage on the giant 'Pantagruel' meeting a friend from Hell opens the "Octopus" album - a complicated Crimsonesque set of piano, bass and guitar jerks called "The Advent Of Panurge". The vocal interplay along with serious musicianship impresses throughout - a continuation of a book theme first explored on the "Acquiring The Taste" album. If you thought the Side 1 starter was 'difficult' - "Raconteur, Troubadour" is the kind of Prog Rock that will infuriate some and leave others breathless. "A Cry For Everyone" even employs some riffage at the start but soon weaves its way into incredible Rush territory - a complicated mini Rock Opera based on the writings of Albert Camus. Vocal gymnastics fill "Knots" - a staccato jabbing set of Captain Beefheart "Trout Mask Replica" moments based on R.D. Laing's oblique poetry. That's followed by the instrumental "The Boys In The Band" - a rapid-fire Jazz Fusion piece preceded by a coin making its way across your speakers. The largely acoustic "Dog's Life" meshes the world of 'old faithful' hounds and whines of Roadies (go figure). The surprisingly pretty "Think Of Me With Kindness" keeps the complicated out in lieu of a delicate vocal and equally tender piano (check out the beautiful brass interlude). "Octopus" ends on proper Prog - "River" - where it seems Gentle Giant play every instrument at their disposal whilest singing lyrics like 'trust the shallow virgin stream' (know what you mean mate).

Neither album is mainstream or easy to digest for sure – and some will say its all pretntious claptrap - but that was always the case with GG's output. Having said that you do get amazing playing virtuosity - clever classical interludes and layered harmony vocals sat on top of a trademark guitar sound not unlike Robert Fripp or Keith Emerson enjoying themselves. It's all here on these two revered slices of British Progressive Rock - sounding and looking great too.

Eleven albums on and England's Prog heroes were still there in 1980 – giving it loads of difficult syncopations and selling bugger all records. Yet GENTLE GIANT did and still does engender a fiercely loyal following - and on the evidence presented here - you can understand why that affection still endures today...
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VINE VOICEon 19 February 2008
This album is often overlooked, overshadowed by the following album "Octopus". But "Three Friends" is one of the bands best. Whereas "Octopus" featured shorter, highly structured and tightly arranged songs, "Three Friends" six tracks gives the musicians room to breath and actually feature some solo spots. There is some especially fine organ work by Kerry Minnear on "Working All Day" and Gary Green shows himself to be a highly versatile guitarist, just listen to the solo at the end of "Peel The Paint". Talking of which, "Peel The Paint" is for many the outstanding track and was a live favourite. Here in its studio form, the gentle, pastoral, introspective intro gives nothing away of the rock onslaught which follows. A beautifully realised track. I am also fond of the opening "Prologue" with its mix of sax and synth and the finale of "Three Friends" with its beautifully elegiac mellotron/organ ending.

Listening to this album again, I am reminded how original and inventive this band were. They should have been as big as Genesis, Yes and ELP, but maybe many found the complex time signatures and mix of so many musical styles too hard to grasp. A shame as they have been so influential on many new bands like Spocks Beard and their music sounds so fresh and vital.

This remaster is the last in Repertoires re-issue of Gentle Giants albums which were recorded for the Vertigo label. Like those this is expertly remastered by Eroc to make it sounding so crisp and lively. It's also beautifully packaged in a mini-LP style sleeve, reproducing the original LP artwork. The fold-out insert contains lyrics, credits and an essay by Chris Welch. This is a very good re-issue of one of this highly original bands best albums. I would get the lot in this series while you can.
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on 5 May 2007
During the CD age 'Three Friends' has been the most enigmatic of Gentle Giant's classic releases. Very early on it appeared briefly on the 'Line' label but since the demise of that company the only way of buying this has been to go for Columbia's US version which, as is well known, bears the cover of Giant's debut and self titled album. In a way, History has repeated itself as German re-release specialists, 'Repertoire', have released sonically superior versions of all the first four records - except this one. Their website has listed 'Three Friends'as an 'upcoming release' for several months now but when I saw the Japanese (and authentic) version advertised by an Amazon trader, I decided to pay the requested king's ransom - and I have seldom been happier with a purchase. Not only do we have the magnificent original cover, we are also blessed with far superior sound quality. The theme of the album (that of three schoolfriends who become separated in adult life) seems to acquire ever greater poignancy as the years spin by. Kerry Minnear's 'Schooldays' recalls as though through a dream, the seemingly endless summer of childhood whilst the title (and closing) track would not be out of place performed in a cathedral. At their best, Gentle Giant combined Medieval, Renaissance and Jazz influences with hard rock in a way that made them masters of the progressive genre. What made them extra special was their talent for giving their music an icing of deeply thought provoking lyrics.
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on 4 April 2011
Even by the standards of the LP era, this is quite a short album but maybe that helps it avoid some of the excesses of prog-rock. These are songs, linking together to make some kind of story, and there's the usual variety of styles that you expect from this hugely talented band. What would have been side 1 of the LP - the first 3 tracks - seems a bit lower key but it really comes alive with side 2. Peel The Paint shows that this prog band could really do the rock bit as well, with a great guitar solo. Three Friends is the climax and a typical Giant song with a very hummable tune finishing with the organ and choral paean. It all hangs together perfectly.

You might have read this before in some of my other reviews but here's another word of praise for an excellent CD reissue. The remastered sound is excellent and the novel little cardboard CD sleeve is great - a little miniature gatefold LP sleeve so you get all the same artwork, together with pullout notes and the CD artwork reproduces the original LP centre.
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on 10 August 2001
This is amazing stuff! A wonderfully crafted album by the progressive rock giants Gentle Giant. Many of their albums are good, but they're not easy listening, their music is very complex, very challenging. It's a mixture of symphonic rock, hard rock, adding some medieval influences. This is a concept album, telling the story of three friends, starting out when they're playing together as children, "Prologue" and "School Days", and followed their very different paths through the life. One become an ordinary worker, the second an artist and the third become a very rich man. The songs illustrated this, "Working All Day", "Peel the Paint" and "Mister Class and Quality". The last song "Three Friends" is a very beautiful, like a psalm, one of their best.
A very recommended album!
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on 24 August 2008
For their third album, Giant released 'Three friends', a concept charting their lives from childhood to adulthood. Although I rated this album very highly on it's initial release, due to it's subject matter, lyrically it has a greater meaning now. How many of us have lost touch with old schoolchums.
The song structures are similar to those on their debut album, but with more use of the multi layered vocals that would become their trademark.

'Prologue' opens the album with it's driving rhythm compounded by some very earthy guitar and keyboard, the lyrics set the scene for the following tracks.
'Schooldays' is a lighter offering, opening with Kerry playing vibraphone before the multi layered vocals remind us of those happier days of childhood, before ending in an uptempo mode.
'Working all day' is the story of the first friends adult life, a midtempo number which tells us of a life of labour digging up roads.
'Peel the paint' tells the tale of friend number two, an artist, starting off quite light with keyboard and violin to the fore, then exploding into a much gutsier finale where Gary has a good blow out with his guitar.
'Mr class and quality' is friend number three's life as a white collar worker, a bouncy uptempo number.
'Three friends' closes the album in style, this is so angelic it could almost be played in church, and that mellotron ooooooooh!!!!!!!!!!

If you like good solid music then this is as good as any.
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on 27 September 2010
Gentle Giant has long been a favorite band of mine as I am a listener who you might say came of age in the era where Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, the Moody Blues, to name a few, were creating their magnificent stages.
I've thoroughly enjoyed G.G. works such as Acquiring the Taste, Octopus, Freehand, Power & the glory etc. but for some reason I never had the chance to hear Three Friends till this re-mastered release. I'll say it's definitely a treat worth waiting for. A foundation piece for much of what followed. Superb instrumentation & solid songwriting. The production & remastering are top notch as well. Do yourself a favour & have a listen!

Kevin.
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