George Starostin's Reviews



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a b <> (02.08.2000)

I must say I whole-heartedly disagree with your review of Gentle Giant.

Now, before we start feeling animosity here, I'd like to explain my position. My primary interest in music is in composition. I was raised on classical music. My favorite composers include people like Bartok and Ligetti, as well as "easier" composers like Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Sibelius, Mahler, etc. And I must say that Gentle Giant's output is, compositionally speaking, almost tame and tonal when compared to some of my other music.

That said, it is easy to see why someone of my background would consider Gentle Giant as one of the best prog bands ever. The emphasis is on composition, and they do it well.

My introduction to GG came a couple of years ago on the internet. After hearing a couple MIDIs, I went out and bought a couple albums. No more than a week later, I was the proud owner of every GG studio album. I instantly enjoyed everything on all but the last three albums. To tell the truth, I can't stand the last three -- to pop, and I hate pop.

Octopus and Interview are my two favorite albums, but all the others (excluding the last 3) are definitely worth having if you enjoy classical music, esp 20th C. music. Very intrigueing. If you don't care for mainstream rock, discarding it as repeditive, simplistic, compositionally empty, base, and often repulsive, but at the same time happen to like rock instrumentation, then GG is a must.

I just wanted to offer a contrary opinion.

Oh by the way -- I don't really care for King Crimson. I've never been able to get into them, even though I've spent hours listening to them and even own some of their recordings. I haven't

<> (14.03.2001)

I love this band. They are one of the most underrated groups of all time, prog or not. One thing I'll never understand is all the talk about how they're the most "complex" band in the progressive genre. Sure, they switched time signatures quite a bit and they went for some pretty far-out arrangements at times, but I've always found them to be one of the more accessible and catchy bands in the genre. The band never released a poor album, and only The Missing Piece strikes me as less then good. They're also extremely original: hell, some of their songs would fall in a category I've labeled, "medieval funk." That's cool, if you ask me, and so is this spectacular prog band. Amazes me that they never achieved any real success. If Genesis (Gabriel-era) was the best prog band, Yes and ELP the most talented in terms of individual members, and Crimson probably the most innovative, than Gentle Giant gets the award for the "tightest" of all the prog bands. While each individual instrumentalist may not be as good as Rick Wakeman, Emerson, Robert Fripp or Steve Howe(although I'd argue that Gary Green is as good as any guitarist) etc., it's in the group dynamic that the band shines more than the others. Just look at the vocals: about half the time the band is orchestrating all of their voices and instruments into a totally unified whole. I guess this is where the band gets the reputation of most complex: a lot goes into this music (it's just that complex usually refers to dissonance and unaccessiblity, which this group does not exhibit for the most part).

Mattias Lundberg <> (30.04.2001)

I think there are several reasons behind Gentle Giant not making it really big, even with prog purists. On plausible reason is that they did never master the large-scale form (or at least they didn't show us that they did). The preferred working in the idiom of the 3-5 minute song, and they could never had produced extended movements like Yes did in the Close to the edge era (...and neither could King Crimson). G.G. often resort to fading sections out and starting anew (e.g. 'Wreck', 'Mister class and quality' and 'On reflection', and if you listen to longer tracks like 'Free Hand' there is no development, just varied repetition.

On the smaller scale, however, no band mastered motivic development and monothematiciscm better than any contemporary group and Minnear could be called 'prog's best miniaturist' or 'the Schumann of prog'. Since many of the songs are totally out-composed (Gary Green's solos seem to be the only impromptu element), they took ensemble performance to a higher musical level than any other contemporary band and provided the sort of concept that links individual songs together, sometimes from different albums.

Another reason behind G.G. being unpopular with some prog fans might be that they didn't try to achieve the majestic sweep fuelled by sincere, pretentious (here, as always, in a positive sense of the word) lyrics. Van Der Graaf Generator, for example, has always attracted a lot of people who emphasise the paradigma rather than the syntagma, while G.G.'s rock'n roll approach to the actual musicianship must have spoiled the whole thing for many a prog fan.

I like their entire output up to Giant for a day, but even after that there are much good material.

The missing piece is possibly the most underrated album in the entire prog hemisphere. So let it now be said that 'As old as you're young' is my favourite G.G. song.

Peter Castanos <> (11.03.2002)

George, have you noticed that at under the heading of "roots and influences" the only listing for GG is "Beatles". Work that one out!

Geir Hasnes <> (15.05.2006)

Hello from Norway.

I discovered your website while searching for some information on the Nice.

I am a Gentle Giant fan myself - check out

I just wanted to tell you that The Queen at the end of GG's first album is a joke, which was included because it is a tradition in the UK that they always sing that song (which is the song 'God Save the King' or as it has been the last 50 years or so 'God Save the Queen') at the end of a concert - it be school concerts or serious professional concerts.

The first album consisted of the group's concert, so it was natural to include the end - to signal: we have finished, stand up, sing, and go home, everybody.

Also, I just wanted to add that for me, the emotional content of Gentle Giant's LPs is extreme - both emotion and humour shine through. And with Knots - I marvel at it! I could obviously have discussed with you for hours and hours and hours - and I don't have that much time. But it is important to find out about the group's humour and to understand all the references to both classical and contemporary culture.

Although for me, growing up in North Norway in a very musical town, I didn't need to know those references in order to love Gentle Giant's music from the very first second.

Sincerely, Geir Hasnes (rater at

Greg Maffei <> (14.06.2006)

I'm 50 years old, probably making me the oldest bugger who has ever visited your site. It's an excellent site, btw. I will use the information to help me put together a CD collection that will be as good as I can make it. This will be my only comment to you as I feel you do not understand Gentle Giant, if you pick their first album as their best. They didn't even find their voices until the third album, with Octopus and Glass House being their best works. Their music is timeless and along with the Beatles, will sound great 100 years from now. I don't expect people to understand what the band accomplished now, but maybe then they will.


Ben Greenstein <> (04.05.2000)

Hmmm... Something about this one really rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it's just the way they blatantly imitate King Crimson on almost every song, or maybe it's the lousy production. Either way, the band really hasn't found it's voice yet, experimenting with some truly ugly synth arrangements ("Alucard") and some cornball balladry (I don't quite HATE "Funny Ways" - at least, not until that disgusting "upbeat" part). The only songs that I really like are "Isn't It Quiet And Cold" and "Why Not?" The rest are pretty lousy. Especially "Nothing At All." A low six.

David Albert <> (08.08.2000)

Mostly i can agree, although this effort is surely not the best album of GG and I can`t see them imitating King Crimson`s In The Court..., and I heard both records quite often ! Maybe the cover is a nice little gag, but no parody and a marvellous picture indeed. I don`t see any musical ideas copied, except naturally the overall prog-style which is a bit invented by the Crimson King. All songs are good, Ok "The Queen" is borin but very short (Thank God) and "Nothing At All" has great moments but is too long. My favourites are "Funny Ways" ( an excellent ballad, with a fast 7/4-rhythm part), "Alucard" ((DRACULA) this song sets prog rules !, and how Kerry uses the synthesisers...a forgotten gem really) and "Why Not" (if you want to see GG rock, you`re right here, contains also a very beautiful soft part...). "Giant" is an engaged prog-rocker,too. Your rating of 10 is alright.

Kevin Muckenthaler <> (17.10.2000)

Gentle Giant's first release is a little rough around the edges, but it has a charm of its own. I really don't think some of this sounds totally like King Crimson; Gentle Giant had their own style even on their first album. "Giant" is a pretty ambitious opening track. Derek's vocals sound less refined on this album than on subsequent releases. "Funny Ways" is great and moody, and the psuedo-Caribbean section is funny. I agree about Gary Green's guitar solo here: it's quite good. "Alucard" is another fun track with a good groove. I like the effects on the vocals because it adds to the spookiness of the lyrics. Phil's vocals and Ray's violin on "Isn't It Quiet and Cold?" are great. The first part of "Nothing at All" (before the drum solo) is a perfect piece of music. The vocal harmonies are immaculate in the quiet part, and the guitar riffs are loud and aggressive during Derek's section. There's this little whistling keyboard part in there somewhere that's really cool, as well. The drum solo is kinda funny and pointless, as is Kerry's accompanying piano part. I don't think it's electronic drums. They probably used something called a phaser (I think) to achieve the effect. "Why Not?" is a heavy rocker with a bluesy ending. The quiet part in the middle when Kerry sings is one of my favorite parts of the album. "The Queen" serves no real purpose, but it's obviously just a joke. I like this album quite a bit, but better things were still to come.

<> (14.03.2001)

Their debut is savagely underrated by most fans. Sure, it doesn't have all that much to do with their later sound, and to tell you truth, not that much to due with progressive rock in general, but who cares? Just don't come looking for symphonics a la Yes and you'll most likely love this. It reminds me of Tull's Stand Up compared to the rest of Tull's 70s's easily the album that will most get you hooked onto this band. Every song is great. GIANT, besides the somewhat ridiculous lyrics, has true power and energy. FUNNY WAYS is simply gorgeous. ALUCARD (cool title) rips of Crimson to be sure, but it rocks nonetheless. ISN"T IT QUIET AND COLD is really nice and melodious. NOTHING AT ALL--what a brilliant song. Honestly, I couldn't believe it when I heard it. One of the group's greatest achievements, and I even like the drum solo which may be off-putting to some. WHY NOT---spectacular song, next to Nothing at All it's the best on the album. Gentle Giant as a bluesy hard rock band...hell yeah! Finally, THE QUEEN is just a cute way to finish it off. Excellent debut, one of the all time best debuts, a 9/10.

John McFerrin <> (23.05.2001)

I like this album, but I'm not sure I'd give it a 13. There are some major league highlights ('Alucard' is GREAT), but there's just a bit too much filler for my tastes (the closing 'Queen', or the two songs right before it, except for the pretty introduction to the long one(I don't have the album in front of me at the moment and am too lazy to get up and look at song titles). Still, 'Funny Ways' is gorgeous, especially vocally. And even the opening track, with the awkward screaming vocals, has grown on me a bit. Anyhoo, I'd probably give it a high 11, low 12.

Mattias Lundberg <> (18.02.2002)

A fine debut and perhaps also the most representative debut of all the early prog bands; K.C and G.G. fans may say what they want, but the Gentle Giant style is already in evidence on this album, whereas K.C. never really had a style for any longer period of time. The vocal displays on 'Why not' shows that Derek Shulman easily could have applied for a vocalist job in any early heavy metal band. The little melody played between some of the tracks on the album is a permutation of the 'Alucard' riff. The title of that song is, of course, also an inversion and the "ugly sound effects" ('backwards'-reverberation) are probably intended as a reflection of this. I strongly disagree with your statement that none of the band members were virtuosi; Ray Shulman has to be one of the most imaginative and fluent bass players ever (exhibited on this record by his playing on 'Giant'). You're right about that phase-effect drum solo on 'Nothing at all'. It's rather boring and, together with that silly Liszt quotation by Minnear, it makes this section come through as the only filler on this album. Are you sure that's Phil Shulman singing those velvety, soft vocals on 'Funny Ways' ? I would've thought that it was Minnear, but I'm not sure.

Brian Sittinger <> (28.08.2002)

This is an intriguing lesson. I must say, that unlike Yes, my opinions will follow closely yours, as I consider this their best album myself! For one thing, the complexity is just right, without any real lapses into dissonance, unlike most preceeding albums.

As for the songs themselves, "Giant" more or less gives us a glimpse of what will follow: 'jarring' time signatures, multiparted and yet concise songs, and diverse instrumentation. The vocals somehow manage to fit the song. The 'choir' section is a cute addition. Then, comes my favorite ballad of theirs "Funny Ways", as its very well sung, has a gorgeous atmosphere, and a nice expressive guitar solo. Next, we have "Alucard", which perfectly descibes its contents: 'spooky' yet perversely funny lyrics sung with a wierd effect on the vocals, the ominous gruff synth underpinning, and the 'spooky' guitar lines. This definitely beats "Picture of a City" of K.C. out the window. "Is It Quiet or Cold" is a pretty violin-led song led by Phil again. It almost reminds me of a song from the 20's or 30's. And the xylophone (!) solo it nice, as well.

Then, things get a bit more tedious. "Nothing at All" starts well, but is marred by aimless drums/piano. "The Queen" ends th album on a bizarre note. Finally, "Why Not?" is a decent enough blues jam with a nice medieval midsection which then adds to the tension. Perhaps the vocals are a tad awkward.

At any rate, a great effort. Though this would be topped in one way or another, Gentle Giant would never hit the perfect balance of complexity and beautiful/quirky yet engaging songs again. I agree with the 10(13).

Elad Shteigmman <> (18.10.2003)

well i have to say i think that review of you is so mistaken and wrongful that i was quite amazed reading it. "second-rate" rate band? i disagree. For me, at least, it is plain to see that almost no prog-rock band has ever succeeded making a more creative music than Gentle Giant. they are surely the most creative band of the 70, if you don't look to Yes and probably Genesis & King Crimson. i don't know a lot of albums with fewer dull moments on them, maybe i don't even know one. the Vocals by both the singers are excellent and each voice fits right in it's song.   Long Live Creative Prog-Rock!


Ben Greenstein <> (22.12.2000)

I don't know, but to me this sounds loads better than anything else in their catalogue (excluding maybe Octopus). They've found their own voice since the debut, but they haven't yet dissolved into a self-indulgent mess with a lack of melodies like they would later on. And the sound production on here is just fantastic - this thing flows like a real album, and really pulls you (or at least me) into its exotic little world (as pretentious as that sounds). The first two songs are the best, and I myself also really like "Wreck," and I myself am also totally confused how you can like the entire first album and yet complain about "Plain Truth" being overlong. I give this 10/10.

<> (14.03.2001)

The band's second album is quite possibly my least favorite of all the early ones. That's not to say it's bad, though. Simply excruciatingly difficult. I'll never understand why people complain about the lack of melodies on later albums and praise this one. Anyway, when i first heard this I hated it. It's by far the least accessable Giant album. Now I like it. It's split between a totally weird, dissonant side and a more accessible one similar to the debut. PANTAGRUEL'S NATIVITY is pretty cool, but certainly not the epic that later tracks would be. EDGE OF TWILIGHT---I see why people like this, I just don't. One of their worst songs. It's got cool atmosphere to be sure but I never feel the need to listen to this. Highly skipeable. HOUSE, STREET, ROOM---Good, but not great. It grooves pretty nicely, but lacks direction and melody, and the little interludes are just too goddamn weird for me. However, the part when the organ comes in playing that opening riff toward the middle is powerful and ferocious and makes the song worthwhile. ACQUIRING THE TASTE: Actually, really pretty, it's just that it's played on annoying synthesizers. I learned to appreciate this brief melody after hearing Gary Green play it on his acoustic in the middle of Octopus medley on Playing the fool. WRECK: One of the best songs on the album. Pirate song my ass, it's just cool and catchy. Also, no one even mentions the quiet part after the "pirate" part. Great tune. MOON IS DOWN: Best song on the album, for sure. George, listen to the instrumental section of this song again. Gorgeous, driving, sounds like Gabriel-era Genesis. BLACK CAT: Cute, unmemorable, but totally engaging.. not much more to say. PLAIN TRUTH: Sounds like something off the debut. Not particularly amazing, and a bit overlong perhaps, but fully entertaining and fun to listen to. Overall, I was disappointed by this when I heard but at least respect what they were trying to do. A 7.5/10.

Mattias Lundberg <> (18.02.2002)

The title track isn't really dissonant at all and the few existing dissonances are resolved properly, making it sound much less dissonant than most popular music, with its nasty consecutives. Incidentally: if you've got the version with a glissando opening note, that effect was unintentional. Apparently something happened to the tapes and that version ended up on the album. 'Plain truth' and 'The house, the street, the room' doesn't sound too inspired, but all the other songs are top G.G.-standard. Acquiring the taste ? Why, if truth be hold it's not necessary; I loved this album from our first acquaintance.

Brian Sittinger <> (28.08.2002)

This album definitely took me awhile to get into. This is primarily due to the amounts of noodling/dissonance found within.

The first two songs are atmospheric delights never to be matched again. In particular, I get a cold hellish feel from listening to "Pantagruel's Nativity". The guitar figure that pops off from time to time just fits the picture well, too! As for "Edge of Twilight", Phil's (?) singing is gorgeous, almost sounding medieval church-like. Beautiful beyond words. The phased drums add to the moodiness of the atmosphere, too. Then comes "The House, the Street, the Room". Despite that clumsy middle, the rest of the song is fun to listen to, especially that Gary Green solo. "Acquiring the Taste" is actually a nice tune if that wierd synth tone didn't have to be used! Maybe that's the point... Despite the pirate schtick, "Wreck" is another interesting song, underpinnined by the "Alucard" synth tone as well. The digressions (medieval, breathtaking orchestral parts) are well-integrated into the song. "Black Cat" is noted for its meowing violins (and more dissonance). Finally, "The Moon is Down" doubles "Edge" palely yet still is decent (nice harmonies, harpsicord), and "Plain Truth" just bores me stiff!

Some high moments (more so than the debut) dragged down by you know what: 9(12).

Carmit Cohen <> (11.05.2004)

ahh, man. i read your reviews and they are like a wound in my heart. "the moon is down" is a lovely track, how can u bash it like that. and yes, all that wonderful jazz played within the rock is WONDERFUL! maybe the album is a bit difficult to listen to, and one needs a very alerted pair of ears to get into it, but personaly i find it sofisticated and and interesting. (and very nice to listen to while driving.) gentle giant, i believe, is not the type of band that would just let u sit down and relax with their music. when u listen to it u have to work almost as hard as they did recording it, for your own pleasure...


Ben Greenstein <> (16.03.2000)

Whatever. Octopus is too avantgarde, but songs like "Schooldays" are brilliant? This stuff is far more hard-to-follow than anything on the next album! As much as I dig this stuff, it's really not as melodic as the band's other stuff (though they were never a "melodic" group to begin with), so I really can't see how you, of all people, would enjoy it.

I think that, of the Gentle Giant albums that I own so far, this is the weakest. There are less musical ideas than on Acquiring the Taste, the instruments are less varied, and the overall concept just strikes me as a little too immature. Still, the album starts off and ends really strongly, and isn't BAD, just inferior to the surrounding albums. 8/10.

Kevin Muckenthaler <> (17.10.2000)

This one has a bit more laid-back, open feel to it than the last two. Maybe part of the reason is drummer Malcolm Mortimore, who isn't as precise as Martin Smith or as pounding as John Weathers. The opening track "Prologue" is good but goes on a little too long. "Schooldays" is an imaginative piece that has sets the mood of childhood quite well. The second part of it with the piano seems pretty ethereal, and in some parts Phil's son Calvin chants under Kerry's vocals. "Working All Day" does a very good job portraying the working-class friend. Both parts of "Peel the Paint" are good: the humble and very quiet beginning and the loud, mean rocker with Derek yelling out the lyrics. Gary Green goes nuts with another fine solo. "Mister Class and Quality?" is a very catchy number with a good beat and good playing all around. The way "Three Friends" comes out of nowhere is great. This is one of the most haunting and beautiful songs I've ever heard. The vocals, the mellotron, the dramatic melody, it's amazing. Just to be nit-picking, though, "Three Friends" actually begins at 2:28 on Track 6. The placement was wrong on the CD. Anyway, this is another fine album, but not as good as the two albums surrounding it: Acquiring the Taste and Octopus.

<> (14.03.2001)

I suffered similar problems with this album as with the last one. This and Acquiring the Taste are their two least listenable and accessable early albums. I absolutely despised this album when i first heard it, but now I quite like it, because the second side simply blows away anything on the first side, which was what I'd always play first. PROLOGUE kind of sucks due to monotony, but at least it's listenable. SCHOOLDAYS--I'll never understand this song. Totally meanders, lacks any form of melody or focus, and stops the album dead in its tracks. WORKING ALL DAY: Like prologue, it's a bit boring and sort of obnoxious, but definately listenable. PEEL THE PAINT: Hell yeah. This is where the record totally picks up. If side 1 was as good as side 2, this would be one of the band's best albums. This two part song starts off with a cool quiet section and then erupts into one their most intense ever songs. Awesome. MASTER CLASS AND QUALITY/THREE FRIENDS: I put these two together because they sort of go together, what with 'Three Friends' popping almost randomly out of 'Class'. Together, this is one of the best Giant compositions: at once funky, powerful, extremely well-performed, and very catchy (not in a "you're humming it when it's over" way, but rather a, "Damn do I want to hear that again" way). Spectular ending to a very uneven album. I love the band though, so even their lesser stuff (this, Acquring, and missing piece) gets good grades. This one's first side gets a 5/10, it's second gets a 10/10, so I give it about a 7.5/10.

Mathew Reynolds <> (19.12.2001)

This is my all time favourite album ever. I saw them twice (the Glasshouse and Freehand tours) and any reservations I had that they wouldn't come up with the goods live were completely and utterly misplaced.

From what I've read, I don't think the band rated this album much, so I'm sure they would be surprised to think anyone would rate it as their best. I have also read on another site that they didn't perform much of this album live because it didn't go down too well and I can sort of understand this. Maybe they played it at a time when they were still building their fan base; I reckon if they'd revisited a few tracks live in 1975/76 they would have had a different response. It's also worth a mention, that Malcolm Mortimer who plays on this album is my favourite Giant drummer, much as I rate the others, he just seems more inventive to me.

The opener 'Prologue' starts with the best drum roll ever which leads into an inventive extended riff/theme. The song verses contains some interesting alternately voiced vocal effects and a trademark "And now for something competely different" middle section. These sections don't always work, the song "Think of me with Kindness" from Octopus is a beauty sullied by the same tendency, but in 'Prologue' it works for me. It's as perfect an example of a marriage of whimsical organ, synth, bass, guitar and gentle drumming I've ever heard, the song fades out to the opening theme.

Next up is 'Schooldays', a perfect evocation of the experience of a genteel holiday spent at a British Seaside resort, think St Ives, Penzance, Aldeburgh rather than Blackpool. So nostalgic it transports me to my childhood/adolescence every time I hear it. Exquisite jazz tinged Guitar/Vibraphone interplay, and nice soft vocals eventually give way to a velvety, double-chocolate Grand-Piano section during which Kerry Minnear goes all "Slow Movement Concerto on us". Here he demonstrates that he can do melody as well as anyone. This progresses to a fast jazzy section and an ending only Giant could have conceived. If you know this song and you've heard it 1000 times already, listen again and focus on Ray Shulman's bass playing, it's out of this World!

'Working all day' is announced with contrapuntal passage which has had a variable pitch-shift trick played on it by a tape machine. It's a good enough song, heavy production coupled with Derek Shulman singing as only he could, like Peter Gabriel with Balls. I don't have much else to say about it except it contains the best Organ solo I've ever heard. It's totally emotive and used to make my spine tingle every listen in my younger days, and still touches a nerve. Why did Kerry Minnear never bother much with emotive Hammond solos after this? Apart from a brief flirtation in the middle section of "Playing the Game" from The Power and the Glory, during which the Organ sounds like an early solid-state attempt to recreate the Hammond sound to me. In my mind, the 'Working all Day' Organ solo sounds like a full-on love affair and any subsequent solos say "I won't get hurt like that again".

'Peel the Paint' shows us early Giant Rocking at their best. OK, the riff doesn't fit under the hands as well as a Zeppelin riff, but augmented by the Macho Sax and Hammond and benefiting from a heavier production than later albums, it oozes power from every pore. Derek Shulman gives a rip-roaring almost wreckless performance and the Guitar/Drum solo sounds to me like Hendrix stripped of the crappy bits. When I was younger, I used to think this solo must have been scored it's so good, now I'm of the opinion that it must have evolved from several takes in the studio, surely it couldn't be just one take. I like the big ending to this song as well, they didn't do this often and generally I'm not a big fan of big endings, but this one is just right.

The intro to 'Mister Class and Quality' starts with a quote from the 'Three Friends' which is the next track. If I was being picky, I'd say that the intro doesn't gel with the rest of the song but I've grown to love it, like a Cat with 3 legs and a limp. The song proper is moderately paced and foursquare with a nice Derek Shulman vocal. Midway through, you get the sense the band have a few tricks up their collective sleeves as they set the scene for a carefully chaotic instrumental section. This is proceeding very nicely when out of nowhere, even though it's been hinted at before, comes a comical synth passage which culminates when most of the the rest of the band stop playing and the synth plays an ascending arpeggio ending on a long note. Don't ask me what it is it about this that is so unique, so Giant and so unexpected? It's like under-stated slapstick and so bloody funny. After this, comes a quasi-improvisational section containing some nice blues Guitar, occasionally doubled by voice, the section gets a bit blurred as if it's screaming for an end, even though it doesn't outstay it's welcome. It's rescued by the 3rd and final verse, the last line of which sounds to me particularly plaintive, the instrumental suffix of the verse leads directly into the last song.

If 'Schooldays' was the memory of a Holiday, 'Three Friends' is the sound of the Seagulls, the Waves, the Beach, the Afternoon Cream-Tea, the Deckchairs, the Ice-cream and even bag of chips at the end of the day. With the Organ set firmly on the "Coastal Resort" Voice and the Strings sounding to me like they've been carefully voiced with the Organ part (I might be wrong), the Hymnal harmonies conjure up a moment of pure nostalgia. This is one track which even Giant can't write an end for; they have to repeat and fade-out in the outro to end all outros. It's even more yearning than the outro to Kate Bush's 'Wuthering Heights'!

Mattias Lundberg <> (20.02.2002)

This type of concept album is the one that really gets me going. I'm not too keen on 'rock opera' albums that try to portray everything in a smooth and transitional way. I suppose it's the 'artiness' that evolves from a few detailed topics without a plot proper; you have to reflect on the isolated ideas and their interconnections. This approach also precludes filler as far as lyrics are concerned, and this is always a good start for varied musical ideas; many ambitious 'rock operas' submerge themselves by badly executed cross-reference of musical ideas. It might be the hardest G.G. album to get into, especially if you haven't 'acquired the taste' or if you expect something bearing a resemblance to the music of another prog band. I remember vividly the first time I met another G.G. lover after having listened to G.G. for several years, because his favourite album was this one. That was something I just couldn't understand at the time but since then it has grown on me, and today I would say that it is one of my favourites as well. The 'Prologue' is brilliant I say, that unison melody has that 'straightforward ambiguity' (this paradoxical term is the best way I possibly could describe it in this language) so often found in G.G. themes. The Brahmsian piano part that is faded up in 'Schooldays' is also a treat. I assume that the reason behind the band using the same cover as for the debut album was that the latter album hadn't been widely disseminated by that time.

Brian Sittinger <> (28.08.2002)

Not bad at all. The dissonance is down a bit. If anything, these songs don't have the standing-out quality that the previous ones had. But, overall, these are quite good. Well, I like "Prologue", especially for the intro groove. The guitar and synths really propel it along well. "Schooldays" has a creative vocal arrangement. "Peel the Paint" has excellent sections, which somehow don't gel together. Finally, "Three Friends" is a strong closer, epecially in the closing moments. A solid 8(11).


Ben Greenstein <> (14.03.2000)

You're crazy. I LOVE this stuff. I find it really easy to get caught up in the melodies and creative instrumental noises that are oh-so-abundant. Maybe listening to Zappa has just desensetized my ears to the "avantgarde," but the only track that really sounds "dissonant" to my ears is "Knots," and that one's interesting just for being so wierd. The instrumenal is great, "Advent Of Panurge" and "River" are prog-rock personified, and "Think Of Me With Kindness" is beautiful pop. "Rancontuer Troubadour" is great, too. A 10/10.

Eric X Kuns <> (29.06.2000)

Your reviews are interesting and provocative. You get the pieces and sometimes shell out heavy compliments for G.G. (claiming you could assemble various of their songs into an awesome 60 minute tape compilation), but you miss that the whole of Gentle Giant is greater than the sum of their parts. You skipped their best album, by the way, which is The Power and the Glory. You should check that one out. It's both the most accessible and the most challenging. Your criticisms of the band crack me up. Anyway, Octopus is an awesome album, and "Advent of Panurge" may be their best song period. The band often fails miserably in their attempts, but sometimes they succeed, and the result in unlike anything else (as opposed to the bands that set out to do something ordinary and achieve it with flying colors). 'Advent' has some really cool piano (yeah, a little like on "Cat Food" by Crimson), and even strange unknown words and what sounds like a burp in the middle transitional sections. It has a smooth intricate sound that I tend to associate with the cover art of the puss in a jar. Like the jarred octopus it's a bit hermetic (too many brothers in the same band--makes me think of creepy correspondence between twins that only the twins can understand), intelligent, and yes cold. Originality is to be appreciated, when it succeeds, and G.G. have succeeded in crafting some of the, if not THE most original and unusual of songs. Basically you didn't get it.

David Albert <> (02.08.2000)

I think Octopus contains mostly classical GG songs, but the don`t constitute an union as a whole. "The Advent of Panurge" is great, with all it`s complex, changing melodies, vocal arrangements and contrapuntal work. It has different lines played at the same time and rather efffective shifts of sections, but I believe it`s slightly overrated. "A Cry For Everyone" shows how driving prog can be, even with all it`s different time signatures and melody lines and "The Boys In The Band" is simply an adventure for the listener, with it`s different parts, all virtuosely played. "Think Of Me With Kindness" gives proof of GG`s ability in writing nice "conventional" songs without sounding boring. "Raconteur Troubadour" really succeeds in capturing something of the medievel English troubadour, but lets enough space for the "usual" complex arrangements. "River" creates, as the band explains, several atmospheres within one song, features a groovy guitar-violin duet, too. In my opinion "Knots" emphases a bit too much the complex vocal arrangements and sounds a bit too forced. All in all the record has quite a couple of nice songs, it`s not a masterwork, but a very good one. A 10.

Kevin Muckenthaler <> (17.10.2000)

This is a great album and probably the band's high point. "The Advent of Panurge" is the best song, with medieval sounding opening vocals and almost Tullish parts when the whole band plays. "Raconteur Troubadour" continues the feel of the middle ages. It has some nifty violin, a pretty strange rhythm, and amusing lyrics and vocals: "I will make you LAUGH, revel merry-DANCE." "A Cry For Everyone" adopts more of a straightforward rock feel, but it isn't your average rock song. Then comes the strange vocal fugue of "Knots." It's so weird that you have to give them SOME credit for doing it. It's actually pretty humorous, too. "The Boys in the Band" is a whirlwind complicated rocker that is somewhat repetitive, but still remains fresh. I love the laugh/coinspin intro. "Dog's Life" is a hilarious tongue in cheek number including an obnoxious reed organ and string section. "Think of Me With Kindness" is a good, almost traditional love song. Almost. "River" has a weird little riff that appears throughout, and is an all-around interesting track. The one part of the album I don't like are Derek's vocals on this song. They sound hideously off when he first starts singing. Everything else on the album is good, though.

<> (08.11.2000)

no melodies - are you sure you and I are listening to the same record?

<> (14.03.2001)

Overrated, but only because it's definatley not their best album. Still, it totally rules in every way. Not one remotely weak track, but it lacks the flow and tightness of some of the others. ADVENT OF PANURGE--justifyably one of their defining tracks. Perfect. RECONTOUR TROUBADOR: Gorgeous medieval tune. Hardly qualifies as rock music, but hell, it's gorgeous! CRY FOR ANYONE: Weakest song on the album is still great. A bit too jarring in terms of its roughness, but the instrumental sections rock. KNOTS---LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this song. Best on the album, one of their coolest songs, and not at all ugly. It's all about the build, you see? This song has fantastic melodies in it. Amazing. BOYS IN THE BAND: Great instrumental (the coin spin is classic). DOG'S LIFE: The "black cat" "Isn't it quiet and cold" song. Once again, cute and harmless. THINK OF ME WITH KINDNESS: Amazing, often overlooked song by the most "complex" band ever? Yeah right. This is a totally beautiful, passionate pop song that drools with simplicity. RIVER: Great conclusion. Really good song. I appreciated this album a lot more after listening to it played live on Playing the Fool. Essential to Giant fans, but not the best, it gets a 9/10.

John McFerrin <> (09.11.2001)

It's hard to explain, seeing as I think I _am_ kind of like you, but I was not underwhelmed by this album at all on first listen. Far from it - I can understand seeing this as complexity for its own sake, sure. But really, why must one look at the negative spin? My impression on this almost instantaenously was this - catchy (in their own way) melodies with an engaging level of complexity, spliced with cool diverse instrumentation, and (and this is most important and impressive) slammed into short-length song structures. It is REALLY neat to see how many cool ideas can be squished into songs that don't go beyond pop-song length.

Indeed, to me, the first side of this album HAS to be the best stretch that GG ever came up with (I have five of their albums, plus the live one you like). 'Advent' and 'Raconteur' are nothing short of utter masterpieces, 'Cry' is a cool take on "heavy" music, and as for 'Knots', well, it's great. It's a VERY creative vocal arrangement, slightly dissonant or no.

Of course, the second half breaks down slightly ('Boys' is only intermittently interesting to me). But only slightly. 'Dog's Life' and 'Think of Me' ... are BEAUTIFUL ballads, and of course 'River' is 'River'.

I'd have no problem with giving this a 13 overall. I easily see it as the best GG album.

Mattias Lundberg <> (20.02.2002)

I have never regarded Octopus as the best G.G. album. It is an interesting transition point between two periods (typically, bands make their 'best' and 'quintessential' albums under such circumstances), but it's not that solid compared to many other G.G. albums. It hasn't got the mysticism of earlier albums, nor the precision, or aptness, of the later ones. Nevertheless, it's an amazing album (it's G.G. we're talking about here). 'Think of me with kindness' is such a good song - what do you mean "never especially climactic" ? That section with the melody in the trumpet, leading to an interrupted cadence, is cut short but that's a tasteful device that I think really works. The alternative of stating the whole melody in the same key and excluding the contrasting section would make the melody itself appear hackneyed. 'Knots' is not a fugue (as somebody stated above), but there's some nice use of canon in 'A cry for everyone'. 'Dog's life' is a nice ditty as well, too bad the regal is so out of tune. I agree on 'The advent of Panurge' being the best track, it's such an great album opener. Truly dramatic G.G. for the first time and thus foreshadowing the two ensuing albums.

Brian Sittinger <> (28.08.2002)

This is one bizarre record. They couldn't have named this album any better, that's for sure! These songs are crammed with so many ideas it almost hurts. At least, most of them work. (Calamari, anyone?)

As for the songs, the first two follow the soft medieval vibe quite well. "A Cry For Everyone" is an intriguing take on a rock song, only that it's 'messed up' here and there with a jam. It somehow fits, though! I'm at a loss for explanations. "Knots" is a very creative vocal arrangement, almost enjoyable given its concept. "The Boys in the Band" is a tight G.G. jam marred a bit with the synth tone in between the reprisals of the main theme. "Dog's Life" is another violin led song with some biting lyrics of their roaries. "Think of Me With Kindness" is another well-sung resonant ballad. (Why not more of these?) I appreciate "River" for its content, but the main riff gets on my nerves a bit. The singing is abit off-putting at first too. Perhaps I'm in a minority...

All in all, a good album: 9(12).


Ben Greenstein <> (04.05.2000)

Okay, so maybe this band is one of those who only put out two great albums and a bunch of crap. This album isn't bad, but it isn't very good either, with a lot of self-indulgent playing and not enough strong melodies (funny - isn't that what you don't like about Octopus?) "An Inmate's Lullaby" is fantastic, and "The Runaway" is pretty cool, too. I don't get what's so cool about "Experience," although it seems to be one of the band's most popular songs. I say, if you're going to try and make a song "medieval," and you're in a band legendary for unique instrumentation, then give it some 12 string. What is this keyboard crap that's all over this album? I hate it! It sounds like Yes! I give it a seven.

David Albert <> (31.07.2000)

This is my favourite album, it`s simply the best. Well, I admit I`m a prog and hardcore GG fan, but so what? With In A Glass House GG demonstrate, without any hearable exertion, how to mix rock, contrapuntal work, extravagant instrumentation, acrobatical vocals, folky themes and jazz. The results are great songs like "The Runaway", where different themes and riffs are introduced and worked out in an unachieved way. "An Immates Lullaby" is also unique, played only with percussion instruments, leaves you with a very bizarre impression of the asylum and it`s patient. But there are also beautiful melodies, for example the middle section of "Way of Life" or "A Reunion", which is a kind of short break to relax a bit. "Experience" is maybe the highlight, a very great rock song!!!;lots of different phases and time signatures including contrapuntal polyphony, an organ-bass-vocal chorale, some rocking lead guitar and much more. But everything fits ! The title track begins with very fast violin work, lapses back into slower parts, but that naturally doesn`t stay so...another masterpiece. It may take time to get used to it, but if you discover it, you`ll get to know prog from it`s finest side, without one dull moment, really. A good concept, instrumental mastership, beautiful arrangements; very entertaining - clearly a 12

<> (14.03.2001)

Quite possibly their best album. It's between this and Free Hand (and maybe Interview) to be sure, and because this one is more focused as an album (with its concept I mean), I'd probably give it the prize. Certainly one of the crowning achievements in progressive rock. And never has a rhythm section been better--this is a bass-lovers paradise. The sound is really different from Octopus, and marks the next phase of the band, their "golden" period so to speak RUNAWAY: Amazing playing, melodies, singing, etc. Great. INMATES LULLABY: The type of thing they tried to do with Schooldays and Edge of Twilight, only done right. Beautiful song with extremely creative arrangement. WAY OF LIFE: Gentle Giant does disco! Sort of. Whatever they're doing on this funky song works for me because it's a masterpiece. EXPERIENCE: Spectacular, containing one the best Giant riffs. A REUNION: The "Cute" song, only this time with a totally original arrangement. IN A GLASS HOUSE: This is the best song on the album, and possibly their best song. Certainly contains their coolest guitar riff. In general, this is their "riffiest" album as many of the songs are build on simple riffs. So yeah, this album gets a definate 10/10.

Brian Sittinger <> (28.08.2002)

This is where my opinions really diverge. This album, after quite a few listens, still leaves me overall cold. I don't see how this is in the style of Octopus. The band is tighter than ever, but it this time seems less resonant to me. Most of their jams lack memorability! Then, there are tacked-on and unnecessary medieval sections on most of the songs within. Maybe it's because the singing isn't as spectacular this time aroung.

Enough bashing for now. I like the first few minutes of "A Runaway". "An Inmates Lullaby" is decent except for some noodling on the xylophone. "Way of Life" includes proto-disco. I spent a day trying to get that riff out of my head! "ina Glass House" is a satisfactory way to close out the album. And, having bought this from their website, there were two live tracks that beat the studio versions into submission, since they felt more spontaneous and full of energy (though they sound like they were recorded in a cave). 7(10).

Christian H <> (20.03.2004)

You know what, this album could have been much better. I am a big fan of Gentle Giant, owning three of their albums (quite an accomplishment considering I live in London, Ontario, Canada; not a place exactly known for its wide selection of imported prog) Having heard a broad sampling of their composition from my first album, Playing the Fool, I decided to look into acquiring their studio work. After combing dozens of record shops, and hundreds of web pages, I finally found, on the Gentle Giant web site, a method of procuring a copy of In a Glass House via Alucard Publishing. It arrived by post a few weeks ago, and I can tell you that Minnear's company did a great job with the remastering and packaging. I popped the cd into my stereo and collapsed into my couch.

Sixty-odd minutes later, I returned to the stereo and listened to my favourite track, the title one, about four times in a row. I fancied it the band's masterpiece (and still do), but I was otherwise unimpressed.

I believe that this album was a collection of wasted potential; alot of really decent musical ideas that get burried underneath the album's flaws. The most obvious flaw, I find, is the absolutely stupid and pointless 'Way of Life'. Man does that song suck! The opening riff is neither catchy, nor imaginative, and the complex organ jam that supports it is hopeless. Kerry's vocals are also very weak on this track. And did it really have to drag on so long?! The monotonous organ solo at the end (which apparently was supposed to be a lead in to another piece) is itself nearly 2 minutes! The only saving grace is the charming middle section, which, though very brief, reminds me a little of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Experience is also very overrated. Though it has some nice parts (I like the bass, keyboards, guitar fugato about halfway through the piece), the band's major problem of repeating 3 note motives about 20 times in a row in order to get through to another section is especially evident in parts of this piece.

The opening and closing tracks, I believe, are the only that were realized to their full potential. If the whole album were more like them, I would rate it as highly as I would, say, The Power and the Glory, which after Civilian, is their best album.



<> (14.03.2001)

Another masterpiece. My first Gentle Giant album,s were Octopus and Acquiring, but this one, my third, made me love this band. No one has any idea what they're saying when they call this their least accessible album. I loved it after listening to it once. PROCLAMATION: Their signature "funk" song, with a groove to kill. The "Hail to power and to glory's way" part is certainly dissonant, but when placed in context with the rest of the song, it's in no way off-putting. SO SINCERE: Probably the reason for the "inaccessible" claims. Yeah, this one isn't very easy to understand at first. The time signatures are totally twisted and the melody is hard to pick out. But I love it. Why? Who knows. I just do. ASPIRATIONS: One of their most beautiful songs. I could listen to this track over and over and never tire of it. Breathtakingly gorgeous. PLAYING THE GAME: Sounds like something off In a Glass House and that's a good thing, a VERY good thing. Hell, this may be the best song on this entire album. It's certainly the grooviest, and the playing is so tight that I get goosebumps whenever I listen to it. Side 2 is definately weaker than Side 1, and that's why this isn't a 10/10. But it's still amazing. COGS IN COGS: really intense, almost overwhelming with a lot happening at once in terms of arrangement. Damn good though. NO GOD"S A MAN: another beautiful song, fits the album cover nicely with it's slightly medieval feel. THE FACE: The weakest track on the album isn't bad at all, just not memorable at all. Of course it's still great. VALEDICTORY: Amazing ending reprising the theme introduced in Proclamation, making this one their most coherent concept albums. Gary Green is a god. Anyway, this album gets a really bum rap from some people. For some reason, people separate it from the rest of the albums and consider different in terms of style. Not at all the case. If you like Glass House, Free Hand, or Octopus, you'll like this as well. Almost perfect, but side 2 just can't live up to one, so it's a 9.5/10.

Sylvan <> (02.05.2003)

I am deeply saddened by your review of The Power and the Glory. Seriously. I'm gonna go commit suicide after writing this.

Man, I just don't get what you have against 'So Sincere'. How can you say it lacks 'conceptual purpose' for its dissonace? It's a song about twisted logic and disingenuous political rhetoric. The 'collapsing' arrangement is perfect for the song. I particularly like the ending--the song doesn't fade out, or end on a nice chord, it just sort of unravels, like the protagonist's logic.

Plus, the song is actually full of catchy little hooks bouncing off of each other like a box full of excited puppies. It is, I swear to god! Don't ignore the puppies! They love you!!!

matty stuart <> (28.08.2004)

The power and the glory album was my very first Giant album. I was lent the vinyl by the drummer in a band I was playing with. I fell in love wih the band after the first dissonant 'Hail to the Power and the Glory' section.

Nick Pulliam <> (23.01.2006)

I have to say that for me this album was very easy to get into (one listen George). Except for the song "So Sincere" which I get no joy from hearing, every song is likeable and not dissonant. A great place to start in my opinion, I would still put this album behind Freehand as the best intro to GG, but not by much.


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<> (14.03.2001)

Without a doubt the place to start, this is easily the band's catchiest, least off-putting, and consistent album. Depending on my mood, it's also the best. Whatever George is talking about regarding sound quality, well, maybe it's just his copy. Mine sounds great. It's the cleanest sounding Giant record yet. Side 1 is the best side of Gentle Giant music in existence. JUST THE SAME: Even better than 'Proclamation', and in the same vein. A funky rocker, with an instrumental section that blows me away. ON REFLECTION: Would you believe it? Even better then 'Knots', of which it most closely resembles in terms of it's crazy vocal arrangement. Amazing in every way. FREE HAND: Another spectacular rocker, with a jazzy feel at times. God is this an awesome song. And side of a record. Side 2 isn't as good, of course, but it doesn't make the album uneven. It's ridiculously incredible as well. TIME TO KILL: Driving, powerful song. HIS LAST VOYAGE: Wraps up everything they ever tried to do in terms of atmospheric songs ('Edge of Twilight', 'Inmates Lullaboy') and makes the formula catchy and memorable. BEAUTIFUL song. TALYBONT: Instrumental. Sort of funny, and totally medieval. MOBILE: Great close. At first I didn't love it, but repeat listenings revealed its hidden charm. Superb playing on this tune. Overall, it's one of the best progressive rock albums. A 10/10.

[Special author note: Just wanted to clear a slight misunderstanding - it's not the sound quality I was complaining about, it was the PRODUCTION of the album. That's an entirely different thing. And I don't think there's any denying that the production of Free Hand is miles away from the production of Acquiring The Taste, for instance.]

Mattias Lundberg <> (20.02.2002)

O.K. everyone: stop using the term 'mediaeval' in reference to the music of G.G. !! Even if they might reflect a character that coincides with our view of 'olden times', they are musically very far from anything mediaeval or renaissance. With some significant exceptions (Gryphon, Amazing Blondel, The Albion Band, Steeleye Span &c.) all popular music that try to capture the abovementioned characteristic do this by cultivating elements of contemporary folk- and modern classical -music. In the case of G.G. it's always the latter. 'On reflection' is not a fugue proper (a genre which incidentally has no mediaval connections whatsoever) but a fugue at the octave with a theme that could have been composed by Britten. The only examples of early music traits in G.G. music that I can think of are 'Talybont' (the cadence formulae of the repeated section) and 'As old as you're young' from The missing piece (which has some real Tudor modality). I would also like to disagree with TylerDurden above; I think the second side of Free hand is much stronger than the first. It's a good album on the whole, and I think it deserves a better rating. Even if you prefer the early albums on account of their superior production you cannot really say that these albums can compare with the solidity of the later period albums.

Nick Pulliam <> (20.01.2006)

Just a quick word on the sound quality / production issue of this CD. I first purchased the One Way Record's printing of Freehand and thought that it sounded pretty lackluster (though I loved the music). I later heard the song "Freehand" on a progressive rock compilation and the song sounded quite different (new instruments, different vocal sound, etc.). Subsequently I read on the GG homepage that One Way Records used the wrong master tapes (a mixdown tape?) to press the Freehand CDs. I just recently purchsed the 30th anniversary edition of Freehand, and where usually I can't hear much difference in the re-mastered editions of any albums, Freehand was so completely different and better sounding that it is like hearing it again for the first time (the most improved remaster I ever heard). My advice, get the new CD. The band members will not only get there share of the profits, you will get to hear what Freehand sounded like when it was originally released.


Ben Greenstein <> (02.06.2000)

Now this one certainly is dissonant. I don't dislike it as much as you, but I don't think it's very memorable, either. I don't like the title track - it's the third time the band has tried to rewrite "Proclomation," and I wasn't too big a fan in the first place. "I Lost My Head" is a really good song, though, and "Another Show" is cool. A high five.

David Albert <> (07.08.2000)

While recording Interview the band stood under high time pressure, they did the whole thing (including composition!) in 4 weeks, Derek Shulman even said that they would do the overdubs in the record stores... The consequence was that they didn`t had as many creative ideas as usual and they lapsed into a sort of routine. That is not necessarily bad, because very speaking of a very genius and great band, for that reason even the routine is very good, but of course not revolutionary or avantgarde like their other releases. They kind of reminisced about their musical past and tried to sum it up on this record. I said tried, because they were not always successful. "Another Show" reminds me of "Cogs In Cogs" ( from The Power And The Glory, which is better than "Another Show". "Design" is a strange number like "So Sincere" (also from The Power And The Glory). But there exist also nice examples: "Interview" is a song in the tradition of "Proclamation" or "Just The Same" (Free Hand), but with a very different arrangement. The piano part sounds cool, same as the harpsichord solo later, it is a great number! "I Lost My Head" is in his whole conception a bit like "In A Glass House", but less complex, and in his way great, too. The other songs are mainly new, "Give It Back" makes out of a 7/8-5/8-rhythm a kind of reggae. "Timing" sounds more freely played and grows on to you. in my opinion, Interview is a below average prog-record, well made, although it lacks partly the great ideas of other GG releases - a 10.

<> (14.03.2001)

George, I couldn't disagree with you more. This is one of the bands best albums. It sounds a lot like Free Hand and contains the same amount of spectacular playing and beautiful melodies. It was apparently recorded and written really quickly, but I can't tell at all. Takes a little bit more time to warm up to, though, as many of the songs are a bit less inviting at first. INTERVIEW: What an intense song. When the jazzy chords build and build and finally the sound crashes into those weird persussive noises...that's some good stuff. GIVE IT BACK: I disagree with all the detractors of this song. Sure, it's got a reggae rhythm. It's also got a really nice melody. One of their most fun songs. DESIGN: One of the reasons people call this band "complex" and even I'll admit that this is complexity for complexities sake. But I love the song anyway. It's a mixture of 'Knots'/'On Reflection' and the atmospherics of 'Edge of Twilight'. ANOTHER SHOW: Highlights the bands hard rock sensibilites as well as their extremely tight rhythm section. EMPTY CITY: The second best song on the album. How anyone could like 'His Last Voyage' and dislike this song is beyond me. It combines a beautful melody and great quiet atmosphere with a powerful, driving rock section that truly rocks. One of their best songs. TIMING: Another song in the 'Another Show' vein...Gary Green is simply astounding. I LOST MY HEAD: Best song on the album, easily in the top three gentle Giant songs. This two part song involves a folk/medieval section that transforms (in a moment of pure brilliance, when the funky keyboard comes in solo playing the riff and then the whole band follows) into a hard rock song. Can't begin to describe how good this is. George, I don't understand your views on this one. I love it death. A 10/10.

Mattias Lundberg <> (20.02.2002)

I'm struggling to understand your disapproval, because I don't conceive this album as being very different stylistically from Free hand and I also think that all the tracks are equally solid and well developed. If somebody told me that one G.G. album had been recorded under stress with a short time limit, I couldn't possibly guess which one. I love 'Give it back', especially those spooky, thereminesque synthesizer sounds. 'Empty city' is also a great song, in some way it comes across as more mature than the atmospheric sections of earlier albums. I know that you dislike this album because it doesn't showcase any good song-writing, but could it be that if you would've liked Free hand less, you would've appreciated these songs more ? Could it be that you're making a distinction per se, and one that is a bit deceptive ? I see these two albums almost as a unity and it baffles me that you give them so different ratings. I thought I understood where you were coming from when I read your review of Free hand, but clearly I was mistaken.

Tal cohen <>(26.06.2002)

What everyone seems to miss about this recording is its honest, desperate and frustrating statement. The angst absolutely oozes out of every song, and is a fine testament to the spirit of Rock Music. Because most prog listeners enjoy the comfortable, unassuming, dog and pony show, meretritious, fantasy-laden, mellotron-based symphonic rubbish that 70's Prog offered, it's no wonder to me that only the most adventurous listeners can fight off the urge to dislike this record. As you see fit to list Selling England By The Pound as one of the best, it makes toatal sense that you would not care much for the "spirit" of Interview.

Also, since In A Glass House is considered by their fans as one of the best Giant records (to me it's the absolute worst) I ask that this be considered: Interview is the record Glass House SHOULD have been.

If one examines both "Experience" and its later counterpart, "I Lost My Head", you will see similarities: Both begin with a quasi-baroque section and move into a larger body of heavy Rock. But the latter song is both better composed and more mature, stylistically and lyrically.

Both records also have what amounts to be percussion ensemble works: But the general moodiness of "Inmates Lullabye" does not grow, either in emotional intensity or musical dynamics, while the tone of "Design" is interrupted by mayhem and truly fine counterpart, and leads to a more intensive, yet cohesive, body of work.

"Way of Life" is a rocker, but it is aimless when compared to "Another Stage". And the overall, highly-developed compositional coherance of the opening number, "Interview", puts "Runaway" to shame.

Interview was also far less derivative of previous Gentle Giant accomplishments, while In a Glass House consistantly fell back upon the syncopations, hoketing, and thematic stylings which the band had previously pioneered on the Three Friends L.P., offering no advancement or musical development to their catalog. In fact, it was a digression to the album before the last, and at that, was not as good. The arrangements and sound quality of Glass House were pitiful when compared to Octapus, and the lack of studio experimentation hints to yet another point of digression. Also, the melodies on Glass House were, for the most part, rhythmically simple and underdeveloped, leaving an impression that the whole album had been rushed thru and not fully realized. But it probably this very simplicity that makes it so appealing to the greatest number of fans.

Most prog fans, while believing their tastes to be intrepid and advanced, usually amass their venerations around stupid, adolescent musical endeavors with sci-fi implications. (The Wall, The Lamb, Tales From Un-artistic Bloatings, etc.) This proves to me unequivocally that the Progressive Rock movement in general is not as amazing as its appreciators would lead themselves to believe.

In my book, Interview steered clear of all that was sohomoric and rediculous about 70's rock. For me it was by far the finest of Giant's releases, and was certainly not devoid of the emotional prerequisites of fine Rock and Roll music, as you have stated.

cjzak1 <> (16.07.2002)

So much effort into being so wrong. The thing I love about these guys and which holds true for almost all their stuff is that for all their atonality, time signature goofiness etc., they were more about melody that anything else. And their melodies hold up (which is also true for their pop stuff) even when they veer into challenging territory. I think too much is made of their technical virtuousity, what's amazing is that they used it to craft songs, and arrangements where each instrument is exploring melody. The bass playing for Gods sake, angular, and clever but very melodicly aware. Whatever, at least you're talking about them. And yes 'empty city' is beautiful.

Alex Zaitsev <> (15.10.2003)

First of all, I'd like to thank you, because your reviews have sparked my interest in Gentle Giant. Here I should describe my way of getting into a band new to me. I first buy/download the "sellout" period and then the worst album in some Mr. X's opinion. You turned out to be Mr. X this time. So, I haven't heard GG's classic albums yet, and can only compare Interview with its successors. And you know, I wonder if we are talking about the same record. Your review is really scary. I expected Interview to be a rambling, disjointed album and, err.. ahem... it actually FLOWS and flows rather smoothly. You accuse it of being dissonant, which really puzzles me. Really! I tell you I just sat with my mouth agape, trying to somehow correlate what I was reading and what I heard. As if I was reading a THRAKATTAK review which had a title Magical Mistery Tour! Passion Play is dissonant if you want it (see, I've gone as far as to put down JETHRO TULL themselves. Konstantin Tikhonov, sue me!) but not this stuff. The album is very melodic. Two songs: 'Design' and 'Another Show' are twisted and dissonant and they are absolutely crappy, but I strongly feel that you're overgeneralising and extending your impressions of these songs onto the album as a whole. But the rest of the songs sound NOTHING like these ones. They all have simple, pretty, accessible melodies. Pay attention to the keyboardist, he's especially good on this album. 'Interview' has very strange agressive vocals, but it is supposed to have them. Really evokes an image of the singer, all red and sweating, having a fit of anger in front of the poor media man. A good song, definitely. You are wrong in thinking that this album was concieved as something to please the variety of braindead prog fans who only care about complexity. If 'Give it back' isn't a catchy, funny, simple pop-song, moreover, a well - done link between this album and the following ones, sort of preparing the fans for a new kind of music, then I'm the king of Old Siam. In general, the pop and prog elements here are quite well balanced. 'I lost my head' 's a very good song too. Starts as a great, almost Bee Gees song with great melody, then after a goofy Eastern sounding keyboard passage turns into a killer rocker. And I swear that Yes used that guitar line somewhere on Magnification or Ladder! I swear! If I ever remember what song it is, I'll make another comment. My rating is 9/15. Not the place to start with Gentle Giant, as the vocals can frighten many a child, but a good bargain bin puchase. I didn't want to praise the album anyhow, I wanted to bash it, as those 10/10 need some opposition, but I can't help it. There really are some good tunes here among the dreck.


Ben Greenstein <> (27.07.2000)

Not too good. But the fans REALLY like it, for some reason. I guess my problem is the song selection - they spend too much time playing those dumb jerky pieces like "Proclomation" and "Just The Same," which I have NEVER cared for, and not enough time doing the spooky, atmospheric, and enjoyable stuff (like ANYTHING from their sophomore album!). And "So Sincere" (which is the worst song they've ever done by far, much uglier than "Knots") is stretched out to over ten minutes. Not exactly my idea of a fun listening experience. And why do they combine those two songs at the end? One of the main features of those was that they were multi-part!

Anyway, highlights include "Free Hand," "The Runaway," and the "Octopus" medley. Low points include just about everything else, yes, even "Funny Ways." I give this album a lowish five. Check out their BBC sessions if you want to hear them doing really well.

<> (14.03.2001)

This is my favorite live album of all time, but keep in mind that I hate live albums. I respect albums like Live at Leeds more than I listen to them. That being said, this album offers something much more than live renditions of studio songs. Every track contains improvisation, a switiching of structure and rhythm, and more surprises. The energy level is also amazing. Actually, this may be the album to play for someone who's never heard the's that good. The track selection is great as well. And for anyone who doesn't believe me when I talk so kindly about Gary Green, just listen to the Octopus medley. Whoa. A mind-blowing livealbum, a 10/10.


<> (14.03.2001)

The worst Gentle Giant album. There isn't one truly great song, I don't even like 'Memories of old days' very much. The pop side has always struck me as much better than the "proggier" side that fans seem to like so much more. TWO WEEKS IN SPAIN: Sort of fun and catchy, and funky too. Vocals turn me off though, as does the repetition. I'M TURNING AROUND: The most poppy song on the album is also, in my opinion, the best. Really good melodies, really catchy, should have been a hit. BETCHA THOUGHT WE COULDN'T DO IT: Offensive to say the least. What the hell are they doing? It's still listenable though. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?: Solid groove. It reminds me of Steely Dan a little. But not nearly as good as Steely. MOUNTAIN TIME: Yeah, this is sort of weak, but the middle part is quite catchy. It's just that the rhythm is so silly and obnoxious I'd rather not listen. AS OLD AS YOU'RE YOUNG: Not very good. The melody is just annoying, and while it has a more proggy feel to it, nothing can change it's boring nature. MEMORIES OF OLD DAYS: This song drags and bores me. It's very pretty, for sure, and one of the best things on here, but not at all a classic. WINNING: Maybe the worst Giant song of all. Completely lacking melody and coherency. FOR NOBODY: Starts off with a cool, very proggy intro. But then as I wait for something else to happen, I am offered nothing. Boring! Yeah, this is only truly mediocre Giant album, only worth buying if you're a definate fan. Yet for some strange reason I know someone who thinks 'Two Weeks in Spain' is their best song. Weird. A 5/10.

Mattias Lundberg <> (20.02.2002)

READ THIS IF YOU ARE A PROG AFICIONADO: If you don't like this album you might be deceived (I'm not saying that you are, mind you) by some of its foreground features, which are all borrowed from the lighter genres of pop and common rock. You should really know, and sense, the things that couldn't have been achieved by any of the bands which G.G. tried to emulate on this album (this is the same phenomenon found in the reception of Peter Gabriel's So). On foreign ground, the band achieves something that the inhabitants of that ground could not have achieved themselves. Few of these inhabitants liked the achievement, but we need not pity them for that. Just listen to 'Memories of old days' without taking in such extra-musical factors as lyrics and sound. If it helps you, imagine that it was made in 1971. Now, is this album really that bad ? I think not. If you disagree with me, you can always revel in the asymmetrical phrasing of 'For nobody', the ambiguous upbeat of 'Two weeks in Spain', the gorgeous modality and the dove-tailed sections of 'As old as you're young' (my favourite G.G. song).

READ THIS IF YOU ARE AN ASPIRING ECLECTIST: Even if you don't like this album as it stands, you must admit that it is quite possibly the most historically interesting G.G. album. It is neither the slightly contrived prog of the early 70s, nor the deliberately commonplace pop of the following albums. The music on this album is unique, let's agree on that ! Just listen to 'Two weeks in Spain' and 'Betcha thought we couldn't do it', with an open mind. Have you ever heard any music like the former track before, and have you ever heard music like that on the latter track played with such musicianship ? Try to enjoy these tracks as they stand. If it helps you, imagine that it was recorded by a bunch of unpretentious popsters (in fact, that isn't very far from the truth). Now is this album really that bad ? I think not. If you disagree with me, you can always revel in the riffy introduction of 'For nobody', the hit potential of 'Turning around', the atmosphere of 'Memories of old days' and the catchy melodies of 'As old as you're young' (my favourite G.G. song).


Ben Greenstein <> (04.05.2000)

How anyone could like this album that much is beyond me. You're really that impressed with "Thank You"? Sounds repetitive, uninspired, and almost lifeless to me. "Take Me" sounds like something by Rick Springfield, and the title track is so utterly stupid I can't help but turn it off. "Rock Climber" and "Words For The Wise" are certainly guilty pleasures, and "Friends" is sort of pretty (if you've never heard a Randy Newman or Tom Waits album), but the rest is very lame. And there isn't even a trace of punk on here! Not one song even attempts to use raw energy - or any energy at all! "Spooky Boogie" sounds like the soundtrack to an 80's horror film. And for the record, I did give it a fair listen. I'm not one of those stuck-up prog fans who turn their noses up at anything easy to play (come on! I like Talking Heads!), but nothing can change the fact that this is a very bad pop album. I give it a three!

<> (14.03.2001)

Our Interview problem is canceled out with this one George, because I'm in total agreement. This is the band's most underrated album. I guess I can understand people criticizing it because they liked the band's old, prog sound and style of which this has no relation. But most people will tell you that this is a terrible album, one of the worst every released by any band. NO WAY! At all. And this isn't even "pop" album. It's a straightforward rock album. Not hard rock, of course, but rock music (even if it does have a poppy feel). Genesis' Invisible Touch is a pop album. This is nothing like that. No cheesey synths or overarrangements: actually, it's the most stripped down of all their albums. WORDS FROM THE WISE: How can anyone actually truly dislike this song? Come on. It's completely engaging, warm, and catchy. THANK YOU: I ask the same question: what's wrong with this stuff? Thank You is a really nice song with a solid melody, perfect instrumentation, and wonderful vocals. Shulman changes his vocal style on this album, never straining too hard for high notes or putting a rough edge into his voice (though I liked it even when he did that). GIANT FOR A DAY: Again, if you look at this negatively, you'll probably hate it. But I see it as a really fun, groovey song. Nothing more. And it's a truly solid attempt at New Wave. If this band changed their name before they released this album, it would probably make a lot of money. SPOOKY BOOGIE: Totally harmless instrumental. Funny and entertaining. TAKE ME: Sounds like Steely a little bit again. Great song. LITTLE BROWN BAG: One of my favorites on the album. The middle section reminds me of Pete Townshend. FRIENDS: John Weathers steps to the mic and delivers a pretty little acoustic tune. NO STRANGER: That Steely sound is used once again. And it's once again great. IT'S ONLY GOODBYE: The chorus kind of sucks. But hey, it's only one chorus on an entire album. The verses are nice though! ROCK CLIMBER: Rock and roll, baby, rock and roll. That's what this is. And people seem to hear something different. Maybe it's the mask-concept. Or maybe it's because it's the same band that released an album with KNOTS on it a few years back. Whatever the case, the general consensus regarding the album is very invalid. A total surprise to me, I play this as much as some of the early stuff. A 8.5/10.

Mattias Lundberg <> (21.02.2002)

I love your metaphors George; "like a drunk elephant", that song couldn't have been described better. I think this album is really good. It comprises some bad tracks, but pop albums from this period generally do. 'Words from the wise' is such a brilliant song, with the chanting vocals like YES's 'I've seen all good people', but perhaps even more similar to Kansas' 'Carry on my wayward son'. Underneath this Gary Green plays the riff of 'Satisfaction'. I realise that the way I just described that song makes it sound like it's derivative multorum, but that is not the case. In fact, it is always interesting when bands try to master genres that are not indigenous to them, because they often come up with some really unique stuff. 'Thank you' is also good, and more prog purists would understand that if they gave this song as many listens as they give, say 'Cogs in cogs'. Who came up with the preposterous idea that you have to 'get into' prog, whereas pop could be dismissed after one or two listens ? Sod that.


<> (14.03.2001)

Another really good rock album by the band. I'm convinced that if they continued, they would've been the best prog---pop/rock crossover of any of the prog bands. CONVENIENCE: Actually the worst song on the album, as funny as that sounds. Rarely does the band open with their weakest track. Still good though. ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT: Agree with you on this one George. Great tune. SHADOWS ON THE STREET: Really good vocals and melody. Pretty as all hell. NUMBER ONE: I love this song as well. Catchy beyond words. UNDERGROUND: Funky and driving, although I don't it as much as some. I AM A CAMERA: REALLY catchy song. And really really good. INSIDE OUT: The best pop/rock song the band every recorded, I can comfortably call it one of my favorite Giant songs. Amazing vocal arrangement. It'S JUST IMAGINATION: Next to Convenience, it's the other worst track. Framed by the worst songs, this album is. But the worst is still solid. Anyway, a good way to go out, but it's unfortunate because the band was still really good. An 8/10.

Mattias Lundberg <> (21.02.2002)

It seems as if they deliberately repressed their typical witty humour on his one. A good album 'tis, though. It sounds frigid in a way, but that is perhaps more the sound than the actual music. At times, I get the impression that it doesn't have input from every band member anymore, it appears to have been totally dominated and masterminded by Derek and I always suspected that he was the one that came up with the catchy hooks of their earlier music. 'Underground' is a great track and it's so different from anything they've done before. This whole album shows to what extent the dawn of a new era coincided with that of a new decade.

Richard Fiveash <> (09.02.2003)

I think Civilian is GG best album, possibly because this was the first album I heard by them. I originally bought the album in 1981 and to this day is one of my favourite all time albums and 'All Through The Night' one of the best rock songs of all time. It amazes me that so many people put this album down, obviously they come from the perspective of liking the bands earlier work but I come from a different point of view and certainly viewing this album in isolation it is a superb work. (9.5/10)


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