Gentle Giant


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Gentle Giant (1970), 5.5/10
Acquiring The Taste (1971), 6/10
Three Friends (1972), 7/10
Octopus (1972), 6.5/10
In A Glass House (1973), 7/10
The Power And The Glory (1974), 6.5/10
Free Hand (1975), 6/10
Interview (1976), 5/10
The Missing Piece (1977), 5/10
Giant For A Day (1978), 4/10
Civilian (1980), 4/10
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I Gentle Giant furono una formazione britannica di progressive-rock che tento` la fusione piu` ardita di jazz, classica e rock negli anni d'oro del genere.

Il gruppo venne formato da tre fratelli che avevano militato in gruppi blues di Glasgow. Il sestetto aveva i suoi punti di forza strumentali nelle tastiere elettroniche di Kerry Minnear (laureato alla Royal Academy of Music), nella chitarra di Gary Green (veterano della scena blues), e nei fiati di Philip Schulman. Oltre che dalle complesse partiture di questi musicisti, il sound era caratterizzato anche dal canto quasi inumano di Derek Shulman, cosi` asettico da ricordare i solfeggi di conservatorio e i cori gregoriani a cappella.

Gentle Giant (Vertigo, 1970) era un disco ancora incerto su quale strada seguire, arrivato nel pieno del boom del progressive-rock classicheggiante di King Crimson, Yes e Moody Blues, alla fine della stagione psichedelica e quando le jam di blues-rock stavano mutando nelle canzoni di hard-rock. Giant tenta di conquistare cuori e orecchie con un tema un po' soul, mentre la lunga Nothing At All punta decisamente al cervello con una turbolenta fantasia classic/folk/blues.

Il contrappunto convoluto e dissonante per cui sarebbero rimasti celebri fece capolino su Acquiring The Taste (Vertigo, 1971). Ciascuno dei sei musicisti si alternava a diversi strumenti, con un massiccio ricorso alle tastiere elettroniche, finendo per dare al disco uno spessore quasi sinfonico. Kerry Minnear da solo si cimenta al piano elettrico, all'organo, al mellotron, al vibrafono, al sintetizzatore, alla celeste e al clavicembalo. Il bassista Ray Shulman aggiunge violino e viola al suo arsenale. Tony Visconti, produttore di David Bowie, suona il flauto. Almeno Pantagruel's Nativity, The House The Street The Room e Plain Truth aprono nuovi orizzonti.

Three Friends (Columbia, 1972) e` forse l'album in cui il gruppo riusci` per la prima volta a esprimere cio` che aveva da dire, ed e` persino meno sperimentale del precedente. Concepito come una specie di "rock opera", consta di sei lunghe "ballate". Mister Class And Quality e Working All Day sono fra le loro canzoni piu` accessibili. Prologue, Schooldays e Peel The Paint sono invece numeri di una musica camera sempre piu` criptica.

Il sound sinfonico del secondo e terzo album venne parzialmente abbandonato per Octopus (Columbia, 1972), lambendo talvolta l'hard-rock (Advent Of Panurge) e talaltra il folk-rock (Raconteur Troubadour, Think Of Me With Kindness). Ma in generale questo e` piu` math-rock che art-rock: ogni passaggio strumentale ha una funzione di provocazione nei confronti degli stereotipi. Le armonie vocali di Knots, in particolare, ispirato dalle enigmatiche poesie dello psichiatra Laing, sono l'antitesi di tutta la tradizione britannica.

In A Glass House (1973), altro concept album, e` forse la loro opera piu` ambiziosa, forte di quattro lunghi brani come The Runaway, Way Of Life, Experience, In A Glass House.

Questa esuberante sperimentazione beneficio` dell'abbandono di Schulman. Il concept sociopolitico The Power And The Glory (Capitol, 1974) e` meno ambizioso dei precedenti, ma la musica scorre fluida ed elegante (Proclamation, Playing the Game).

Free Hand (Capitol, 1975) e` l'album "medievale" dei Gentle Giant Quasi tutte le canzoni (Just The Same, On Reflection, Free Hand, Time To Kill, His Last Voyage) hanno raggiunto una loro perfezione formale all'interno del programma di rifondare la forma della canzone rock.

Il periodo classico termina praticamente con Interview (Capitol, 1976), un concept album contro l'industria musicale.

The Missing Piece (Capitol, 1977) presento` infatti canzoni piu` brevi e sonorita` quasi hard-rock. Il declino fu rapido e spietato, terminando con due dischi miserabili come Giant For A Day (Capitol, 1978) e Civilian (Columbia, 1980).

(Translated by Giovanni Radaelli)

Gentle Giant were a British prog-rock band which tried the most daring fusion of jazz, classical and rock, in the golden age of the genre.

The band was formed by three brothers who had before joined some blues band in Glasgow.

The major point of strength of the sextet were Kenny Minnearís electronic keyboards (Minnear had a degree at the Royal Academy of Music), the guitar playing by Gary Green (a blues veteran) and Philip Schulmanís winds.

Besides their complex scores, their sound differed from other bands especially for Derek Schulmanís nearly inhuman singing, so aseptic that in some way resembles Conservatory solfeggios and Gregorian chants.

Gentle Giant (Vertigo, 1970) proved the bandís uncertainty about which genre to follow, since that period was the apex of the classical-like progressive rock of King Crimson, Yes and Moody Blues and the end of the psychedelic season; moreover, blues-rock jams were turning into hard-rock songs. While Giant tries to capture the hearts and ears of public through a soul-like theme, the lengthy Nothing At All is more directed to brains with a tumultuous classic/folk/blues fantasy.

The dissonant counterpoint, the nearly eponymous peculiarity that made them renowned , had his first appearance in Acquiring The Taste (Vertigo, 1971). Each of the six musicians alternatively played different instrument, with a massive use of electronic keyboards that gave a nearly symphonic feature to the album. Kenny Minnear played electric piano, organ, mellotron, vibraphone, synthesizer, celesta and harpsichord. Bass-player Ray Schulman played violin and viola, too, while Tony Visconti, David Bowieís producer, played the flute. At least Pantagruel's Nativity, The House The Street The Room e Plain Truth opened new horizons.

Three Friends (Columbia, 1972) is probably the first album wherein the band succeeded in expressing their ideas, and itís also less experimental than the previous record. Thought as a "rock opera", it contains six long ballads. Mister Class And Quality and Working All Day are the most accessible tunes while Prologue, Schooldays e Peel The Paint are cryptic charmber-music songs.

The symphonic sound of their second and third album is partially abandoned in Octopus (Columbia, 1972), which had sometimes trace of hard-rock (Advent Of Panurge), and folk-rock (Raconteur Troubadour, Think Of Me With Kindness). But generally, itís much more math-rock than art-rock since every instrumental passages were provocations against stereotypes. In particular, the vocal harmonies of Knots, inspired by Laingís enigmatic poems, were in antithesis to the British tradition.

In A Glass House (1973), another concept album, is probably their most ambitious work, with four lengthy songs as The Runaway, Way Of Life, Experience, In A Glass House. This exuberant experimentation took particularly advantage of Schulmanís departure.

The socio-political concept album, The Power And The Glory (Capitol, 1974) is less ambitious than the previous ones; despite that, the music is still fluid and classy (Proclamation, Playing The Game).

Free Hand (Capitol, 1975) is Gentle Giantís "medieval" album. Nearly all the songs (Just The Same, On Reflection, Free Hand, Time To Kill, His Last Voyage) reached a formal perfection in their attempt of renewing the form of the rock song.

Their classic period ended with Interview (Capitol, 1976), a concept album against music industry.

Missing Piece (Capitol, 1977), in fact, showed shorter songs and their sound became more similar to hard-rock. Gentle Giantís decline was cruel and speedy, as proved by their last two miserable albums, Giant For A Day (Capitol, 1978) and Civilian (Columbia, 1980).

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