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jueves, 8 de octubre de 2015

Gentle Giant - Gentle Giant (1970)


Artista: Gentle Giant
Álbum: Gentle Giant
Año: 1970
Género: Rock progresivo ecléctico
Duración: 36:51
Nacionalidad: Inglaterra


Lista de Temas:
1. Giant
2. Funny Ways

3. Alucard
4. Isn't It Quiet and Cold?
5. Nothing at All
6. Why not?
7. The Queen

Alineación:
- Gary Green / Guitarra principal, guitarra de 12 cuerdas
- Kerry Minnear / Teclados
, bajo, cello, voz principal, coros, percusiones
- Derek Shulman / Voz principal, coros, bajo
- Phil Shulman / Saxo, trompeta, flauta dulce, voz principal, coros
- Ray Shulman / Bajo principal, violín, guitarra, percusión, coros
- Martin Smith / Batería, percusión
Otros músicos:
Paul Cosh / Trompeta tenor en "Giant"
Claire Deniz / Cello en "Isn't It Quiet and Cold?"


El disco debut de Gentle Giant, homónimo, es una auténtica joya del rock progresivo en su mejor momento. Tiene de todo, calculadamente incorporado, sin excesos ni carencias, fuera de una grabación que deja escuchar ligeras deficiencias y, quizá, de una brevedad que hoy nos deja picados porque nos hemos acostumbrado a álbumes de más de 50 minutos. Las habilidades instrumentales de sus seis integrantes, su manejo de elementos complejos de la teoría musical (el contrapunto, los compases irregulares, los cambios de tiempo y tempo, el folclore inglés y escocés, la música antigua), su virtuosismo medido con escasos solos aislados, su pasión interpretativa, su honestidad artística, en fin: una síntesis de lo que conocemos como rock progresivo, pero lanzado al espacio en un momento en que el género recién se comenzaba a consolidar. Un disco visionario en más de un sentido, con una maestría en la interpretación que casi podríamos decir que cada canción representa un “solo de banda”.

“Giant”, el primer tema, anuncia lo que será una década de experimentación inteligente de esta banda: las partes se reúnen y construyen al gigante, y anuncian con esta primera canción una historia por venir. Cada frase del tema tiene su propio compás; no existe una estructura rítmica básica sobre la que se desarrollen temas, sino que son temas diferentes que se entrelazan y, como un mecano, arman el puente completo.

“Funny Ways” es una de las más hermosas y dulces baladas de la historia del rock, no solo del progresivo. Es una canción de ruptura o separación, en la que el protagonista responde, probablemente, a los reproches que le ha hecho la pareja: tus raras formas. Y este responde, sí, son raras mis formas, lo lamento. Pero me permiten aprender. Sobre guitarra acústica y cello, en armonías menores, salta a un intermezzo eléctrico más vivo y en mayores, para después recuperar el tema inicial con una instrumentación más completa. La fuerza de esta balada en un disco debut solo podría compararse con ciertas cosas de King Crimson, como “I Talk to the Wind”, aunque definitivamente el caso de “Funny Ways” me parece más fuerte. No me condenen por hereje, no considero que Gentle Giant sea ni mejor ni peor banda que King Crimson; son muy diferentes para mí, pero se acercan en esos dos temas a una propuesta similar. En definitiva, uno de los temas que más me gustan de toda la década del Gigante Gentil.

En tercer lugar viene “Alucard”, que recupera la tesitura más agresiva del principio, pero con una combinación muy interesante de blues y contrapuntos-diálogos entre instrumentos, para llegar a una introducción sinfónica en la que se escuchan los trabajos vocales que serán característicos del grupo en el futuro. Es la más arriesgada de las creaciones de este disco en términos de exploración armónica y en las variaciones entre la distorsión y la suavidad, que se combinan y dialogan constantemente. La letra es breve, apenas dos estrofas espeluznantes que nos llevan a una imagen de muerte, de terror, que es lo que buscan causar a quien escucha. Hacia el final, las formas musicales se vuelven muy cercanas a las cosas que una década atrás estaban descubriendo músicos pertenecientes a las escuelas vanguardistas del minimalismo y la experimentación. Es un tema que casi podríamos colocar en el género de RIO.

“Isn't It Quiet and Cold?” empieza como un valsesito que recuerda la rivera del Sena (y con ello nuevas referencias intelectuales al universo rabelaisiano), pero pronto se transforma a través de un ostinato que reduce el 3/4 a 2/4, para volver al valsesito después, con armonías muy a la Django Reinhardt y su jazz-swing gitano para guitarra acústica. El tema en la letra propone otra de las características que Gentle Giant desarrollará a lo largo de su trayectoria: el humor negro, la ironía, lo satírico. Desde este punto de vista abordan esa sensación que todos hemos tenido cuando nos asalta la soledad y, por ejemplo, tenemos que volver a casa a pie en una noche helada, sin compañía.

“Nothing at All” tiene un inicio acústico que se reencuentra con lo establecido por “Funny Ways”, pero pronto se mueve, con suavidad, hacia un planteamiento más poderoso. Los hermanos Derek y Phil Shulman intercambian voz principal, siendo Derek el que hace la voz característica del grupo (porque Phil lo abandona pronto) y Phil las partes suaves (dueño de un timbre muy dulce). Hacia los cinco minutos, este tema que es el más largo del disco (dura nueve), se extiende en un puente de percusiones con afinación a las que se suma un piano en contra: el piano parece casi de caja de música, mientras que las percusiones son toda una composición, es decir, mucho más que un solo. La letra vuelve a la temática del desamor, pero ahora la protagonista es una chica que ve pasar con displicencia el amor: “una chica que lo ha tenido todo y encuentra que no es nada en absoluto”.

“Why Not?” es, como verán si siguen leyendo más abajo, el tema que enamoró al gigante. Es un tema duro que incluso podría sonar cercano a ciertas cosas que por aquellos años hacían bandas como Deep Purple y en ciertas cosas Jethro Tull (probablemente la banda con la que más elementos comunes tiene el Gigante Gentil), pero al medio se retira esa forma para dar paso a los elementos folk renacentistas que tanto usó la banda, con voces nuevamente suaves. Este puente se desliza cuidadosamente hacia la vuelta del sonido duro y termina en un franco blues que no le pide nada al hard rock psicodélico del momento liderado por Hendrix.

El disco cierra con un breve instrumental “The Queen”, armado por un ensamble de vientos que se desatan en una transformación de la música clásica inglesa típica de la era isabelina tocada con los instrumentos eléctricos del momento. Por supuesto, la característica primordial aquí es la sátira.

El conjunto es un álbum breve pero extremadamente complejo, que coloca a Gentle Giant en la vanguardia del movimiento progresivo en la época de su consolidación. Es un imperdible para cualquier colección respetable de rock progresivo, un imprescindible para cualquier conocedor, un necesario para los buenos cabezones.

Para terminar la reseña (antes de pasar al compendio de referencias) y como obsequio personal a todos los cabezones de habla hispana, les dejo una traducción libre del cuento del Gigante Gentil, escrito por el productor del disco, Tony Visconti, e incluido en las tapas del álbum original (la versión original en inglés la tomé de la wiki oficial de Gentle Giant):

Un cuento de altura (por Tony Visconti)

El gigante se dio cuenta de que las sombras se alargaban y decidió dar por terminado el día de trabajo en el huerto de manzanos. Se estiró y dio cuarenta pasos para cubrir el cuarto de milla que lo separaba de la entrada a su cueva. Se sentó y destapó un jarrón de doscientos galones, sacando el corcho, que despedía un dulce aroma. Se sirvió la seca sidra en un tarro que tenía la capacidad de una bañera.

Mientras bebía percibió algo extraño que alteraba el aire de la serena campiña de Somerset. Se levantó lentamente hasta alcanzar toda su altura y murmuró: “Ah, algo lindo flota en el viento del Este. Creo que voy a investigar”.

Debes saber que el gigante no sale mucho, sólo de vez en cuando va a ver a su novia en Francia (la hija de Gargantúa), y ¡eso sucede un par de veces por siglo! Ahora tenía otro buen pretexto para romper la rutina de su trabajo en la huerta.

Avanzó ligero a través de la noche, evitando cuidadosamente las áreas pobladas. Cuando llegó a la planicie de Salisbury decidió ir a ver si su círculo de rocas aún estaba en pie. Lo hizo cuando era un niño, solo para divertirse. Al acercarse lo vieron dos jóvenes de pelo largo que estaban sentados, recargados sobre una losa. Uno de ellos dijo: “Hombre, este material está realmente bueno. Acabo de alucinar un impresionante y enorme gigante por ahí”.

El otro dijo: “Extraordinario, yo también lo vi”.

Se quedaron inmóviles unos momentos. Entonces el gigante se dio la vuelta y siguió su búsqueda rumbo al Sur. Cuando estuvo fuera de la vista de los muchachos, el primero, con los ojos sorprendidos, susurró: “Esto es demasiado, carnal. Que los dos tuviéramos la misma alucinación”. El otro se había desmayado.

Con toda seguridad el sonido venía de Portsmouth. Para el placer del gigante, salía de una cabaña en el campo, lejos del centro del pueblo. Dentro, seis dedicados músicos interpretaban “Why Not?” a mil watts, suficiente para desencajarle la tapa de los sesos a cualquiera. A cualquiera menos al gigante. Simplemente se echó boca abajo, apoyó la cabeza sobre los brazos cruzados y escuchó con una oreja en cada ventana para tener un buen estéreo.

Después de tres horas, la banda se detuvo y Ray le dijo a Kerry: “Vamos afuera a ver las estrellas” Abrieron la puerta del frente y por poco se meten en las narices del gigante. Saltaron adentro todos temblorosos y ambos dijeron a coro: “¡Hay unaenormecaraalláafueraesenormesenorme, oh!”

Los otros se dieron cuenta inmediatamente de que algo andaba mal así que salieron y vieron la cabeza de un enorme gigante que dormía plácidamente. Phil, que estaba a la cabeza del grupo, se dio vuelta y dijo: “Gary, ¿volviste a poner algo en el té?”

En ese momento el gigante abrió los ojos. “¿Son ustedes los chicos que estaban haciendo ese lindo sonido?”

Martin, que se tranquilizó al momento al oír su amigable acento, respondió: “Sí, éramos nosotros. Discúlpanos si estábamos haciendo demasiado ruido. Lo que pasa es que venimos aquí para no molestar a nadie y...”

“¿Molestar? Pero si es la música más dulce que he escuchado, fuera de las tormentas de truenos”.

No hace falta decir que todos se sintieron muy bien cuando el gigante dijo eso. Frank, el asistente, sacó los instrumentos de la cabaña y tocaron para el gigante por el resto de la noche. En algún lugar de Portsmouth un sismógrafo registró un leve temblor cuando el gigante se puso a bailar.

Por la mañana conduje desde Londres con Gerry, el manager, y mi amigo George el artista. Llevamos el auto detrás de la cabaña y vimos a los miembros de la banda echados sobre la hierba y escuchando historias del distante pasado del gigante. Derek corrió hacia nosotros cuando movía el auto en reversa y nos pidió que nos detuviéramos. Nos contó todo y pronto estábamos escuchando también las sorprendentes historias que contaba el gigante.

Antes de que se fuera, alguien sugirió que posara para tomarse una foto con la banda. No importa dónde colocara mi Polaroid, no lograba que todos entraran en la foto. Tengo algunas tomas de seis tipos y una gran bota y de seis tipos, un gran ojo y parte de una gran nariz, pero no podía lograr una foto decente del gigante y la banda juntos. George tuvo mejor suerte: el gigante lo puso en la copa de un árbol altísimo y en quince minutos había logrado hacer un bosquejo.

Y ahí está. La historia del Gigante Gentil. Quizá creas que es fantástica, pero, bueno, también lo es la música.
El dibujo que George Underwood boceteó desde la copa del árbol. El gnomo y el hada parecen ser habitantes naturales del gigante que, como ahora sabemos, fue el responsable de levantar Stonehenge.


Las referencias:

En la wiki del sitio oficial de Gentle Giant encontrarán datos sobre esta producción, todas las letras y otras curiosidades:

Gentle Giant's self-titled first album was an impressive and unique debut that combined rock, blues, classical, and 1960's British soul. Although the recording quality is sub-par, the music transcends the medium and presents the listener with a variety of musical styles.

A Tall Tale, from the original liner notes, is a story about the band and the giant.

Beautiful high-resolution scan of the full fold-out cover with the crease removed, thanks to Michael Geiger.

También de la wiki oficial, esta reseña por Jason Rubin:

Softly, as if from a distance, an organ is heard playing a sort of fanfare. It gets louder, closer. Suddenly, a persistent bass riff appears underneath and then a cymbal crash, drums, guitar, and a voice that has been described as "bare-assed and raunchy." Gentle Giant has arrived.

It is only recently, with the release of Under Construction, that Giant fans realized how long and impressive were the strides between pop band Simon Dupree & the Big Sound and the progressive sextet we all know and love. The unreleased demos that the Shulmans Three put together with Messrs. Minnear, Green, and Smith bore little resemblance to the grand themes, spacious and complex arrangements, and outrageous confidence that Gentle Giant displayed on their debut, eponymously titled album.

What is interesting on the first track, "Giant," and throughout the album, is the underlying jazziness of the band's grooves, and how much more Kerry relied on organ rather than the cornucopia of keyboards that defined 70s progressive music. The status of Ray and Kerry as the musical musclemen of the band is very apparent from the get-go, although Gary gets his licks in as well even if he's a little low in the mix.

The second song, "Funny Ways" is an utter classic. Ray's gorgeous violin, supported by Kerry's cello, instantly distinguished Giant from the rest of the progressive pack - not to mention the number of lead singers. Here, Phil takes lead, with Derek and Kerry in support. Kerry's organ leads off the instrumental section, punctuated by Phil's trumpet, and then Gary lets loose while Ray plays flawless bass. The lyrics to this song are touching and meaningful, and always struck a deep chord in me. Live, of course, it became a vibes showcase for Kerry, while Ray took on Phil's trumpet part.

"Alucard" (which everyone knows is Dracula spelled backwards) is a piece that allows the band, under the talented and watchful eyes of producer Tony Visconti, to play around in the studio. Voices and instruments are highly processed to create a horrific atmosphere. Martin's drumming and Phil's sax keep things jazzy, however, but soon the terror returns on the wings of Kerry's wild organ. There's a great drum roll at the 5-minute mark that brings the theme back to the long, free-jazz-inspired blow-out ending.

A little moog riff separates this track from the next, and also appears at other junctures on the album. "Isn't It Quiet and Cold" is the complete opposite of "Alucard." With violin, cello, and acoustic guitar, and Martin playing a shuffle rhythm with brushes, the song is soft and gentle. Phil does the lead vocals and Kerry contributes a bouncy marimba solo.

Originally opening Side 2, "Nothing at All" is the nine-minute highlight of the album. A gentle but ominous acoustic guitar and piano figures lead to a lovely Derek vocal. Ray's bass gradually gets louder, foreshadowing the mania that is to come. There are beautiful vocal harmonies, but Gary begins playing the heavy riff that, after an intentional false start, leads to a kick-ass section replete with screaming vocals, multi-tracked guitar parts, and a wailing solo that drifts back and forth from the left to right channels. An extended solo section features Martin's processed drums. He picks up energy, then brings it back down, and Kerry plays a lovely classical piano accompaniment that simply couldn't be more counter to what Martin is playing. Eventually, they engage together (again, free-jazz-inspired) and reach a rousing climax, heading back to the theme and final verse.

"Why Not" is a full-tilt, heavy boogie blast with all-out performances by the whole band. Derek and Kerry's vocals complement each other nicely, as usual, but the mellow part that the former sings is a small part of what is otherwise a hard rocking number. Even though it's not a particularly complex song, Kerry, Gary, and Ray are sensational instrumentally. Given the looseness of the performance, the ending tune, "The Queen" - which predates the band Queen's similar but better-known irreverent take on "God Save the King" by five years - is a perfect capper, although it's more fun than fulfilling.

The gap between Simon Dupree and the first Gentle Giant album was huge - but the band continued to take giant steps with each successive release. Comparing Gentle Giant the album against the next several releases, it's amazing how much they were able to refine their sound, expand their musical palette, and take advantage of the broad range of skills and backgrounds of their members. This was the start of the journey and it was an auspicious beginning indeed.


También ahí esta de E. Shaun Russell:

From the opening notes of Gentle Giant's self-titled debut album, it is easy to see that Gentle Giant is not your average band. Indeed, no band from any era has managed to transcend genres and stretch the conventions of music than Gentle Giant. Their first album begins with the song "Giant" which immediately exploits each member's ability, leaning heavily upon Phil Shulman's saxophones and Kerry Minnear's organs and mellotrons. As the song progresses, dense vocal harmonies evoke vivid images of medieval times... a theme that is justified by the lyrics.

The follow-up song to "Giant" is "Funny Ways" which is a testament to the band's diverse dynamic talent. "Funny Ways" proves to be one of the quietest songs of the progressive rock era --comparable only to King Crimson's "I Talk to the Wind" and the Moody Blues' "Watching and Waiting." The most prominent instrument in "Funny Ways" turns out to be the vocal line, sung mostly by Phil Shulman, with his brother Derek joining in on the verses. A superior version can be found on the live King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Gentle Giant album.

The album really begins to establish itself with the song "Alucard." Lyrically, a very gothic song (try spelling the title backwards), "Alucard" is fueled by pure and absolute innovation through and through. The vocal line is sung by the ensemble and uses multiple tracks played backwards and forwards... something which would be repeated in the coming years by prolific bands like Yes and Rush. The effect is downright eerie. In addition to extreme vocal innovation, both the saxophone and organ have a very compressed sound, adding to the gothic atmosphere of the piece as a whole. As with the first song "Giant," "Alucard" has a very medieval feel to it... something which would always remain a part of the band's sound.

Perhaps the low point of the album (if it can be called that) is the song "Isn't it Quiet and Cold?" which sounds like and emulation of the Beatles' "Lovely Rita, Meter Maid" off of their groundbreaking Sgt. Pepper album. Despite this likeness, Gentle Giant still add their own flavor to the often-imitated Beatles style --even Lennon and McCartney couldn't touch Phil Shulman's amiable approach to singing.

"Nothing At All" is both the longest and most progressive song on the album. The song wraps up past the nine-minute mark and features a wide dynamic range --extending from a soft pianissimo to a passionate forte. Gary Green's guitar playing brings the feel of the piece from a melancholic introspection to a vehement outcry; this apparent musical revelation leads directly into Martin Smith's drum solo --but not even this industry standard is orthodox. Rather than having the run-of-the-mill drum solo, Gentle Giant decides to use guitar effects (namely a flanger) on the drums, while performing background interludes of classical piano. This same tactic is conspicuously used on Emerson Lake & Palmer's album Brain Salad Surgery a few years later (in the song "Tocatta"). Finally, "Nothing At All" returns to the same pensive theme as it began with, perhaps representing an existential symmetry of sorts.

If "Nothing At All" is the most progressive song on the album, the subsequent song "Why Not?" is the hardest rocker. In addition to featuring the strongest vocals (courtesy of Derek Shulman) of all the songs, it is also a showcase for Gary Green's diverse talent on guitar. Where he plucked the strings of an acoustic on "Isn't It Quiet and Cold?" he grinds chords on an electric in "Why Not?" The dichotomy is fascinating. The tone of the song is somewhat that of rhythym and blues, though one can't help but wonder why there weren't more songs like it in the era.

The final track, "The Queen," is more for fun than for any other reason; as its name implies, it is simply the band's own arrangement of "God Save the Queen." Though the track is under two minutes long, Gentle Giant manages to incorporate medieval, psychedelic and jazz aspects into the familiar piece. Whether the band did this song as a poke against the monarchy, a tribute to the monarchy, or neither, it comes off in classic Gentle Giant style.

Overall, Gentle Giant's eponymous debut album is a good primer for what would come later; additionally, the album has a feeling of completion --that the band took the songs to the maximum extent that they could possibly go. If there is any one deterrent, it is that the album is --like all Gentle Giant albums-- an aquired taste. It is a good bet that the only song that will stand out to a first-time listener is "Why Not?" due to its slightly more commercial nature; however, given a few listens, the album will eventually be played frequently by anyone who claims enjoyment for the progressive rock genre.

En mis últimos dos posts de Brand X incluí las reseñas horribles de George Starostin porque creo que toda opinión tiene derecho a encontrar su lector. Pero luego de leer esta del Gentle Giant, me estoy dando cuenta de que se trata de un chico con mucha chispa pero que no le gusta la música, como a Freud. Pero en Freud se entiende porque no la podía ecplicar o interpretar su psicoanálisis, en cambio al chico chispa simplemente no le gusta la música. ¿Entonces para qué escribirá? Es como si yo fuera a perder mi tiempo escribiendo sobre Joaquín Sabina: no no la haré. Copia aquí la diatriba solamente porque aparece vinculada desde la wiki oficial del grupo. Así son ellos: abiertos y honestos:

Gentle Giant might have been 'giants for a day', but they were certainly midgets for a year - at least, such a year as 1970. In the fall of 1969, such an album as their glorious debut might have been a sensation. As it was, King Crimson's In The Court Of The Crimson King had already firmly taken the niche in which this album was meant to be inserted, and sceptics and critics might have easily done the mistake of dismissing Gentle Giant as a carbon copy, if not a miserable parody on, prog rock's first masterful statement. Indeed, it's hard to get rid of the 'parody' idea, especially when putting both CD's next to each other and glancing at the covers (remember the Crimson King? If you don't, here's a link.) And as for the music itself, Gentle Giant have certainly taken a prog approach much similar to King Crimson's: relying more on bringing jazz and avantgarde elements into rock music than mating it with classical a la ELP or going into the ultra-complex pattern of Yes and the like. Not to mention the band's impressive instrumental techniques: the Mellotrons, recorders and saxes are quite prominent throughout the record, making it a bizarre, delicious hodge-podge of ideas. Finally, some of the songs sound almost exactly like early King Crimson ('Alucard').
That said, Gentle Giant are hardly as impressive, shocking and emotionally resonant as King Crimson, at least, as King Crimson was on the border of the decades. The album sounds dangerously smooth, with relatively quiet, toned down guitar and keyboard parts, and a homely, soft type of production that can't provide any of the tunes with a 'universal', bombastic feel even when they obviously demand one ('Giant'). The instrumental parts, which are many, are not as well thought out as in King Crimson's case, and, while I indeed admire the band members' prowess at multi-instrumentalism, none of the members are virtuoso players. In other words, none of the songs make you burst out of your chair or grind you into the wall: for comparison, just replay your trusty rusty 'Schizoid Man'.

But why complain? There have always been first-rate and second-rate bands - and hey, there've been third- and fourth-rate bands, too - and Gentle Giant is simply a terrific second-rate prog-rock band (there I go hanging these labels again; but see, I'm not an anti-labelist as so many people claim to be and think they're so clever and so 'above' labeling. Labels are extremely useful when not over-abused). Anyway, I slowly grew used to this album, though I admit it did take me a while. Many of these songs are really well-written, and kudos to Gentle Giant for not falling into the regular trap and, for the most part, sticking to the 'middle-length' pattern. There's only one nine-minute epic on here, 'Nothing At All', and as is the case with almost any prog epic except the most worthy, it has its moments that suck and other moments that... suck even more. Heh, heh, just kidding. It starts out as a soft folksy medieval ballad, with a very pleasant vibe about it and beautiful vocal harmonies, then becomes quite rockin', with some mighty riffage and mad soloing courtesy of Gary Green, but as you're just settling down it suddenly turns into a pointless electronic drum solo courtesy of Martin Smith (or maybe it's principal keyboard wiz Kerry Minnear that does the drumming? he's credited for 'tuned percussion' on the album) which just bores the very soul out of me. What a waste of space on an album that's quite short by itself.

The first four tracks on the album are swell, however (in a relative way - remember, it's a second-rate prog-rock band we're speaking of!). 'Giant' sets the band's entire image, with its 'demiurgical' lyrics and pompous, twisted melody, full of nice guitar lines, sax swirls and grumbly bass lines. Of course, the song immediately brings visions of '21st Century Schizoid Man' to mind: nowhere near as powerful or shocking, though. I must also say that I'm definitely not a fan of Derek Shulman's vocals: he shares the same kind of bleeting tenor that distinguished the 'infamous' Roger Chapman of Family, but unlike Chapman, he never uses his voice in a freakin' perverted way, so it's not even interesting as a novelty factor. Thankfully, he doesn't sing too much on this track: the verses are all short.

'Funny Ways' is the definite highlight of the album. Brother Phil Shulman's vocals are, in contrast, quite gorgeous, sweet and heavenly, and this beautiful ballad, all drenched in acoustic guitars, pretty synth strings and real cellos, is a perfect marriage of progressive ambitions with classical-influenced pop schlock (the latter not taken in a real denigratory sense on here). The mid-section is probably the closest they ever got to a cathartic climax on here, with Green taking a short, but surprisingly effective, hard-rocking lead.

'Alucard', then, is the forgotten gem of this record. If you think that it was Pete Townshend, or Stevie Wonder, or ELP, that first put the synthesizer to a proper musical use, do not think that any more. Kerry Minnear basically makes the song his own, building it on a gruff, gloomy synthesizer riff and exploiting the instrument masterfully throughout. Once again, the song reminds me of King Crimson - 'Pictures Of A City' this time - but this time I'd say it's the Gentle Giant song that's the superior one. The powerful, unforgettable interplay between the synth and Phil's saxophone simply can't be beat: it's quite a rousing experience, and a would-be masterpiece, if not for the particularly ugly vocal sections spoiled by ugly sound effects.

Finally, the practice of 'calm after the storm' is carried on to the following track: the brontosauric 'Alucard' is succeeded by the quiet and cold aura of a tune, quite naturally entitled 'Isn't It Quiet And Cold?'. Phil again sings lead here (why don't they let him sing everything on here? His voice is so angelic!), and the song itself is a charming jazzy shuffle with a wonderful cello accompaniment, and hey, what's that in the background? Electric piano? Sounds really relaxing and moody to me. Even the glockenspiel is moody. Ooh, is it moody.

Now if only they hadn't run out of ideas on the second side (both 'Nothing At All' and the bloozy 'Why Not?' have their moments, but both also overstay their welcome), I would easily call it the best prog record written by any second-rate prog rock band I've ever heard. As it is, I'll simply call it One of the best prog records written by any second-rate prog rock band I've ever heard. (Hey, have you realized you're dealing with a hopeless scholastic? And have you ever tried to count my average number of parentheses per review?) In any case, I simply don't understand what the hell that last track is doing on there. Is it a mocking re-arrangement of 'God Save The Queen' or what? One and a half minutes more of wasted tape; man, these guys sure have a lot of filler for such a short record.

But whatever my complaints are, after all these years I still consider Gentle Giant to be the band's first AND greatest achievements, contrary to what all the prog rock fans might think. I have to warn you - wherever you go, ALL reviews bar mine will always be saying things like 'Well, this is a really good debut, but better things were to come yet'. That depends on the perspective. Yes, Gentle Giant got more complex, more experimental, perhaps a bit more fluent and professional, but for my money, the perfect balance of progressive elements, roots rock and pop sensibility achieved on this album was never superated. And if you want details, never again would Gentle Giant come out with such a killer synth riff as on 'Alucard', or with ballads so moving and charming as 'Funny Ways' or 'Isn't It Quiet Or Cold'. Basically, I consider that any eclectic rock music fan should start here and then wind his way through the later era - as Gentle Giant would become less and less accessible with every following year. Although the problem is, few eclectic rock music fans would really bother with Gentle Giant as a whole, which is why the band is mostly left for diehards and their debut album so reviled. Fools! Fools all you diehards!

La página del álbum en ProgArchives tiene montones de reviews, prefiero no copiarlas aquí para no hacerlo demasiado largo, si pueden ustedes llegar a ellas haciendo click aquí (se abrirá una nueva pestaña/ventana):

Bruce Eder en Allmusic: 

Astonishingly daring debut album, not as focused or overpowering as King Crimson's first but still crashing down barriers and steamrolling expectations. The mix of medieval harmonies and electric rock got stronger on subsequent albums, but the music here is still pretty jarring. Kerry Minnear was probably the only prog rock keyboard player of the era who allowed his synthesizers to sound like themselves and not mimic orchestras; Gary Green's guitars are alternately loud and brittle or soft and lyrical, and always surprising; and the presence of saxes and trumpets (courtesy of Phil Shulman) was unusual in any rock band of the era -- all of which explains how Gentle Giant managed to attract a cult following but hadn't a prayer of moving up from that level of recognition. "Funny Ways" was the softest prog rock song this side of Crimson's "I Talk to the Wind," but a lot of the rest is pretty intense in volume and tempo changes. "Nothing at All" by itself is worth the price of purchase.

También del sitio oficial, copio la parte sobre este disco de una extensa entrevista con la banda. ZZ es la revista Zig Zag; RS es Ray Shulman; DS es Derek Shulman:

ZZ: When did you decide to form Giant? Did you know what form it would take?

RS: Well, we knew we couldn't continue with the musicians we'd had before. We weren't interested in the other musicians in the band - they couldn't contribute anything. We had to teach them what to do. It got rather heavy when we could play drums better than the drummer, and even on record we were doing more and more of it with overdubs. It got stupid having a band like The first thing was to get some musicians of a higher standard. It was a great bit of luck finding Kerry [Minnear] and he was the first person we contacted. He'd just come out of Royal College of Music and then gone straight of to Germany with a band called Rust'. He had a very bad time - he was conned. There was no money, no food and no gigs, and he had to stay there for four months, just to try to save enough to get back. He got his parents to repatriate him. We found him a while after he got back, living in a bedsit in Clapham. We invited him down to Portsmouth for a blow and he brought down this guitarist he knew. We spent a week playing each others compositions and we decided that kerry was just the person we were looking for but the guitarist didn't fir in. We were a bit nervous telling Kerry we didn't want the guitarist but it turned out all right because he was planning to ask us the same thing.

DS: We auditioned guitarist for about four months through ads in the Melody Maker, saying "Wanted-guitarist for band with recording contract, prospects etc".

ZZ: Did you have a recording contract then?

DS: No, but we'd had offers. Anyway we looked around for a guitarist and found Gary [Green] eventually. He was about the forty-fifth guitarist we'd auditioned and about the only one who asked to tune up before playing which encouraged us for a start. We asked him what sort of thing he liked and he said Freddy King, B B King and Soft Machine and we said, "Oh well, can you play this?" and he played it straight away. He wasn't particularly into what we were doing but he wanted to get out of the blues thing and do something experimental. We didn't have any aims ourselves really - we just had a few compositions which we'd written that year. By then we had the whole six-piece band so we went into rehearsal for about six months and then started recording the first album with Tony Visconti. We had a management deal with Gerry Bron and recording with Vertigo. It was 1970 and King Crimson were happening. Yes were just coming up and we were into the same sort of thing. The album didn't do very great shakes but it got our name known. We recorded our next album, Acquiring The Taste, without any idea of what it would be like before we got into the studio. It was a very experimental album and we still didn't have an ultimate direction. It turned out surprisingly well but it was definitely our weirdest. Tony was taking a backseat by then - he was well into it but we'd taken over most of the production. Phil and Martin the drummer weren't getting on too well so Martin left and we got Malcolm Mortimore in on drums. We left Gerry Bron because he wasn't into what we were doing and we agreed to split amicably.

RS: We released the Three Friends album and when we toured Europe with Jethro Tull we established ourselves in our own right. We did very well in Italy, Germany and Switzerland and we followed that up immediately with our own tours in those places. Then we were due to tour Britain with the Groundhogs and Malcolm had a motorcycle accident so we got John Weathers in a week's notice. We knew he was a good drummer 'cos we'd met him before but didn't know what he was into. We took him anyway and he changed the band quite a lot, 'cos he was very laid down, solid offbeat sort of thing, whereas the previous drummers were quite fiddly and it shaped us into a solid unit.

DS: We toured the States and then came back to record the Octopus album which was quite a success especially in the States. Relations between Phil and the rest of the band had been deteriorating for a while and when we went to Italy we decided he must go and to keep it as a five piece.

RS: With Octopus doing well in the States we went out there and did a very good tour and although we were doing well we weren't feeling to good with all the business about Phil and we rushed back and recorded In A Glass House.

DS: We haven't done much this last year because of managerial reorganisation but we did do the tour of Britain in March. We tried to get a more spontaneous feel with the current album, [../albums/the.power.and.the.glory.html Power And The Glory], by doing it all on first or second takes. It's done very well in the States - in the charts, but here twenty thousand copies were leaked before the release date so it hasn't had the same impact.

Vale la pena leer también las liner notes de una compilación italiana de los primeros cinco discos de Gentle Giant, titulada Gentle Giant (Super Star), incluida en el sitio de la banda.  



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13 comentarios:

  1. Este comentario ha sido eliminado por el autor.

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    1. Que buen comentario CalleNep!!!!
      Digno de este discazo! Y con respecto a tu parelismo entre GG y KC, personalmente las considero diferentes pero musicalmente en un nivel muy de calidad muy similar. Incluso, si tuviera que hacer el agrio esfuerzo y determinar qué banda supera a la otra, me inclino por GG. Por suerte no tengo que hacer ese esfuerzo de comparación, así que lo dejo conque ambas bandas tienen un nivel de excelencia superlativo y superior.
      Ahora, una pregunta... ¿qué carajo es el "universo rabelaisiano"????? 8P

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    2. Les recomiendo tanto el disco como el comentario, que demuestra toda la sabiduría musical de CalleNep

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    3. OK, lo del "universo rabelaisiano" es por Rabelais... que torpe soy

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  2. gracias por el comentario sobre el disco harto interesante, y no había puesto atención sobre la relación con Gargantua y Pantagruel, se agradece el acercamiento a el vinculo en el universo rabelaisiano.

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  3. gracias por el comentario sobre el disco harto interesante, y no había puesto atención sobre la relación con Gargantua y Pantagruel, se agradece el acercamiento a el vinculo en el universo rabelaisiano.

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  4. Gracias por sus comentarios compañeros!!! La verdad es que uno no se da cuenta de las referencias a Rabelais si no lee el cuento y ciertos comentarios sobre las fuentes de inspiración de los compositores, pero en Gentle Giant el acceso a lo antiguo, a lo medieval, no es ligero como podría ser en muchos ejemplos del metal, sino que está basado en las historias de los gigantes de Rabelais, entre otras referencias.

    La referencia musical a la música francesa en "Isn't It Quiet and Cold?" me recordó que en Gargantúa, el segundo libro de Rabelais, este gigante va a París y le resulta tan desagradable que ahoga a la mitad de la ciudad con su orina (¿el Sena?); los sobrevivientes se atacan de la risa y por eso el nombre de la ciudad cambia a "Par Ris" (la ciudad creada por la risa). Fue una asociación libre de mi parte, no necesariamente lo habrán pensado así los autores, pero dicen los estructuralistas que si uno puede hacer la relación, entonces esta estaba contenida en la obra. ¡Disculpen lo intelectualoide! Pero creo que en el rock progresivo las referencias literarias y filosóficas son esenciales.

    Lo que sí es claro, por el cuento, es que el Gigante Gentil vendría a ser cuñado del gigante Pantagruel.

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    1. Por cierto, Rabelais reaparece en la obra de GG después: en "Acquiring the Taste" tenemos el nacimiento de Pantagruel, y en "Octopus", el advenimiento de Panurgo (quizá la magnum opus de esta banda de extraterrestres).

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  5. Ah! Y recién caigo en la cuenta de que "Alucard" es "Drácula" al revés! y todo el asunto terrorífico del tema tiene más sentido con esta otra referencia literaria.

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    1. Impresionante.... nunca habría caído en cuenta por mi mismo...

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    2. ¡Dedicado especialmente al Vampiro cabezón!

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  6. A las pruebas me remito.Cuando hay referencias al conde de Transilvania,el Vampiro local se pone chocho!!

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  7. Qué discazo, bajándolo!

    Gracias CalleNeptuno por esta joya!

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