Tuesday, January 31, 2017

AccuRadio Song Of The Day-Gentle Giant

Artist:Gentle Giant
Album:Three Friends/Octopus

Gentle Giant was a progressive rock group in the 70s. Their music was complex even for progressive rock. So though attempts to commercialize them were unsuccessful, they had a very strong cult following and they were also an excellent live band. The 1972 album Octopus is considered to be one of their best albums. Gentle Giant were from Portsmouth, England led by brothers Phil, Derek and Ray Shulman. Their father was a jazz trumpeter and he encouraged them to learn to play many instruments. They started out as an R&B group and by the mid-60s they were Simon Dupree and the Big Sound. They recorded for EMI and they scored a top ten hit in England with Kites in 1967. By this time EMI convinced them to record psychedelic music. But the Shulmans didn't like it and they recorded R&B as The Moles in 1968. Rumours surfaced that The Moles were actually The Beatles but it was then revealed that it was Simon Dupree and the Big Sound. The band disbanded and Gentle Giant was formed in 1970. The Shulmans brought in guitarist Gary Green and keyboard player Kerry Minnear and they kept drummer Martin Smith from the old band. Minnear turned out to be a key addition because he was a classically trained musician with a degree in composition from the Royal College of Music. He came with the musical sophistication that the Shulmans wanted. They signed with Vertigo Records and their second album Acquiring The Taste was the first to be critically acclaimed. And they began to be a live draw. Smith was replaced by Malcolm Mortimore. But he was injured in a motorcycle accident and John "Pugwash" Weathers replaced him. Gentle Giant signed a US record deal with Columbia. The albums Three Friends and Octopus were both concept albums. Octopus is short for "octo opus" because it was an eight part opus. Knots has a very intricate vocal arrangement. Today Octopus is considered to be Gentle Giant's best album. The British reissue label Beat Goes On has released Three Friends and Octopus on CD as a twofer. I think that works better for Gentle Giant than a greatest hits comp. They toured and then Phil Shulman left because he didn't like touring. Gentle Giant continued recording for Capitol and Chrysalis. Chrysalis unsuccessfully tried to commercialize Gentle Giant and the band hated the music. By 1979 they moved to Los Angeles to record their final album Civilian. They split up in 1980. Derek Shulman went into record company management first with PolyGram then as president of Roadrunner Records. He currently runs his own company. Ray Shulman became a producer for Echo & The Bunnymen among others. Phil Shulman became a teacher and owned a gift shop. Kerry Minnear runs Alucard Music and he manages Gentle Giant's recordings. The band has never completely reunited but there have been partial reunions. It's just hard to get all of them in one place at the same time. If you are a progressive rock fan and never checked Gentle Giant out, I suggest you do so. Here's Gentle Giant performing Knots 1974.

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