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Gentle Giant

Formed at the dawn of the progressive rock era in 1969, Gentle Giant seemed poised for a time in the mid-'70s to break out of its cult-band status, but somehow never made the jump. Somewhat closer in spirit to Yes and King Crimson than to Emerson, Lake & Palmer or the Nice, their unique sound melded hard rock and classical music, with an almost medieval approach to singing.

Gentle Giant was born out of the ruins of Simon Dupree & the Big Sound, an R&B-based outfit led by brothers Derek, Ray, and Phil Shulman. After switching to psychedelia in 1967 and scoring their only major hit that year with "Kites," as Gentle Giant the group abandoned both the R&B and psychedelic orientations of the previous band; Derek sang and played guitar and bass, Ray sang and played bass and violin, and Phil handled the saxophone, augmented by Kerry Minnear on keyboards, and Gary Green on guitar. Their original lineup also featured Martin Smith on drums, but they went through several percussionists in the first three years of their existence.

In 1970, Gentle Giant signed to the Vertigo label, and their self-titled first album -- a shockingly daring work mixing hard rock and full electric playing with classical elements -- came out later that year. Their second effort, 1971's Acquiring the Taste, was slightly more accessible and their third, Three Friends, featuring Malcolm Mortimore on drums, was their first record to get released in the U.S. (on Columbia). Their fourth album, 1973's Octopus, looked poised for a breakthrough; it seemed as though they had found the mix of hard rock and classical sounds that the critics and the public could accept, and they finally had a permanent drummer in the person of John Weathers, an ex-member of the Graham Bond Organisation.

In 1974, however, Gentle Giant began coming apart. Phil Shulman decided to give up music after the Octopus tour, and became a teacher. Then the group recorded the album In a Glass House, their hardest-rocking record yet, which Columbia's U.S. arm rejected as too uncommercial. The two-year gap in their American release schedule hurt their momentum, and they weren't heard from again until the Capitol release of The Power and the Glory in 1975.

Gentle Giant released Free Hand, their most commercial album, in 1976, but then followed it up with the jarringly experimental Interview. After the 1978 double-album Playing the Fool, the group went through a seeming change of heart and issued a series of albums aimed at mainstream audiences, even approaching disco, but by the end of the 1970s their popularity was in free-fall. Gentle Giant called it quits in 1980. Ray Shulman later became a producer and had considerable success in England working with bands like the Sundays and the Sugarcubes, while Derek Shulman became a New York-based record company executive. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Not my favorite prog band, but definitely in my top 5!
To all of my progressive friends I love it all, GG yes, genesis, E L P, will you get the idea.
I saw them live in the early 1970's, opening for Jethro Tull - almost blew Tull off the stage - add to this, their excellence in the studio - hard to believe they were not more successfull. Anyway, great Prog band - you can listen to their music all day and not get tired of it.
tim0921
Civilian (1980) is missing from the GG discography. I'm hoping that Pandora will add it soon.
Heard them in concert two times in Buffalo at the famed Century Theater, produced by Harvey and Corky Productions. Harvey Weinstein, of course, became head of Miramax.
I'm 50, I've listened many many pop, rock and progressive music, and GG stays by far my favorite band !
pmfith
One of the best prog bands of all time. Their end-of-life- s e l l o u t was all too common among '70s prog bands - and the results were always the same - not only did they not garner any new fans, but they destroyed any fanbase they had before. A lose-lose. Moral? Never sell out. Never. It's the difference between being an heroic icon like Bruford or a pathetic bubble-gum peddler like Collins.
The most rock & metal stations on Pandora Radio!
bobgord4
What a bizarrely negative discourse above of GG. Sure they didn't get rich like the Yes or Genesis but they were one of the finest bands of all time. A more positive take would have said that they stayed true to their art, fame and fortune be damned. They live on in their influences in lots of those turn-on-a-di m e - t i m i n g RIO bands. Plus it was the first rock band I got my mom to like.
Saw them during the Free Hand tour at the old Academy of Music in NYC. Took the Lakeland bus from Jersey to the Big City, as teenagers. We were blown away by the show. I still don't know how we got back home, it was a GG musical haze...
My favorite then and now.
The most amazing band the world should have paid attention to!!!!!!! ;-)
terrancegabe l
Please add The Missing Piece, literally.
GG were definitely the Giants of Prog. Epic tune-age!
mjmildew
As my son would say, You can't skip Talybont!
Tally-ho, Talybont!
Am I the first to comment on GG? Hard to believe! Such a great creative prog rock band! I don't think I have ever heard a single song by them on the radio. Very quirky, but very, very talented.
This band is one of Progressive rock's best. If Three Friends is touring in your city, definitely go see them.
these guys are awesome! terribly under rated
Saw them at Avery Fisher in NYC....could not think of a better venue to display their talent, uniqueness and utter musical genius! ...and yes, they all rotated through the instruments!
Memories of Old Days from A Missing Piece is an incredible song. I find it moving. It has found its way onto so many of my mixed tapes and cds over the decades.
GG was/is incredible. I took their name for my screenname.
brucednoble
Saw them live in 77 in New Paltz, NY. To my amazement, the entire band rotated through all of their instruments in one song, until the entire band had played each instrument - and well. Awesome.
Have lots of their LPs, but never did get to see them live. Love their music.
I'm a deep rooted Progger,and Gentle Giants music is incredible well crafted music for the serious listener. I'm glad they put out as many albums as they did. Alot of fun to listen to.
swcsteve76
I didn't find out about Gentle Giant until about 1974 and have never been the same since. They are amaaaazing! Saw them finally in 1977 in Seattle - what a show! Gary Green used to hop around on one leg while ripping these fantastic guitar fills & solos. At one point in the concert I just remember the whole band joining Gary, hopping around on one leg and playing violins - very well I might add (except for John Weathers...b u t maybe not). Exceptionall y Awesome!!!
Superb band! Octopus, Free Hand, and The Power And The Glory are three of my favorite albums.
matt.latsko
Saw GG 1980 in Gainesville Fl in a great little theatre on their swan song tour from their Civilian record. Still one of the best rock concerts I ever went to. Little did I know that would be it for them. Would be great to see a reunion after all of these years, but it would be hard to recreate the magic of what they had then.
Saw them at The Century in Buffalo also. Nektar was the back up band. Best concert of my life.
A brilliant band, it's a shame that Pandora doesn't have Interview, The Missing Piece or Playing the Fool.
One of my favorite bands since the early 70's. NOBODY ever touched their uniqueness. I think they were really too talented for most average pop listeners.
Please add the Live Playing the Fool album! So many good tracks there.
Yes i saw them in Buffalo , 1977 at the century theatre we probably saw the same show !
SAw them in Buffalo New York three years in a row and we used to BOO the opening act off the stage just to here our boys...immat u r e and not nice? Yes..
Non musicians simply can not relate.
Excellent musicians, all.
The Brits had our number on prog rock. Haven't heard their first album - dying to give it a listen. And this tune is one of their better ones for sure. The second album kicks a**. Used to listen to it in the trenches; got me out of some fixes.
they were the opening band for Jethro Tull in Chicago Ill.,in early 1970's wow it,s with me forever
First saw them at the Shriner's Auditorium in LA in '77. I went to see Renaissance and came away an instant GG fan. I went out and immediately bought Playing the Fool. I think I wore out 3 vinyl copies of this one. To this day, they are still my overall favorite.
compass70
My favorite band of the 70's without exception. Without the Giant, so many other bands would never have come to be.
Check out the band Advent. They sound just like GG. Very talented musicians, but still not the original.
What an amazing group--the most seamless melding of rock and classical I've ever heard. Better than Tull or Genesis; as virtuosic as Yes, and more accessible than the mighty Crims. English third stream forever!
im just doing what i want to do nothing more or less than you
In a glasshouse!! Oh god I love this song!!!
Knots!! A tribute to the brilliance of R. D. Laing! Wonderous!!
GG is a phenomenal band!! While the vocals can be a bit grating at times (not the most musical of voices in the lead vocalist), the complexity of their compositions and the sheer talent and skill needed to play them is the stuff of magic. Sublime!!
I saw GG 7 times and I think they were the best progressive band of that era...
rboyce18
I am grateful that I got see GG in the 70's in the Philly area. They got some radio airtime so they had a fairly large following. My high school had 2 types of people; those who liked GG and those who didn't:) But really, there was quite a large following at my school.
I've never heard of these guys.It's really a good mix of ELP, Yes and Kansas. This was never played on Milwaukee radio.
...The singer took the bassists left hand as the bass player picked the notes as the bassist slipped out fully and the singer took over bass completely as the bass player performed the same stunt with the keyboard player, who then performed the same stunt... you get the idea but until you've seen this performed flawlessly on a very complicated tune, live, never having even heard of the band until you bought the tickets... truly stunning. I've been a fan ever since.
That was in 1973 at the Majestic.
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