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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
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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Very few GG songs on the Pandora Gentle Giant station....: - ( Lots of good, related prog stuff, but I would prefer to hear more GG. Do they have to purchase the rights to each album? Don't they get the band's entire catalog when they negotiate the rights?
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Saw them in Boston at some club while in college in late 70s, great show. Listened toFree Hand over and over!
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One of the better British bands.
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Lucky to have been born in the mid 50 so I was perfect age to see the amazing musician live several times in their prime & in mine. Prog was king & ruled as it should be. One day u generic u hampered incorporate un commercial uninhibited music will return but probably not in my lifetime by the way its going.
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I'm a young lad, but this band has influenced me so much. I borrowed the concept of their vocal arrangements for my own songs x) hahaha. Fantastic method. I also love medieval-esq u e music. These guys are extraordinar y
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Mushrooms absolutely DO NOT grow in the UK!!!!!!,you wanna know WHHHHYYY? the bloody blasted bloaks have stripped the land of 'em! can't ya tell?!and they are great at blending blues,rock,a c i d , a n d jazzy dazzy
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Quite a renaissancia n feel vocally and harmony wise,circuss y sound with bells,vibes etc,they combine these unbeatably!t h e r e ' s that pink elephant again,I gotta go because it has a new song it wants to sing to me
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Dan Page, I saw that same tour at Louie's Rock City in Virginia -- with the same response from the crowd for Dr Feelgood. Too bad, really - the GG guys held them in high regard, and in retrospect, GG's background was not that far from pub rock and R&B. They just decided to fly at a different altitude!
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I do believe I love them more than ever!I'm relating completely to their everyone note and harmony,mush r o o m s grow in crazy USA too ya know........ . . . . . . . . . . . . a a a a a h h h h h h h h h h h h h ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! a a a a a a a a a h h h h h ! ! ! !
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I bet jimson weed,aka deadly nightshade,a k a datura stramonium (Bella Donna),etc.g r o w in the UK as well
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Mushrooms grow in the U.K. don't they?
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Musically mere perverse,as in not quite of the norm,extreme l y stylish,musi c a l l y zigzagging in and out of my amazed ears,very unique,very talented
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I was lucky enough to see them at the Tower Theater in Philly for Missing Piece and Civilian. Great Stuff !
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I saw them at ARMADILLO WORLD HQS!! God I miss that place and, of course GG there was just awesome!!!!! !
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Saw them at the Century Theatre, Buffalo, NY in October 1977, Missing Piece album was out.Dr. Feelgood opened. A pub blues rock band consisting of limeys from England these guys were. Weird choice of an opening band for GG, as Dr Feelgood were straight edged pub rock with on the other hand a progressive quirky group like GG. Well, all hell broke loose during Dr. Feelgood's performance. Hecklers, many of them yelling out for Gentle Giant! Dr Feelgood turns their amps up to drown out the shouts.
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Not my favorite prog band, but definitely in my top 5!
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To all of my progressive friends I love it all, GG yes, genesis, E L P, will you get the idea.
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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.
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tim0921
Civilian (1980) is missing from the GG discography. I'm hoping that Pandora will add it soon.
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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.
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I'm 50, I've listened many many pop, rock and progressive music, and GG stays by far my favorite band !
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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.
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The most rock & metal stations on Pandora Radio!
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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.
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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...
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My favorite then and now.
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The most amazing band the world should have paid attention to!!!!!!! ;-)
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terrancegabe l
Please add The Missing Piece, literally.
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GG were definitely the Giants of Prog. Epic tune-age!
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mjmildew
As my son would say, You can't skip Talybont!
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Tally-ho, Talybont!
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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.
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This band is one of Progressive rock's best. If Three Friends is touring in your city, definitely go see them.
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these guys are awesome! terribly under rated
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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!
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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.
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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.
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Have lots of their LPs, but never did get to see them live. Love their music.
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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.
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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!!!
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Superb band! Octopus, Free Hand, and The Power And The Glory are three of my favorite albums.
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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.
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Saw them at The Century in Buffalo also. Nektar was the back up band. Best concert of my life.
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A brilliant band, it's a shame that Pandora doesn't have Interview, The Missing Piece or Playing the Fool.
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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.
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Please add the Live Playing the Fool album! So many good tracks there.
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Yes i saw them in Buffalo , 1977 at the century theatre we probably saw the same show !
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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..
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Non musicians simply can not relate.
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Excellent musicians, all.
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