Saturday, April 14, 2018

Gentle Giant - 1975-01-27 - Agora Theater, Cleveland, OH

Gentle Giant
1975-01-27
The Agora, Cleveland, OH

FM Broadcast (WMMS-FM) Recording, very good quality
Available in both Lossless (FLAC) and mp3 (320 kbps) versions

OK, to start my tribute to progressive rock (featuring its breadth of scope and some of the excellent but less commercially successful artists), here we have Gentle Giant, for no other reason than they were where my progressive rock concert experience started. The first official rock concert I attended (other than local events at high school, etc.) was a Procol Harum show at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago, IL, on April 13, 1973 (almost exactly 45 years ago). Gentle Giant was the opening act, and let's just say I was mightily impressed by them, their musical style, and their multi-instrumental versatility (I remember, in particular, being completely blown away by the 4-part recorder section of 'The Advent in Panurge' (which can be heard in the recording featured here in the 'Excerpts from Octopus' track).
Gentle Giant was formed in Portsmouth, UK, in 1970 by the musically diverse, multi-instrumentalist Shulman Brothers, Phil (sax, trumpet, clarinet, etc.), Derek (sax, recorder), and Ray (bass, violin), after some frustrating earlier experiences with various pop and soul bands, when they teamed up with a couple other talented multi-instrumentalistst, Gary Green (guitar, mandolin, recorder, etc.) and Kerry Minnear (keyboards, vibes, cello, etc.). What set Gentle Giant apart from other aspiring progressive rock bands of the time was their versatility and musicality, their complex and sophisticated musical structure, and incorporation of a wide swath of musical styles, including folk, jazz, blues, soul, and classical. And even their "classical" influences were more diverse, incorporating medieval, baroque, and modernist styles in addition to the more common Romantic period classics. Minnear, in particular, was classically trained, with a degree in composition. Their compositions are adventurous and challenging, and perfect for progressive rock. Their only weakness is that, although almost all members sing and do multi-part harmonies, none of them have a great lead voice (although it has infamously been told that Elton John auditioned for and was turned down as lead vocalist). Through their first 2 albums (Gentle Giant-1970, Acquiring the Taste-1971), they were experimenting and finding their sound, but not finding much of an audience. Their pursuit of musicianship didn't fit the mainstream styles of the time. Their stated aim on Acquiring the Taste was to "expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of becoming very unpopular". Their next album, Three Friends (1972) was their first concept album, and also first released in the U.S.   For the band's first tour in the U.S. later that year, they were unfortunately booked as the opening act for Black Sabbath, and were not greeted well (mostly booed) by Sabbath fans. Their next album, Octopus (1972-UK, 1973-US), perhaps their best album, marked the beginning of their peak years. For their US tour this time (Spring 1973), they were paired with Procol Harum, a much better audience for them (and where I saw them). Although Phil left following the Octopus tour (couldn't handle touring),  the band continued with a couple more powerful concept albums (In a Glass House-1973, The Power and The Glory-1974), and were building a solid following, although never quite breaking through commercially. By 1975, with a change in record labels and the album Free Hand, they started to try to polish their sound and style to reach a wider audience, resulting in their most successful album to date. But further moves over the next few years to simplify and streamline their songs to achieve a more accessible pop sound (and wider audience) resulted in diminishing returns, and the band eventually split in 1980. But, throughout their career, their live shows have always been sensational and much appreciated by the progressive fans. Although there have been many calls for reunions over the years, there has been no official Gentle Giant reunions, albeit a few unofficial partial ones for specific events. I think this is another one of those bands that are looked back on with much more love and respect now than when they were originally around. So, here is a concert from those peak years, a very nice sounding FM broadcast from 1975, from The Power and The Glory Tour (Unfortunately, I could not find any recordings from the 1973 tour I saw them on, but this one is very good). 

Tracklist:
1. Cogs in Cogs
2. Proclamation ->
3. Funny Ways
4. The Runaway ->
5. Experience
6. Excerpts from Octopus
7. So Sincere ->
8. drums
9. Mr. Class & Quality ->
10. Valedictory

Band:
Derek Shulman: vocals, mulberry, saxophone, recorder, bass, percussion
Ray Shulman: bass, acoustic guitar, violin, recorder, percussion, vocals
Kerry Minnear: keyboards, cello, recorder, vibes, percussion, acoustic guitar, vocals
Gary Green: guitar, recorder, percussion, vocals
John ‘Pugwash’ Weathers: drums, percussion, vibes

FLAC - Gentle Giant_1875-01-27_Cleveland(FM)_FLAC.rar

mp3 - Gentle Giant_1875-01-27_Cleveland(FM)_mp3.rar

3 comments:

Andrew Saunders said...

Thanks for Gentle Giant, looking forward to this.

rev.b said...

GG worked so hard during this period. I wish it had been more lucrative for them. Sad to say sometimes quality doesn't equal popularity or strong sales. I loved 'em tho', still do. Thanks.

Rocking--Byrd said...

Thanks B.B.

I saw these guys performing in Glasgow, Scotland in July 1967 and talked to them. They were then known as Simon Dupree And The Big Sound.