I Lost My Head (The Chrysalis Years 1975 – 1980) – Gentle Giant
Well it’s time for another box set review, and this particular box set of Gentle Giant’s has now been reissued again this month after it is very much went out of print since it was first released back in 2012. To be perfectly honest I would love to see some of the albums in this box set get 5.1 mixes rather than buy them in a box like this, but no doubt this box set offers you tremendous value for the buck, and is cheap enough to even have as a collector’s item for the shelf.
Gentle Giant where quite an amazing band who very much made their mark in the world of progressive rock back in the early 70’s. Although this box set does not contain the bands first 6 albums, it does capture complete the second half the bands career. The latter half was perhaps where the band were aiming to be a bit more commercial has they went on. Its perhaps not the bands best output in relation to the albums they made in the first half of their career, but never the less there is still some Gems here.
As with any box set like this that comes with an array of albums. It’s perhaps a bit too much for me to take on all the individual album tracks. So for this review I am going to keep it nice and simple, and stick to the highlights of the albums with my review here. But first let’s take a look at what you get for the price of 20 bucks.
The Chrysalis Years (1975 – 1980) (Box Set) In Review…
The new reissued Gentle Giant Box Set was released on 8th June 2018. I pre-ordered it from Amazon on the 19th April and it arrived on the day after its release. The Box Set only contains 4 discs but it does have 6 Gentle Giant albums spread over them. 2 of the discs have 2 albums each on them. The other 2 discs have 1 album each on them. Though you do get quite a few bonus tracks on one of those, and the other one contains the bands double live album.
The box set contains the albums Free Hand. Interview. Playing The Fool (Their official double live album). The Missing Piece. Giant For A Day and Civilian.
There is no doubt a box set like this offers quite a saving over the price it would cost you to buy these albums individually. Individually they would cost you from £10 – £14 per album. So let’s say £12 each for a rough guide which would mean that you would be looking at paying £72 for the 6 albums. This box set can be had on Amazon for £20.35 and retails around £20.75 so you are near enough saving £52 over the price of buying them individually which is a massive saving.
To be honest I myself can be fussy at times and would as rule want the individual albums. But I do already have 4 of the albums in this box set, but those are not remasters like your getting here. They also came in plastic jewel cases and these days I do prefer the cardboard Digipaks and Digisleeves. I am not sure if even the new remastered albums come in those either individually and are just in Jewel cases. Otherwise I may have been tempted to buy those again instead of purchasing this box set.
But for 20 bucks you cannot go wrong here, and if you have never heard of Gentle Giant I would think that even though you do not have the bands earlier albums in this box set. What you do get here would still make a great introduction to the band, and you even get a double live album that features a lot of their earlier material. Had the band not signed up to Chrysalis Records in 1975 they would of been able to release their complete discography in a box set I dare say.
It’s unfortunate that even today the band are still tied to record labels that prevent them doing such a thing. As far as I know of the bands first 6 albums on Capitol Records have never been released by that record company in a box set. So this particular box set may seem a bit of an odd one in the way that only the bands second part of their career have been released in this way.
The Packaging & Contents…
All 4 discs come in a cardboard Clamshell Box and the discs are stored in cardboard sleeves that are a mini presentation of the type of sleeve a single vinyl album would come in. It also comes with a 16 page booklet that contains all the linear production notes of all 6 albums. Although they have not included the lyrics, it does come with some very good informative information based on the time they made all the albums.
No doubt it would of made a better presentation if they put each album on it’s own individual disc, and put the double live album on 2 discs and used a gatefold DigiSleeve for it. They could of easily done so and sold it at £25 instead of £20 and they would not be losing any money by doing it that way either.
I am pretty sure people would not mind paying the extra £5 either, and I personally think it would of made that much more of an attractive package and even attracted more sales. After all this is a 2018 reissue and there was no need to make it exactly like the 2012 release. But for 20 bucks I suppose you cannot really complain and it works out that you are paying around £3.35 per album and one of them is a double album.
Gentle Giant had no further line up changes throughout the rest of their career and the following musicians of the band cater for all the instrumentation and vocals on all the albums in this box set.
Derek Shulman: Vocals/Saxes/Alto Sax.
Ray Shulman: Bass/Violin/Acoustic Guitar/Descant Recorder/Vocals & Percussion.
Kerry Minnear: Keyboards/Cello/Vibes/Tenor Recorder/Vocals & percussion.
Gary Green: Electric & Acoustic Guitars/12 String Guitars/Alto & Descant reorders/Vocals & percussion.
John Weathers: Drums/Tambour/Vibes/Percussion & backing Vocals.
The Albums In review…
Gentle Giant’s 7th studio album Free Hand was released in September 1975. The album contained 7 tracks and had an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 42 seconds. It was the first album to be released on Chrysalis Records a move the band decided to take despite the improvement in sales of their last two albums In A Glass House and The Power and The Glory had with WWA Records.
The band had earlier supported Jethro Tull on their European tour and had taken note of how well they was doing under Terry Ellis of Chrysalis Records. They thought that they may get a bit more promoted by making the move and admired how Ellis went about his business. Hence the reason for wanting to make the change. But they was also having a few teething problems with WWA Records too, and they even reflected those in the words of this albums self titled album track.
No doubt the move did work for them with the release of this album, and Free Hand managed to beat their previous record by 2 places and reached number 48 in the American billboard charts. But unfortunately for them things were no better afterwards, and Free Hand was the bands most successful album they ever put out of all their 11 studio albums albums back then.
The album Free Hand more or less continues were the bands previous album The Power and The Glory left off. Musically they are both very similar and it’s only really the subject matter behind the lyrics that is the real change. To be perfectly honest I would of thought that for those who liked The Power and The Glory it would be practically imposable not to like Free Hand. They are both more or less solid albums and both contain very well written material and are up there with the bands very best albums.
This particular version of the album that comes in this box set also comes with 6 bonus tracks that were previously unreleased until 2012 when they was originally released on this same box set before it went out of print. The 6 bonus tracks are as follows:
“1976 Intro Tape” (previously unreleased). “Just the Same” (BBC session John Peel). “Free Hand” (BBC session John Peel). “On Reflection” (BBC session John Peel). “Give It Back” (International 7″ mix) and “I Lost My Head” (7″ mix). None of the tracks were ever released on CD before, until 2012 that is.
To be honest most bonus tracks very rarely offer you anything either new or very good. You do get the some worthy bonus tracks now and then no doubt, and some of these I will say are very good. I particularly like the 3 tracks from this album they done live at the BBC and the live arrangement of “On Reflection” is very good and quite different to the original studio version to which they play the intro of it on their instruments, rather than start it off with the vocal harmonies.
The short “1976 Intro Tape” is also very good to hear it without the noise of the crowd and I think this is the intro tape they made for their live concerts they played in 1976. You can also hear it on the live album too, but it sounds way better here. The last couple of bonus tracks are just the edited single versions of two of the tracks that was to feature on their next album Interview. I always tend to see these sort of things pointless and prefer to hear the whole of the song on the album.
The Main Album.
The album Free Hand could be seen as a liberation and the break away from WWA Records after some of the legal tussles that had put the band in limbo for a short while. They did not waste time putting the album together for their new record company, and the whole album was recorded in 2 to 3 weeks at Advision Studios in London in April 1975. The band had spent time rehearsing the material before going into the studio to record it, to save on the cost and this was how the band had always worked back then.
Musically the band had very much stuck to their usual style using folk elements that have always been part of the bands trademark since the beginning. Both the tracks “Talybont” and “Mobile” are excellent examples of how well the band fuse other elements into folk music and the first of these two may very well be classed as medieval folk to some extent.
Yet it even contains classical elements, and the instrumentation that is used gives this fine instrumental track that prog goodness to it all. It’s also so masterfully played and is quite reminiscent to the style of music the medieval prog rock band Gryphon were doing back then too.
The latter of the two “Mobile” upon it’s intro you would think that you were listening to Fairport Convention. But after that short 20 second intro the band soon settle down to their usual style of complex time signature changes and bring other elements with the instrumentation and have the ability to take it somewhere else.
There is no doubt that even a folk rock band like Fairport Convention at times had prog rock traits in some of their music. They also had very capable musicians to do such a thing. But what Gentle Giant do with folk music is completely turn it inside out and outside in and give it a most unusual twist. It’s so unique that no other band were doing it. It’s almost like this band could play any style of music you threw at them and no doubt the musicians they had were capable of doing it as well.
Lyrically I think this album works better than their previous album The Power and The Glory and that is simply because it’s not harking over the same thing all the while and this album is not focused on one subject matter like that album was. Although by the opening track on the album “Just The Same” you would think the band were going down the same road with the lyrics they had wrote for “Proclamation“ that was from that album.
To be honest both tracks are excellent album openers and as soon as you hear “Just The Same” you instantly get this feel that both albums are quite alike with the musical presentation that was wrote for them. A lot of reviews tend point out that the album Free Hand was more of a commercial album. I personally think it’s nothing of the sort and this album is as close as you could get to The Power and The Glory and both albums have that ability to rock it out a bit more that’s all.
The album Free Hand contains great songs all the way it’s perhaps even hard to pick a personal favourite and it’s opening track “Just The Same” would very much be a very strong contender. So to would the track that follows it “On Reflection” which is more or less a fugue of vocal harmonies, vibes and percussion until it’s very end. But my personal favourite goes to the albums self titled track “Free Hand“. It’s a very well constructed song that goes in many directions with its progression and diversity and merits the top spot award.
Although “Time To Kill” is not a bad song, it is perhaps the weakest spot on the album when weighing it up to the rest of the material we have here. I would expect some would feel the same about “His Last Voyage” which is the longest track on the album. But it does have quite a sweeter side with Kerry Minnear’s voice taking on the lead vocals and it’s not only soothing but meanders it’s way along very well.
Overall Free Hand is quite a solid enough album and once again the band have come up with some great written material for it. Personally I do not think there is anything not to like here and the albums tracks have been very well placed to make it work like a great album. My personal highlights from the album are “Just The Same“. “On Reflection“. “Free Hand” and “Talybont“.
Just like the album The Power and The Glory. I feel that both albums are more accessible in relation to some of the bands earlier albums. They both have that more of a rock feel about them in parts, and in all honesty the material we have here is that close that both of these albums would of worked as a double album. Only the subject of the lyrics really prevents the both albums not working in that way.
Because both albums are that close and have equal strengths. I was left with no alternative but to give them both the same album rating score.
The original album track listing is as follows: 1. Just The Same. (5:33). 2. On Reflection. (5:42). 3. Free Hand. (6:12). 4. Time To Kill. (5:07). 5. His Last Voyage. (6:26). 6. Talybont. (2:42). 7. Mobile. (5:01).
Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.
The bands 8th studio album Interview was released on the 23rd April 1976. The band decided to do another concept album based upon the more frequent questions that got asked in the interviews on the radio they had encountered over the years. The interview they actually staged themselves in the studio and is very much a phoney bit of a spoof.
They also based a lot of the lyrics around numerous criticisms of the music industry, which was perhaps nothing that unusual on that score for this band, and they always liked to have ago at one thing or the other on their previous albums. Only here it was done with a bit more humour perhaps and the fact that they was tired of all the silly questions that they got asked repeatedly.
The album itself contains 7 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 48 seconds. Once again the album was recorded at the Advision Studios in London and the band had spent a few weeks recording the tracks between March and April getting it all done. The band roped in the freelance journalist and music writer of Sounds Phil Sutcliffe who was also a long time friend to conduct and be the voice of the interviewer on the album. His voice is featured in 4 short places from the beginning to the end of the album.
According to the information in the booklet, the material for the album was written after an extensive live tour they had spent to promote their previous album Free Hand which left the band a bit shattered. It did not help with them writing it away from their home in Portsmouth either, and they was in a rush to get another album out for their now new record label Chrysalis. Some of the band members were also not happy with the end the result and reckoned they were under-rehearsed before going in the studio to record it.
Personally I do not feel the band needed to make any excuses because the album Interview how I see it is another great album and far from anything remotely bad at all. The band may have been a bit more dissatisfied by the fact that it only reached 137 in the billboard charts some 89 places lower than Free Hand had done previously done. I suppose having seen how well they was getting a bit more recognised with that album, that it would of put a bit of a damper on things and got them down a bit.
But no doubt the band still had their unique style on this album even despite throwing in a bit of reggae on one of the tracks. I still think the material they wrote here is also very good and is not that far from what they did on their last couple of albums. They are still continuing in that direction at this point of their career, and personally I feel there is nothing not to like here.
The album kicks off with its self titled track “Interview” and it s my personal favourite track on the album. Though both “Empty City” and “I Lost My Head” are also very strong contenders for the top spot on this album. These 3 tracks have that bit more progression and diversity about them for my own personal taste, and perhaps stand out more than the other 4 tracks. They even named this box set after the latter of those 3 tracks.
The interview that is conducted throughout the album is mainly focused on one question. That is, how would you describe your music?. It’s something not even the band can do or answer, and to be honest neither could I either :)))))).
I suppose if you can work out what the track “Timing” is about, you may find the answer. I am not even gonna try and decipher the lyrics they wrote for it. But no doubt Gentle Giant’s music is filled with time signature changes, complex rhythms, shifting patterns and is perhaps the strangest thing on the planet. “Timing” is another great track that also has bags of progression and diversity.
Just like the title of the bands second album there is no doubt you are gonna have to acquire the taste to get into their music. It’s very much this whole strangeness that keeps me coming back to it, and the good thing about it is that you can learn more about it each time you play it, and it may even take you years to fully understand it. This is what precisely rocks my boat about this band.
Just to prove how strange and weird this band is. On the song “Give It Back” they even throw in a bit of reggae over 5/4 and 7/4 time signatures. The band was inspired by the rawness of Bob Marley’s music at the time, so they decided to have a bit of dabble with it and decided to put their own stamp on it. It made me laugh when they said afterwards I am sure Bob would of choked on his spliff if he heard it :)))))).
To be honest “Give It Back” is not that completely strange at all even with the use of the different time signatures, its perhaps a bit more straightforward than the rest of the tracks on the album. No doubt it is something different for them to do as well, and it even reminds me more of 10CC than Gentle Giant.
“Design” is another of those songs that features 4 part vocal harmonies that’s more associated with the band than reggae on that score. They also use an array of percussion to great effect as well. “Another Show” is much more up-tempo and it weaves and meanders its way along at quite a fast pace. It’s another song that features bags of progression along it’s path and a really great track that some may even put up there with the best on the album.
Overall the album Interview may not be as strong as the both albums that came before it. But it does not disappoint and presents itself more or less in a similar vein. I very much think besides the live album they released in the following year, that Interview was the last studio album Gentle Giant made before completely changing their style and heading into a completely different direction regarding the music that came after it.
My personal highlights from the album are “Interview“. “Empty City“. “I Lost My Head” and “Another Show“. I personally think the album was well underrated and it’s a damn site better than how many judged the album on it’s release. It’s certainly one of those albums that one may need to return to again later on to get to appreciate it more.
I would also think it’s one of those albums today where one is perhaps looking for some more golden nuggets that came out of the 70’s and have not heard this album, or did back then and never rated it. It’s well worth giving it another try because this may just be the real missing piece, and not the album that came after it.
The album track listing is as follows: 1. Interview. (6:54). 2. Give It Back. (5:11). 3. Design. (5:00). 4. Another Show. (3:29). 5. Empty City. (4:23). 6. Timing. (4:52). 7. I Lost My Head. (6:59).
Lee’s Album Rating Score. 7/10.
Playing The Fool (The Official Live)
Released on the 18th January 1977 Playing The Fool was the only official live album that was released during the bands 10 year career. Originally released as a double vinyl album to which is these days is all crammed onto 1 CD and has an overall playing time of 77 minutes and 52 seconds. It captures the band playing live in certain venues in Germany, France and Belgium on their European tour between September and October of 1976 to which they put on in support of their last studio album Interview.
Because they had every intention of recording for a live album. The band rented Jethro Tull’s Mobile to record the live shows with. It would not surprise me if Ian Anderson never gave them a discount either :))))). But no doubt the recording mobile done the job, cause this is a very well recorded live album.
Although the band were indeed promoting their 8th studio album Interview at the the time, this particular albums set-list is not so much focused on that album, and it actually captures them playing material from all their 8 studio albums they had released at this time. Although it does only capture a small snippet from the bands 2nd album Acquiring The Taste which happens to be the self titled track of that album. Oddly enough it also gets played during the excerpts they are playing from their 4th album Octopus.
Unfortunately I never got to see Gentle Giant play live back in their day, just by listening to this live album you immediately get the impression that this was one pretty awesome live band. There is no doubt that this live album is the pure GEM in this box set. It features many of the bands classics and the how this band could improvise gives you an even better presentation of their songs in relation to many of the tracks done in the studio. There are also no overdubs at all and this is one pretty impressive live album that even sounds purely fantastic.
The first leg of the European tour that is captured here comes from them playing in Düsseldorf in Germany on the 23rd September and the album kicks off with both the opening tracks “Just The Same/Proclamation” from the albums Free Hand and The Power and The Glory. They also played “On Reflection” on that same night which is also on the album here and despite them doing a tour to promote the album Interview, there is more tracks actually from their 1975 album Free Hand than any other album.
A couple of days later the band played in Munich on the 25th September and they played one the songs from that show which happens to be the classic “Funny Ways” from their self titled debut album. This happens to be my favourite of the tracks they played here in Germany and they do a blinding job of it as well. No doubt the both opening tracks on the album are very powerful, but I also love how they done the opening instrumental intro on “On Reflection” which is how they played it at the BBC Sessions that is one of the bonus tracks on Free Hand I mentioned earlier.
On the 5th October the band were in Paris. France and 4 of the songs from that show they have included here. “Excerpts from Octopus” is perhaps my personal favourite of the album but in all honesty I would also have to include “Funny Ways” along with it, and there is nothing but complete magic throughout this whole album. So I am not even gonna choose a favourite. Amongst the excerpts you get here are “The Boys In The Band/Raconteur Troubadour/Acquiring The Taste/Knots/Ocean Bridge/The Advent Of Panurge“. They also include a famous quartet played on Recorders.
They also done “The Runaway/Experience” from In A Glass House. Another great song from The Power and The Glory album “So Sincere” and the album closes off with a short burst of “Peel the Paint” from their 3rd album Friends which runs into the “I Lost My Head” to which is the only song from the album Interview.
But before both of those you get the self titled album track “Free Hand” and a short instrumental piece entitled “Sweet Georgia Brown” which was a jazz standard pop tune from 1925 written by Ben Bernie and Maceo Pinkard. Both of these came from the shows they played a couple of days later on the 7th October in Brussels Belgium.
The latter of the two was done instantaneous on the spot as they was about to start to show only to see smoke coming out of Kerry Minnear’s keyboards. Being as Ray Shulman had his violin under his chin. Both he and Gary Green decided to play it whilst the engineers sorted out the keyboards. Their fans had a rare treat and it was most welcomed by them too.
No doubt Playing The Fool was one of the best live albums to be released back in the 70’s and even though this is a double albums worth of live material you get, it still leaves you wanting more. That’s how good this album is. My personal highlights are “Funny Ways“. “Excerpts from Octopus“. “Just The Same/Proclamation” and “Free Hand“.
The album track listing is as follows: 1. Just The Same / Proclamation (11:13). 2. On Reflection (6:24) 3. Excerpts From Octopus (15:35). 4. Funny Ways (8:35). 5. The Runaway / Experience (9:31). 6. So Sincere (10:22). 7. Free Hand (7:40). 8. Breakdown In Brussells (Sweet Georgia Brown) (1:15). 9. Peel The Paint / I Lost My Head (7:35).
Lee’s Album Rating Score. 10/10.
The Missing Piece
A New Direction.
In 1977 when the band went back in the studio to record their 9th album The Missing Piece. By then we were starting to see the birth of Punk Rock here in the UK. Although this did not have a big impact on the American market, but the fact that the band were also touring both America and Europe and they was concerned with both markets for sales. It is said to have an impact on one of the band members, in particular their bassist and violin player Ray Shulman.
It was he who started to get into this new invasion and seen something in it that was new, despite the fact that this new invasion was introduced to put a mockers on the very genre of music they stood for, prog rock and he could even see that. It was not that he was into punk rock at all and it was more down to the fact that how simplified it all was. It was also mentioned by others that maybe their music was a bit over-complicated for more people to take an interest, and maybe toning it down a bit would create more interest.
Personally I never got what anybody seen so good about Punk Rock and despised it from the day I first heard it come from the Sex Pistols. This was a band that never spoke a dickie bird to me and still till this day they do not either. They was fucking dreadful and could not play or sing, how on earth any record company could sign that complete pile of shit to a record label is beyond me :)))))).
But to be honest I was amazed just what an effect this pile of crap had on people. Back in 1977 during the height of its explosion here in England. I was working in an Electro Plating factory with a load of Hells Angels and Cycle Tramps. And the one Monday morning I turned up for work, one of my work mates no longer had long hair and had it cut, spiked and died, he even had a bone through his nose. I was both shocked and stunned :))))).
He even came in with a pile of rock and prog rock albums and was selling them from 50p to £1 each. I brought a few off him and around that time Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell had only just came out. I had only heard the title track of the album at the time, and thought for £1 it was a good buy. I remember when I got home and stuck the album on and as soon as I heard “All Revved Up With No Place To Go” I thought that was a bit punk like and took the album off the turntable and smashed it up :)))))).
That’s how much I literally detested punk rock and anything that sounded like it at the time. I even went into Woolworth’s and brought a Sex Pistols single just to smash it up in the front of the assistant LOL…
Although Ray Shulman had not completely lost his marbles like some of my friends had around the time of this invasion. This did lead to the band changing their own musical direction. It was not just the punk rock thing either. He and the band had also took note of how bands like both Yes and Genesis were also heading towards a more commercial direction with their music.
The fact that Genesis in particular had a bit of a hit with “You’re Own Special Way” in the singles charts the same year very much spurred the band to record this album outside the UK which was something they had never done before. They even decided to book the very same recording studios in Holland that Genesis had recorded their album Wind and Wuthering that particular single of theirs came off.
The Missing Piece was released on the 26th August 1977. The album contained 9 tracks and had an overall playing time of 36 minutes, 40 seconds. It was recorded at the Relight Studios, Hilvarenbeek, The Netherlands. Holland back then to be precise and I still prefer that name. They have gone double Dutch since and did not even qualify for this year’s World Cup :))))). The Netherlands sounds like something that came out of the Wizard Of Oz or even some childish thing Michael Jackson would come up with ffs :))))).
There is no doubt the band have acquired a new taste to their music and even though it’s meant to be an album of two halves, the 1st side being more like pop music and the 2nd side being more like prog rock. I beg to dither and this is certainly more of a pop album than anything else. I also think the way it’s been mixed lends to it being that way too, and because of the way the album has been produced, I very much think that there is only 1 or 2 tracks on this album that sounds remotely like anything the band did before it.
But having said all that, is it a bad album?.
Well I certainly think at the time they released it, a lot of their loyal fans may have been chucking bricks at them :)))))) and jumping off the band wagon so to speak. But to be honest it’s not that bad at all. But if I was following the band back then, I may well have been doing the same thing ;))))).
To put it in a nutshell I would of thought that when the band unleashed this album in 1977. To the loyal fan who had Acquired The Taste from the beginning of this bands career. It would of been like walking into your local shop to buy a jar of Nescafe’ and walking out with some cheaper best buy brand that was never gonna taste or say the same thing to you.
But that is not to say that these were badly written songs at all, and as far as pop songs go I honestly cannot fault most of the compositions on this album, and some of them are that good that I could see other artists even having a hit with them. For example I could quite easily visualize the rock band Aerosmith doing “Mountain Time” and having a hit with it. It’s perhaps more suited to their style than Gentle Giant themselves. I would even say the song had even got Stevie Wonder qualities about it as well.
Another bit of quality songwriting is the song “I’m Turning Around“. No doubt this song would of suited loads of pop artists and I could quite instantly see this being a smash hit if somebody had noticed it and recorded it. There is no doubt that Gentle Giant can write quality pop songs and in reality these are exactly that. They just was not a popular enough band for people to notice them in the first place.
This is where a band like Genesis had the edge over Gentle Giant by being that bit more popular. The other thing that made Genesis be more successful by changing their own style more towards popular music, is that they did it gradually and over a lot more time. For example the only real pop song on their album Wind and Wuthering was “You’re Own Special Way“. This was not enough to cause too much of an upset to their loyal fans at the time.
I think were Gentle Giant went wrong on this album is by trying to introduce way too much of a change all at once. It takes a lot longer for people to accept it, and some will not at all. But one of the major factors where they went wrong, is that they should of stuck to what they was doing in the first place, and not paid any attention to what was in the charts, or what other artists were doing just to get their records in them.
The fact that album also got to number 61 in the album charts which was considerably a lot higher than their previous album Interview. I personally think is why the band continued to carry on in the same direction. But it failed completely because the 2 albums that followed it, never even got in the album charts.
Even by listening to some of the songs on The Missing Piece you can even hear where the bands main singer Derek Shulman has even changed his voice trying to adapt it more for the record. Both “Betcha Thought We Couldn’t Do It” is most likely a stab at punk rock and “Who Do You Think You Are?” is perhaps a bit more reminiscent to some of the songs Steely Dan were doing.
Even though Gentle Giant were going in a new direction, I personally do not think it was through experimenting with new ideas of their own. If anything they was just listening to what other bands were doing in the singles charts more than anything else. They even changed the way they wrote songs, and basically all got together and had a jam, and as they wrote the songs they would even play them live to air them out before going in the studio to record them for the album.
For me personally the best song out of the 5 tracks on the first half of the album is the opening track “Two Weeks In Spain” and that’s most likely down to the fact that I loved holidaying in Spain myself, and it’s chorus is the sort of thing one might be singing from the top of their voice having just booked a holiday there, or being at the airport waiting to go there.
The 4 tracks on the 2nd half of the album do perhaps speak a bit more differently, but there is very little here to even say the what the band had previously done before. For example “As Old As You’re Young” we do get a bit of whimsical pleasant medieval thing going on here, it’s quite joyful and almost like a Christmas Song to some degree. It’s also the only track on the album that features Kerry on lead vocals.
“For Nobody” is perhaps a much better effort although I have to say this album does not have a very good mix at all, and is the only one in this box set that suffers for it. This maybe down to the original tapes being lost for a lot of the tracks on this album (if it’s not, then they certainly did a bad job on the mix) the master tapes may have also worn down over the years. The band were certainly not onto a winner with “Winning” and this one actually gets the worst track on the album award.
There is no doubt that they have even simplified those songs to some extent as well, and none of those 3 songs are going to speak in leaps and bounds in relation to anything off the bands first 8 albums. The real winner on this album is by far “Memories of Old Days“. It’s even the longest track on the album and it’s perhaps the only track on this album that speaks the same language to what this band used to be about, if I am entirely honest. It also merits my top spot award and is my personal favourite track.
To sum up the album The Missing Piece by Gentle Giant it’s not an album that was aimed at their loyal fans, it’s an album that was made to try an attract a wider audience. It says very little for ardent fan and even though it does have some quality about the songwriting, the very fact that most of material was aimed at trying to attract a wider audience by writing pop songs that will not go in favour with most of their fans.
After the release of the album and in the new year the band played a one off concert at the Hippodrome in Golders Green London on the 5th January 1978. It was the first time the band had played in the UK for two and half years and was captured by the BBC for their Sight And Sound Concert Series for radio and TV.
The concert featured many of the tracks from The Missing Piece and a few of their older songs. It was officially released on DVD in 2006 and songs from the album were better performed live and even sound better than what they are on the CD.
The album The Missing Piece marked the first real change in the bands career and one that was to go even further downhill as they continued to go on in the same direction. My personal highlights from the album are “Memories of Old Days“. “Two Weeks In Spain“. “As Old As You’re Young” and “For Nobody“.
The album track listing is as follows: 1. Two Weeks In Spain. (3:06). 2. I’m Turning Around. (4:01). 3. Betcha Thought We Couldn’t Do It. (2:25). 4. Who Do You Think You Are?. (3:36). 5. Mountain Time. (3:26). 6. As Old As You’re Young. (4:24). 7. Memories Of Old Days. (7:21). 8. Winning. (4:17). 9. For Nobody. (4:04).
Lee’s Album Rating Score. 5/10.
Giant For A Day
Gentle Giant’s 10th studio album Giant For A Day was released on the 11th September 1978. The album contains 10 tracks with an overall playing time of 35 and half minutes. The album was recorded between May and April 1978 and some of the tracks were recorded at the Who’s Ramport Studios in Battersea and at Jethro Tull’s Maison Rouge studios and remixed at Scorpio Sound studios, Euston. London.
Ray Shulman remembers Pete Townshend still being around when they was recording at the Who’s studios and they had only just finished recording their album Who Are You at the time. Gary Green recalls the studios being an untouched 1890’s church hall and it was great for getting a good live sound. He recalls Keith Moon’s white Premier drum kit in the middle of the room with a sign on it saying “please don’t touch” only not noticing it and reckons they sounded great :))))).
Talk About Pop Music.
In the previous year when the band were recording their album The Missing Piece they also took note of the success Fleetwood Mac had with their album Rumours at the time. They also recalled how that particular band had changed quite marginally from their earlier blues days with Peter Green and still managed to be widely successful as a pop band. This also had an effect on Gentle Giant and they thought that making a new directional change was something they needed to do.
For the album Giant For A Day they decided to make a complete album full of pop songs most likely to see if it would attract further attention seeing their last album The Missing Piece got charted in the album charts and being more successful than their 1976 album Interview. They perhaps thought that has it worked for Fleetwood Mac they could do the same thing. But I am sure they overlooked the fact that the change Fleetwood Mac had made was really down to having much more of a different line up, and it was a case of them having to change their style.
Personally I thought Fleetwood Mac done well with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks but I still prefer the music they made with Peter Green any day of the week in relation to what they churned out afterwards. Even a successful album such as what their album Rumours was, spoke very little to me, and it’s not an album I would personally buy. But my personal taste in music even back then did not cater for a lot of pop music at all. It still does not today either. Though I was partial to some of it back then, and even can be today to be honest.
Gentle Giant’s 10th album Giant For A Day was voted as the bands worst album by their fans. I am pretty sure that still stands today. This is one of the albums in this box set I never brought previously. I think that would of been down to the fact that having brought The Missing Piece put me off both of their last 2 albums. No doubt all 3 of the bands last albums say very little in relation to what the band were doing beforehand.
I dare say if I was into Gentle Giant back in the 70’s I would of brought both the albums Giant For A Day and Civilian in the hope that they would of returned back to their norm. I often brought albums back then of my favourite artists without even hearing a track, and as rule was not that disappointed either. But later on in the late 70’s and 80’s most of them had changed their style to some extent even the likes of Genesis and Yes and they were much more disappointing indeed.
As with any album I have never heard before I will always play it at least 7 times before writing a review about it. I do not think you can honestly judge any album by just giving it one spin or even two or three spins for that matter. Although the album we have here is pretty much more straight forward music and it’s not really like an album one has to grow into by giving it more spins.
Those type of albums will speak to you differently the more attention you give to them, and that is where you will reap the reward from them by doing so. They are also the most likely albums to stand their test of time as well. An album like Giant For A Day is not gonna say anything different to you by giving it more spins like I did here.
Like I said in my review of The Missing Piece that there is no doubt that Gentle Giant had the ability to write some good pop songs. Giant For A Day is another album that does contain perhaps a couple of well written songs, but does not really say a lot more I am afraid.
For those who were into Gentle Giant way before this album came out, it’s easy to see why an album like this got voted as their worst, and gave it a very low score rating. But I would of also thought for those few who brought this album first, they still would not of gave it that much of an higher score either.
To be honest my final score rating for this album only comes from the fact that I am judging the album from a viewpoint of why I got into Gentle Giant in the first place. If I was to give my rating of it as pop album and how well the material was written for it. I honestly do not think it would get an higher score. The written material we have here is very weak.
To be honest some of the material on this album reminds me a bit like the pop band 10CC. There may very well be a reason why Gentle Giant do sound more like 10CC on this album too, and it’s down to the fact that band decided to write an album that had less keyboards in it. Which sort of left Kerry Minnear at a loose end. He was not in favour of it either, he even felt less connected with the writing on the album. It left him more or less using the electric piano more so on the album. Hence the reason it does have those certain similarities.
For example the opening track “Words From The Wise” may sound at first with it’s opening harmonies that it’s going to something more familiar with their own style. But soon as they are out the way, it’s something more like 10CC would do. Even the harmonies later on in the track sound more like 10CC and so do the the harmonies on the albums self titled track “Giant For A Day“. Although that track may sound like a dozen other pop bands as well :)))))))).
Tracks like “No Stranger“. “It’s Only Goodbye” and “Rock Climber” also might have some those 10CC elements slightly about them too, though to be honest the written material we have here is never gonna quite match up to that band I will say. The band were perhaps struggling for the material on this album, that much that even the drummer John Weathers co-wrote “Take Me” with Derek Shulman and was solely credited for “Friends“. The latter of those two happens to be one of the better tracks on the album to my ears, and it’s only a short 2 minute acoustic folk song.
“Little Brown Bag” is perhaps the rocker of the album although this is something that would be more associated with the Rolling Stones than Gentle Giant. Which leaves “Thank You” to which the band released as a single from the album, and also the instrumental piece entitled “Spooky Boogie“. Both of these tracks for me personally are the best tracks on the album and this really is a poor album by all standards. It’s also easy to see why after they made it, they never bothered to go out on tour to promote it.
Overall the album Giant For A Day is a very weak effort from the band. I also felt that the pop songs they wrote on their previous album The Missing Piece were a lot better than what they did for this album. It’s no wonder the album never charted in America. I rather think more people would of got more pleasure by cutting the face out on the vinyl release and using it as a mask, and some even did :)))))))).
The album in this box set also comes with 2 bonus tracks making the overall playing time 42 minutes, 24 seconds. Though they are hardly gonna give you anything more, and are only the 7 inch edited down shorter versions of the two singles they released from the album “Words From The Wise” and “Thank You” which also never done a thing for the band and was perhaps a waste of time releasing them.
No doubt Gentle Giant were on a downhill slide from here on and my personal highlights from this album are “Thank You“. “Spooky Boogie” and “Friends“. There is no doubt in my mind that all those who voted this the worst Gentle Giant album were 100% right to do so. It really was a bad effort and was a million miles away from what this band were capable of doing.
I suppose the best way I can sum up the album Giant For A Day by Gentle Giant. Is that it would of been a bit like going into a painting & decorating shop to buy Wallpaper and coming out with Bog Roll :))))))))))).
The album track listing is as follows: 1. Words From The Wise (4:14). 2. Thank You (4:49). 3. Giant For A Day (song) (3:49). 4. Spooky Boogie (2:54). 5. Take Me (3:36). 6. Little Brown Bag (3:28). 7. Friends (2:00). 8. No Stranger (2:30). 9. It’s Only Goodbye (4:18). 10. Rock Climber (3:52).
Lee’s Album Rating Score. 2/10.
The bands 11th and final studio album Civilian was released on the 3rd March 1980. It’s the bands shortest album of them all and contains 8 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 32 minutes, 46 seconds. The band rented apartments in Hollywood in 1979 and spent 6 to 7 weeks writing and rehearsing the material for the new album. By November of the same year they went into Sound City Studios in California to record the album to which Geoff Emerick was the sound recording engineer.
Emerick was the sound guy who had worked on the albums Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles and Abbey Road in the late 60’s for the Beatles. The Shulman brothers knew him from their days when they was known as Simon Dupree And The Big Sound. Things may have seemed a bit more promising for what was to be the bands final album apart from some of the band members now having their own families to look after and hated California and being away from home.
The band still had the Fleetwood Mac connection in that they recorded their 2nd eponymous album entitled Fleetwood Mac in the same studio in 1975. This was the first album Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had recorded with the band, most likely why they wanted to use the same title as their 1968 debut album being that it was a new direction for them at the time.
There is no doubt the material for Civilian was much better than what they wrote for their previous album Giant For A Day. This is perhaps more of a pop/rock album and to be honest is just as good as anything the Alan Parsons Project was doing at this time, and is quite like the sort of material they would of been writing around 1979/80 as well.
It’s not a solid album by any means, and to be perfectly honest neither was a lot of Alan Parson’s albums either, and even he had gone more into pop/rock music by 1979. with the release of the album Eve. But what I will say about Civilian is that at least it’s got some better written songs on it, even if the band still have not captured the magic they had in their earlier career.
The album sort of flows along like a concept album in the way that some of the tracks blend or crossfade into one another, though it’s nothing of the sort. But it does work well and there is very little on here that does not really work and let it down. The CD in this box set does not come with the bonus track “Heroes No More” which they recorded and left off the album upon its release. It did appear on some later CD releases.
It’s perhaps not an album for everyone’s taste and no doubt most Gentle Giant fans are gonna either like it or hate it. But notice how I did use the word “like” in the last sentence, because this is personally not an album I do not think anybody would love. Though I would expect it does have more of a likeability factor about it.
All the tracks on this particular album were written by Kerry Minnear and Derek Shulman apart from the opening track “Convenience (Clean And Easy)” which was penned by Gary Green and Derek Shulman. The opening on the first track sort of reminds of Deep Purple with it’s intro, then as it kicks in it’s more like the Alan Parsons Project. It’s quite a good song. I also like how the next track “All Through The Night” blends into “Shadows On The Street“. Both are also very well written songs and the latter of the two is the only song on the album that Kerry gets to sing the lead vocals.
“Number One” is much more up-tempo and once again like the opening track has that Alan Parsons Project feel about it.”Underground” is another great track and I quite like Ray Shulman’s dominant bass line on this one. But in saying that his bass playing does stand out more on most of the songs they have done on the two previous albums besides this one as well. It even appears much more of a dominant feature on the rock and pop material they have done.
Both “I Am A Camera” and the longest track on the album “Inside Out” are fine enough tracks too, and the final track on the album “It’s Not Imagination” is perhaps one of the weaker tracks on the album. It’s also said that they ended the final track off with the words “That’s All There Is” and used those words from the actual tracks on the album to say them as well.
For example the word “That’s” came from “I Am A Camera“. “All” came from “All Through The Night“. “There” from “Heroes No More” and the word “Is” came from “Inside Out“. The words only surfaced on a few albums and I would expect that being has the bonus track was included here, that they only later appeared on CD releases and not the original vinyl release.
Once again the album failed to even get in the charts after its release, but they did feel they had done better here and set up a 6 week tour in May 1980 to promote the album which ended June at the Roxy in Hollywood which was the bands final live performance. Kerry Minnear was more concerned with his family and made a decision to call it a day. Derek Shulman had also other ideas of being more of bigwig in the music business, and also felt that the band had nothing more to say.
The remaining 3 members Ray Shulman. Gary Green and John Weathers did have ideas of bringing in Eddie Jobson to keep the band going. But having seen the poor results that the album achieved and lack of interest they also decided to call it a day.
Overall the album Civilian was quite a good album and perhaps a lot better to end the bands career on than their previous album. I would even say that it’s perhaps more of a solid album in relation to both The Missing Piece and Giant For A Day. The only thing it really is not, is like any of the bands first 8 albums which personally for myself say a lot more than whatever their last 3 albums will ever say.
My personal highlights from the album are “Shadows On The Street“. “All Through The Night“. “Underground” and “Convenience (Clean And Easy)“. It’s a shame it all had to come to an end, but like many other bands that came out around the same time in the 70’s. I doubt that they could of returned to their formidable style with their songwriting that was on those first 8 albums of theirs.
The album track listing is as follows: 1. Convenience (Clean And Easy) (3:13). 2. All Through The Night (4:21). 3. Shadows On The Street (3:16). 4. Number One (4:47). 5. Underground (3:48). 6. I Am A Camera (3:32). 7. Inside Out (5:52). 8. It’s Not Imagination (3:57).
Lee’s Album Rating Score. 6/10.
To sum up the Clamshell Box Set I Lost My Head (The Albums 1975 – 1980) by Gentle Giant. Its perhaps not an impressive box set with how they have presented the albums that you get inside by putting 2 albums onto 1 CD for some of them. Fitting the artwork of 2 albums onto 1 sleeve does not really work that well, especially for CD. I feel it spoils it’s overall presentation by them doing it this way.
On the plus side you do get a descent enough booklet with some very useful informative information. Plus of course at its price point it’s quite a big saving you get here, and for the it’s price of around £20 one cannot really complain on that score.
Another key factor on the plus side is that the CD’s have been remastered and sound really great. You are not going to get any better recording of them by buying the albums individually. The remasters in this box set are exactly the same recordings.
To conclude my review of the box set and Gentle Giant’s output over the the second part of their musical career. There is no doubt the music you are getting here is like a game of two halves with how the band decided to change its direction from progressive rock to pop music, and it’s certainly is a bit of a mixed bag in all respects to how their music does come across, with what you have here in this box set.
For me personally the real GEMS you are getting here are the albums Free Hand. Interview and the double live album Playing The Fool. These albums are without a doubt the only albums in this box set that speak the same language of what the band Gentle Giant were all about from the time they began their musical career in 1970.
1977 was the year the band perhaps changed it’s musical direction for the worse. To be honest it’s easy to see why they decided to do so as well, especially with how bands like Yes and Genesis were starting to do the same thing. Only they did it gradually and both of those bands were certainly more in the limelight to be more successful at doing such a thing and getting away with it.
I felt that Gentle Giant made the move to early and how they went about it was too much of a change with the majority of the material they wrote for The Missing Piece. They did try to make an album of two halves with how they presented that album. But I personally felt it never really worked, and by doing so they had lost some of the magic along the way. But some of the songs on this album do still contain some of the real essence of what the band was about more so than the two albums that followed it.
No doubt they was starting to lose the plot at this stage and they completely lost their head when they presented us with A Giant For A Day in the following year. In all honesty this is an album that merits very little regarding the band being songwriters. No doubt some of the pop songs they wrote on their previous album were very good. But this album was a complete disaster. There is very little to be had here.
The band finished their career in 1980 not where they started it, and they never really captured any of the magic that came from their output from 1970 – 1976. However their final album Civilian was a much better effort. The material was better written and even though it’s along the same lines of what a lot of rock and pop artists were doing at this particular time. I personally felt it was the strongest album out of the last 3 they made simply because it’s more of a solid album with the material they wrote for it. It also works better as an album of songs, and the material is not out of place at all.
It’s perhaps a good thing to experiment, but a change is never really a good thing in my book I am afraid, and a change of direction from one genre to another may work out for some bands such as Genesis who no doubt became far more successful by doing such a thing. But for me even their success was their downfall in my world simply because I am a guy who buys music for how it speaks to me in the first place. The moment it says something else and speaks differently, it will never say the same thing to me.
No doubt I went out and brought many of the albums of the artists I loved so much in the hope that one day the magic would return. But for most of the time it was like flogging a dead horse and it never did.
From the time Genesis released Wind and Wuthering in 1977 and I heard “You’re Own Special Way“. I knew that this bands best output was about to become extinct and they was never gonna speak the same language again. The same can be said for when Yes when they released Going For The One in 1977. And 1977 was the year that Gentle Giant also never spoke the same language again. All 3 of these bands never once recaptured that magic from their earlier career.
I Lost My Head, But Today I Can See…