Music / Gentle Giant
The classic lineup. Left to right - Derek Shulman, Ray Shulman, Gary Green, John Weathers, Kerry Minnear
"It is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular. We have recorded each composition with the one thought - that it should be unique, adventurous and fascinating. It has taken every shred of our combined musical and technical knowledge to achieve this. From the outset we have abandoned all preconceived thoughts of blatant commercialism. Instead we hope to give you something far more substantial and fulfilling. All you need to do is sit back, and acquire the taste."
—Sleeve text from Acquiring the Taste.

Gentle Giant was an English progressive rock band active in the 1970s.

They are notable for being one of the most experimental and versatile of the prog bands of that era. All of the members were multi-instrumentalists who often switched instruments during a single song. This made up for very intricate arrangements and a Genre Roulette style of music in which one song could vary between hard rock, jazz, medieval tunes, baroque counterpoint, modernist sounds and soft ambience. Many prog-heads consider them to be one of the 'hardest' prog bands out there. In fact they are not that hard to listen to, however, since the compositions focus on catchy melodies, rhythms and clever songwriting in general. The compositions are very concise, not as long as the typical prog-fest and played almost totally clinically. This is not to say, however, that the band was dry or unemotional. It was noted by one fan that what made this band different from many other progressive rock bands was their almost punkish energy while playing and clear enthusiasm for the music they were performing live. (Just see their YouTube videos for clear examples)

They went to making pop songs in an effort to garner commercial success at the end of the '70s. Their sound, however, still proved too complex to appeal to a wide audience and they disbanded in 1980.

The lineups:

197072 Early line-up:

Phil Shulman: Lead vocals, clarinet, saxophones, trumpet
Derek Shulman: Lead vocals, saxophone, recorder
Ray Shulman: Bass, violin, trumpet, recorder, vocals
Kerry Minnear: Keyboards, vibraphone, cello, recorder, vocals
Gary Green: Guitars, recorder, vocals
Martin Smith: Drums (197071)
Malcolm Mortimore: Drums (197172)

197280: Classic lineup:

Derek Shulman: Lead vocals, saxophone, recorder
Ray Shulman: Bass, violin, trumpet, recorder, vocals
Kerry Minnear: Keyboards, vibraphone, cello, recorder, vocals
Gary Green: Guitars, recorder, vocals
John Weathers: Drums, percussion, vibraphone, vocals


  • Gentle Giant (1970)
  • Acquiring the Taste (1971)
  • Three Friends (1972)
  • Octopus (1972)
  • In a Glass House (1973)
  • The Power and the Glory (1974)
  • Free Hand (1975)
  • Interview (1976)
  • The Missing Piece (1977)
  • Giant for a Day! (1978)
  • Civilian (1980)

They have a very extensive article on the other wiki:

In a Glass Trope:

  • Album Title Drop: "Hail to power and to glory's way" appears in two songs on The Power and the Glory: "Proclamation" and "Valedictory".
  • All Drummers Are Animals: Sexy animals, as this video and the top comment prove.
  • Alucard: They have a song with this title that has lyrics which presumably refer to Dracula.
  • Bait and Switch: Acquiring the Taste has a cover that appears from the front to be a tongue licking two flesh-coloured cheeks, but the back reveals that it's just a flesh-coloured peach.
  • The Band Minus the Face: The departure of Phil Shulman was this. Derek says that he still doesn't know how the album following this departure got made, but they managed to carry on.
  • Band of Relatives: Three Shulman brothers formed the heart of the band in the early days. One of them dropped out.
  • Book Ends: In a Glass House begins and ends with the sound of breaking glass. The Power and the Glory begins with the song "Proclamation" and ends with "Valedictory", a song based off of the same tune but on distorted guitars instead of keyboards, as well as an overall darker mood.
  • Break Up Song: "Free Hand"
  • Christian Rock: After they disbanded, Kerry Minnear, a Methodist convert, tried to make a career in this genre.
  • Common Time: Mostly Averted. Sometimes played straight and sometimes played with: Often the time signature is 4/4, but the rhythms are still incredibly complex such as in the song So Sincere.
  • Concept Album: FOUR of them! (Specifically, Three Friends, In a Glass House, The Power and the Glory, and Interview).
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The cover of Acquiring the Taste.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Before forming Gentle Giant, the Shulman brothers played in a blue-eyed soul group called Simon Dupree & The Big Sound. When their attempts in soul proved commercially fruitless, they tried their hand at psychedelia (while still going under the Simon Dupree moniker) and got a Top Ten hit with "Kites". When they couldn't follow that up, they made the Beatles-esque single "We Are The Moles", this time going by The Moles. Due to the hype surrounding the anonymity of the Moles (at one point, it was speculated that The Beatles themselves had made it), sales of the single started to pick up, but quickly petered out when Syd Barrett (yes, that Syd Barrett) spilled the beans on the project. Eventually, the Shulman brothers gave up on Simon Dupree & The Big Sound and, out of its ashes, formed Gentle Giant.
  • Epic Rocking: Surprisingly averted. Their compositions manage to encompass much more in less time, it seems. They tended to mix things up live and play extended medleys however.
    • Well, mostly averted. There are exceptions; "Nothing at All" from the first album is over nine minutes long and they have other fairly long songs. Atypically for a Progressive Rock band, however, their average song length is about five minutes long.
    • A complete list of studio songs from their first eight albums over six minutes long: "Giant" (6:24), "Alucard" (6:02), "Nothing at All" (9:08), "Pantagruel's Nativity" (6:52), "The House, the Street, the Room" (6:03), "Plain Truth" (7:36), "Prologue" (6:14), "Schooldays" (7:37), "Peel the Paint" (7:32), "The Runaway" (7:16), "Way of Life" (7:53), "Experience" (7:50), "In a Glass House" (8:26), "Proclamation" (6:56), "Playing the Game" (6:46), "Free Hand" (6:16), "His Last Voyage" (6:27), "Interview" (6:54), "I Lost My Head" (6:59), for a total of nineteen examples. Most of their prog albums have two or three really long songs; the only one without any is Octopus (which still has "River", which almost qualifies for this trope at 5:51), while In a Glass House stands out having the most at four. Still, by prog standards their material is pretty short (as mentioned above their average song length on these albums is just upwards of five minutes), so one could say the trope is Zig-Zagged. Live, however, they could definitely indulge in this trope; the medley of Octopus material on Playing the Fool is almost sixteen minutes long, which qualifies even by prog standards, and that's not all.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The album Interview is a concept album of an interview.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: The concept album The Power and the Glory seems to speak of this; the first song describes an autocratic ruler asserting his authority over the people; the following songs talk of an ambitious person attempting to gain power and set things right, but the final song on the original album is a reprise of the first, with the new chorus "Things must stay, there must be no change; anyway, time to rearrange"
  • Genre Roulette: Up to Eleven
  • Gentle Giant: Yes, the band also has a literal example of this trope - Their mascot.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The album cover for Acquiring the Taste, which shows a tongue drooling over someone's buttocks. It's actually a peach.
  • Gratuitous Panning: Required so that the listener may keep up with different simultaneous lines in the music.
  • Happily Married: Most of the band these days. Phil Shulman left the band to keep it so.
  • Large Ham: Derek Shulman's stage performance may come off as this.
  • Love Nostalgia Song: "Think of Me with Kindness" from Octopus.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: The Missing Piece.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: 15.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Early on, they were very blues-influenced, but later had mediaeval and classical influences as well. Later albums included reggae-, new wave- and punk-tinged songs.
  • New Sound Album: Though every album has a certain continuity, they vary things up quite a bit.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Alucard", "Pantagruel's Nativity", "Prologue", "The Advent of Panurge", "Knots", "An Inmate's Lullaby", "A Reunion", "Proclamation", "Valedictory", "Mobile", "Interview", "Design", "Empty City" and all the instrumentals.
  • Progressive Rock
  • Pun-Based Title: The fourth album Octopus is a work consisting of eight tracks: an octo - opus.
  • Rock Opera: The Power and the Glory is an unusual one at that. It speaks of government corruption.
  • Rockstar Song: Most of the songs from the concept album Interview deal with rockstardom.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: An Inmate's Lullaby is about a man in a mental hospital.
  • Self-Titled Album: Their debut.
  • Something Something Leonard Bernstein: The band has polyphonic songs in which multiple lyrical lines are sung simultaneously. Makes following the lyrics almost impossible without looking them up.
  • Studio Chatter: Intentional on Interview.
    • A somewhat humorous example also occurs on the song "The Face" from The Power and the Glory, when one can quite audibly hear an enthusiastic "Oh, WOW!" after a very fast electric violin solo. Liner notes from a CD release reveal that this was Ray realizing he ended the solo a few bars too soon.
  • Uncommon Time: As humorously illustrated here. A few songs utilize polymeter, such as "Just the Same", which uses simultaneous 6/4 and 7/4 in its verses.
  • Vocal Tag Team: All of the members sung. In the early stages the band had three lead vocalists: Derek for the rocky songs, Phil for the folksy, dreamy songs and Kerry for the classically-inspired ones. Gary Green & Phil Shulman both often sang harmony vocals, and John Weathers has been known to sing lead on a couple songs.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Knots" is described as a "musical jigsaw", inspired by RD Laing. It's further complicated by the complexity of the music.