Classic line-up. 1972-1980 Left to right - D. Shulman, R.Shulman, Green, Weathers, 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." —Sleeve text from the second album, Acquiring the Taste.
Gentle Giant was an English Progressive Rock band active in the 1970s.The line-up's:
1970-72 Early line-up
Phil Shulman: Lead vocals, clarinet, saxophones, trumpet
Derek Shulman: Lead vocals, saxophone, recorder
Ray Shulman: Bass, violin, trumpet, recorder, vocals
John Weathers: Drums, percussion, vibraphone, vocals
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 of that)Sadly, the band burned out creatively at the end of the decade and went to making pop songs - an endeavor frowned upon by the band in it's earlier stages. Their sound, however, still proved too complex to appeal to a wide audience and they disbanded in 1980.The discography:
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 Beatle-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, thatSyd 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.
Full-Circle Revolution: The Concept AlbumThe 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"
Vocal Tag Team: All of the members sung. In the early stages the band had three lead vocalists: Derek for the rock'y songs, Phil for the folky, dreamy songs and Kerry for thee classically-inspired ones.