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."
—Sleeve text from the second album, Acquiring the Taste.

Gentle Giant was an English Progressive Rock band active in the 1970s.

The line-ups:

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

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 its earlier stages. Their sound, however, still proved too complex to appeal to a wide audience and they disbanded in 1980.

The discography:
  • 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:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentle_Giant

This band contains examples of the following tropes

  • Album Filler: The last three albums were made wholly of these.
  • Album Title Drop
  • 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 appear from the front to be a tongue between 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 the group 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 their second album is a tongue licking a peach. It looks like something else, if one only views the front however. This is intentional.
  • 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, 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.
  • 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"