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Gentle Giant – Octopus (Reissue) Award winner

Gentle Giant
Octopus (Reissue)
by Mike McMahan at 29 April 2020, 6:30 PM

December of 1972 saw the release of “Octopus,” the fourth studio album from Progressive Rock masters GENTLE GIANT. This record, reportedly named by Phil Shulman’s wife Roberta as a play on “octo opus” (eight tracks), continued the band’s broad experimental style; integrating elements of rock, jazz, soul, and classical music into their sound. The album also utilized the inspiration of literary works, a trait which first reared its head on the 1971 album “Acquiring the Taste” and the song “Pantagruel’s Nativity.” “Octopus,” as a matter of fact, opens with the song “The Advent of Panurge,” which draws inspiration from the same source, Francois Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel.

This opener is a fine example of GENTLE GIANT’s virtuosic musical abilities. The song opens on a fairly soft note, with an incredibly mixed, almost choral effect on the vocal. The band had experimented with these vocal stylings very effectively with the song “Schooldays,” found on the third release from earlier in 1972, “Three Friends.” The vocals and the softer feel soon break into a more modern and progressively heavy song that beautifully displays the musical complexity the band had become famous for.

The following song, “Raconteur Troubadour,” brings an almost medieval feel to this release. Again, a softer feel persists, with sweeping strings and quieter percussion added into the production. The song also features the gorgeous vocal work of keyboardist extraordinaire Kerry Minnear. “A Cry for Everyone” presents a much heavier side to the band; at times almost reminding me of fellow proggers JETHRO TULL. “Knots,” the fourth track, again features the broken choral mix found at the onset of “The Advent of Panurge.” The song also draws heavily on literary works; this time Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Lang’s book of the same name. The song gives the listener the disjointed and uneasy feeling you might expect from such inspiration.

This current re-release is an incredible sounding remaster of one of GENTLE GIANT’s finest works. The material is heady, intelligent, and incredibly complex. While certainly not for everyone, their work demands the attention of any serious fan of the genre.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. The Advent of Panurge
2. Raconteur Troubadour
3. A Cry for Everyone
4. Knots
5. The Boys in the Band
6. Dog’s Life
7. Think of Me With Kindness
8. River
Gary Green – Electric Guitars (Tracks 1,3,4,5 and 6), Percussion
Kerry Minnear – Piano (Tracks 1-5, 7-8), Hammond Organ (1-5,7-8), Minimoog (Tracks 1,3,5 and 8), Electric Piano (Tracks 2,4 and 8), Mellotron (Tracks 2, 7-8), Clavinet, Harpsichord, Regal, Vibraphone (Tracks 4 and 8), Cello (Tracks 2 and 6), Percussion, Lead and Backing Vocals
Derek Shulman – Lead vocals, Alto Sax (Track 5)
Phil Shulman – Trumpet (Tracks 1-2), Tenor Sax (Tracks 4-5), Mellophone (Track 7), Lead and Backing Vocals
Ray Shuiman – Bass, Violin, Viola, Electric Violin, Acoustic Guitar
(Track 6), Percussion, Backing Vocals
John Weathers – Drums, Varispeed Cymbal (Tracks 4 and 8), Xylophone (Tracks 4 and 6)
Record Label: Alucard Music


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Edited 07 December 2022

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