Gentle Giant

Giant for a Day!

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When one considers the musical achievements of Gentle Giant -- the composition and execution of some of the best progressive rock from 1971-1976 -- one wonders why this talented band would lower themselves to 4/4 rockers and five-minute ballads. The fairytale "rise of punk/fall of prog" of the '70s led to The Missing Piece (1977), which found the band testing the waters with more "normal" songs and a diluted complexity. Outside pressure for sales and a dwindling market forced the band to reconsider their future, and Gentle Giant took nearly a year off. They played only one show in 1978 (filmed and recorded by the BBC) and delivered Giant for a Day! by the year's end. With the cartoon-cutout album cover, the band trumpets their new makeover from the get-go. Its playfulness matches the straightforward, bright sounds of the music found inside. Although Gentle Giant was shooting for mainstream, fans can grab on to occasional moments of delight, such as the ensemble singing of "Words from the Wise," a cute instrumental (the almost too-cute "Spooky Boogie"), and the mature pop complexity of "No Stranger," where you'll think the band were listening to too much Steely Dan the day they wrote it. Two rockers on the album, "Rock Climber" and "Little Brown Bag," are probably the most effective cuts, with lean arrangements, tasty edges, and Derek Shulman's powerful lead vocals. So did it work? Of course not. The album failed in the charts and is now the laughing stock of the Gentle Giant discography. It only proved that the few souls who actually bought the band's albums should never have been sold this. But this band is too good to laugh this one off completely.

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