GENTLE GIANT: Live at the Bicentennial 1976 (double CD on Alucard)
This 2014 release features 94 minutes of classic progrock music recorded live at the Calderone Theatre, in Hempstead, New York, on July 3, 1976.
The band line-up is: Derek Shulman (on lead vocals, saxophone, recorder, bass and drums), Ray Schulman (on bass, violin, drums, acoustic guitar, recorder and backing vocals), Kerry Minnear (on keyboards, cello, vibraphone, xylophone, drums, recorder and backing vocals), Gary Green (on guitar, xylophone, drums, recorder, and backing vocals), and John Weathers (on drums, vibraphone, xylophone, percussion, and backing vocals).
One of the band's strengths lie in their multi-layered vocal harmonies, combining voices into lilting threads that wobble and cavort, chasing complex melodies down unexpected avenues to glorious choral pinnacles.
While flourishing in their own rights, the rest of the instruments blend into a fluid mass that goes way past gestalt to become a wondrous unique unity.
The guitar snarls with a jovial kick, delivering riffs that sneakily creep along in the sonic cracks, almost undetectable until they sidle forth to captivate the stage with their sparkling resonance.
The keyboards pursue shimmering structures that undulate through the mix with sinuous results, infecting everything with a smooth character. On occasion, the keys are nimble-fingered to the max, producing engaging riffs of dazzling complexity.
The drums are strong and driving when necessary, but can switch to delicate twinkling beats to match more pacific passages. The breaking glass rhythms that serve as an intro to "The Runaway" are a classic experience that still satisfies nowadays.
The bass contributes vivid chords that rumble with masterful puissance, often adopting a lead vantage rather than lurking in the mix.
The presence of orchestral instruments (violin, recorder, etc) lends the tuneage a cerebral touch that transcends highbrow impressions and nestles in the brain as a pleasant embellishment. While the frequent application of xylophones bestows the music with bouncy jubilation.
These compositions combine rollicking rock with overwhelming progressive sentiments, tossing in a bit of folk and Celtic influences for good measure (long before it was fashionable). A dedication to intricate structure and a predilection for switching time signatures without warning are keynote elements in this music. This unpredictability establishes a delightful freedom without deviating from the melodies-at-hand.
The band is in fine form as they present a selection of their now-classic tuneage; included are "Timing" with a fevered extra-long violin solo, and the Jamaican-influenced "Give It Back" (these tunes were rarely in the band's live repertoire), and a 17 minute selection of material from Octopus.
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