Three Piece Suite
by David Chiu
Photo by By Heinrich Klaffs via Wikimedia Commons
While not as popular in America as their peers Jethro Tull, Genesis, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and King Crimson, Britain’s Gentle Giant were nevertheless a cornerstone progressive rock band throughout the Seventies. Led by the Shulman brothers—Phil, Derek and Ray—Gentle Giant were known for their versatile multi-instrumental talents, different lead and blended voices, and adventurous songs that verged between quiet and loud and incorporated influences like the blues,jazz, folk. Three Piece Suite is a new 1-CD/1 Blu-ray compilation featuring selections off of the band’s first three and best albums: Gentle Giant (1970), Acquiring the Taste (1971), and Three Friends (1972)—all remixed by Steven Wilson. For those who have never listened to Gentle Giant, Three Piece Suite is a fitting introduction highlighted by several epic songs: i.e. the opening cut “Giant,” which really sets the tone of the group’s music defined by shifting tempos, esoteric lyrics, and moments of reflection and swagger; “Nothing at All,” which begins as this gentle folk ballad, that morphs into free jazz, accented by explosive drumming and piano runs; “Peel the Paint” comes somewhat close to something accessible, reminiscent of mid-’70s Jethro Tull; and “School Days” has this delicate factory-like quirky cuckoo-clock vibe. Inclusion of songs from Octopus would’ve really made this a really killer set, but this new collection more than a serviceable entry for the uninitiated. The Blu-ray edition features not only the same tracklist as the CD but also contains all of Gentle Giant, Acquiring the Taste, and Three Friends in their original album mixes, instrumental versions of the songs, and a demo version of “Freedom’s Child.” That’s the thing to admire about Gentle Giant—they for the most part stuck to their musical guns without following trends in creating music that’s both challenging and satisfying.