This gargantuan package – a ten-LP set now compressed into a chunky six-CD box – once was derided as the ultimate ego trip, probably by many who didn't take the time to hear it all. You have to go back to Art Tatum's solo records for Norman Granz in the '50s to find another large single outpouring of solo jazz piano like this, all of it improvised on the wing before five Japanese audiences in Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo, and Sapporo. Yet the miracle is how consistently good much of this giant box is.
Essential: A masterpiece of progressive rock music.
Admittedly, many prog rock fans with otherwise excellent taste in music find Gentle Giant rather hard to get into. Their music certainly is challenging, and very varied in flavour. At times it evokes Medieval music, at other times there are a cappella vocals delivered in a quasi-“round” format, in company with passages that veer from moments of delicate beauty to “rocking out.” All of these musical paths, and more, are often explored within the space of a single song. (Of course, that could be part of a generic description of progressive rock.) Gentle Giant have an inimitable style that is difficult to categorize; they must be heard to be understood. Perhaps only those with the most open musical minds will find them at all accessible. Certainly, though major players of the 70s prog scene, “Giant” never fully rose above their cult status to approach the popularity and critical acclaim of contemporaries like Genesis, Yes, ELP, Pink Floyd or Jethro Tull. (Though Gentle Giant don’t really sound like any of those heavyweights, their music bears a somewhat closer resemblance to that of ‘Tull, than any of the others mentioned.)