Gentle Giant - Giant On The Box (DVD/CD)
Gentle Giant may not have been big league as far as the money stakes were concerned but their popularity now amongst the prog fraternity is probably greater than it has ever been.
I first heard Gentle Giant on Alan Freeman's Saturday Rock Show back in the 70's but the music (an excerpt from Octopus I think) did little to whet my appetite. It was some twenty years later in 1994 when on a trip to the continent, HHH's Danny Mayo popped In A Glass House in the 'prog mobile', that I realised that I had missed out on one of prog's most inventive bands.
Octopus still does not do much for me but then that is the strange thing about their music; Giant fans differ widely in their opinions of what is the best and worst albums and tracks and while In A Glass House may be someone's favourite album, another Giant fan somewhere will hate it.
The one thing all Giant fans will agree on, is that an official DVD of the band is long overdue, so this first and possibly only release is to be treasured. Featuring television footage from 74/75, the main and best part of this collection is the 50 minute recording of the 'Sunday Concert', filmed in a Brussels film studio and broadcast on German TV station ZDF. The set list contains at least one track that will delight (in my case, The Runaway) from their heyday and shows just how versatile the band were. Whilst many prog bands of the time would stand motionless on stage, the Gentle Giant chaps were animated, clearly getting into the groove of their complex style. The 'Extras' section of the DVD consists of an interview with the band, albeit in Italian (a translation should appear on the Gentle Giant homepage at www.blazemonger.com/GG/video/giant.on.the.box.html soon) with music and live footage, and a photo gallery featuring a selection of photos from Gary Green's private collection.
The music for the into and menu is an all too short bonus. Carrying on in the vein of the Gentle Giant style, Kerry Minnear specially composed and performed these pieces for the DVD. The sound is modern yet classic and concentrates on the funky side of things. If a Gentle Giant reunion is out of the question, perhaps there's hope that Kerry will be encouraged to record a solo album expanding on these pieces.
The accompanying CD is an audio only representation of the German concert.
Bearing in mind the footage was filmed for television broadcast in the 70's, the quality of picture and sound is pretty good and no enjoyment is lost due to the lack of 5.1 or DTS soundtrack. Sound is in fact PCM. The Italian television interview is in monochrome and dubbed in Italian, with no English subtitles unfortunately for those of us who do not speak the language.
Don't miss the great new Minnear intro music to the DVD (but if you do, you can repeat the intro by selecting Extras). The menu music may find you hovering for a while before selecting one of the four options and note the blinking eyes of each of the four 'Giants' in representations of TV screens. The CD is contained within the DVD box on a flip-over tray and there's a folded four page inner leaflet with a synopsis of the sections on the reverse side and a selection of photos on the inner pages.
The DVD is NTSC format region 1-6, with a picture aspect ratio of 4:3 (standard 'square' TV). Note that the DVD should be playable on all DVD players and televisions (bar TVs that are not NTSC compatible. Check the handbook. Pal DVD players should be set to ‘auto’).
There are many sub-genres of progressive rock but I feel that Gentle Giant managed to capture the true spirit of prog. They had a unique style which no band has, before or since, duplicated in any way except for the odd bar or two of a track (and the great Giant Tracks CD which may be still available for purchase - see the Giant website for details). One thing that became obvious to me when watching this great DVD was that aspects of the music touched on that of Jethro Tull and perhaps Gryphon in a couple of places so if you are a fan of either of these bands and have yet to hear Gentle Giant, this may just be the time to dip a toe in the water. The DVD is available from Kerry Minnear's Alucard Music (click on first link below) and is selling like hot cakes I understand. As only some 2,000 copies were pressed, better not leave it too long.
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