The post-Interview period for Gentle Giant generally takes a lot of heat from the prog rock faithful, as the band entered into poppier and more commercial waters for a few albums, ultimately beginning the eventual demise of the band. The Missing Piece was the start of this period, and while the album is a far cry from ultra complex and progressive works of Octopus, Free Hand, In a Glass House, The Power and the Glory, Three Friends, and Acquiring the Taste, it still has its moments despite most of the material being pretty bouncy & straightforward pop and rock songs. Derek Shulman and DRT Entertainment have remastered the album and included all the original artwork and lyrics.
The opener "Two Weeks in Spain" is a vibrant and quirky opener with insistent guitar licks from Gary Green and a charming vocal from Derek Shulman, as well as airy keyboards from Kerry Minnear. While lyrically and musically it's pretty light pop fare, and a big change from what you would normally expect from Gentle Giant, the song really works. "I'm Turning Around" is a poignant rocker about forging a new life after a break-up, with strong vocals from Shulman and effective riffs from Green's guitar and Minnear's organ.
The band tackles the then- popular punk movement with "Betcha Thought We Couldn't Do It", and I'm sure many longtime fans wished they didn't. Although an admirable attempt to keep up with the genre that was essentially responsible for putting an end to prog-rock, hearing the mighty Gentle Giant pounding away here sounds a bit forced. Gary Green does though get a chance to really rock out on this one. In fact, his bluesy licks are all over the straighforward yet lazy rock piece "Who Do You Think You Are?", and work well alongside Minnear's honky tonk piano melodies on the rumbling "Mountain Time".
It's the second half of the CD that is most representative of the classic Gentle Giant sound. "As Old As You're Young" sounds like it could have come off Three Friends, a warm little ditty with layers of vocals, Minnear's clever use of a myriad of keyboards, slippery bass work from Ray Shulman, and John Weathers' nimble jazzy drum work. The most endearing piece on the album, and the one that most fans remember, is the acoustic majesty of "Memories of Old Days". Here, Derek Shulman pulls out all the stops for one of his most heartfelt vocal performances, and the dual acoustic guitar textures from Ray and Gary are just magical. Complemented by Minnear's sumptuous keyboards, this is just a stunning piece, and easily the best song from the band from this era in their history. "Winning" sees John Weathers laying down all sorts of percussion and tricky drum signatures, while the rest of the band rocks out with searing guitars and Hammond for a quirky and rocking good time. The closer, "For Nobody" is a driving rocker led by Minnear's raging Hammond riffs and Green intricate guitar lines. This remaster includes a bonus live version of this song recorded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1977.
While The Missing Piece is far from being a classic Gentle Giant album, there's still enough strong tracks to warrant its place in the overall scheme of must have albums by the band. It might be "missing" some of the unique interplay that the band was known for, and Ray Shulman seems to be playing a lesser role here, but with at least a few killer tracks and some mediocre yet good pop songs, it's worth checking out if you haven't already.
1. Two Weeks In Spain
2. I'm Turning Around
3. Betcha Thought We Couldn't Do It
4. Who Do You Think You Are?
5. Mountain Time
6. As Old As You're Young
7. Memories Of Old Days
9. For Nobody
10. For Nobody-bonus live , Cleveland 1977