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Gentle Giant: Giant on the Box (DVD)

It's's finally here! At long last, quality historical footage of one of the most important progressive rock bands of the 1970's is presented in DVD format, in a deluxe package for all fans to enjoy. Almost two hours of vintage Gentle Giant, taped from 1974-75 at various locations in Germany, Brussels, the USA, and Italy. Most of this material has been floating around the market on poor, bootleg, multiple generation VHS tapes over the years, and now the footage has been restored and presented for the best possible viewing and listening pleasure. This special edition set also contains an extra bonus CD with the audio portion of the 1974 show in Brussels aired on the German TV station ZDF, which was a fantastic performance of the band. Now you get the best of two worlds-watch the show, and listen to the show on your home or car stereo as well.

The ZDF performance was taped in a television studio in front of a somewhat tranquil audience, perhaps put there not knowing who in the world Gentle Giant was. Throughout the 50 minute set, the folks in attendance barely applaud (perhaps told to do so by the TV crew), which one would think would be a confidence buster for the band. Not necessarily for this band, as Gentle Giant tears through songs from Power and the Glory, Octopus, In a Glass House and their self titled debut. The highlights-well there are many. The rocking, complex "Cogs in Cogs", the gorgeous melancholy of "Funny Ways" featuring some great violin and cello from Ray Shulman and Kerry Minnear(plus a monumental vibes solo), the amazing "Features from Octopus", the recorder quartet ripping out "Yankee Doodle Dandy", and the five-man drum finale. Simply a powerful performance in every way. Sadly, the one drawback is that the camera crew shot very few full band sequences, as most of the filming was of individual players, and many head shots. One enjoyable aspect of this fact though is you get to see drummer John Weathers close up-this guy was a monster player, and you get to see his nimble and manic style up close, not to mention his many facial expressions. Overall, the band was firing on all cylinders, and this remains one of their best recorded performances.

The 1975 US TV Concert footage (California) is another quality performance from the band, with a similar set list, and brings perhaps better audio & video clarity than the ZDF footage. Roughly 31 minutes, the band runs through four tunes, the most powerful being the rampaging "Advent of Panurge", as well another top-notch "Octopus" medley. Seeing the acoustic guitar duo between Ray Shulman and Gary Green is a marvel to behold, and the two seem to be connected telepathically. Green always was an underrated guitar player in my book, and Shulman could really do it all on many instruments. Brother Derek Shulman's vocals are a little stronger on this set than the ZDF show, and the virtuoso keyboard work of Minnear is as impressive as always.

Also included is a short clip from Szene 1974, with mostly Gary Green and John Weathers jamming to an instrumental part of "In a Glass House" (with some heavy guitar work from Green), as well as some B&W live and interview clips from Italy from that same year. There is also a nice photo gallery section from Gary Green's archives, which is mainly studio stuff (including shots of older Shulman brother Phil), plus the previosly mentioned bonus CD.

An essential purchase for Gentle Giant fans, that goes without saying. While it would be perfect had some earlier or later footage of the band be available to complement this set and give some song variety (most of the material covers the same songs), that can easily be overlooked seeing how much historical value this DVD contains. One huge surpise is the inclusion of new instrumental music from Kerry Minnear that is featured on the intro to the DVD and the main menu. Once GG fans hear this brief musical bliss they will be clamoring for more new music from Minnear & the rest of the band!

Track Listing
German TV ZDF 1974-Brussels
1) Cogs in Cogs
2) Proclamation
3) Funny Ways
4) The Runaway
5) Experience
6) Features From Octopus
7) Advent of Panurge
8) So Sincere
US TV Concert 1975
1) Experience
2) Features From Octopus
3) Advent of Panurge
4) Funny Ways
Szene 1974
1) Guitar & drums from In a Glass House
1) Baroque & Roll-black and white film from Italian TV featuring live footage & interviews
2) Photo Gallery from Gary Green's private collection

Bonus CD
same set list as German TV ZDF 1974

Added: July 7th 2004
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Gentle Giant Website
Hits: 14715
Language: english

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Gentle Giant: Giant on the Box (DVD)
Posted by on 2006-03-10 15:35:08
My Score:

Christus! I was a mere mid twenties person when Giant was in my LP collection. So when I saw this DVD at the local record emporium .. I thought I was seeing things. AS most folks of my age group never heard of Gentle Giant even the first time round and certainly newer musophiles certainly wont .... this was to me like a secret find that only I had spotted ... apparently not. Its an American import and my golly they did as good a job here as they could have considering the limited amount of live footage that was ever shot of them anyway. Cruelly underrated ... compared to say .. Yes, Genesis et al .. this lot were as well known as Messrs. Anderson ... Gabriel etc .. but musically they compared and sometimes even surpassed their 'peers' in their sheer instrumenatal diversity, melodic hyperthreading(!) and technical perfection .. even live!. Indeed their recorded stuff differs very little apart from the odd `new solo' when performed on stage. This is the first time I have ever SEEN them.. and they are just as expressive visually as they are aurally ... especially the percussion!.And despite their superlative superiority over most groups in their time and certainly of the present day ... they were refreshingly unassuming and unaffected in their approach to the media and their audiences. Nice. Talking of visuals .. theres a VH1 interview with the founder member Derek chatting to a fat Yank chappie in a `where are they now' type interview. The actual chat is about as indepth as a Davina McCall discussion .. however old time and burgers have not been kind to our favourite Giant-Meister .. yet when he prevaricates over whether Gentle Giant will ever reform.. it makes one stil want to ask "if you are still on speaking terms with the rest of the band .. if they are all still alive and if you are willing to relearn all the notes from scratch ... could you not just do ONE last concert .. release a single and show these young Westlife-Watchers what a REAL BAND was?". Will it ever happen?. Probably about as likely as Mr. Shulman losing his adopted transatlantic accent.Oh bolleaux then!. And to make matters worse... the intro music to the DVD is `all new for 2005' and is the catchiest riff EVER! If ever one needed proof that Giant still can `cut the Marmite' ("Mustard, surely?"-Ed) then this was it. Argh!. From the 51 minute German concert ... utilising Kraftwerk Dummies for an audience to the acceptably 30 minute session with our American cousins to the quirky Italian TV interview and that obscure show that lasts about 5 minutes ... this IS musical heaven .. poorly shot and badly recorded perhaps .. remember this WAS the Seventies... but nonetheless a most excellent effort all round. IN fact whoever was responsible for putting this DVD together with the limited amount of `bumf' available should step forward and take a bow. Its excellently presented and packaged .. right down to snazzy wee labels on the DVD and the `bonus CD' (Film Reel and Vinyl Disc) .. someone who is/was a Giant fan was quite evidently responsible here. Thank gawd. If not then this would have either been restricted to the bargain bin of obscurity ... instead its a fantastic representation of progressive rock at its very best. Well done that man/woman!. Criticisms?, None. Its worth twice the price .. BUT my only whinge is .. why has it taken so long to roll out?. YES bring out a new DVD about ever year and churn out all the old faves without any embarrassment or worry ... our Gentle Giant friends have to make do with ONE. Well thats not quite true. They have brought out a later DVD (tho apparently with the less good later tracks ... damn!) but I say `tish and fipsy' to that. There MUST be more reels of in the lofts of record companies somewhere of this group celebre SOMEWHERE?. So I say .. two things in a rather grumpy shouting-state .... "Oi! Mr. EMI .. or Madame Polydor ... raid yer annals in the privacy of your own homes .. and lets get Gentle Giant DVD Crazy!" and after taking a big breath I'd then exclaim .. "Oi ... Derek/Derek-Brothers/Keyboard and Drummy bloke ... get yer aristotles in gear .. get back in the studio, `do a Pink Floyd' and get `oot there' again ... even for a one off .. but this time round ... for goodness sakes .. get Speilberg to video it this time round!". Oh sorry . they've gone now. And I forgot to add they all wanna maybe lose a bit of weight and consider a diet change .. and that but ...hey .. no.. forget that .. just get back behind the microphones and music stands and get doing what yer do best.. no.. not producing OTHER groups not writing advertising jingleor walking about the streets advertising local grocery dealers on sandwich boards .. you're better than that ... oh forget it then. I can hope can't I, readers?. Anyway ... look .. if you havent got this DVD .. order it right now. Yes .. NOW!. Leave a message on the answering machine of the shop if needed and go in and pay for it tomorrow AM ... and if you do have the DVD already .. I say we all get together and put forward a national petition to get these obviously-underused geniuses back on the road where they belong ... there. Is that enough?. Have I conveyed my enthusiasmf or these brilliant artists?. No?. Well Im sorry. You get back to listening to Shania Twain-A-Likes / James Blunt-A-Bores and Strummy Balladeers who you have to enjoy by National Radio Law and we'll all reminisce all about what it was like when `music diversity was king'. Aye. Ok. Thats it. Now you can go!. See you at Hyde Park Corner soapbox corner .. polling for Giant to get mobilised and music-ing again afore the rigor sets in completely!. Thanks for listening!. :-)

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