Sea Of Tranquility

The Web Source for Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal & Jazz-Fusion
  Search   in       
Main Menu

Gentle Giant: Free Hand (2021 remaster)

If ever a band can hold the mantle, under appreciated, then it might just be Gentle Giant, the UK progressive rock outfit which lived and thrived between the years 1970 and 1980, never quite becoming one of the leading lights of the prog genre in terms of units shifted or the size of venues they played. And yet, look over their ten year’s worth of effort and their catalogue stands up to the best of them and then some.

For many, and I may be one of them, the pinnacle of that output is seen as Free Hand, which landed in 1975 and while this new remix/master - this time at the hands of current go-to chap for that task, Steven Wilson - isn’t the first time we’ve had a chance to reappraise this album through new ears, this really is, for me anyway, the way to do it. The 35th anniversary remix of Free Hand was in itself something of a revelation, a whole new life given to an already vibrant piece of work but I’ve no hesitation in suggesting that Free Hand 2021 moves things on more than step or two. For the uninitiated, and there can’t be that many of those reading SoT, because a certain Peter Pardo is a massive fan of the band, then how best to describe Free Hand? Arguably, it’s the most accessible side of the double G, the band’s ability to get in and out and make a huge impression as they did so, possibly never as effective as the likes of “Free Hand” itself, “Just The Same” or “Time To Kill” undoubtedly are. Here, however, it’s as though Wilson was given the keys to the songs themselves and allowed to clarify what their message was always meant to be. Each instrument is allowed its own space and time but even more importantly, while there’s space in between the sounds, the manner in which they all still talk to one another is sublime.

Slap on a pair of headphones and soak in the sheer conglomeration of events that occur mid “Free Hand” itself, as synth lines, guitar riffs, falsetto vocals, piano, tumbling drums and everything else rain down before hitting the ground in a way that brings them together into a coherent picture that tells an intricate, believable story. And then, of course, there’s the choral delight and percussive powerhouse of “On Reflection”, a song that’s long felt like being spun around in a hall of mirrors, with this mix retaining that intensity while highlighting its inner beauty anew. Personally, when I hear cuts like the cleverly arranged and surprinsly upbeat “Just The Same” or “Time To Kill”, I can’t help but feel that Gentle Giant foresaw the sprightly turn that prog would take in the 80s five years before they arrived, so ahead of its time did this 1975 album sound. Whether that helped them at the time, I’m not so sure, but it certainly has kept this album fresh and vibrant.

Always the sign of a band with tremendous instincts, “His Last Voyage” slows the pace while holding the attention before “Talybont” adds a medieval flavour that dances for your delight. Closing on the darting, violin driven “Mobile” and its constant shift of moods and atmosphere, it’s difficult not to become just a little fanatical about Free Hand, an album that has always been something a little special, but which now becomes utterly amazing.

How I’ve managed to get this far into Free Hand without even doffing my cap to those involved - Gary Green, Kerry Minnear, Derek Shulman, Ray Shulman and John Weathers - I’m not sure, but lets just say that to make something this special, the talents of the band need to be rather tasty. With this remaster, their cake has been well and truly iced, while with the version that comes with an additional blu-ray of mixes - all of which come with fantastic themed, bespoke visuals - its positively raining cherries for us to put on top!

Track Listing
1. Just The Same
2. On Reflection
3. Free Hand
4. Time To Kill
5. His Last Voyage
6. Talybont
7. Mobile

Added: August 21st 2021
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Gentle Giant Music
Hits: 982
Language: english

[ Printer Friendly Page Printer Friendly Page ]
[ Send to a Friend Send to a Friend ]


[ Back to the Reviews Index | Post Comment ]

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
For information regarding where to send CD promos and advertising, please see our FAQ page.
If you have questions or comments, please Contact Us.
Please see our Policies Page for Site Usage, Privacy, and Copyright Policies.

All logos and trademarks in this site are property of their respective owner. The comments are property of their posters, all other content Sea of Tranquility

SoT is Hosted by