Review: Gentle Giant- Three Piece Suite

Gentle Giant was together from 1970-1980 releasing eleven studio recordings and one live album (Posthumously there has been a treasure chest of live and studio rarities).  Their decade of musical brilliance has left an everlasting inseparableness between band and fans.

Those that were part of the journey from the 1970 self-titled album until the final curtain “Civilian” can attest to the factual reality they were not only one the most important groups to emerge out of the Progressive Rock Movement but of their time.

The Shulman Brothers: Derek, Ray, and Phil were looking for more artistic freedom and not being pigeon-holed into the three-minute pop element.  They had witnessed this first hand during the predecessor to Gentle Giant with their group Simon Dupree and the Big Sound.  A European hit “Kites” (1967) was anything but satisfactory to the three brothers.

Fast-forward three years and the birth of a giant.  “Three Piece Suite” is available in three formats for the consumer.  The standard CD and vinyl recordings as well as a Blue-Ray version.
Steven Wilson (Noted musician in Porcupine Tree, No-Man, and Blackfield to name a few) who remixed the Gentle Giant “Octopus” album has been summoned again for the latest project.  As lead-singer Derek Shulman states “He brings the lows, the mids, and the highs into more perspective.”

Tony Visconti (Known also for his work with David Bowie and T-Rex) who produced the first two Gentle Giant releases “Gentle Giant” and “Acquiring the Taste” had developed an instant chemistry with the band by affording the musicians friendship, expertise, and guidance without it becoming a dictatorial affair.  Steven Wilson’s willingness to enhance and not reinvent is obvious in the superlative sounds that encompass the works on “Three Piece Suite.”

Gentle Giant and Steven Wilson have been able to bridge the normal division of posthumous releases.  The fanatic often claims there is nothing of significance while the causal ear has trepidation if this is right for them.

The early phase of Gentle Giant (As a six-piece unit) is offered here.  While musicians were multifaceted the general make-up of the first two recordings were Derek Shulman- lead vocals, Ray Shulman- bass, and backing vocals, Phil Shulman- sax, trumpet, and vocals, Kerry Minnear- keyboards and vocals, Garry Green- guitars and backing vocals, and Martin Smith- drums.  Martin would be replaced for the third album “Three Friends” by Malcolm Mortimore as the band was looking for a more diverse style of playing for the ever-increasing complexity of their work.  Phil Shulman would exit the group after the fourth effort “Octopus.”

The allurement of the seamless blend of the selections from the first three offerings cannot be overstated. While the thought-process each entailed differ in emotions and human feelings the band’s sound and Steven Wilson’s control room magic are able to make it a natural and never forced progression.  For the initial release “Gentle Giant” the theme is rebirth after having the albatross of Simon Dupree and the Big Sound eradicated from their shoulders, minds, and instruments.  The second “Acquiring the Taste” showcases a bitter side.  The balancing act of being truthful to oneself but paying the bills became a reality as the initial offering although magnificent to those that procured, did not sell the units the band and record company had been striving for.  Part three of the trilogy “Three Friends” signals changes in life and the reality of getting older.

For those seeking an introduction to the earlier side of Gentle Giant the selected tracks are a defectless indoctrination.  From the opening notes of “Giant” to the sheer power of “Peel the Paint” one listen will have you intrigued.  By the second helping, you will be eagerly searching for an abundance of product from the boys in the band.

Those that have several decades of unwavering history with the group can add a missing piece in the “Nothing At All” edit as well as hearing nine instrumental versions of tracks where vocals normally shined (ten including “Freedom’s Child”), and by chance if your copy of “Under Construction” is not handy “Freedom’s Child” never sounded better in more comfortable surroundings.
The standard CD and vinyl release (which is a blessing to those that grew up with the warmth an LP delivered) include remixes:

  • Giant (from Gentle Giant)
  • Nothing At All (from Gentle Giant including the Martin Smith drum-solo as heard on the original album)
  • Why Not? (from Gentle Giant)
  • Pantagruel’s Nativity (from Acquiring Taste)
  • The House, The Street, The Room (from Acquiring Taste)
  • Schooldays (from Three Friends)
  • Peel The Paint (from Three Friends)
  • Mister Class And Quality? (from Three Friends)
  • Three Friends (from Three Friends)
  • Freedom’s Child (written before the recording of the first album)
    • Nothing At All (Steven Wilson 7 inch edit without Martin Smith drum-solo)

The Blue-Ray edition includes:

Disc 1 – Blu-Ray Audio (The first 10 tracks are remixed in 5.1 DTS Stereo).  Of the twenty-one songs that encompassed the first three albums only the above nine songs had the availability of multi-track tapes as well as the non-record release “Freedom’s Child.”

As an unanticipated surprise, the Blue-Ray lets us experience the ten tracks in instrumental form, making it a must own for the completest.  The entire contents of the first three recordings follow and then the aforementioned material from the standard CD of “Three Piece Suite.”  To further enhance the listening and viewing experience there are animated videos from the Steven Wilson remixes.

  1. Giant (Steven Wilson Mix)
  2. Nothing At All (Steven Wilson Mix)
  3. Why Not? (Steven Wilson Mix)
  4. Pantagruel’s Nativity (Steven Wilson Mix)
  5. The House, The Street, The Room (Steven Wilson Mix)
  6. Schooldays (Steven Wilson Mix)
  7. Mister Class and Quality? (Steven Wilson Mix)
  8. Peel The Paint (Steven Wilson Mix)
  9. Three Friends (Steven Wilson Mix)
  10. Freedom’s Child (Steven Wilson Mix)
  11. Giant (Instrumental)
  12. Nothing At All (Instrumental)
  13. Why Not? (Instrumental)
  14. Pantagruel’s Nativity (Instrumental)
  15. The House, The Street, The Room (Instrumental)
  16. Schooldays (Instrumental)
  17. Mister Class and Quality? (Instrumental)
  18. Peel The Paint (Instrumental)
  19. Three Friends (Instrumental)
  20. Freedom’s Child (Instrumental)
  21. Giant (Original Mix)
  22. Funny Ways (Original Mix)
  23. Alucard (Original Mix)
  24. Isn’t It Quiet And Cold? (Original Mix)
  25. Nothing At All (Original Mix)
  26. Why Not? (Original Mix)
  27. The Queen (Original Mix)
  28. Pantagruel’s Nativity (Original Mix)
  29. Edge Of Twilight (Original Mix)
  30. The House, The Street, The Room (Original Mix)
  31. Acquiring The Taste (Original Mix)
  32. Wreck (Original Mix)
  33. The Moon Is Down (Original Mix)
  34. Black Cat (Original Mix)
  35. Plain Truth (Original Mix)
  36. Prologue (Original Mix)
  37. Schooldays (Original Mix)
  38. Working All Day (Original Mix)
  39. Peel The Paint (Original Mix)
  40. Mister Class And Quality? (Original Mix)
  41. Three Friends (Original Mix)

Disc 2 – CD

  1. Giant (Steven Wilson 2.0 Mix)
  2. Nothing At All (Steven Wilson 2.0 Mix)
  3. Why Not? (Steven Wilson 2.0 Mix)
  4. Pantagruel’s Nativity (Steven Wilson 2.0 Mix)
  5. The House, The Street, The Room (Steven Wilson 2.0 Mix)
  6. Schooldays (Steven Wilson 2.0 Mix)
  7. Mister Class and Quality? (Steven Wilson 2.0 Mix)
  8. Peel The Paint (Steven Wilson 2.0 Mix)
  9. Three Friends (Steven Wilson 2.0 Mix)
  10. Freedom’s Child (Steven Wilson 2.0 Mix)
  11. Nothing At All (Steven’s 7” Edit)

Blue-Ray version?  “Why Not.”

Special thanks to guest contributor Craig Fenton Author Jefferson Airplane “Take Me To A Circus Tent and Jefferson Starship “Have You Seen The Stars Tonite”