Album review: GENTLE GIANT – Three Friends/Octopus

Gentle Giant - Three Friends/Octopus

BGO Records [Release date 24.06.13]

I’ve no recollection how it was that Octopus came to be part of my 1970′s vinyl collection.  It certainly wasn’t that Gentle Giant were a band that any of my ‘circle’ listened to.  Maybe it was the draw of the Roger Dean cover?  Whatever, it’s been one of my favourite prog rock albums since 1972/73 and one I’ve been waiting many years to hear on CD in all its pomp and glory.

This BGO Records BOGOF series (this is the second Gentle Giant release pairing their 3rd and 4th albums) are certainly value for money and they’re heavily branded as ‘digitally remastered’.  Look on the blogs though and the smart money is on the out of print Repertoire and Alucard Records releases as being the ultimate versions of Octopus.

I could wax lyrical about Octopus being one of the all-time greatest prog albums (and it’s widely regarded as such), and about it being a perfect 34 minutes of prog but I suspect most who have found this review will already be familiar with the band and be more interested in how the recording (and this particular remastering series) stands up 40 years down the line.

The liner notes would have you believe that Derek Schulman, while perhaps not exactly endorsing this remaster has heard it and been impressed and the good news is that Octopus sounds as fresh as a daisy and the best spent 34 minutes I can remember for quite some time.

Gentle Giant’s fusion of rock, folk, jazz and classical styles may be too much for those not brought up on staple diet of progressive rock to stomach – the band were never in it for the money and simply set out to push the envelope as far as their considerable collective talents would allow.  And their legacy is one that one that is remarkably rich.

I’ll admit I’ve never really sought to delve beyond Octopus, but listening to its predecessor ‘Three Friend’s closely for the first time, I’ve realised that’s I’ve perhaps missed a trick.  And although it is less ‘immediate’ and seems to suffer from more tape hiss it’s the perfect pairing if you’re looking to explore Gentle Giant for the first time.  *****

Review by Pete Whalley

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