They say necessity is the mother of invention. The fact that only a few songs from Gentle Giant’s first three albums still exist as multi-track tapes means that master remixer Steven Wilson had a finite set to work with here. Yet the results gel beautifully as a Best-Of-cum-primer to the band’s early work, itself the definition of invention.
The tracks from Giant, Acquiring The Taste and Three Friends, all recorded between 1970 and 1972, with Tony Visconti producing the first two, showcase a panoply of multi-instrumentalists who, despite truly dreadful album covers, warped the proverbial envelope. At a time when some post-psychedelia experimentation was obligatory, they all but overdosed. The three Shulman brothers had harshly dismissed their glorious 60s hit Kites, under the name of Simon Dupree And The Big Sound, as too cabaret, or as they phrased it, “utter shit”. They figured they could fly higher.
From Mellotrons to brass to drums to voices, they rejected the previously done. These new patterns bled later, diluted, into Super Furry Animals and Beta Band, but more swiftly were refined in the art-pop of 10cc. Genres mash on every track, as choirboy vocals switch to gruff blues-rock and rampant percussion marries jazz piano. There’s also a previously unreleased nugget, Freedom’s Child. As apogees Pantagruel’s Nativity and Nothing At All display, they had gargantuan dreams.