Monday, April 15, 2024

Gentle Giant Find The Missing Piece 

Originally released in 1977, The Missing Piece was Gentle Giant’s ninth studio album and has now been remixed and remastered by prog’s ‘go to’ studio wizard, Steven Wilson, to give it a new lease of life with a clearer, sharper sound.

At the time of its release, it was, very likely, their most controversial album because it marked a significant change in their trademark prog style, certainly when compared alongside some of their previous full-on prog albums, such as In A Glass House and Power And The Glory, with many in their fanbase finding it hard to believe this new album was by the same people who’d made the aforementioned albums.

Listen to the opening track, ‘Two Weeks In Spain’, and you immediately get an idea why many in their fanbase were distraught. It’s a ‘feel good’ romp about a summer vacation and, if Chas & Dave played prog, it would probably sound something like this. It’s a jolly, up-tempo number, simple in construction though still with a few touches from the Giant’s brand of complexity.  1977 wasn’t exactly the most prog-friendly era so, with punk now the dominating force of the time, the suggestion was Gentle Giant were now leaning heavily towards a more commercial approach and diluting their singularly eclectic approach to musical explorations.

One noticeable feature of Missing Piece is the minimal usage of the medieval instrumentation used to great effect on previous albums. There’s also little of the musical complexity of previous albums, something Gentle Giant were renowned for, meaning this is a much more straightforward album, with some tuneful, guitar-driven hard rock alongside a couple of forays in pop rock.

‘I’m Turning Around’ is a power ballad in the Genesis style, while ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ has an almost reggae feel to it. ‘Betcha Thought We Couldn’t Do It’ was Gentle Giant’s attempt at rocking things up, after being challenged to write a straight rock tune. The lyrics are somewhat trite, though, and at just over two minutes, it’s one of their shortest songs, featuring a rare, though searing, guitar break from Gary Green.

It isn’t all commercially inclined tunes though. There are still flashes of the Gentle Giant their fanbase knows and loves. The seven-minute ‘Memories Of Old Days’, played mainly on guitars, is a fine example, with some simply amazing playing. Similarly, there is ‘For Nobody’, with its complex rhythm patterns, high levels of musicianship and superb harmonies. There are few bands to match the Giant for harmonies .. and they could reproduce them on stage. ‘As Old As You’re Young’, sung by Kerry Minnear, is more like the band Giant’s fans like to hear, with some complex interplay between the musicians.

Overall, despite the undoubted quality of musicianship, The Missing Piece is a somewhat unbalanced and disjointed album with its leanings towards a more commercial style, which was continued on their next release, 1978’s Giant For A Day, but nonetheless, there’s still plenty of good music to enjoy on this album although, if you’re coming new to Gentle Giant, and want to know how they earned their prog spurs, this album wouldn’t be the right place to start.

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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Originally released in 1977, The Missing Piece was Gentle Giant’s ninth studio album and has now been remixed and remastered by prog’s ‘go to’ studio wizard, Steven Wilson, to give it a new lease of life with a clearer, sharper sound. At the time of...Gentle Giant Find The Missing Piece