Exposé Online banner

Gentle Giant — Live at the Bicentennial
(Alucard ALUGG046, 1976/2014, 2CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2014-12-19

Live at the Bicentennial Cover art

Ask any group of Gentle Giant fans which album is the best and you'll get a variety of answers, but I'd bet that 90% or more of them land on something from Octopus (1972) to Interview (1976). So you would get little argument with the statement that this live date from 1976 captures the band at the peak of their career. Of course, even the best band can have an off night, so I'm happy to report that Live at the Bicentennial does not in any way qualify as a bad night. This is a band of prodigious talent making music of extraordinary originality, and even after decades it's still fresh — unlike the outfits they wore on stage. (To be fair, most all rock musicians dressed similarly at the time.) Much of the music on Bicentennial also appeared on Playing the Fool, with three tracks from Interview ("Interview," "Give It Back," and "Timing") added and a few older tunes dropped ("Funny Ways," "Peel the Paint"). The concert staple "Excerpts from Octopus" is more or less the same, and "So Sincere" is similarly extended with a mass percussion section featuring all of the band. A big surprise is "Timing," which is augmented by a lengthy wah-wah violin solo from Ray Shulman (I'm guessing Derek Shulman took over on bass, as the others are accounted for).

What is still astounding about this band is the array of instruments they bring to bear on the arrangements, extending their studio overdubs into a live setting in an effective way. Kerry Minnear's cello and xylophone are great, as is Ray's violin, and the fact they dared to attempt a four-part recorder arrangement in a rock concert — and made it work — sets them apart from any other band. Ever. But in spite of all this complexity and multi-instrumental virtuosity, they never seem to be merely showing off. The compositions are top-notch, and the arrangements serve them admirably. The sense of humor displayed, like "Three Blind Mice" cropping up in a violin solo, tells us they didn't take themselves too seriously. And when they wanted to, they could really rock, albeit in a kind of off-kilter way. Ray's bass in particular is positively fierce, full of grit and fire.

For any Gentle Giant fan, Live at the Bicentennial is absolutely essential, and probably even works well as an introduction to the band. The recording quality is excellent and the performance is unbeatable. This release gets my highest recommendation and stands as the definitive live statement from one of Progressive Rock's true originals.


Filed under: New releases, 2014 releases, 1976 recordings

Related artist(s): Gentle Giant

Latest news

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more

2017-07-27
Yestival Dates Beef up the Beat – Word reaches us that Dylan Howe (son of guitarist Steve Howe) will be joining Yes on their "Yestival" tour, drumming alongside longtime band member Alan White. » Read more

2017-05-19
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more

2017-05-05
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Marc Ceccotti - M.A.S.C. – I heard that this was the new Edhels album all the way up to the time that I got it. Anyway, Ceccotti was more or less the brains behind Edhels, and his first solo album is definitely in the vein of...  (1993) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues