Giant on the Box review by Dan Lawrie
Those who saw Gentle Giant live in concert know what a great band they were. Those who only know them from their recordings only know half of the story.
At long last, Gentle Giant, the hardest working and least appreciated prog band in the history of rock, has released a DVD of live performances. Giant on the Box is available from the usual suspects or from the band themselves at http://www.gentlegiantmusic.com.
This is all classic footage from their prime (1974-1975) and has been painstakingly restored by the band's bassist, Ray Shulman.
Keyboardist Kerry Minnear provides recently composed music for the background of the "intro" and "menu" portions of the DVD. It's way too good and far too brief. Luckily there's a menu option to replay the intro. Some of the best new music I've heard in years.
The first part of the DVD is taken from the German TV channel ZDF from 1974. This footage has been making the rounds as a 3rd generation VHS copy on eBay for years. I have one. I'm burning it tomorrow. The video and audio quality of this new version are top-notch and belie the age of the recording.
The ZDF show is from the band's The Power and the Glory tour and showcases 50 minutes of brilliance. Various camera angles and close-ups give you every aspect of the band in a live setting, from each member's mastery of their instrument to each member's ability to pick up another instrument without missing a beat. Here are five musicians who collectively play keyboards, bass, electric and acoustic guitars, percussion, vibes, cello, violin, recorder, trumpet and sax... sometimes all in the same song. A classic performance which displays this band's incredible talent and composition.
The next 30 minute segment is from 1975 during their US tour and features some of the same tunes with their typical live variations. Not as polished a performance (they have to restart once due to bad tuning) but still exhilarating.
Then we're treated to a 3 minute segment salvaged from more German TV from 1974 followed by a 22 minute Italian TV feature in black and white which includes both an interview and live footage from the 1972 Octopus tour. Acquisition of this footage delayed the DVD's release by about a year, but it's worth it just to see these guys in an informal setting, sunglasses, big hair and all.
The last part features 36 photos from guitarist Gary Green's private collection. I've seen some of Gary's photo albums, and he's a fine photographer. Frankly, I might have picked some other photos, but these are all good, mostly in a candid way. Pic #36 (Kerry at a piano with headphones) is my fave, but I'm a fanboy. My only complaint is that there's no music background.
All in all, well worth waiting for. Having seen the band several times during their prime, watching this DVD was like reuniting with an old friend. For those that never had the opportunity, this is as close as you'll ever get to seeing one of the finest rock ensembles ever.