Playing the Fool - The Official Live

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About the Album

Cassette release

One of the greatest live albums ever recorded. Enough said. :-) Recorded on Gentle Giant's European tour, September and October 1976.

Sweet Georgia Brown (a.k.a. Breakdown in Brussells) was played spontaneously during an equipment breakdown....

Learn the secret behind some audience noises.

Musicians

Gary Green - electric guitar, acoustic guitar, 12 string guitar, alto recorder, descant recorder, vocals, percussion

Kerry Minnear - keyboards, cello, vibes, tenor recorder, vocals, percussion

Derek Shulman - vocals, alto sax, descant recorder, bass, percussion

Ray Shulman - bass, violin, acoustic guitar, descant recorder, trumpet, vocals, percussion

John Weathers - drums, vibes, tambour, vocals, percussion

Other liner notes:

  A Gentle Giant Production
  Recorded (au naturel) on European tour
  September to October 1976
  Remix at Advision Studios, London.
  Engineer: Paul Northfield, assisted by Trevor,
  Peter and Frazer (Maison Rouge Mobile) and
  Ken Thomas in London.
  Live mix: David Zammit, sound system built and
  supplied by Recording Studio Design, Cheshunt, Herts.
  Original sleeve: Design and production
  Murray Carden and Geoff Allman for Spoken Image
  (airbrush Chris Clover)
  Compact disc package by Phil Smee at Waldo's Design

Track List

The vinyl and Castle CD releases have the following tracklist.

  1. Just The Same / Proclamation (11:13)
  2. On Reflection (6:24)
  3. Excerpts From Octopus (15:35)
  4. Funny Ways (8:35)
  5. The Runaway / Experience (9:31)
  6. So Sincere (10:22)
  7. Free Hand (7:40)
  8. Breakdown In Brussells (Sweet Georgia Brown) (1:15) [omitted from the Castle CD release)
  9. Peel The Paint / I Lost My Head (7:35)

The Terrapin Trucking CD release has the same music but split into more tracks:

  1. Introduction (does not appear on any studio album)
  2. Just The Same
  3. Proclamation
  4. Valedictory
  5. On Reflection (rearranged)
  6. The Boys In The Band
  7. Raconteur Troubadour (acoustic guitar instrumental)
  8. Acquiring The Taste (rearranged for acoustic guitar)
  9. Knots
  10. Organ bridge (does not appear on any studio album)
  11. The Advent Of Panurge, part 1
  12. The famous recorder quartet (does not appear on any studio album)
  13. The Advent Of Panurge, part 2
  14. Funny Ways
  15. The Runaway
  16. Experience
  17. So Sincere
  18. Drum and percussion bash (does not appear on any studio album)
  19. Free Hand
  20. Sweet Georgia Brown (does not appear on any studio album)
  21. Peel The Paint
  22. I Lost My Head

Performance dates and venues

Thanks to Dan Bornemark.

  • Intro - Düsseldorf, 23 SEP 1976
  • Just the Same - Düsseldorf, 23 SEP 1976
  • Proclamation - Düsseldorf, 23 SEP 1976
  • On Reflection - Düsseldorf, 23 SEP 1976
  • Excerpts From Octopus - Paris, 5 OCT 1976
  • Funny Ways - Munich 25 SEP 1976
  • The Runaway/Experience - Paris, 5 OCT 1976
  • So Sincere - Paris, 5 OCT 1976
  • Free Hand - Brussels, 7 OCT 1976
  • Sweet Georgia Brown - Brussels, 7 OCT 1976
  • Peel the Paint/I Lost My Head - Paris, 5 OCT 1976

Lyrics

All lyrics reproduced with the permission of DRT Entertainment (USA) and Alucard Publishing, Ltd. (UK).

- submitted by Todd Fiske after painstakingly listening to the album and noticing that the lyrics differ from the studio versions. He even included the speaking and audience noises (in parentheses). Thanks Todd!!

Introduction

(ch ch)

Just the Same

See me, what I am, what I was, what I'll be,
Hear me, understand, that I'm not, what you see,
Take this, take the man, middle term, common me,
Don't you see that,

   I'm just doing what I want to do
   nothing more and nothing less than you
   read no thoughts I didn't think myself,
   just the same as anybody else.

Make me, someone else, put me up, on a stand.
Something, that I don't, really want, on my hands,
Use me, idolise, all you can, understand.
Don't you see that,

   I'm just doing what I want to do
   nothing more and nothing less than you
   read no thoughts I didn't think myself
   just the same as anybody else.

See me, what I am, what I was, what I'll be,
Hear me, understand, that I'm not, what you see,
Take this, take the man, middle term, common me,
Don't you see that,

   I'm just doing what I want to do
   nothing more and nothing less than you
   read no thoughts I didn't think myself,
   just the same as anybody else.

Proclamation/Valedictory

(There seems to be a cut here between recordings at about 15 seconds into Proclamation.)

1. You may not have all you want or you need
   all that you have has been due to my hand,
   it can change, it can stay the same,
   who can say, who can make their claim.
   Hail... Hail... Hail... Hail!
   Hail!

(original verse 2 skipped)

3. Unity's strength and all must be as one
   confidence in you hope will reflect in me
   I think everyone not as my nation for
   you are my people, and there must be no change
   It can change, it can stay the same,
   Who can say, who can make that claim
   Hail... Hail... Hail... Hail!
   Hail!

   Hail to Power and to Glory's way
   Hail to Power and to Glory's way
   Hail to Power and to Glory's way
   Hail to Power and to Glory's way

   Hail to Power and to Glory's way
   Hail to Power and to

And though the hard times
are really due to me,
it still is in me,
to wave all this unrest,
Things must stay
there must be no change,
anyway, time to rearrange.

Hail!

On Reflection

(ch ch)
(Kerry: 1 2 3 4 5 6)

In my way did I use you, do you think I really abused you
On reflection now it doesn't matter

How can you say I made you need me more than anyone else
Who can say it right now it's finished over

It's my act, it's my calling, I explained exactly the falling
Different ways of life can never even

Be the same when you saw me could you always take me the
same way as I came and went I tried to remember you;

   Still you stay
   Tied in your way
   Changing times
   Watching the signs.

How:
could you see in me what you thought about all you want me to be

Now:
On reflection why should I have changed my ways for you

All around all around
All around all around
All around all around
All around all around

Cry my sympathy's with you, but I never lied to you all in all
it seems it's just an experience

Placed my cards on the table told of everything I was able
Understanding still not anything different

Find another to lean on, start again for I should have long
gone, on reflection now it's just an experience

soon the pain will have ended, together never intended, as I
come and go I'll try to remember you.

   Still you stay
   Tied in your way
   Changing times
   Watching the signs.

How:

All around all around
All around all around
All around all around
All around all around

All around all around
All around all around
All around all around
All around all around

All around all around
All around all around
All around all around
All around all around
All around all around
All around all around
All around all around
All around all around

(yay, wooh)
(We're, uh, Gentle Giant...)

Excerpts From Octopus

Laughter, coinspin

The Boys In The Band

(one, two, one two three four...)

Raconteur Troubadour

(plink plunk)

Acquiring the Taste

(wooh)

Knots

All in all each man in all men all men in each man.
He can see she can't, she can see she can
see whatever, whatever.
You may know what I don't know,
but not that I don't know it and I can't tell you
so you will.
To tell me all man in all men all men in each man.
He can see she can't, she can see she can
see whatever, whatever.
You may know what I don't know,
but not that I don't know it and I can't tell you
so you will have to tell me all.

It hurts him to think that she is
hurting her by him being hurt to think
that she thinks he is hurt by making her
feel guilty at hurting him by her thinking
she wants him to want her. He wants her to want him
to get him to want him to get him to want her she pretends.

He tries to make her afraid by not being afraid.
He tries to make her afraid by not being afraid.
He tries to make her afraid by not being afraid.
He tries to make her afraid by not be
ing afraid ing afraid ing afraid ing afraid
ing afraid ing afraid ing afraid ing af

Organ Bridge

(hoots and hollers)

The Advent of Panurge

There coming over Charaton Bridge
Look do you see the man who is poor but rich
What do you wish; and where do you go;
who are you; where are you from;
will you tell me your name?
Rest awhile; call me your friend.
Please stay with me I'd like to help.

Then he said,
How can I speak when I'm dry and my throat is burning.
So bring me aid and I'll answer your doubts.
Friend in need I'd like your help.
Please take me home I'll stay with you.

Then said he fair Pantagruel.
My name is Panurge and I have come from Hell.

Look at my friend
Look around now friend
Look at my friend
Look all around you
Look at my friend
Take all around you
Look at my friend
Look all around you

Hey, Friend.

Look at my friend. Hey.

The Famous Record Quartet

(yeah)

The Advent of Panurge (continued)

So brotherhood was made as their bond.
Carried him home and provide for his needs and his shelter.
This day was done as no other the like.
Faithfully their vow was made and from that day they were as one.

Then said he fair Pantagruel.
My name is Panurge and I have come from Hell.

(There seems to be a cut just before the last chord(!?))

Funny Ways

Sorry to have been so much of a bore
But in my own funny ways I find I learn much more.
I realised what you think from your eyes
But in your own funnys way I find I learn much more.

My ways are strange
they'll never change
They stay, strange ways.

Sorry to have been so close from the start,
but for all that I care we could be miles apart.
I understood that you never would
Understand a way of life I never could.

My ways are strange
they'll never change
they stay, strange ways.

(yoo hoo)

Go your own way or wait for me
Go your own way or wait for me
Go your own way or wait for me
Go your own way or wait for me

And so you see what happened to me
Since the time when I judged my life in nights and days
I realised that my life was lies
So you see what I mean with all my funny ways

Sorry to have been so much of a bore
But in my own funny ways I find I learn much more
Funny ways, Funny ways, Funny ways, Funny ways

The Runaway

Derek: This album was called uh, In a Glass (wahhhhhhhh) House! (Yeahhhhh)

He is the runaway, lie low the wanted man
Mask his elusive face, soon he will get away and free is his
future no more aimless time to spend
and evading, he's escaping
four dirty walls and a bed in a cage his home no more

Run in the underwood, Cover and hide the trail
Senses like sharpened swords, Guards for the shadow on his tail.

And yet all his joy is empty and sad.

Experience

Once I was a boy, and innocent to life and my role in it,
This world played my game, and anyone a clown or foil for myself.

Oh unseeing youth, how can it be so shallow and shortsighted.
These years passed me by, to realise the folly of these unripe years.

Oh unseeing youth, how can it be so shallow and shortsighted.
These years passed me by, to realise the folly of these unripe years.

I master inner voices, I make any choices.
I master inner voices, I make any choices.

I master inner voices, I make any choices.
I master inner voices, I make any choices.
(yay)

So Sincere

Hear, he'll do it all for you, you will see it,
wise, and knowing what to do, what to be,
and every word is...

Lies, he only tells the truth, for he means it,
means, not anything he says, eyes unseen,
and every word is...

Yes, that is to say no, understanding
wrong, he makes his promise right, with your hand
and every word is...

Yes, that is to say no, understanding
wrong, he makes his promise right, with your hand
you'll never know why.

Drum and Percussion Bash

(bang bang)

Free Hand

Who would believe me now that my hands are free that my hands are free
I never thought it would ever come to me, ever come to me
Now that my life's my own, I leave you behind, leaving you behind.
What ever made you think that I'd change my mind, that I'd change my mind.

It wasn't hard to run break away from you break away from you
after all you'd done what was I to do what was I to do
Who's gonna take my place in the games you play in the games you play
Nobody's listening now to the things you say, all the things you say.

Now my hands are free from the ties from the ties
Now I look forward to the future where it lies
And with you, feeling low, looking black,
here, now my head is clear, why should I look back

When it was over did you have regrets did you have regrets
Or did you really think it was over yet, it was over yet
Now that my life's my own, I leave you behind, leaving you behind
What ever made you think that I'd change my mind,

That I'd change my mind
That I'd change my mind
That I'd change my mind

Who would believe me now that my hands are free that my hands are free
Who would believe me now that my hands are free that my hands are free
Who would believe me now that my hands are free that my hands are free

who would believe me now
now my hands are

hands are free
hands are free
hands are free

hands are free
hands are free

When it was over did you have regrets did you have regrets
Or did you really think it was over yet, it was over yet
Now that my life's my own I leave you behind, leaving you behind
What ever made you think that I'd change my, that I'd change my mind?

Sweet Georgia Brown

(Also known as "Breakdown in Brussells")

Instrumental

"(One more)"

Peel the Paint/I Lost My Head

I peel the paint
look underneath
You'll see the same,
the same old savage beast

Strip the coats
the coats of time
And find mad eyes and
see those sharpened teeth

Nothings been learned -
no nothing at all.
Don't be fooled,
get up before you fall.

A carnal grave
(uh) crawling smooth
The open flesh
and you must let them in

The glass reflects
of what you are
It shows the face
the evil face of sin.

Nothings been learned -
No nothing at all
Don't be fooled,
get up before you fall.


I lost my head
forget what I said
what's the use to try to deny it.
I didn't think it
would ever happen again

wondering why,
once bitten twice shy
never thought again would I try it
and even though may-
be soon it would end

Wanting to stop
but had to go on,
give a little part of my person,
and don't reflect
don't remember what I said

I was afraid
and I stayed away
making sure of my independence
isn't it true that
I lost my head

Took my time
and I didn't rush into anything
Showed my face
just forgetting myself oh everything

Everythings true
but everything lies
It's so hard to try to explain it
It doesn't matter
it happened anyway.

and for the time
while someone is mine
I'll go on won't try to contain it
and even though
it could finish any day

I lost my head
so glad that I made
right or wrong, I made the decision
to take my chances
give out something of me

how will I feel
tomorrow? not real
trying to avoid a collision
I lost my head,
but today I can see.

Took my time
and I didn't rush into anything
Showed my face
just forgetting myself oh everything
I lost my head

I lost my head
forget what I said
What's the use to try to deny it
I didn't think it
would ever happen again

Wondering why
once bitten twice shy
never thought again would I try it
and even though may-
be soon it would end.

Liner notes

Capitol promotional material

- Thanks to Claude Wacker

Gentle Giant - Playing The Fool
Capitol - 1/77
Picture by Dick Polak, March 1976

For the past half dozen years, Gentle Giant fans gave been telling everyone who would listen, "Hey, you've got to see them live. Their albums are great, but they sound so exciting in concert you have to hear it to believe it."

Now everyone can hear what a Gentle Giant concert sounds like. Playing The Fool on Capitol Records presents Gentle Giant's sophisticated rock expertise "au naturel" in all its glory. Their critically acclaimed stage show has finally been captured on this two-record set, their first live album.

Gentle Giant is a complex, classically-influenced, "progressive rock" band that has been around since the beginning of the seventies and Playing The Fool is their fourth album on Capitol.

"The group is a big melting pot of styles and from the bottom drips out Gentle Giant," says vocalist and sax player Derek Shulman, who played with his brother, Ray (a classically-trained bassist and violonist), in a sixties combo called Simon Dupree and The Big Sound before forming Gentle Giant.

The Shulmans (another brother, Phil, was a member for the first four albums) brought together keyboard and cello player Kerry Minnear (a graduate of the Royal College of Music and a band called Rust), guitarist Gary Green (with both a blues and jazz background) and drummer John Weathers (who formerly worked with the Grease Band and Graham Bond).

"Recording in the studio is completely different than playing a concert," says Derek Shulman. "Live gigs have to be more immediate to hit people. Our stage show is much more spontaneous and direct because it's a different medium."

"I think one of the reasons for the difference between our albums and our concerts," explains Minnear, "is because we treat playing live as a separate form of entertainment rather than being somewhat dull and just playing the number as we recorded it. To keep the band and the audience from becoming bored, we give ourselves a certain leeway. We have an improvised section in the middle of each song where we can really play, and I think that's very important. I couldn't possibly play in a band that didn't do that."

The band went through two drummers on their early albums --Gentle Giant (never released in the U.S.), Acquiring The Taste and Three Friends--before finding Weathers, the first who could "provide some power." According to Derek Shulman, "From that point we started to solidify our direction. He allowed us to pull our various elements together into our own style."

Following numerous European tours, Gentle Giant began touring North America. The album Octopus was released, but the group was dropped from their former label and In A Glasshouse was never released in the U.S. At that point Capitol signed the band and with the release of the highly-acclaimed The Power and The Glory (a concept album based on the idea of corruption arising from power), Free Hand and Interview, Gentle Giant has become increasingly popular both here and overseas.

Concerning their recording, Ray Shulman says, "We can make an LP accessible and still be pleased with it. We try not to be too technical and we try to introduce some genuine emotion as well. We don't write love songs in a obvious way, but that doesn't mean they're not emotional. You needn't be obvious to be sentimental."

Gentle Giant can be pulsating, intricate, classical, jazzy, funky, mystical, futuristic or just out-and-out rocking. They have always explored new musical horizons. On one of their earliest albums, the band stated in the liner notes that their sole aim was to make one of their songs totally different and new "even at the risk of being very unpopular." While fervently pursuing quality eclectism (even on this live album the songs are fresh and different from the studio versions), Gentle Giant has gained fans rather than losing them. Their fans expect them to be experimental and daring.

Gentle Giant has always stressed musicianship of the highest caliber as well as innovative, sectionalized song structures. Much of their vocal work is derived (they say) from jazz scat singing where the voice is used as an intrument whether they're singing words or just notes. With the group members playing a wide variety of instruments and being well-versed in their precise production techniques, the resulting music, live or in the studio, is a thick, textural collage of sounds.

Playing The Fool contains 11 of their best tunes including "Just The Same," "Free Hand," "Excerpts From Octopus" and a medley of "Peel The Paint/I Lost My Head." Recorded in England in front of highly enthusiastic audiences, the incredible performances exude vitality and excitement. One of the group's strongest points has always been its arrangements and on Playing The Fool thay are again notable for their intricacy and complexity as well as their innovativeness. Within single songs, the band changes pace and tempo, shifts, pauses, strips sounds away and then builds back to a fullbodied, blazing crescendo. The recording and production are sharp, precise and flawless (rare for any live album).

Within this record, Gentle Giant has managed to sum up their career and move forward at the same time. Playing The Fool, which proves without a doubt that the band is far more than mere studio wizards, should thrill longtime fans who have enjoyed the group in concert and will initiate new listeners to the magic and excitement that happens when Gentle Giant takes to the stage.

Castle CD

Over the years, numerous bands have been labelled 'innovative', 'stunning', or 'exhilarating' - but few can have been as deserving of such praise as Gentle Giant. Founded in 1970, they produced music that was strikingly original, littered with unlikely changes of mood and time signature and characterised by almost perverse instrumentation, but simultaneously cohesive and melodic.

Giant drew inspiration from an abundance of musical idioms, fusing classical and traditional English forms with the inventiveness of jazz and the exuberance of rock. Above all, their meticulous studio technique produced unrivalled sound quality - and on stage they aimed for equal precision. During the course of a 90-minute performance, the band would play almost 30 different instruments between them, with cello, violin, vibes and recorders augmenting their more conventional armoury. They would switch from pwerful, emphatic riffs to quiet intricacy with incredible dexterity, and their ability to reproduce live the magnificent vocal harmonies and arrangements so effectively realised in the studio had to be heard to be believed. 'On Reflection' and 'Knots', the latter part of 'Excerpts From Octopus' sequence, are particularly fine examples of their skill in this area.

Sadly, a pitifully small number of people in the UK took the trouble to listen, deterred no doubt by Gentle Giant's domestic image as unfathomable intellectuals. Released in 1977, PLAYING THE FOOL - the only live album of their ten-year career - might have done much to rid them of their undeserved reputation had it not been for the simultaneous rise of the New Wave. It would be some years before technical excellence would again become 'acceptable'...by which time Gentle Giant were no more.

Here, then, is a largely successful attempt to capture the energy, inventiveness and spontaneity of Gentle Giant live, at probably the highest point of their career. Unlike many so-called 'live' recordings, there are no overdubs on PLAYING THE FOOL, recorded on the band's European tour of September and October 1976.

Gentle Giant were never content to rest on their laurels, continually developing their ideas so that many of the numbers represented here differe extensively from their studio counterparts. This policy reached its zenith on 'So Sincere', which evolves from its original arrangement into a five-man percussion extravaganza.

For the majority of their time, Gentle Giant were restricted to a small but loyal cult following at home, despite greater appreciation both in Europe and America. PLAYING THE FOOL is eveidence that they were in many respects misjudged, and were, perhaps the most underrated British band of the Seventies.

- Alan Kinsman

Terrapin CD

These liner notes are reproduced with the kind permission of Terrapin Trucking (UK) Ltd.

When Playing the Fool appeared in January 1977, it was simultaneously the best and the worst time for Gentle Giant to release the only official live recordings of their eleven-year career. The previous two years had been, and would remain, the most intense period of the band's existence. Following their move to Chrysalis early in 1975, Giant embarked upon a punishing schedule of touring and recording which saw the release of two excellent albums, Free Hand (August 1975) and Interview (April 1976), each followed by extensive live excursions covering thousands of miles in Britain, Europe and America. During May, June and July 1976, Gentle Giant played 51 dates in 90 days, including visits to such widely separated cities as Edinburgh, Rome, Vancouver, Dallas and Boston.

This gruelling schedule gave the band a degree of cohesion which was, at times, awe-inspiring. There is little doubt that Playing the Fool caught them in brilliant form, successfully capturing the power and excitement of the band's live performances, and demonstrating their ability to reproduce much of the mind-boggling complexity of their studio recordings on stage. Had it appeared six months or so earlier, the album could, perhaps, have made a greater impact; instead, the rapid and dramatic rise of Punk and the New Wave had led to a radical re-appraisal of musical values. Progressive rock, with its emphasis on musical expertise and adventurous composition, was suddenly reviled by many sections of the popular music press, and prevailing trends ensured that Playing the Fool received a generally less than enthusiastic reception.

Plans to release a live album took shape during the Summer of 1976. Since joining Chrysalis, Gentle Giant had enjoyed more support from their label than at any time since initially signing on the dotted line for Vertigo back in 1970. Their confidence and enthusiasm were renewed, and this was reflected in both the quality and quantity of their work during the period. There was a feeling in the band that the time was right to undertake live recordings, a feeling reinforced by the feedback they were getting from their followers, as keyboardist Kerry Minnear recently explained: "We'd had a lot of people telling us how different we were on stage, more dynamic and exciting... and we'd always worked hard on presentation, doing rearrangements, whole new musical sections, links between songs and so on, so from our point of view we certainly believed there was value in our live shows. Chrysalis obviously agreed, because there were no objections when we said we wanted to do the live album."

The Maison Rouge mobile was duly hired for two weeks in late September and early October 1976, and something like half a dozen shows were taped. On their return to England, the band spent a month at Advision Studios choosing and remixing the recordings, a process which, like every aspect of Giant's recording activities, involved the whole group. "During these sessions, the whole band would be at the mixing desk - each one of us had a pot or a fader... it would've made a wonderful photograph!", drummer John Weathers recalls. "Everyone in the group was so totally committed to getting the best result." From the outset, the intention had been to present the recordings without overdubs - au naturel, as Chrysalis put it - and to a large extent this was achieved. A few parts were re-recorded - one or two backing vocals had been somewhat lost in the live mix, and Kerry's clavinet had to be patched in because of an incurable problem with electrical interference from a lighting rig - but in every case the original part was reproduced as nearly as possible in the studio, the only consideration being to enhance the sound quality where the original was unusable.

Playing the Fool presents the material in the same order as it was presented on stage; the only difference between listening to the album and being at a Giant gig of the time was the omission of a brace of tracks from Interview, then the band's most recent studio offering. Drawing from every period of their career, and to a greater or lesser extent from all eight of their previous albums, this is essentially a greatest hits package with added dynamism. The sheer energy of much of the material provides a serious challenge to Giant's undeserved reputation for a frigid, mechanical approach to their work, and supports John Weathers' assertion in a 1975 Zig Zag interview - "They can rock, these boys!"

The album opens, as did the live show, with a specially-taped introduction which leads into a rendition of "Just the Same", virtually indistinguishable from the original. This, in turn, is linked to "Proclamation", slightly re-organised and with the quiet middle section ommitted. "On Reflection" provides the first evidence of Gentle Giant's efforts to re-vamp their material for live performance. The song is introduced by an acoustic quartet of violin, cello, vibes and recorder playing a delightful arrangement of the original's second theme, before the stunning four-part vocal round which opens the studio version kicks in.

Further evidence of this approach is provided by the next offering, a fifteen-minute suite of tracks from the album Octopus (1972), an important release which had established the band in America, and enhanced their reputation elsewhere. This collage of pieces contains several fine examples of Giant's versatility, including an acoustic guitar duet, and a jaunty recorder quartet. Delving further into their past, "Funny Ways", from their self-titled 1970 debut, gives Kerry Minnear the opportunity to cut loose on vibes.

Two numbers from 1973's In a Glass House are then given a fairly straight run-through, before another slice of Gentle Giant audacity; a reading of "So Sincere", from 1974's The Power and the Glory, starts out by following the original for the most part, but is soon transformed into an orgy of percussion which sees all five members of the band hammering away at an assortment of drums. Without warning, the thundering ceases abruptly, to be replaced by the delicate sound of bells, vibes and glockenspiels tinkling away. Finally, the drums return, and the track ends with another deafening barrage. Gentle Giant chose their name to reflect the textural contrasts in their music, and those contrasts are rarely more evident than on this recording.

The final section of the album is given over to some determined rocking, concluding with a superbly solid "I Lost My Head", intriguingly prefaced by a short excerpt of "Peel the Paint", a lone survivor from 1972's Three Friends.

Included here, but absent from the first CD re-issue of Playing the Fool in 1989, is "Breakdown in Brussels", which is in fact a brief rendition of "Sweet Georgia Brown" featuring the violin of Ray Shulman and Gary Green's acoustic guitar. The Brussels gig was almost wiped out by a complete failure of the power supply to Kerry Minnear's keyboards just two numbers into the set. While electricians and roadies scurried to and fro in a desperate attempt to cure the problem, Ray and Gary performed some impromptu pieces, of which this was one. A partial solution was found, and the gig continued with a much-reduced array of keyboards, but the delay provided not only a glimpse of the humour so often (and so inaccurately) said to be lacking in the band, but also only the second non-original ever to appear on a Giant album - the first being a short heavy-rock version of the National Anthem which closed their debut release!

During the course of a 90-minute performance, Gentle Giant played almost thirty different instruments between them, switching from one to another with the same consummate ease that the music changed in style, texture and tempo. Chrysalis' publicity of the time described them as "Just five one-man bands putting it all together", which perhaps stretched the analogy a little, but certainly set the tone. Their musicianship was beyond a doubt, their commitment total, and on stage Giant were the embodiment of the philosophy which drove them on - they could never see the point of repeating themselves, and constantly looked for new ideas, and new ways of expressing them. Accordingly, they took the opportunity presented by live performances to re-model old favourites, not simply to allow them to be played live, but to keep things fresh and interesting for all concerned.

The result was a show packed with strong material, littered with surprises, performed with a rare conviction. Playing the Fool captures the mood perfectly - it's a fitting tribute to the ability of a unique band, and, had they not already used it, The Power and the Glory would have been an entirely appropriate title.

- Alan Kinsman. With thanks for their assistance to Kerry Minnear and John "Pugwash" Weathers.

Music files

MIDI files

MIDI File Title Album Contributor
Onrefool.mid On Reflection Playing the Fool Marcelo Perez

Sheet music

Sheet Music File Title Album Contributor
Experience Live WheatWilliams.zip Experience (Live) Playing the Fool Wheat Williams, Phil Smith
Just The Same Proclamation Live WheatWilliams.zip Just The Same/Proclamation (Live) Playing the Fool Wheat Williams, Phil Smith
Raconteur-troubadour-acquiring-the-taste-aschifferdecker.pdf Raconteur Troubadour + Acquiring The Taste Playing the Fool Phil Smith, Andreas Schifferdecker

CD releases

This list is not necessarily complete, and various releases are out of print.

Country Label Information
France Castle Communications, ESSCD006 (Out of print)
UK Terrapin Trucking/Road Goes On Forever, TRUCKCD 009 (Out of print)
USA One Way Records, S21-18466
UK BGO (Playing the Fool & Civilian)
USA DRT Entertainment

Defects

The Castle CD is missing the 1:15 track "Breakdown in Brussels," also known as "Sweet Georgia Brown," due to time constraints. The Terrapin disc is complete.

The Castle CD has incorrect track names. For example, "Proclamation on Reflection" should be "On Reflection," and "In A Glass House" should be "The Runaway/Experience."

The Castle CD credits some of the songwriting to "B. Shulman." This should be "D. Shulman" for Derek.

The Terrapin disc has an incorrect track listing. According to the booklet, the eight sections of the "Octopus" medley appear on separate tracks (6-13). On the disc, however, they appear as a single track (6). There is also a typographical error -- Raconteur Troubadeur -- on both the rear tray card and within the booklet.

Reviews

See also