Free Hand review by Ian McGrath
In the era when ELP, Kansas and Styx were huge sellers, Gentle Giant's brand of hyper-complex progressive rock still stood a commercial chance. Rumored to be "the next big thing" in some circles, they had made a breakthrough in America with their previous concept album, The Power and the Glory. In many ways "Free Hand" is typical of their mid-70s output: the band's technical virtuosity is flaunted throughout, with members playing a wide array of instruments, and the songs are full of surprising time changes, impressive contrapuntal writing, and thoughtful lyrics. It is also their most consistent album and contains some of the strongest music of their 11-year career. On Reflection is a rock madrigal, opening with a dazzling a cappella fugue. The title song is a tough rocker that expresses their anger toward their former management. The short instrumental Talybont, written for a film version of Robin Hood, has a magical, medieval flavor, mixing guitars, recorders and synthesizers. Gentle Giant never did crack the popular barrier as they had hoped, but their distinctive approach has left its mark on 70s music.