Having seen GG seven times, from 1973-80, it's hard to say which was the best. However, the concert at the Joint in the Woods, a nightclub in a remote part of New Jersey, was the most intimate and therefore would rank, reluctantly, at the top. GG showed up in a rented station wagon on a fall night, Oct 23, 1974, just after the Power and the Glory album was released. We could hear, from outside, the band practicing Cogs In Cogs, and Proclamation, but surprisingly, when we saw the show, nothing from P&G was played.
Instead, we were treated to most of the In a Glass House album (wow!), and the Octopus set--Knots harmonizing, the dual acoustic guitar playing by Ray Shulman and Gary Green, the band drum solo and recorder playing, among other highlights. There were no tables or chairs set up on the dance floor where we literally stood for most of the concert. The band was up on the stage and I was about 4-5 feet from my favorite all-time rock musician, Kerry Minnear. To watch him play vibes on Funny Ways and The Runaway was fantastic!
I have a close friend of mine whose taste in music is well, pedestrian, at best. At the time, he thought Loggins & Messina and Barry Manilow (egad!) were great. I told him, on his way to Boston the next year for college, "Do me a favor. You think I'm nuts to think Gentle Giant is the greatest band in the world? When you're at school, if GG's playing, go buy a ticket see the show. If you think it sucks, I'll send you the money for the ticket." Being (still) a great friend, he took me up on the bet. He called me a few days after the concert (where the P&G songs were added to the show), and said "That was the most amazing concert I've ever seen! I can't believe how great Gentle Giant are! You know, I went by myself, and I wish I took this girl I've been dating. What happened was the very next night after the Gentle Giant concert, I had already had tickets for Loggins & Messina, so the two of us went. She enjoyed L&M, but I couldn't get Gentle Giant out of my mind. I kept saying to her, "This is nothing. It's boring. You've gotta see this wild band my friend had me see, Gentle Giant." The girlfriend was not amused, and he soon found himself broken up from her--ah, the perils of loving Gentle Giant. As a postscript, my friend, over many years, simply lost interest in Gentle Giant and prog rock, but he always remained respectful of it. And I think that's I've ever asked from people: Respect progressive rock the way we're told to respect be-bop jazz. Both have their pretentiousness, but there's a timeless beauty to the music and musicianship. Gentle Giant, in my humble opinion, is the greatest example of prog rock. Hail!
I happened to be in England--my one trip to Europe--in the late summer of 1977. The Missing Piece album was being advertised in the Melody Maker magazine just before it was to be released by Chrysalis Records in England. This was a couple of months before the American release.
I walked into Chrysalis Records in London and asked if they had any info on the new Gentle Giant album. I waited in the reception area for about 20 minutes, sitting next to the manager for a new band Chrysalis had recently signed called Generation X (some guy named Billy Idol was in that punk band!). Then, I was called into the office and was introduced to a Chrysalis Records executive and....Derek Shulman, who also happened to be there.
I was all of 20 years old and I was completely speechless--a rarity for me! Anyway, Derek gave me a copy of the "single" of "I'm turning around"--off the new album. "Going for the top 40!" or something like that, he said. He and the record company exec then gave me the Gentle Giant "Missing Piece" Puzzle and all the publicity stuff I needed. I had told them, truthfully, that I had just started writing record reviews for my college newspaper (Rutgers University in NJ). When I returned to my room at the local hostel, I noted the puzzle they gave me was missing a piece. I had been shown the album cover for the new album as well so I thought, and still wonder, "Was this the one they used for the album cover?"
I write since the photo in your site that you've just released this month, January 2002, is of that puzzle. (Editor's Note: This puzzle was a promotional item.)