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Monday, October 26, 2015

Gentle Giant - Octopus

Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson shows no signs of stopping when it comes to both his solo career and his brilliant work on creating classic Prog gems in getting in the 5.1 mixing. And he has done it again this time this year of Gentle Giant’s 4th studio album released in 1972, Octopus in the CD/Blu-Ray release. Originally released on Vertigo Records in the UK and on Columbia Records in the States, and released on the Alucard label, 43 years later, it is Gentle Giant’s finest masterpiece.

On the Blu-Ray release of the album, it includes the original 1972 mix in a flat transfer, the instrumental mix, and the 5.1 mix that Steven Wilson has done. Now the master reels for the remaining tracks including: The Advent of Panurge, The Boys in the Band, and Raconteur, Troubadour, were lost. Steven remastered the original mixes and upgraded them into a surround mixing in which it is by using the Penteo Software for 5.1 surround sound on the Blu-Ray.

The visual in which it’s done by filmmaker Yael Shulman, it’s a film of an Octopus. Yes, it’s a real Octopus floating in an aquarium with text commentary by the band members about the making of the album. The 16-page booklet features liner notes done by Innerviews’ Anil Prasad which includes interviews with the band, lyrics, and it shows the band at their peak and having drummer John Weathers (Eyes of Blue, Man) joining the group after Malcolm Mortimore was involved in a Motorcycle Accident.

And pictures of the group and the late engineer Martin Rushent who did the laugh and dropping the coin as it rattles. There’s also the issue on the artwork design which features Roger Dean’s design of the album in the U.K. and the Octopus in a jar which was the American release. Both of those covers are okay, but I digress, let’s get to the music.

The other five tracks that Wilson remixed, sees the Wizard of 5.1’s taking his magical wand and bringing it up a notch. A Cry for Everyone still sounds heavy and upgraded from Steven. I love the interaction between the Kerry Minnear’s Organ and Gary Green’s guitar as do a repeated melody with each other. Not to mention a reminiscent of the Scorpions sound of Rudolf Schenker’s rhythm guitar riffs that Green does.

Phil Shulman, who would later leave the group to be with his family, shines on Dog’s Life. The Medieval-Classical-Folk-Zappa bluesy twist gives it a beautiful tribute to their roadies with a sense of humor and then moving into the bass, synths, and echo-layered vocals, shows how much the band were having a great time doing this piece. The hands-down killer of Knots, the homage to R.D. Laing’s self-titled book, a cappella vocals in a different independent line with difficult time signatures featuring a powerful rock arrangement.

Gentle Giant also show their softer side as Kerry Minnear comes in with his vocals to an emotional beauty with Think of Me with Kindness. The piano beauty and having the bass in front makes your heart touched with his voice that just sends a thought of hope, bringing the memories of sorrow and knowing there is no tomorrow. It's a goodbye song. Dealing with the hopes of remembering them with warmth and humanity.

And with xylophones into the mix and throwing in the piano on the midsection, the ingredients are mixed together in a dramatic and driven beat that still makes it powerful, unexpected, and mind-blowing at the same time that the original six-piece did as a team. Gary Green himself brings into the Blues Rock voyages into a full speed ahead. On River, he brings a lot of energy in his Guitar as he rises up and up into the heavens as the band increases the rhythm before heading into a spacey adventure followed by the wah-wah melodic intro riff between him and Ray Shulman’s violin.

There’s also a bonus track in which it is clear and sounds amazing of the live performance at the Calderone Theater on July 3, 1976 for the Bicentennial celebration of it’s 200th birthday of the Declaration of Independence in a dazzling performance of Excerpts from Octopus.

Here, Steven upgraded to a better sound quality and it’s astoundingly breathtaking. The band was now a five-piece, and hearing this new mix of the live recording is much clearer from the previous bootleg and the original release last year. The sounds, the power, and the glory of Octopus have shown Giant’s sound at their best and understanding how they were ahead of their time and transcending the music through creative ideas and undertaking tasks in difficult time signatures.

Steven Wilson has done it again. I hope he continues to do more of Gentle Giant’s catalog in the next years to come. So delve over into the Charaton Bridge by meeting the Raconteur Troubadour’s and meet the boys in the band for the sounds of a classic that will be played for time and time again.

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