Returning to Gentle Giant's fourth album after any kind of lengthy absence, it's astonishing just how little Octopus has dated. Often written off at the time as a pale reflection of the truly gargantuan steps being taken by the likes of Jethro Tull and Barclay James Harvest, the band's closest relatives in the tangled skein of period prog, Gentle Giant often seemed more notable for its album art than its music. Octopus, however, marries the two seamlessly, with the cover speaking for itself, of course. And the mood continues within, the deliciously convoluted opening "The Advent of Panurge" itself riding waves of sonic tentacles as Gary Green's guitar shrieks short but so effective bursts around the thundering bass and, occasionally, churchy organ. Against the pulsating volume of the album's heavier tracks -- "Panurge" is joined by "A Cry for Everyone" -- the band's excursions into less excitable territory are never less than captivating. Twiddly though they are, the sometimes a cappella "Knots," the lilting "Dog's Life," and the Yes-with-fiddles-ish "Raconteur Troubadour" all have moments of sublime sweetness, while the instrumental "The Boys in the Band" is a succession of quirky showcases for, indeed, all the boys. Occasionally arrangements do get overly cluttered -- with each of the six bandmembers doubling up on at least three different instruments, there's a distinct sense of overdubs for overdubbing's sake. Follow the key instruments alone, however, and the soundscapes not only make perfect sense, but so do the flourishes and intrusions that rattle around. And the end result is an album that has withstood the test of time a lot better than anyone might have expected.
by Dave Thompson ~ allmusic.com
Octopus was released in 1972, against prog staples like Foxtrot, Thick as a Brick, and Close to the Edge. It holds its own against those masterpieces, but in its own way. Whereas Yes, Tull, and Genesis released albums fll of grandeur and epic tracks, GG opted for shorter, more personal sounds. The result is one of those rare prog classics that is defined by its restraint, not its technical display. That is not to say that the music is simple. Quite the contrary, it has some of the most complex arrangements you'll ever hear. However, the complexity works in a way that makes the songs sound simple.
The music flows beautifully fro song to song. Every mood that music can convey is thrown together to make moments of soft whimsy to dark heaviness. The Advent of Panurge features great dual vocals that are spaced to sound more like a duel than a duet. Raconteur Troubador has a great brass section. A Cry For Everyone is a rocker that adds some power to the mix. Knots is my favorite song on the album, as it perfectly condenses the band's vocal, instrumental, and lyrical powers into one four minute song that feels like a jorney through music itself. The drums in particular are incredible.
The Boys in the Band has a killer organ riff plus the best rock sax playing I've heard on a non VDGG album. Dog's Life shows the band's capacity for humor as they compare roadies to pets. It's probably the weakest instrumentally, but the lyrics are great. Think of Me With Kindness is another ballad that is much more emotional than the opening track. The album closes with River, another rocker that has a great guitar solo that is trumped by a better xylophone solo. River is kind of like the slightly less complex and accomplished version of Knots.
All in all, GG craft music of incredible complexity, but they don't rub your nose in it like many prog bands do. In fact, this is the most pleasant complex album I think I've ever heard. Lyrically, the album isn't great by normal standards, but it is the apex of GG's writing. The music is just so wonderful, and it takes several listens to fully appreciate just how deep the arrangements really are. I cannot recommend this album enough and even non-proggies could easily fall in love with the beauty of this album.
by 1800iareyay ~ progarchives.com
The Advent Of Panurge:
1. The Advent Of Panurge (4:45)
2. Raconteur Troubadour (4:03)
3. A Cry For Everyone (4:06)
4. Knots (4:11)
5. The Boys In The Band (4:34)
6. Dog's Life (3:13)
7. Think Of Me With Kindness (3:31)
8. River (5:52)
Total Time: 34:15
Gary Green - guitars, percussion
Kerry Minnear - all keyboards, vibraphone, percussion, cello, Moog, lead and backing vocals
Derek Shulman - lead vocals, alto saxophone
Philip Shulman - saxophones, trumpet, mellophone, lead and backing vocals
Raymond Shulman - bass violin, guitar, percussion, vocals
John Weathers - drums, percussion, xylophone
[ Rip and Scans by CrunchyFrog ]