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"Three Friends" would make a good gentle introduction to the fascinating works of Gentle Giant for the casual prog rock listener. It's a concept work about three schoolfriends, and where they eventually end up at opposite ends of the social spectrum. The lyrics are not great - they're very obvious and predictable things to write on this theme - but the music is definitely where the strength is.
The "Prologue" is like Yes's more tasteful early stuff, with a jaunty guitar and choppy organs. "Schooldays" must be my favourite Gentle Giant song, showcasing the things they do best. After a perky intro with unison vibes and delicate guitar, the song itself has a simple lilting melody with off-beat vocal interplay. The middle section is based on a beautiful piano and mellotron ballad, mingled effectively with a one-note chant of school memories. There's even a little bit of ensemble jazz to round off. "Working All Day" is a suitably plodding portrait of the manual labourer, with heavy-footed low saxophone blares. A colourful hotch-potch of styles on "Peel the Paint", string flourishes, fat unison riffing and more jazz-blues improvisation, evokes the guy who becomes an artist. "Mister Class and Quality", about the smug businessman, is a laid-back rocker with folky fiddle tinges. For the "and there we have it - people change, life goes on, profound stuff!" concluding number, the mellotrons and rousing harmony vocals mark us firmly back in Genesis/Yes symphonic rock territory,
October 4, 2003