Nights At The Roundtable - Gentle Giant, premier Progressive band of the 70's. The House, The Street, The Room from Acquiring The Taste - Vertigo Records - 1971
Probably one of the most influential bands of the Progressive Movement of the 1970's, Gentle Giant actually began life as an R&B group, Simon Dupree And The Big Sound and had achieved a degree of notoriety as a result. But Gentle Giant was another kettle of fish entirely. An interesting blend of Folk, Rock, Jazz, Classical and Experimental, they were a pioneering band whose sound was copied by a lot of bands coming up from the period. And they have been acknowledged by numerous groups as a prime inspiration for their own work.
But Gentle Giant didn't have an easy go of it. For one thing, they were a complex band that really needed to be listened to and not listened at. One of the most painful situations I remember seeing the band in was during their 1972 US tour where they opened for Black Sabbath and were met with nothing but hostility (and in a few cases cherry bombs from the audience) from a predominately headbanging audience. Since they weren't really a flashy band (in the Peter Gabriel sense from Genesis or the visual presentation sense from Yes or Emerson, Lake and Palmer), they relied on their impeccable musicianship to win over the audience. Sometimes it worked (as in a memorable 1974 gig at The Whiskey) and sometimes it didn't (as in the 1972 Hollywood Bowl fiasco with Black Sabbath).
But that was during a period of time when putting together compatible bands on a bill was something of an anomaly - and a lot of groups suffered similar fates. Sadly, Gentle Giant never really achieved the great level of recognition so many bands of the Progressive period had. They would have to be content to be considered a "band's band" for much of their careers.
Tonight's track comes from their second, and probably one of their best albums, Acquiring The Taste. The House, The Street, The Room is the third cut off the first side and it epitomizes that mix of genres they were so good at doing.
They broke up in 1980 and have had various stabs at reunions over the years, but none to fruition. There has been renewed interest in the band in recent years however. Musicians coming up, not having heard them the first time and discovering them by word of mouth are sparking a reassessment of what was a pivotal band during a major upheaval in rock music.
And by the sounds of it, they have aged rather well.