2 LP on 1CD
## 1 - 8 'Octopus' 1972, Columbia (4.5*)
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 Derek Shulman'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.
- Dave Thompson (All Music Guide)
## 9 - 17 'The Power And The Glory' 1974, One Way (2*)
The group's first U.S. release in two years featured ornate playing from Kerry Minnear on keyboards and Gary Green's loudest guitar work up to that time. Power and the Glory is also a fairly dissonant album, yet it made the charts, albeit pretty low. There seems to be a unifying theme having to do with one's place in the social order, but it's very vague in contrast to Pink Floyd's re-creations of the post-'60s drug experience, Yes' sweeping album-length suites, and ELP's sci-fi epics. "No God's a Man" is an infinitely more challenging piece of music than anything on Jethro Tull's Aqualung, but that wasn't a commercial virtue; nor could the electric violin break on "The Face" or the rippling electric guitar passages throughout cover the effort involved in absorbing these songs. Power and the Glory vaguely resembled Genesis' early art-rock albums, but without any presence as charismatic as Peter Gabriel. "Playing the Game" and "So Sincere" were the most accessible tracks and ended up as key parts of their concert set. The CD's sound is more than decent.
- Bruce Eder (All Music Guide)