King Biscuit Flower Hour review by Jeff Smith
16 March 1998
Everything on this release is available on the 1977 Gentle Giant live release, Playing the Fool. This is not to say that if you have PTF, you should not get the King Biscuit release. I was fortunate enough to see Gentle Giant later in 1975 as the opening act for Rick Wakeman, so I was particularly interested in having a recording of what GG sounded like during this period.
For the review, I listened to the King Biscuit release in its entirety, then listened to the PTF versions (One Way Records release) of the same songs and found some surprising and distinctive differences. Overall, I like the sound mix of the King Biscuit release much better. As a bass player myself, I've always admired Ray Shulman's playing. While his bass is buried in the mix on PTF, it's definitely in-your-face (or maybe more correctly, in-your-ears) on the KB release.
Song-by song breakdown:
Proclamation: IMO, the KB mix is much better than on PTF. The bass really stands out. One thing missing is the intro that's heard on the PTF release. Derek's voice is a little flat on the last "Hail" choruses. The endings of Proclamation are different on both releases. While the PTF version has a definite "rock n roll" ending, the KB version has a nice segue into Funny Ways.
Funny Ways: This might be the one song on the KB release not mixed as well as the PTF version. The harmony voice part is missing on the KB release or it is mixed way down and Gary's acoustic guitar is mixed way up and interferes with the beginning of the vibe solo. On the PTF version however, you have to listen hard to hear the bass intro into the fast part, while on the KB version it is very evident.
The Runaway: The King Biscuit and PTF versions are very close. Kerry does this cool, Wakeman-like, keyboard part at the end of the KB version that is not present on the PTF version.
Experience: My personal, all-time favorite GG tune. The KB version is much more energetic than the PTF version. And you can hear the bass!
So Sincere: The KB version is 1 1/2 minutes shorter than on PTF. You can tell the song is more developed on PTF after playing it live for a longer period. Gary's guitar solo is longer on PTF as well. Missing on the KB version is that annoying feedback present on PTF just as the drums kick in.
Knots/The Advent of Panurge: On PTF, this is referred to as Excerpts from Octopus. This is, in fact, how Derek introduces it on the KB release. The versions are very different however. The PTF version starts with the recorded coin drop and Boys In The Band that is very true to the original Octopus release. The KB version starts right into Knots before breaking into Gary and Ray's acoustic guitar duo. While the acoustic guitar duo on PTF touches on more excerpts from Octopus (especially Raconteur Troubadour) the KB version is more of a jam although they do break into an acoustic version of Boys In The Band at one point. After the acoustic guitar jam, the band leaps back into Knots before moving onto The Advent of Panurge. This is the one tune where the bass mix is a little too loud, especially at the beginning of the recorder solo. The Yankee Doodle part present on the bootleg PTF is present here as well. At 3:59 into TAOP, you can hear someone yell out something but I can't make it out. It's very distinct because of a break in the music. Can anybody make this out?
Fan Brian Grunthal thinks the yelled words might be "Alvin Lee," who may have been the opening band that night. Dan 18:00, 7 March 2009 (UTC)
King Biscuit Presents Gentle Giant comes in just under 45 mins. Short for a CD, but perfect for vinyl if it had been released in the 70's or 80's. If you've got all of GG's other stuff, you of course have to get this one. For those of you who don't, you'll find more tunes on Playing the Fool, but I think you'll find they sound better on the KB release. One thing I can't understand: with all the band pictures from the '75 era in the CD booklet, why the picture of Derek on the cover from the late 70s?